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Mystical Realms Newsletter for April, 2007

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  • jef.murray
    Greetings! A blessed and happy Holy Week to you all! And welcome to my newsletter for April, 2007. Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 4, 2007
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      A blessed and happy Holy Week to you all! And welcome to my newsletter
      for April, 2007. Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think
      would be interested in keeping up with me! To receive these
      newsletters regularly, drop me a note or subscribe online at:
      http://groups.google.com/group/Mystical_Realms . Notices of new
      paintings and events are at the bottom of this email.

      Epiphanies =========

      As a junior in High School, I went on a week-long program that was an
      offshoot of Outward Bound International. Called "Operation Survival"
      (OS), it included lectures, discussions, and physical drills, and
      culminated in a two night group hiking and camping trip in the
      wilderness of the north Georgia mountains.

      This was the spring after I had first read "The Lord of the Rings". I
      doubt whether I understood the deeper lessons of that book, but I knew
      that something about OS reminded me of the ordeal of the Ring. I
      craved adventure, not yet having learned the lessons of Bilbo Baggins,
      that adventures never turn out quite as one expects.

      We jogged and did calisthenics early in the week to build stamina. And
      after four days, we were ready for our first big challenge: repelling
      down the side of the bell tower of our High School's chapel.

      Imagine the summit of a four-story tower. Imagine, then, that someone
      fastens a strand of rope to a "Swiss seat" around your legs and waist,
      then tells you you're going to launch yourself off the side of the
      building and "bounce" down to terra firma, below.

      I was an "A" student. I always knew what I needed to do to succeed.
      So, despite the grinding in my stomach, and despite the fact that I
      was overweight and anything but athletic, I went over the side and
      made it down safely. "No big deal," I thought. I already knew this
      lesson…that strength and resolve could see you through the tough stuff.

      Our next challenges came with the formal wilderness trip. We zipped
      down trip lines over canyons; we hiked for hours in the woods and
      along trails; we took turns keeping watch at the fires each night. But
      in the middle of our first night, we were taken, one by one, out of
      camp, to a large oak tree. There, we climbed a rope ladder up to the
      forest canopy, pulled ourselves over a branch, then climbed back down
      again, all in pitch darkness.

      Again, I managed this. But on the way back to camp, I tripped on
      brambles in the dark and tumbled into a ditch, catching myself with my
      left hand. Something snapped.

      At camp, it was clear that I had a very bad sprain, or worse. But the
      next morning we were expected to face our biggest challenge: we were
      each going to repel down the face of a 250-foot cliff overhang.

      And now, with my left hand bandaged so tightly that I couldn't use it,
      I was taught a new and strangely luminous lesson.

      Hiking up to the cliff, I saw looks of concern on the part of all the
      other participants. My wrist was so painful I could not use my
      dominant left hand, so I was told to use my right hand instead. I was
      terrified, but for the first time, I also saw a look of worry on the
      faces of others in the group. There was something about my new
      vulnerability that had changed everything…something I couldn't at
      first appreciate.

      I wasn't able to climb the trail up the cliff one-handed, so Jerry
      Doss, a gentle giant of a man, lifted me up the slope on his
      shoulders. At the top, everyone double and triple checked my gear, and
      I saw that the program directors were making sure the belayers knew
      that I might need help.

      That descent was watched more closely, and with more anxiety, than any
      other. Even those whom I had not counted as friends were exuberant
      when I reached the bottom safely.

      The lesson of this encounter was a strange one. With the snapping of
      my wrist, Operation Survival was no longer just about me. It was about
      my weakness bringing out the best in those around me. It was about the
      helplessness of one person acting to strengthen the faith and resolve
      of a dozen others.

      The world will not teach you this lesson. The world will teach you
      self-sufficiency, power, mastery. The world helps those who help

      But on that cliff in the north Georgia mountains, I glimpsed a truth
      known to Lao Tzu, a reality understood by Frodo and Sam Gamgee. This
      same truth was taught to us by the One with whom we walk this week on
      the road to Golgotha.

      And that truth is this; that God chooses the humble, the weak, the
      insignificant to accomplish all of the greatest things in life. Our
      finest moments, in this paradoxical economy, are when we recognize our
      own unworthiness, yet trust that the One who broke the gates of Hell
      can always turn our weakness into His strength, our failure into His

      The world is full of adventures, but the wise traveler will always
      proceed with humility. And the journey itself may be far more
      important than our intended destination.

      Happy Easter!

      Events =========

      - I am deeply grateful to the Tolkien Library and Tolkien Gateway for
      having asked me to be a guest of honor at the upcoming online release
      party for J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Children of Hurin". This book, which
      was edited by Christopher Tolkien and illustrated by Alan Lee, goes on
      sale April 17th. The online release party runs from 4/15 through 4/18.
      I will be answering questions about my Tolkien paintings and sketches
      online on 4/16 at 5pm Eastern Daylight time. If you'd like to find out
      more and participate, please see http://www.tolkienlibrary.com/ .

      - Related to the above, I'm contributing three signed prints, "The
      Gates of Menegroth", "The Bridge Over Narog", and "The Seduction of
      Nienor" as prizes to participants in the online party. These three
      images depict landscapes and scenes from the tale of the Children of

      - The March/April issue of the St. Austin Review (StAR)
      (http://www.staustinreview.com/ ) is out and features a number of my
      sketches and paintings (including the cover!) in celebration of The
      Celts and their contributions to literature and western culture.
      Please take a look! It's a great issue (perhaps _despite_ my
      contributions :)!

      - My latest show, "Rivers, Reefs, and Reading Rooms", is at the UUCA
      gallery through the end of April. The show includes some 44 paintings,
      38 of which are oil-on-wood cutouts. For a brochure and more
      information, please see my website at http://www.JefMurray.com .

      - Gilbert Magazine (http://www.gilbertmagazine.com) features, in its
      current issue, a sketch of James Joyce I contributed for Mike Foster's
      review of "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man". Also, online,
      Lorraine has one of her articles featured in the downloadable sample
      issue. The article is entitled "Call Me Mrs.: A Journey from Feminism
      to Common Sense."

      Nai Eru laitalyë (may God bless you),

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