Concerning Hobbits…and King David

Jason sure has a way of making adventures sound exciting. After reading this, who wouldn’t want to run out and have an adventure?

[Andrea raises her hand.] Um… Me?

In fact, if I were to pick my favorite quote by Tolkien about adventures, it would go something like this:

“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.” -Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit

Yep, I was a quiet, respectable Hobbit before that adventurer came along.

The thing is, I think that’s one of the very reasons the Lord brought Jason into my life. I guess He wanted to shake things up a little bit.

And that’s where the trust comes in. Can I trust him when he comes up with an unpredictable idea? Something that doesn’t seem entirely safe? And can I trust the Lord to work all things together for good…even adventures? Even when the adventure seems to be going all wrong?

After all, life itself is an adventure. For some of us, the goal of life seems to be to make it safely to death. But that isn’t what God calls us to. Who better to trust than the One who knows the end from the beginning? The One who already wrote the whole story? Can we trust God to lead us where He wants to, even if we don’t know where we are going?

So I think about some of my favorite people from the Bible: Noah, Abraham, Moses. Gideon, Esther and Daniel. Spiritual giants, yet really they were just normal people who trusted God. How might the Bible be different if they had refused God when He chose them for His adventures? Would we even know their names at all? Or would they have turned out like Jonah, who, in his refusal, ended up with a MUCH bigger adventure than he ever bargained for? God is known to do that.

But one of the biggest giants I think of from the Old Testament is the giant-slayer, himself – David. David’s life was full of adventures. He killed bears and lions as a shepherd boy. He struck down tens of thousands of evil men. He ran for his life from Saul for 8 years, and later, he even had to flee for his own life from his son.

Always a formidable warrior, he defeated king after king, nation after nation, expanded and secured the borders of Israel and effectively united the nation.

So what was King David’s secret?

Here’s a hint: the word “trust” can be found 50 times in the Psalms.

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” – Psalm 9:10

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” – Psalm 28:7

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” – Psalm 56:3-4

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” – Psalm 62:8

“For you, O LORD, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.” – Psalm 71:5

“I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.‘” – Psalm 91:2

“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.” Psalm 125:1

When David trusted in David, he fell. When he trusted in God, he was more victorious than you or I could ever dream.

What stands out to me the most, more than anything else in David’s life, was that he was a man after God’s own heart. That’s how he was able to safely trust in God throughout his whole life. God had his heart.

And you know what? More than anything else in my life, that’s what I’d like to be known for as well: a woman after God’s own heart who puts her trust in Him.

Even Bilbo learned that quiet Hobbits need an occasional adventure.

Do You Return Different?

BekahBoat

Peace, Be Still…   © Rebekah Hope

Andrea and I were just talking about “adventure blues,” – that time when you get home after accomplishing something freeing and joyful and then…you’re home.

There was a movie my class watched in college (American History 1945-present) that won the Academy Award in 1945 called The Best Years of Our Lives.  It’s about soldiers returning from WWII and having to re-enter society and “fit in.”

Without giving anything away, the adjustment is quite difficult. Nobody back home was with these soldiers when they fought the Nazis. Their experiences weren’t shared, so there is a natural distance of space between our “heroes” and the homefront.

They “grew up” when they were gone…and now they’re back.  Sometimes it is hard to communicate all that you have experienced–all that you have seen–the truths shared–the heights explored.

Do you identify with this feeling? It happened to us this week. Our good friend Bekah came to visit us and live with our family for a week.

We ate. We laughed. We climbed mountains. We hiked miles through snow and soaked our cares away in hot springs. We marveled at the “Narnia” trees we saw on the road. Deer and Elk (45 of them!) greeted us from the side of the highway and sometimes [screech!!!] right in front of us. We saw waterfalls and avalanches. We saw rock.rock.ROCKS in the road.  We celebrated Arielle’s 9th birthday. The time flew by.

bonneville

Bonneville Hot Springs © Jason Stern

Our words for the year were ever present. Mine, adventure. Andrea’s, trust. Bekah’s, nakedAnd we thought about true friendship and Christian vulnerability.

We talked about how vulnerable Jesus is–how he went from King to the essence of vulnerability–a little baby.

My youngest son is 7 months old. He cannot do anything for himself. When he wants something, he tells us the only way he knows how–with his little voice.  It’s hard to imagine Jesus allowing Himself to become a tiny helpless baby like our son Iain, but He did.

