Tuesday, December 31, 2013

We're in this together.........

I do like J.R.R. Tolkien, but honestly am not obsessed.  With the new Hobbit movie just out, rereading the book to Adam before he saw the movie, and our visit to The Shire recently, his works have been on my mind more than usual.   But the reason hobbits and dwarves have been part of my thoughts frequently this week has nothing to do with books or movies---it's because of a song.

"The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug" ends rather abruptly, but that fact is quickly redeemed by the hauntingly beautiful and strangely moving song by Ed Sheeran "I See Fire."  (Click on name of song to hear it!) Worth sitting for a bit more and listening to in Dolby while the credits roll.  Our kids love this song and it's heard frequently around the house these days. It's fortunate that I like the song because it keeps playing over and over in my head as well.

Yesterday as it randomly meandered across my subconscious mind yet another time, I wondered what it is about the song that 'makes' it. It's beautiful, yes, but that alone would get old quickly.  I decided it had to be a 'right' combination of the whole; music, vocals, and the words that strike an emotional chord and makes it worth listening to repeatedly.  

It's a song about tragedy.  Desolation coming with no reprieve.  Hope lost.  But in the song is intense comradery as well.  Words like, "If this is to end in fire then we shall all burn together."  It's about facing insurmountable odds, but with your friend who is even closer than a brother by your side.  Brothers in arms.  Brothers in battle.  Brothers in a cause worth dying for. 

Comradery, one of the deepest motivators of the human spirit.  Soldiers have known it for ages past.  Deep fellowship is the longing of our hearts.  Loving someone enough to die for them and knowing without doubt that they would do the same for us.  How precious it is when we find it!  And nothing brings people together like a common cause.

I've never been a solider but I've seen working for a common cause in action in what was our other home of the past several years.  While the foreigners working in the area were from different countries, often had different opinions and ideas, and different personalities, everyone came together because of a common goal.  If it was clear that something was what was best for the women that we served, then there was no argument whatsoever.  There was an incredible willingness to lay aside differences and find a common solution to whatever comes for the sake of the 'cause'.  The task before us was so great that it was worth shoving down our own pride because we knew that we needed each other and could not be effective on our own---and we all cared about something enough to do it.

That must be why Satan works so hard to divide the Body of Christ, destroy friendships, decimate marriages, devastate families.  Because 'two are better than one' (Ecc. 4:9) and we can do little on our own.  He is bent on destroying fellowship, wants us to turn inward, and fans the flame of selfishness into the destruction that he desires.

"Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.  For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions.  These are not from the Father, but are from this world.  And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave.  But anyone who does what pleases God will love forever."  (I Jn. 2:15-17)

The battle for the mind is in the 'I'. What 'I' want.  What 'I' crave.  Looking inward at the 'I'.  It singles us out from the herd, makes us weak, makes us fall.  And it's an illusion of fulfillment that won't last.

But there's a stronger way.  One worth fighting for.  One that we were designed to crave.

"Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken."

We were made for comradery and fellowship.  It's the plan of the One who redeems and doesn't 'steal, kill, and destroy.'

"I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love.  I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God's mysterious plan, which is Christ himself (who cared enough to die for us--the ultimate Comrade in Arms!) In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."  (Col. 2:2-3)

We have a General.  We have a Cause (freedom and life!).  We have comrades.  May our goal for this coming year be to grow in love; love for Him, love for each other, love for the multitudes in need.  

"Many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and...God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again." (A Year With C. S. Lewis)

"Let love be your highest goal..."  (I Cor. 14:1)


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Our visit to the Shire.....

We recently got to go to Middle Earth.  Well, technically all over New Zealand has been filmed as part of Middle Earth, but more particularly we visited Hobbiton in the Shire.  Only a short drive away from Steve's sister's house!

What a magical place it is!  I took many more photos than these but here is a sample.

Over sized gardens so the actors playing the hobbits looked smaller. 
Place where Bilbo hops the fence and says, "I'm off on an adventure," in The Hobbit

The Party Tree (left)
One of the party tents

Bag End from a distance.  It's under the tree on the left.  That tree's not real, however, and every leaf has been sewn on by hand!
The famous door!!!

To the right of the door.  Bench where Bilbo and Gandalf hang out.  The wicker fence that you can sort of see was changed into a lower one every time Gandalf stood by it to make him look taller.
My little hobbit next to Sam's home at the end of the LOTR.  
My phone battery ran out before we got to the town center and the Green Dragon.  Every tour ends with a drink at the Green Dragon, an intricately carved place with attention given down to the smallest detail.  Amazing!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Unexpected Love - Merry Christmas!

There's a little gray cat that comes to call but belongs to the people next door.  He comes and goes and often for days on end doesn't come at all.  But then he shows up unexpectedly, meowing at odd times to come inside for a cuddle and a play.  And he makes us smile.

And I'm convinced that this cat hears the voice of God.  Because even though he's not ours, he often comes at times when one of us is lonely or sad. Like late in the evening a while back after I dropped Steve off at the airport to go back to our other home for a while.  I didn't even realize that I needed a snuggle until there was a fuzzy warm bundle purring on my lap.

Sometimes God reaches out to us in unexpected ways.

We had visitors from overseas recently and enjoyed being tourists alongside of them for a bit.  One of the 'must do' (but that I hadn't done yet!) things of New Zealand is to go to the glow worm caves.  We watched a documentary about the worms first and learned that they're somewhat repulsive creatures that eat insects caught on strands of slime similar to a spider.  But, oh, what a beautiful thing they become when the lights go out! A holy hush fell over our boat as we floated along the underground river in darkness except for an entire night sky of stars on the ceiling overhead.  One of the most unexpectedly beautiful things I've seen in a long time!  A little display of his Creative Majesty that sat there undiscovered for thousands of years whispering, "I'm here.  I wait for you.  I think about you.  I love."

Cropped from a Waitomo Glow Worm Caves brochure
The untapped depths of all that He is.

Right now we're remembering the unexpectedness of a baby.  Sent to poor parents in the midst of a journey. The most important event in history came almost unnoticed except by a few shepherds and wise men who followed a star.

God with us as a helpless babe, born to show us how to live, then to sacrifice Himself for us.  What could be more unexpected than that?

"We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life."  (I John 1:1-2)

The Disciples saw Him first hand but we 'see' Him in many ways as well; in hard times through trials when we think we've been stretched beyond what we can endure.  Yet when we're beyond ourselves we find that He is there.  We 'see' Him in a hug from a child (or neighbor's cat snuggles!) or through lights in unexpected places.  We 'see' Him in a smile or in the peace that He whispers to our hearts and the joy that shouldn't be there when life is hard, but is.  

And then we can say with Job, "I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes." (Job 42:5)

He's there showing Himself to us in countless little ways, but it's up to us to recognize, acknowledge and SEE.

So during this Christmas season let's remember not to be too busy to see Him.  Let's take a deep breath and be still........

And let a holy hush fall at the unexpectedness of all that He is and all that He does-----and worship.