Spurred on by a Hobbit

A Hobbits Home

“Adventures are not all pony rides in May sunshine.”

That’s a quote from The Hobbit a Tolkien story that is one of my favorites.  In that story a homebody hobbit named Bilbo is recruited for the adventure of a lifetime. It’s a noble adventure. But the hobbit is terribly fearful, often tempted to turn back, and frequently wishing to be in his cozy home with the tea kettle singing.

Listen to some of these chapter titles. “Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire,” “Riddles in the Dark,” “Fire and Water.” Good gracious, the hobbit had to walk through some tough chapters on the way to a glorious finish. But guess what? He made it. And before it was all over, he found his courage and defeated a great enemy.

When Tolkien wrote The Hobbit he intended that it reflect the Christian life and our spiritual journey. So it teaches us about the kinds of days and experiences we will have as we go forward with the call God has put on our lives. From the little hobbit we learn that we will not always feel strong or brave as we move forward in faith, but we should keep moving anyway. Feelings are not our master. Sometimes we won’t get the things we are used to, served on time and in the way they were before. The hobbit missed his delicious meals, his comfy couch and his evening tea time.

Yet, in the midst of it all the hobbit found delight in some unexpected and wonderful blessings. Because, although there will be rainy days, hungry days, and scary days, God will have some surprising and delightful provisions for you along your way. One of them is friends. The hobbit knew the joy of good companions, companions with a similar purpose seeking the same end. So, get yourself some Christian friends. The hobbit also knew the wonder of coming across a warm little house (when he was cold and wet) with dinner on the table (when he was absolutely starving) and a sublime bed to sleep in (just when he was at the end of his little rope). When you think you can’t go on, God will do something to fill your cup and give you the rest you need. Just remember to accept the provision when it comes your way. It will strengthen you for the days ahead and keep you from becoming a bitter traveler.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28 NIV

You Don’t Drink Alone

Tea Cup

My niece Anne gave me a cup. The china is Lenox, the pattern is Chirp, and the cup was given to invite me into a fellowship. Aunt Bee started this fellowship that has one mandate: use the cup to drink your morning coffee and remember each other as you do. A beautiful and simple idea.

Our Lord Jesus drank from a special cup. It was a cup of suffering and pain. A cup full of hard things to swallow. It was a cup of trusting God when things get really difficult. A cup of keeping your vision when darkness closes in. It was a cup of sticking to the plan when the plan isn’t fun. A cup of doing things God’s way even if it seems unfair. It was cup of persevering during times of loneliness and betrayal. It was a cup of forgiving. And above all, it was a cup of salvation. Jesus drank from this cup.  And he and said his followers will drink from it too.

Can you accept this cup? Will you decide to walk through hard times God’s way? If so, one of the first joys you’ll know is that you never drink alone. Jesus knows what you’re going through and He is with you. I am too.

“For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet was without sin.”

Hebrews 4:15 NIV

It’s Not Too Late

Man Waiting on Bench

I like the story of Jacob and here’s why. Because even though he started his journey on the wrong foot, God let him know it wasn’t too late to put the right foot forward. Now that’s good news for everybody.

Jacob left home on the run. He lied to his father, schemed against his brother, and is on about a 500 mile walk to his uncle’s when he stops to rest for the night. With a stone for a pillow he falls asleep. Now you’d think with all that’s gone on he’d have a nightmare about his brother catching up with him and killing him right? Instead he has the most wonderful dream. And the dream is from God.

In the dream God does not give Jacob a lecture, though he may have earned one. In the dream God does not tell Jacob all the things he should do to make amends, though that is probably what I would have done. In the dream God does a surprising thing, he gives Jacob his blessing. He says, “I will give you and your offspring the land on which you are lying. And many people will be blessed through you. I am with you and will watch over you and I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised.”

When Jacob woke up he was amazed. And his thoughts went something like this, “Wow. God is here? God is giving me His blessing? God is making me these promises? Well then, I accept Him as my Lord and will worship Him.”

