Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Alfred, Calvin, and Tolkien


Image.ashxOn a recent journey from our little hamlet in middle Tennessee to the bustling metropolis of Nashville, I was accompanied by my son, Calvin.  The journey takes about an hour, which gives ample time to listen to a lecture en route.  Dr. George Grant willingly rode in the mp3 player on the dashboard, while Calvin was happy to have the whole backseat to himself.  I asked Dr. Grant if he would tell me about Alfred the Great again, and he obliged.

Dr. Grant began with a lengthy quote from G.K. Chesterton’s, Ballad of the White Horse King. He then proceeded to tell us the story of this great king of Wessex; the king who united a band of tribal chiefs to defend his home and his people from the onslaught of the Viking hordes; the king who sang and prayed with his troops before battle; the king that redesigned a navy in order to quell the pagan plunderers before they reached his island.  As Dr. Grant spoke I recalled what I’d learned about King Alfred from Ben Merkle’s book, The White Horse King. So I paused our inimitable orator to tell my son about shield walls and bezerkers, about Guthrum and the Danes, about bravery and cunning, about a king that learned humility through hardship.  Calvin commented how much the Middle Ages sounded like Middle Earth, and I agreed.  Externally I agreed.  Internally I rejoiced that my son was avidly listening to my stories and listening well enough to have made a connection between Alfred and Tolkien.

I love King Alfred.  I want to be like King Alfred, and I want my sons to be more like King Alfred than I will ever be.  Long ago, I realized that you can’t force your children to love your heroes, but during that conversation with Calvin, I realized that you don’t have to.  Your love for your heroes will be infectious.  Your children will simply catch it. I love King Alfred because King Alfred loved King Jesus and that love saved a nation from utter destruction.  I love King Jesus and I want Calvin to love King Jesus more than I ever will, so that he and I can sing with Alfred and his troops, with Tolkien and his hobbits, and with our beloved Dr. Grant,

220px-Statue_d'Alfred_le_Grand_à_WinchesterWhen the enemy comes in a’roarin’ like a flood,
Coveting the kingdom and hungering for blood,

The Lord will raise a standard up and lead His people on,
The Lord of Hosts will go before defeating every foe;
Defeating every foe.

For the Lord is our defense, Jesus defend us,
For the Lord is our defense, Jesu defend.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Birds, the Bees, and the Eleven-Year-Old Trip

My children know that when they reach their eleventh birthday, they get to go on an overnight trip with Papa, i.e., me. They get to pick where we go and what we do for that entire day (within reason, of course–in other words, Disney world is not an option.) We have a grand time doing the things that they enjoy, and as a dad, I rejoice in the opportunity to focus on them entirely for the weekend. However, the primary motivation for the special trip centers around getting them alone for several hours in order to begin more detailed discussions about those ‘birds and bees’ that can be so uncomfortable to discuss. The goal is not to talk about it all, all at once, but to invite them to engage in a conversation with their dad. My hope is that this conversation will continue through their teen years and up until they say, “I do,” before God, their minister, and the gathered witnesses, and the chosen, complimentary mate says, “I do,” in response.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Heaven Understands Hell, But Hell Does Not Understand Heaven

The following is a quote from C. S. Lewis' A Preface to Paradise Lost:

"In all but a few writers the 'good' characters are the least successful, and every one who has ever tried to make even the humblest story ought to know why. To make a character worse than oneself it is only necessary to release imaginatively from control some of the bad passions which, in real life, are always straining at the leash; the Satan, the Iago, the Becky Sharp, within each of us, is always there and only too ready, the moment the leash is slipped, to come out and have in our books the holiday we try to deny them in our lives. But if you try to draw a character better than yourself, all you can do is to take the best moments you have had and to imagine them prolonged and more consistently embodied in action. But the real high virtues which we do not possess at all, we cannot depict except in a purely external fashion. We do not really know what it feels like to be a man much better than ourselves. His whole inner landscape is one we have never seen, and when we guess it we blunder. It is in their 'good' characters that novelists make, unawares, the most shocking self-revelations. Heaven understands Hell and Hell does not understand Heaven, and all of us, in our measure, share the Satanic, or at least Napoleonic, blindness. To project ourselves into a wicked character we have only to stop doing something, and something that we are already tired of doing; to project ourselves into a good one we have to do what we cannot and become what we are not." (p. 101)