Birthday!

So, not to brag or anything, but today is my birthday.

Yep, “beware the Ides of March,” because that’s the day that I was born!

Aren’t birthdays interesting? Like any holiday, we celebrate them every year, but each year brings something different, depending on what age we are, what day of the week the birthdate falls on, heck, even what the weather is like that day. Being born in March, the weather could be a balmy 70 degrees, or a freezing 28. This year, March is going to stick to it’s “lion-like” weather on the 15th.

I was thinking back to some of my most memorable birthdays and thought I’d share a few of them.

Age 5- My cousin Jamie and I were born three weeks apart, so the year we turned 5, our parents arranged for us to have a joint birthday party together, complete with clown, cake and lots and lots of kids. Probably the biggest party I’ve ever had to celebrate a birthday, although my parents tell me I was pretty cranky due to getting my kindergarten shots the day before.

Age 16- Other than the fact that I was finally old enough to drive, this birthday is memorable because it was the last birthday I celebrated with my Grandma Queen. She had been in declining health for some time and recently ill, but on my sixteenth birthday, she was feeling good. She spent the evening with my family, having dinner, eating cake, and giving sass back as good as she got. She passed away 11 days later, and I will always treasure the last memories I made with her.

Me and Frodo in my college dorm room.

Age 19- My first birthday in college and away from home was made special by the efforts of my friends. I really into (re: obsessed) with Lord of the Rings at the time, so my group of friends banded together to get me a cardboard cutout of Frodo. Since I had an 8 a.m. class that day, my friends waited until I left, then snuck the cardboard  hobbit into my dorm room. However, they neglected to open my curtains, so upon stepping back into my room later that morning, all I could see was the dim outline of a person! I screamed, causing several people to come running, only to turn on the lights and realize I had been terrified of nothing more than a four-foot tall paper man with a flimsy sword. Yeah, that was humiliating. On the plus side, Frodo accompanied us on lots of adventures throughout the rest of my college career, including a trip to the local drive-in theater to see the next installment of (what else?) Lord of the Rings, and a starring role in one my student films, “When Your Date Falls Flat.” Frodo is now happily living out his golden years in my office at the symphony.

Age 21- Spring Break. Mexico. Not nearly as epic as it sounds. I had accompanied my campus ministry to Mexico for a mission trip that year, and unfortunately, caught a terrible cold the day we left. After doing manual labor all day in the hot sun, wiping my nose until it was raw, all I wanted to do was crawl into my sleeping bag and pass out for a few hours. My group had other plans, however. To celebrate my birthday and another guy’s, they had purchased a piñata, and made he and I take turns trying to break it. Blindfolded, no less. I was less than enthusiastic to make a fool of myself, and after several attempts, finally hit the stupid thing. It didn’t break! After the guy took a turn and it still didn’t crack, we realized the piñata was empty! I could have cried (and I think I did, a little) from exhaustion and disappointment. At least some candy would have helped sooth my weary soul!

There have been a lot of fun birthdays since those formative years, such as the time my coworkers decorated my office with streamers and hid Reese peanut butter cups all over it (truth– I literally found one two years later…and I plead the fifth on whether or not I are it [I did]). I usually have a celebratory dinner with my parents and brother’s family each year, and a bouquet of daffodils, my favorite flower. This year, I’m going to have lunch with one of my best friends, and see the new Beauty and the Beast movie in the theater on Saturday with my love.

What has been a memorable birthday for you?

A Lesson in Perseverance from LOTR

When Frodo began his journey in The Fellowship of the Ring, it was a journey he never would have anticipated taking, one he fought against traveling. Yet he went, and he was thrust from his quiet, safe world into a world of adventure and danger.

He and the fellowship traveling alongside him fought against orks and ring wraiths and giant spiders and mountains and fire and Smeagol and more! Many times Frodo wanted to give up, but he kept pressing on. Perhaps the greatest obstacle he faced was the temptation of putting on the ring, a ring that would make him invisible. How easily he could slip past the enemies with it on! But the ring that could have saved him, also attracted evil. In spite of it all, he kept moving forward. And through it all, he was never alone.

Throughout our lives each of us has likely ventured out on an unknown and unplanned journey, down a road we never intended to take. Maybe it’s family changes: a death, divorce, unplanned pregnancy. Or maybe it’s career changes with layoffs or difficult co-workers. For writers, some have found success with little effort, while others fight for every inch gained.