He didn’t stop there. When His disciples wanted to know which of them would be the “greatest” in the Kingdom, Jesus stripped down as a slave and cleaned their dirty feet. “This,” He said, “is how you become the greatest.”

He showed them that love is the way to lead.

And then in the most vulnerable of acts, He allowed cruel men to pin his wrists to a crossbeam and His naked body was hoisted into the sky for all the world to see.

“If I be lifted up from the earth,” He had said before, “I will draw all people to Myself.”

Pinned. Nailed. Stuck. Unmovable.  For hours, he could not scratch an itch. He could not stretch a muscle. He could not stop birds from trying to peck His eyes out.  Vulnerable. Naked. Trusting. An adventure?

The greatest adventure.

He trusted His Father to see Him through. For us.

Jesus patiently endured humiliation, shame, ridicule, even death.  And He won.  Andrea reminded me that He really showed us that He is a “friend closer than a brother.”

And He paved the way for us to follow Him into His Kingdom.

When we dropped Bekah off at the airport, Andrea remarked to her how special it is to have friendships where we can actually be comfortable in our own skin.

Should this be so rare?

When I got back to my computer, I found she’d left me a note with the drawing above and a word picture that the Lord had given her for our family.  I’ll share it with you. I’m sure Bekah wouldn’t mind:

“You have been in a storm. Tossed about by wind and elements from every direction. But He has spoken ‘Peace, be still.’  And every whisper of wind or water current has obeyed His command. He calms the sea. … But you are not adrift. Your sails are filled with the very breath of God and He blows you to shore where He pleases. What a grand adventure!”

Indeed.

And while we are sad to finish one set of adventures, there certainly will be more to come. Grand ones.

How do you reflect when you return after an adventure? Are you different?

Adventure: The In-Between

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Everyone thinksWe often think… I often think of adventures as being exciting. I wanted to bring all ya’ll in on that thought, but even as I was typing it I realized that, well, not everyone does think of adventures as excitement. Some people think they’re scary. A lot of folks would rather others go on the adventures. After all, that’s what movies are for.

We can watch Indiana Jones or James Bond or Frodo Baggins walk the walk, talk the talk, kiss the girl, subdue the bad guy, fall down, get back up (there’s alot of falling down and getting back up in adventure movies — also a lot of scratched and bloodied faces) and rescue the world, save Middle Earth, and ride off into the sunset, singing We are the Three Amigos! We are the Threeeeeeee Amigos! — sorry– child of the 80s flashback.

But what about real life adventures?

What do they look like for someone like me?

I suppose we are on one right now.

We picked up our family and moved across the country from Louisiana to Idaho, chasing a dream that died after we got here. I wonder if I would have come if the dream had not been placed in my heart? Maybe I would have just stayed in Louisiana where my family has lived for 200 years.

But… adventure called.  Now that one dream has died, other dreams will come.  I can say that I’ve learned that not all dreams will come to harvest… that you can spend a great deal of money pursuing an idea and have debt and experience as the perceived payoff.

Honestly, though, I am more interested restless to see what God has planned next. I know in my heart that He sent us to Idaho for purposes of His own design. What are they? What will He require of us? What will He do in and through our family and our lives? How will our family grow?

These are the unanswered questions.  Yet, I trust Him. Real adventures don’t fit into a three hour blockbuster. They are more like the book version. Much gets left on the cutting room floor or in the author’s waste basket.

Some of my favorite parts of the Lord of the Rings epic never made it into the movie. Perhaps hanging out here next to a waste basket full of possible-but-not-quite-right plans while the Author is considering what to write on the next page is just the gritty, dirty, time-consuming part of real adventure.

I’m learning that scope, planning and contingencies are all part of the adventure–not just the execution.

It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something… There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.

Samwise Gamgee, The Lord of the Rings

What lessons have you learned?

Andrea’s Word 2014: Trust

Peter Paul Rubens. Daniel in the Lions' Den. 1615 photo by Jason Stern

Peter Paul Rubens. Daniel in the Lions’ Den. 1615 [Photo by Jason Stern]

I might have guessed my word would be “grow” or “thrive.”

After all, isn’t that what comes after a season of pruning? But I felt that I was dreading 2014, afraid of what potential terrible things it might hold. After all, it has felt like my word for 2013 was “pain.” And as I embraced that pain, God brought healing. Yet, I could perceive how 2014 could be even worse. I sought the Lord because I knew I wouldn’t be able to think clearly and hear what He was saying if I was being bound up in fear and hopelessness.

