Posts Tagged ‘spirituality’

Bilbo Baggins: I just need to sit quietly for a moment. 
Gandalf: You’ve been sitting quietly for far too long! 
Gandalf: When did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you?

This post has very little to do with the focus of this blog other than I borrowed the title of Bilbo’s book in giving my own story a name, “There and Back Again”. I have loved The Hobbit since childhood, and remember begging my mom to sit and listen as I read portions of it out loud. This week I saw the movie and am still very much in love with this story.

Tolkien appeals to people with many different worldviews, each drawing from his stories their own conclusions about the underlying message he was trying to convey. He himself however never admitted to writing an allegory of any kind and insisted his books were stories that stood in their own right. He did concede though that an author’s beliefs (he was a Christian) do find their way into what he writes. It’s not possible to separate one from the other. As readers of fiction or poetry, we also read meanings into them derived from our own worldviews. So what I share here is likely much more than Tolkien ever meant by his story, but it’s a beautiful picture to me nonetheless.

If you have not read the book, or seen the new film just released – feel free to move on to a more interesting blog. 🙂

I identify with Bilbo so much, as an average human being. We have this idea in our minds about what we want to be, and then we are faced with what we are; small, weak, selfish, petty, and inclined to seek comfort as our highest ideal. In this introductory story of Middle Earth I see a transformation of a character from this low yet comfortable state to one not unlike the birth and growth of a Christian life.

One day, the Holy Spirit knocks. He is calling you for your true destiny. You argue and resist, and shut the door, thinking that is the end of that. You sit down for a nice cup of tea and try to put the whole thing out of your mind. But you are not allowed to sit comfortable for long. Soon God is setting events in order in your life that dishevel you, and start taking apart all the things you believe are so precious (a Hobbit hole full of dwarves!). He calls on you again to come. You still resist. You shudder at the risks and decide, “Absolutely not!”. You want your life put back in order and to be left in peace.

Then He leaves you alone in the quiet, which causes you to wonder, and hunger, and suddenly you run out the door after Him saying, “Yes I will, I will!”. You think maybe there will be something in it for you.. some great reward in fortune or a place of importance. After all it IS God who wants you right? If HE is asking you to do something, it must be very important and soon everyone will know of your great ministry!

The journey is at first a bit mundane.. and nothing is happening as you hoped. You get tired, and hungry and you miss your warm, comfortable chair by the fire. Then troubles come and you fear for your very life at times. The people around you who are supposed to be on this journey with you begin to criticize and say you don’t really belong with them. You wonder what you have gotten yourself into and start to pack your bag to go home. It’s not worth it. You’ve made a big mistake and there is nothing but pain and failure in your future.

Then it happens. God confronts you with a choice to seek your own safety, to save your own life – or to lay your life down for the sake of others. In that willingness to die, you at last learn to really live in Him. It’s not about you anymore. You have taken up your cross and you follow Him, to the ends of the Earth if He so asks – not for your own glory, but for the deep love He put in your heart for Himself, and those He sends you to.

Shortly after seeing this picture in the movie, I read the parable of the sower and saw all four of those pictures in this story too! The initial denial, the quick acceptance without counting the cost, the turning back because of the desire for the good things in life or too much suffering, and at last the acceptance of God’s call to die and take up a cross, in which we become the “good soil” which produces much fruit.

I have come to view this parable as the journey of a heart from separation to reconciliation with God, and the process of growth He takes us through.  Not everyone who resists the Word will always do so.   I know there have been times when each of these “soils” applied to me! I want my heart to be fertile soil, but I am not always.  I am new in Him forever and always, but each stage in my growing process seems to start this cycle all over again; initial resistance, eagerness which hasn’t counted the cost, shrinking back, then acceptance. If the seed is the Word… as Jesus says, then every word of truth may encounter these obstacles before it produces fruit our lives.

He is the final Word.. and I pray that as Christmas comes, He is planted in many hearts. This time of year, He is the also the Living Water that channels through Christmas into places he would never be allowed otherwise.  I even heard songs of Him at a public high school band concert.  If water spills out of its boundaries, it will fill every crack and cranny and seep through the smallest openings.  The world has a chance to see what they choose to forget the rest of the year.. a Redeemer has been born. There is so much grief and suffering in the world. I pray we hunger for Him and His Peace! Immanuel!  


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I have often said that telling a story is more effective than arguing a point, and this film, Paradise Recovered, demonstrates this to be true.  It shows a young woman who believes in her church as the very voice of God.  She devoutly obeys every teaching, even looking for a part-time job so she can financially support “the work”, in addition to her position as a live-in nanny to her pastor’s family.  As the picture of perfection begins to crumble, she finds a new friendship at work that challenges her to the core.

The depiction of spiritually abusive religion in this movie represents an interesting composite of various cults as well as some mainstream Christian belief and practice.  As I have maintained here repeatedly, the cults do not have a monopoly on legalism. The injured lambs leaving the cults often find the same spiritual illnesses in evangelical churches.  How can doctrinal orthodoxy produce the same fruit as a heretical cult?  Rightly dissected doctrine by itself (whatever that is) doesn’t affect the heart.  It only creates a mind that knows it’s right.   And we all know where that leads.

Fruits of love come from abiding in the vine – a genuine spiritual experience in Jesus.  The only head-knowledge that produces the fruit of love is the mind of Christ.  Jesus didn’t write a list of doctrines, however useful we may find them.  He lived and died for love.  He spoke truth, but drew people to love God and one another as the highest aim.  Much of Christian religion attempts to wash the outside of the cup.

I found the most poignant scene at the beginning of this film.  Esther, the main character, tries to tell the pastor’s little girl a Bible story with the same felt characters I grew up with in Sabbath School.  She tells her the story of the Good Samaritan with the Law as the focus, not love.  (How we teach our children… topic for a different post).  The little girl squirms and says, “I don’t like this story.  I want to hear about baby Moses.”   How many adults have I known, and how long was I also of this opinion?  We would have never admitted it, but our lives and words professed this:  Jesus, we don’t want to hear you.  Let Moses speak to us instead.

Fear, control, performance-focused thinking,  Jesus-plus-something teaching – these all come naturally to us.  To truly believe and ingest the truth about what Jesus has done feels so unnatural.  He defies logic and we like justice that we have something to do with, not the kind that takes us out of the equation.   Freedom can be terrifying as well, as this young woman in the movie finds out.  I identified with her brief return to the confines and security of the church, even after the abusive treatment.  She said, “I miss God.”  She had not yet experienced Him apart from her church culture.  Just as an abused wife may repeatedly return to her husband because she “loves” him, she possibly has not yet known genuine love.

Someone recently commented to me that we should not worry ourselves over hypocrites in any belief system – no matter what it is.   But I find a problem deeper than hypocrisy.  In dysfunctional families, as well as churches, we find the ability to compartmentalize thinking so that opposing ideals do not touch one another and conflict.  To the greater degree we do this in our own lives, as well as in religious communities, we find various forms of insanity.  The goal of mental, spiritual, and emotional health is to integrate truth into every aspect of our hearts and minds.  That truth, is a Person.  He is Jesus.  Knowing Him, abiding in Him, and allowing Him to fill us up with Himself – isn’t the focus of legalistic Christian practice or teaching.  Instead, we become no different than the Pharisees that sought to promote themselves above the Man who would set the people free.

Some may find this movie uncomfortable in some ways, and challenging, but I hope it gives some the courage to be free, in Christ alone.

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