Saturday, February 26, 2011

Maps...And Using Them....

This morning I double-checked my directions before heading to a baby shower. My dear pal Google Maps gave me numerous ways to make the ten minute trek; unfortunately the most direct route meant wending one's way through one of those golf course subdivisions where there are boulevards and odd turns. I've made my way through that sub before, but I don't think I've ever done it without backtracking or getting completely turned around. Despite this history, I looked at it this morning and thought, "No problem. I can pull it off this time!" I didn't print out the directions, but I wrote down the directions figuring that would be enough.

It wasn't.

Twenty minutes later I had managed to get out of that sub, but due to overconfidence on my part (in this case that the road I would emerge from would be the road I was supposed to come out on) I didn't know where my next turn was. Thankfully a call to the party hostess resolved my problem, and I got to the shower.

Later, as I drove home, I thought of the old analogy of how the Bible is our map on this road of life. We may know our destination--where it is, the general route, etc.--but if we don't use the map on our way we're bound to get mixed up, have to backtrack, and at the worst get completely lost. In my case, too, while I had written out the directions, I didn't look at them again until it was too late because I was so sure I had the streets straight in my head. How many times do I do that with Biblical truths? I've learned them many times, I've written about them, studied them, but when I'm faced with a situation I don't go back to the Source to make sure I'm remembering correctly. ...And likely as not I've gotten overconfident and headed off on the wrong road. It's often it's stretches where I've gotten lost before--the Mire of Worry, the Cesspool of Self-Pity.... Thankfully I do have the Holy Spirit, and I'm slowly getting better at turning to Him for help as soon as I realize I'm lost. Like the hostess of the event I went to today, when I call on Him, He helps me back to the right road.

Now to not get off track in the first place!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Words, Words, Words....

Natural formation named after Lot's wife who became a pillar of salt
On Wednesday evenings this year I've been helping my parents with an ESL (English as a Second Language) Bible study. We started in September with a brief Bible overview, then jumped head-long into Genesis, with the goal to study the book of Genesis in the course of the year. We're currently in chapter 18; almost halfway through! In our small group we have a mix of Jordanians, an East Indian, a few Chinese, some believers, some not. There are also five Americans helping out, though I think I can honestly say we're learning as much as the students! There's nothing like delving into the Bible with international perspectives!

Every week along with reading and discussion, we deal with new vocabulary words (pronunciation and meaning). Last night was no exception as we plumbed the depths of words like lunge, bolt, pillar, and righteous. The other week, a young German woman who's been staying with my folks was able to come and while her English is flawless, she's been having a blast learning new words. The word of the night that week was "carnivorous." You just never know how a word will hit a chord...or a funny bone!

I love words! I love how they can be simple yet beautiful, or simply repulsive just in the way they sound. Recently I read a blog post that used the phrase "limn loveliness" and my heart soared--how awesome a word is "limn!" It just sounds wonderful as it comes off the tongue! (It means, by the way, "to depict or describe in painting or word, suffuse or highlight (something) with a bright color or light.") Then there are words like "mush" which I believe is my sister's all-time least-favorite word (correct me if I'm wrong, Carg!). Just try saying it a few times and I'm sure you'll understand.

But there are times that words are so frustrating. There are times when I'm trying so hard to communicate an idea and I feel like I'm failing miserably, either because the words I'm using are not the words of my audience, or the idea behind them is not carried across. I've spent this week trying to write a letter that is of vital importance to me and I want the point to come through clearly. I want my audience to hear the point, understand it, and most of all agree with it, but I don't know if I can pull it off. My words are limited, and my emotions are a huge encumbrance. Emotions tend to make communication almost impossible at times. Then there's the added pressure of wanting them to be Godly and wise...which is where copious prayer comes into play. Thankfully the Spirit "intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance to God's will" (Romans 8:26&27). If only that always worked in talking with other humans!