When Jacob got up from that place he was still on the same journey. He still had a long way to go and many steps to take. But he was a changed man. When he put his next foot forward I think he was encouraged instead of afraid. I think He was hopeful instead of doubtful. And I think he was thinking about how everything would somehow work out, because God had said so.

Here is good news. Good news for a person who has started anything on the wrong foot. All is not cursed. It’s not too late to find God on this journey you’re on. He’s still there for you. Watch for Him. Listen to Him. Trust Him. Worship Him. This is truth for your travel pilgrim. Will you lace up these mercy shoes and walk on?

       “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go…”  (Genesis 28:15 NIV)


The Missing Lady Slipper

Every year I look forward to a little spring event.  It’s the appearance of a single Lady Slipper on a bank of our property in the woods of Craig County, Virginia.  It’s that time of year and for the last three weeks we’ve hopped on the four-wheeler and headed out in hopes of seeing that single pink jewel that grows in the middle of some thorny vines.  And for the third time we’ve come up empty.  We can’t find it.  I’m worried because the power company came through and killed a broad path of foliage right next to where she blooms. Or was it right over where she blooms?  I don’t know.

Why do I like that Lady Slipper so much I wonder.  What does it matter to me if she shows up again?  Well, for one thing the Lady Slipper is Minnesota’s flower, and Minnesota is my home state, so we have a little kinship.  Also, that wild orchid is a mystery, a wonder, a flower of fortitude.  She blooms alone.  None of her kind are anywhere in sight. And she is the only Lady Slipper I have ever seen in real life.  How did she get there I always wonder?  What is her story?  I would love to know.  Anyway, the last time we went to look I was feeling a little sad thinking that she would probably never come back.

It was dusk back at the cabin and we were lounging around watching TV, snacking, shooting the breeze.  The weather was drizzly and we were all pretty tired when Jake surprised me by saying, “Do you want to take a ride out and see the flowers I found on Tub Run?”  Tub Run is a road behind the cabin that Jake had jogged earlier that day.  After my disappointment over the Lady Slipper he told me that he had seen some new purple blooms on Tub Run.  “Sure,” I said.

I put on a Carhartt jacket, pulled the hood up and we headed into the drizzle.  It was a nice ride on the four-wheeler; snaking our way through the forest on that gravelly road.  Every here and there Jake would stop and point out what looked to me like small but spunky purple Irises.  I was surprised.  In all our rides up and down Tub Run, I had never seen them before.  The Irises liked it on the steep bank of the road.  They were getting their footing, even sort of taking off in spots.  I took a picture.  We had the best ride on Tub Run, getting a little wet, pointing out moss, talking about swollen creeks, deciding on an Iris to take home for my terrarium.

That night I was washing my face before bed.  I was thinking about the day. A good day.  I was thinking about the gone Lady Slipper and the new crop of Irises, sad on one hand happy on the other, when this verse came to mind.  “See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”  I smiled.  It was a great way to sum up the day’s flower hunt.  It was great way to sum up some other things I was looking at, looking for, too.  It was a good verse to go to sleep on.  And, to wake up to.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

How to Build Anything

In the book of Nehemiah the people of God have a huge task in front of them.  They are rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.  From rubble.  Halfway through their work they are attacked by a powerful weapon.  Words.  “What are those feeble Jews doing?” the enemy says.  “Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble?  If even a fox climbs on that wall it will break.”  Do you feel the sarcasm?  Do you see the shame and doubt those words carry?  As Nehemiah counters the attack his method is noteworthy.  He doesn’t speak to his enemy, he speaks to God.  In prayer he lets out his hurt and frustration.  Then he and his people return to the task at hand.  That’s called focus.

When God is doing something in us or through us, Satan will oppose it with his words.  The words will attack our mind.  They will ridicule and aim to shame.  They will cause doubts to rise up.  “Do you really think you can change?  It didn’t work the last time you tried?”  “Look at the situation you’re in.  Do you really believe God can make something out of it?”  When thoughts like these enter your mind, don’t argue with yourself.  Pray to God.  Ask Him to address what assails you.  Then return to the task he’s called you to do.

“Remember the Lord who is great and awesome.”  Nehemiah 4:14