He told me that He was excited for me, because pruning is an honor from the Father not given to just anyone. It meant that God has good things in store for me. And the Father cares too much to leave me in my pain.

After receiving this truth, I heard Him say that my word for 2014 is TRUST.

Before I can begin to grow and flourish, I have to learn to trust and put down new roots. Last year, life was shaken.

This year, my purpose is to re-establish my trust in God, people, my husband, and myself. Without that, I will not grow in any of those areas of relationship.

So that is exciting to me, that this will be a year of rebuilding my foundations, beginning to put out new roots. I pray that God will give me strength to receive and will direct where those roots are to go.

Have you found yourself shaken when you have pursued God?

One Word 2014: Adventure

adventure trail by Jason Stern
The trail is hidden there to the right…
My word for 2014 is adventure. Further, God has directed our family to enjoy this adventure “living life out loud.”
An adventure is an exciting or unusual experience. It may also be a bold, usually risky undertaking, with an uncertain outcome.I guess I saw this coming. It was really inevitable considering the fact that I have said that I will follow Him anywhere He leads me.

It isn’t simple, by far. I have lived most of my life as a secret agent Christian. I have desired to live for the Lord and explore His truth from an early age, but as soon as I found out that enthusiasm for Christ was met with blank stares and shrugs and that having different views than anyone else was frowned on, I took my views inside my soul and pulled the curtains. We aren’t talking about a recent occurrence. I’m talking about an entire lifetime. When you are awakened to God at age four, and grow up in movement of Christianity that is out of the mainstream, you learn quickly to tell half of the story–the parts that won’t offend anyone. I’ve become a professional non-offender when it comes to taboos. I know how to “fit in” and how to “look the part.”

Pastors used to even joke about it from the pulpit. How many times did I hear the story of how a family was fighting like cats and dogs all morning getting their church clothes on and throwing all the kids in the car, spankings and crying all the way to church and then, by magic, everyone puts their game face on and enters the building as though absolute perfection was all that they’d ever known. How are you, Brother Bob? Better than I deserve, Pastor Jenkins. Blessed. God is Good! ALL the time! Haha. Yeah.

It was expected that everyone was playing that game and we all knew. We knew our homes, our church, our society was a wreck, but no one was going to do anything to change, so we might as well enjoy the gallows humor in the pews. After all, wasn’t Jesus coming back tomorrow? So as long as we could grin and bear it, we’d all be zapped out of here and the devil could have this hell-hole called earth, right?

But I guess I don’t get to do that anymore. It was a good run. We sure looked good doing it. I spent my life through early adulthood trying so hard to be the ideal Christian, and then the ideal Christian leader. And then the ideal Christian citizen. All that time, though, I knew that the “ideal” plastic person doesn’t exist. Those in my closest circle already know this path that Jesus put me on a few years ago. And though it has not been smooth all the time, I know what it is to be loved and accepted and given room to grow.

What exactly am I admitting to? What is a secret agent Christian? It’s someone who does all the right things and none of the wrong things. By what standard, you might ask? Well, that’s a good question. It depends on your age, denomination, political affiliation, skin color, the list could go on. The standards they are a-changing. Constantly.

I have sought to please God through performance most of my life and when I learned that He wasn’t asking that of me, it changed my relationship with Him forever. It meant I could read the Bible with fresh eyes, looking for His Heart, His principles, and His ways, instead of His lists and regulations.

And I’ve been writing about it for six months. I’ve written 45,000 words already, but I haven’t shared it with many. Too dangerous. It’s been a quiet revolution in my thinking, finding out what God actually says about life, but …. Adventure.

What is adventure? I was mulling the word around my brain. Thank God for the interwebs.

Adventure, as defined above, comes from a root Latin word that means “to arrive.” In the 1300s, it meant “a wonder, a miracle; accounts of marvelous things.”

I haven’t arrived yet, so I guess this year we’ll find out what wonderful, marvelous places He has for me to experience. I believe that God wants me to choose to take the adventures He presents instead of only marveling at them.

To “live life out loud” actually sounds kind of scary. I wonder if it will feel like walking a tight-rope across a gorge in front of thousands of people, or if it will feel like climbing a mountain with my eyes on Jesus walking in front of me? What will it be like to intentionally live an adventurous life?

#oneword365