Happy Birthday Professor Tolkien!

John-Ronald-Reuel-Tolkien-10Today is J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday- I read The Hobbit for the first time in college, and I thought it was a good book, even though I was more of a sci-fi fan at the time. After finishing it, I read The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, and really fell in love with his writing, his style, the obvious deep, deep thought he put into the creation of his world. Over the years, I have read and re-read these books, and each time I read them, I enjoy them more. I have read them to all of my children, a chapter at a time. They would howl and scream for me to read “just one more” chapter.

Recently, I bought a book of book reviews written by C.S. Lewis, who was a good friend of Tolkien’s, and was saved as a result of his friendship. One of the things he said in his review of The Fellowship of the Ring was “here is a story that will break your heart.” It is true.

If you have not read his works, pick up the Hobbit and enjoy. It is much better than the movies (although I am a big fan of them), and I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Happy Birthday, professor.

Back to Work

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It was back to work today – a gloomy, gray day that started with rain and ended with stiff winds and freezing temperatures. This is the only time I saw the sun today – it found its way through a crack in the cloud layers and gleamed momentarily before it went out.

It was good to be back at work, even through I thoroughly enjoyed the break and the time with my family. I am thanking God for a renewed vision of wanting to live my life for His glory. Very much like a ray of sunshine piercing through a gloomy day.

Grapefruit Peel Candy

Carol's Grandmother's recipe for candy made from grapefruit peels

Carol’s Grandmother’s recipe for candy made from grapefruit peels

One of the holiday treats at the Ake household is the making of grapefruit peel candy. Carol’s grandmother, Leslie Q. Freeman, made this candy and would have it in a sleigh dish at her house when we visited during the holidays, and in the years since her grandmother has passed away, Carol has carried on the tradition of making the grapefruit peel candy.

The candy is made by boiling the grapefruit peels ten to fifteen times, changing the water each time, in an effort to remove all of the bitterness from the peels. Once they have been boiled enough, they are almost translucent. The peels are then cut into wedges, and are cooked in a gelatin and sugar solution until they reach the proper temperature, when they are removed and placed on wax paper and coated in granulated sugar. They are then dried for several days before they are ready for serving.

They still retain a grapefruit taste, but are much sweeter and almost the consistency of the orange slice candy that you buy in the stores. When the grapefruit candy is all gone, the holidays are officially over.

A Picture A Day …

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I am undertaking a goal for 2014 – I want to learn to see.

One of my favorite quotes from Sherlock Holmes is this – “You see, but you do not observe!” We all go through life seeing things, but do we really see, or are we too busy heading to the next place, staring into our smartphones, or thinking about our to-do list….

I want to learn to see. I want to take a photo a day, which will probably mean taking more than one photo a day, but I am hoping it will force me to look at the world around me and live in the present, observing the things around me.

Come along with me!

Adventures Rightly Considered

My youngest daughter just graduated from high school, and since we home-schooled her, I gave the commencement address. I’m including the text here.

G.K. Chesterton once observed:  An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered. Around this house, we are fans of the writing of J.R.R. Tolkien, and Amanda would tell you of that night when I opened the Hobbit and started reading to the girls from that book with the green jacket and the gold lettering on the spine. At first they were not sure they would like it. But I can tell you that by the time I was done reading just the first part of the first chapter, An Unexpected Party, that they were hooked. The hero of that tale is one Bilbo Baggins, who is sure that he wants nothing to do with adventures. When Gandalf the wizard tells him that he is going to send him on an adventure, Bilbo states flatly, “We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them.”

The recent movie that has come out plays this to a T, and shows our Mr. Baggins as someone who is quite happy living in his hobbit hole, eating his dinners, and having a quiet, normal life. But Gandalf knows that Bilbo needs to go on this adventure, and the tale is made ever more interesting since we know that Bilbo has this struggle inside of him – a struggle to stay at home, reading his books, being comfortable, and the struggle to go out and tramp through the woods and the mountains with a troupe of dwarves and a wizard, eventually meeting elves and men and speaking with a fire-breathing dragon named Smaug the Terrible. Bilbo finds a long-lost magic ring, and the rest is, as they say, history.

Today we celebrate the milestone in Amanda’s life where she, just like Mr. Baggins, begins to contemplate the adventures of the wide world, full of danger and beauty and light and darkness. In many ways, if we could open her soul up and peer inside, we would see the same misgivings that Bilbo felt on that night when he had a house full of dwarves eating his food and singing about Lonely Mountains, dragons, and gold. She, too, wants to go on an adventure, but she, too, loves the hearth and the books and the home she’s lived in for almost 18 years.

Adventures are inconvenient. They make you late for dinner, but that’s the way God designed it. He meant us to leave the safety of our homes and do big and dangerous things for him. Remember David, minding his father’s sheep. If he never went to visit his brothers at the battle lines, he never would have met a giant named Goliath, he never would have understood that God gives strength to those who fight for Him. Paul could have stayed home and been a student of the law. But he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and wound up traveling hundreds of miles from home, visiting places like Philippi, Ephesus, and Rome.

Amanda, life is not always safe. If we truly follow God, we will walk into dangerous places – places like a college philosophy course, where the professor wants to teach you that God is a myth believed by weak people needing a crutch. Dangerous places like a workplace where they tell you to leave your faith at the door and keep your religion to yourself. Life is full of danger for those who follow God. But our Bible tells us that whoever is born of God overcomes the world – that God gives us victory over our fears and over those who would do anything to make us keep our Good News to ourselves.

God throws lots of adventures at us – right now you are thinking of the adventure of college, but following that will, Lord willing, perhaps be the adventure of marriage, the adventure of toddlers, the adventure of teenagers, the adventure of aging parents, and for yourself at some point, the adventure of being aged yourself. The key for all of life’s adventures is to consider them rightly, to ask God constantly what He is trying to teach you, and understanding that all of them together are the adventure of God bringing you at last to your home with Him.

Bilbo came home at last, and the song that he made up on his way ended with this verse:

Roads go ever on and on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
and horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

After our adventures, there is the journey home. We who follow Jesus know that at the end of our adventures, that we, too, will turn our feet to home, and we understand that this world is not where we belong, but there are meadows green and trees and hills that we will see and know that we finally have come home.

Your Mom and I love you – you have done well. There are lots of adventures left, and we’ll be there for as many of them as we can. We pray that you’ll consider your adventures rightly, all part of God’s story for your life. We pray God’s blessings on you as you go.

An eternal weight of glory

2 Corinthians 4:17 tells us that momentary, light afflictions are producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. In this chapter, Paul is speaking of his ministry and the suffering that he has endured. Christians can expect suffering – it is in the cards if we truly belong to Christ.

The kind of suffering Paul is talking about is not the type of suffering we normally think about. It is not talking about having a flat tire on the way to work, or not having enough money in our checking account. He is talking about the suffering that comes about when we follow Jesus faithfully, and the world hates us for it.

He’s making a comparison here – notice the words he uses to talk about his suffering. They are momentary, meaning that they last only a small bit of time. They flash before our eyes and they are gone. They are light – and the word here means that they weigh nothing – they float through the air like a feather. But see what he is comparing it to – an eternal, everlasting weight – and here the word means a ponderous, heavy, weighty amount of glory. Surely this helps us when we are suffering – when people disrespect us because we are believers, compare this momentary thing to the eternity of a great weight or amount of glory we will receive for our faithfulness.

“While we look not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen, for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Where are you looking?

Thoughts from Tim Ake