Thursday, November 7, 2013

"To Him Who is Our Life"

Today my mom called me on the phone, in the middle of my usual Thursday craziness - juggling transportation plans for youth night, giving my home aid instructions for my laundry, getting ready for a meeting - to tell me that Charlie had passed away. She was definitely emotional about it, and I could imagine that Kevan and my dad were too - he was a dear family friend, but I just blinked, not able to absorb the news at all. When I got off the phone, I felt weird, like I should cry or cancel my meeting or something, but I just mechanically checked my email and straightened my glasses on my nose. 

After my home aid left, I bundled up and decided to go for a walk. I rode down the alley for two blocks, then came back on the sidewalk, the tears in my eyes caused only by the cold wind blowing in my face. "Charlie's gone... he's passed... he's dead..." I tried telling myself, but it wouldn't stick. I've only known Charlie as a very old man with a very young spirit. Kevan once said he is like Caleb in Joshua 14, taking possession of new land and powerfully fighting the enemy. Clear-minded and sharp, adventurous and feisty, determined and driven, Charlie has seemed sort of immortal to me. At least, I thought he would out-live me. I visited him in his home in Charleston in 2009, and have been looking forward to another visit soon. The thought of not seeing him again on this earth has never occurred to me. So I couldn't mourn, because it just doesn't seem real. Charlie is more full of life than most people I've met. 

Tonight when I got home, it finally set in. I thought of all the scribbled letters I've received from him, and more recently the emails. I re-read some emails we've shared in the past year. This is an excerpt from one of the last notes I received from him: 

 Connie, when your life continues to be firmly rooted in our Lord Jesus, then things work. You say that you do not know what your story will be like in the end. The secret to that question fits into two scriptures:
 Phil.4:12b.(NIV) I have learned the secret to be content in any and every situation . And Col: 3:23 & 24.Whatsoever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men, for you know your reward comes from the Lord not men. So Connie, seek to please only your Lord, for that is a winner.  

Charlie always signed off his notes with the phrase, "To Him Who is Our Life." It is a reflection of how much his life was focused on Jesus - giving glory to Him, pointing others to Him. Even whenever he was bedridden in the hospital, he was inviting his visitors to sit and listen to stories of Jesus and his amazing work in the life of an old man named Charles Luce. Maybe that's why it doesn't feel like he is dead - because Jesus is completely and thoroughly his life, and He is eternal and His love will continue on...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Hobbit's Tale, by Constance Baggins

Looking back at our tracks through the sandy clay loam earth of Oregon...
and at the unwavering faithfulness of God.

Three hobbits sit together around their favorite spot - the dinner table - enjoying some of their favorite past times - feasting and telling stories, reminiscing on grand adventures gone by.

Constance Baggins licks her sticky fingers and watches her friends on either side of her, trying to imagine how she could have ever gotten this far without them. She is tired and a little weary of the unexpected journey that is long and difficult, but also feels stronger and braver because of her companions. Hannah (Bangses) Gamgee - the faithful, gentle, quietly heroic one - twiddls her fork in her Carolina salad, a symbol of the faraway home and garden that she left behind to help and support Constance. Brie(henihenihooeyha) Took - the most adventurous, delightfully unpredictable, and magical one - grins at her giant hamburger with sparkling eyes for only a moment before taking a huge bite and closing her eyes in satisfaction.

"What has been our 'ring'?" Brie asks after many stories have been remembered. "Our ring of power, which calls to us, and tries to overpower us... that we carry and bear for one another with the intent to overcome and destroy?"

"Security," Constance says solemnly. "We think we want it, need it, but we really don't. And when we become content enough to cast it aside, something happens to us to make us desperately grasp for it again."

The three hobbits quietly chew their food in thought, each one recalling the physical, emotional, relational, financial, and spiritual battles they have fought over the past couple years.

"We think we can control it, and use it against our enemy..." Brie says.

"Thinking, 'If only I had...' then I could be stronger and more effective," Constance interjects.

"...But all that really happens is that it binds us and pulls us into darkness..." Brie continues.

"It doesn't bind us, but it calls to us," Hannah corrected. "The only power it has is what we give to it. We are attracted to it, and we choose to put it on - to view the world through that haze... and when we do, it seems so much more necessary, so much more vital and important... we forget we don't need it."

"And God has told us all that this ring - this security that the world makes us believe that we need - is really what would hold us back from the best and biggest adventures he has in store for us."

Interesting, to think of Tolkien's ring of power - so evil and destructive - as being something in our lives as neatly verbalized and highly esteemed as "worldly security." But the ring was beautiful and precious, wasn't it? And in our culture, we spend so much money, make so many plans, and put so much stock in our security... And yet, in walking with Jesus, everything gets flipped upside-down, and we find that worldly security is a destructive lie, and our only hope for security is in clinging to and chasing after the Lord. We hobbits are learning to release our desire for a safe and secure life, and charge head-first into the wild, dangerous, wonderful will of God, learning that he is the only Rock we need.

"For who is God besides the LordAnd who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure." - Psalm 18-31-32

**There is, of course, a fourth hobbit, not to be forgotten, for she is powerful, a little odd, and much loved. On this particular night, Emilee "Castle" Brandybuck was working late, serving drinks and locking up shop. But there will be more stories with her!