Not Alone

Look to my coming on the first light of the fifth day, at dawn look to the east.

Gandalf – Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers J.R.R. Tolkien

In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the battle of Helms Deep looked grim as the enemy surrounded the only entrance and there seemed no hope for victory. It was a long night, but at dawn, Gandalf arrives with reinforcements just as he promised. The Bible is full of God’s promises to His children, but sometimes we have to wait for it to be fulfilled. The waiting time can see like an eternity, but if we keep our eyes focused on God, we will always have hope.

When we are waiting, it is easy to get distracted by the world around us. For example, in 1 Kings we find the story of Elijah who has just prayed down fire from Heaven and wiped out the prophets of Baal. When he hears of Jezebel’s threats, Elijah feels like he is alone in a battle he cannot win and he hides in despair.

14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away…18 Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

1 Kings 19:14, 18

After some rest and nourishment, God tells Elijah that he has seven thousand who are still loyal to Him and that he is not alone in the fight. From our vantage point, we might wonder how Elijah could go from boldly confronting the prophets of Baal to hiding and whining, but it is often after great victories that the enemy will attack us with doubts. Winning a tough victory takes a lot of energy: physical, spiritual and mental. We need to remember that like Elijah we are not alone.

The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.

Psalm 68:11

Being a writer is often solitary work, but I am not the only one writing the word God has given. He has many other writers, each with their own message to share. Writing groups allow writers to share and encourage one another so that we know that there other people who have been through some of the same issues and some who have had success. By sharing our stories, we build each other up. The trick is to find the right community for you.

Besides finding a like-minded community to offer support and accountability, we also need to ensure that we also take care of ourselves. First, we need to rest because we are more vulnerable if we are tired. Also, we need to make sure we have proper nourishment because hunger is another point of attack. Finally, or maybe firstly, we need to pray so that we are connected to our true source of energy.

Once you have strengthened yourself, then it is time to get back to work. If we sit idle too long, we are subject to remaining idle, which can lend itself to wallowing. This weekend I battled another round with those pesky fleas, which included wrangling two angry cats into carriers and to the vet followed by a thorough cleaning of the house. I took Friday and Saturday off from writing this blog as a result, but I rested, I ate, and I went to church. Now, I am finishing my assignment. So eat, rest, and pray, but don’t wallow. If you lay down with dogs, or cats, and wallow you just wake up with fleas. So, get up and get back to work. It’ll make you feel better.

Home Again

There’s no place like home.

Dorothy Gale – The Wizard of Oz

How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand…there is no going back?

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
J. R. R. Tolkien

Yesterday I came home from a much-needed vacation in the north Georgia mountains. Everything was peaceful, calm, and green with perfect temperatures and a nice breeze. My sister and I ate what we wanted and did what we wanted. We put together a jigsaw puzzle, watched a few movies, listened to an audio book on a landing near the river, or just rocked on the porch while we listened to the river below and the birds in the trees. Then, we came home. I was glad to get back to my fur babies, but it is always a little surreal, like something is not quite right.

In 1994 I moved to Seoul, South Korea for almost two years as a missionary, teaching English at the WMU headquarters. When I went to Korea, I expected life to be different living in a foreign country, and I wasn’t disappointed. However, I was not prepared for the return home. Everything was the same but different. A tree that had been in front of my childhood home for probably a hundred years came down during a hurricane that made its way inland. My niece had grown so much from the toddler I remembered that I almost didn’t recognize her. The house was the same, but it didn’t feel quite right.

For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.

Hebrews 13:14

The saying that you can’t go home again doesn’t mean you can’t physically go home; it means you can go but it will never be exactly the same because you have changed. My two years in Korea had changed me, matured me. For two years Seoul was my home, so returning to my childhood home was not the same anymore. It wasn’t bad, but it took several months to settle back into a routine. I understand what Frodo meant in the quotation above: there is no going back. But, that’s not a bad thing because we shouldn’t be going back; we should be moving forward.

For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

Philippians 3:20

When we become Christians, our citizenship changes. We are no longer of this world though we remain in it. Therefore, we will never really feel like we belong because we are looking forward to home inHeaven one day. When Frodo returned to the Shire, he knew he couldn’t stay. He stayed long enough to finish his last task, and then he journeyed on to the white shores. When we accept Christ as Lord, we should be looking toward Him and what He has for us to do. Then, once our assignments are complete, we will go home to our reward.

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

John 14:1-2

In the meantime, we have a purpose right where we are. Some days it is fighting fleas, and some days it is fighting giants. Most days it is somewhere in the middle. It is a journey down a road less taken, and you never know what will be around the next turn, but you know who walks beside you, and you know the journey’s end: Home. Like Dorothy said, “There is no place like home.”

Home is behind, the world ahead, And there are many paths to tread Through shadows to the edge of night, Until the stars are all alight. Then world behind and home ahead, We’ll wander back and home to bed. Mist and twilight, cloud and shade, Away shall fade! Away shall fade!

J. R. R. Tolkien

In Praise of Fleas?

But have you known a dog to praise his fleas?

Wm. Butler Yeats

I hate fleas! As I write this, I have literally sprayed myself into the corner of my house, more specifically to my office. Earlier today I gave each cat a dose of flea medicine, so they are currently cleaning themselves profusely while staring at the closed door with suspicion. I am resisting the urge to scratch myself just at the thought of it. In the meantime, the flea spray is doing its job in the rest of the house, so I am writing this blog post while I wait for the two hours to pass.

So, I began to ponder what God might have me learn from this aggravation. I came across the little poem by Yeats. He was talking about refusing to praise bad poets who imitated his poetry because they were like fleas living off of his work. The same could be said of Christians who claim righteousness as if they had done something to deserve it. The only reason we have any righteousness at all is because of Christ within us.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

We have salvation because of God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23), and if we have anything to brag about, it is in Christ alone (Galatians 6:14). So, when I am tempted to think more highly of myself than I ought to, I will try to remember these fleas. You see, the cats didn’t bring fleas into my house. I did. The cats are indoor cats and never go outside. The fleas came in on me and infested my house and my cats. I am to blame.

Now, while I am dealing with the consequences, I still wonder what I can take away from this situation. Well, these little critters have motivated me to do what I should have already done, which is a deep spring cleaning. Maybe a spiritual spring cleaning is in order as well as we try to move past all of these trying times. You see if I had made sure the shop cat had been treated before the first flea bit me, then I wouldn’t be spending my day off fighting these pests. What will it take to motivate you? For your sake, I hope it isn’t fleas.