On a totally different part of the communication spectrum, I'm enjoying the beginning of words. Just this week my eighteen-month-old Jon-Boy has crossed a line. He's communicated very well up to this point, considering his vocabulary has been made up of "Ommy," "Addy," and something indecipherable that refers to his sister Evie. He also has managed the signs for "please" and "thank you" quite well accompanied by a big, cheesy grin and "EEASE!" But I think we've stepped into new territory. Yesterday he came running over to me clutching something in his fist. "Ba-uuw! Ba-uuw!" he said, and handed me a little ball. Ah! "Ba-uuw" is "ball"--got it! Then this morning we were on a walk and some ducks flew overhead. "Ducks!" I cried excitedly. Jon and Ev were duly impressed and when more ducks flew overhead, Jon stopped and pointed, "Dut!" Later this morning he was trying to copy Ev's rendition of "Happy Birthday," and it was almost recognizable (not the tune, really, but the fact that he was stringing some words together in a sing-song way that ended with "oo"). Someday, that child will have words at his command...if he can ever get a word in edgewise with this sisters!

Never underestimate the power of words....

...And those are my deep thoughts for the day!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Gollum Tears and Dragon Skin

I've been thinking about Gollum today (of Lord of the Rings "My Precious-s-s-s" infamy). I haven't read the books in a long time, nor watched the movies in a while for that matter, but I recently pulled out the theme music from the movies. I wanted to hear "Into the West" which I hadn't listened to since Keren's funeral. It's one of those songs that I've always associated with Keren.

Anyway, listening to that cd (Return of the King soundtrack) led me on to all of the movie soundtracks and this morning I was struck by the words of "Gollum's Song" at the end of The Two Towers. The song is sung with an aching, longing, lonely voice. You feel the angst of Gollum and you hurt for him; he's been so abused! But the more you listen to the words you also realize that he's brought much of his pain on himself. Here's a taste:
So in the end
I will be - what I will be
No loyal friend
Was ever there for me

Now we say - goodbye
We say - you didn't try...

These tears you cry
Have come too late
Take back the lies
The hurt, the blame!

And you will weep
When you face the end alone
You are lost!
You can never go home
It's so sad; he's been betrayed and no one loves him. But is that really true? Or is it his perception? If you know the story, you know that the hobbit Frodo takes Gollum under his wing and tries to give him the path to restoration. We see glimpses of the Gollum he could be/once was, but in the end, Gollum chooses his personal desires, addictions and his pain over the chance to be restored and renewed...and find ones who love him....

The older I get the more I meet people who are caught in Gollum's trap. They want to be loved--they long for it and need it (obviously we can't exist without it!). But they want it on their own terms, by their own definition as to how it should work. And they aren't willing to sacrifice anything to get it; there's no giving up of certain selfish desires. And so they are stuck, and cry out like Gollum that they are betrayed and forsaken and "can never go home." And yet you can see that in the end the choice to be rejected is their own. There was still the chance to accept hard love, but it was considered too high a price compared to giving up their own perceptions of what love should be.

There are some would-be Gollums I've tried to help...and others, regrettably, that I've ignored, given up on completely, or had to step away from for fear of getting sucked into their black hole of self-absorption. It's so hard to know when to let go of them, knowing they will forever think they have been rejected, and never know they could have been transformed.

Of course, I probably shouldn't leave this yet.... How many times have I shed Gollum-tears of self-pity? I'm alone, no one understands me, etc., etc., etc. But each time I've known that it's really a lie. I am not alone; God is with me and He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). I am not misunderstood or unloved; Christ can sympathize with my weaknesses because he is "one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). I have only to believe this, to know that this is true.... But that is the hardest part in the end because it means I have to let go of me and be enveloped by Him.

We've been reading C. S. Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader with the kids and just finished the part where Eustace is un-dragoned by Aslan. Eustace tries to peel off the dragon skin on his own, but he can't get it all off no matter how many times he tries. Finally Aslan says, "You will have to let me undress you." Eustace describes it:

"The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off..." When Aslan removes the skin he catches Eustace up in his paws and throws him into the water of a well. Eustace said, "It smarted like anything, but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious...." and Eustace was a boy again, but the "dragon" in his nature, the selfish peevishness, was removed. He wasn't perfect from that moment on, but he was transformed and progressing. He'd let the Lion peel off the dragon.

It really comes down to a choice in the end. Do I want to be like Gollum, lost in my self, grasping at a gold ring until I am lost in fire? Or do I want to be like Eustace and let Christ peel off my dragon skin, leaving me vulnerable, but then throwing me into the excruciatingly painful, joyful effervescence of his never-ending love?