Life is seldom easy, but worthwhile journeys rarely travel straight, paved roads. And when we set our eyes on the goal God set for us, we’ll never be alone.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12 – 14

Lessons from The Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings 03-25-15

The Lord of the Rings is a classic. So many life lessons can be learned from examining just one of the many characters in these novels.

The greatest lesson I have learned is that through Jesus, I’m capable of more than I thought. Just like Frodo, God calls us to take many journeys. Journeys full of danger, pain, sorrow, and maybe even death. Most often we don’t feel qualified or capable. Like Frodo, parts of the journey become too hard to bear and we contemplate bailing.

The sacrifice is too much and sorrow surrounds us immobilizing our efforts. We cry, we ask God why He chose us for such a task. We ask Him to pass this cup from us because we can’t possibly see the outcome as favorable. We realize we may not survive. But He speaks across our hearts whispering to do His will and go with Him. He promises to be with us and carry our burden when it’s too much to bear.

He is our Samwise Gamgee.

And though we cannot see it, this journey will create hope and healing for the great many people. Many will come to Christ through Jesus if we accept the journey from Him. So don’t be afraid to be used. Be honored and know that whatever journey God calls you take, He will make you capable through Jesus.

Question: Has God sent you on a journey you’ve been reluctant to accept?

The Ring of Temptation

Temptation. We have all suffered from it. J.R.R. Tolkien knew this when he wrote the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Tolkien didn’t hide it or prettify it. He births it way back in the Hobbit with the ring Bilbo finds while being a Burglar for the Dwarfs who are trying to reclaim their mountain from the fire-breathing dragon Smaug. The hobbit uses it to his advantage and is able to thwart the dragon and keep the Thorin from leading his own downfall. Years later, though, Bilbo scares himself when the ring’s influence brings out his ugly side before he gives it up to his heir, Frodo, proving he is not unaffected by the ring’s power after all. (Galadriel photo courtesy of Stack Overflow.)

Smeagol and the ring
Photo courtesy of theonering.net.

The Ring is the central plot point for the LOTR. As with any temptation it is fairly innocuous in its introduction in The Hobbit, being only a magical ring of invisibility, first for Smeagol, then for Bilbo. Smeagol, however, is a grotesque figure with a personality disorder who covets the ring. It is revealed throughout the books that Smeagol had been immediately drawn to the ring, so much so that he killed his fishing companion to get it, thus becoming a twisted version of the hobbit he originally was.

In Tolkien’s tales, the One Ring was forged by the Dark Lord Sauron in the fires of Mount Doom to gain dominance over Middle Earth. Suaron aided the Elven smiths in creating the rings, nine for men, seven for the dwarves, and three for the elves. These rings had no power, however, so Sauron created one ring in which he placed his own power in so it would have power over the others.

Boromir tempted
Photo courtesy of Angelfire

Corruption was the ultimate end of those who wore the ring. As with any temptation, the longer it has hold of you, the more it corrupts you. The ring was powerful enough to tempt both Boromir and Faramir who only wanted to redeem their lands to their former glory and possibly impress their dad, the King. However, the evil that inhabited the ring in the form of Sauron’s own magic would’ve corrupted even the most  noble purposes. Samwise himself, my biggest hero of the series, wondered what a grand garden he could create if he were to use the ring to his own benefit.

In the end it was only due to Smeagol’s selfish desire to get the ring back from Frodo, who was under the ring’s influence, that it was indeed destroyed in the fire of Mount Doom. Frodo returned home to the Shire, but he was never the same. He couldn’t escape the pain from his wounds and the inner scars from having been a Ring Bearer for so long.  Frodo heads to the Undying Lands (an Elven form of Heaven) with Bilbo, the Elves, and Gandalf.

Temptation can be innocuous or noble at times. We can find ways to justify giving into these fine reasons, but in the end all temptation does is bring destruction to those who continue to court it. And even in some cases, if we are able to get out from beneath the influence of temptation, we suffer the recourse from having courted it in the first place.

A Samwise Kind of Love

Boromir was tempted. Galadriel was tempted. Even Frodo was tempted in the end. It was an ordinary gold band that immortalized the worst kinds of evil Middle Earth had ever known. Gandalf knew the ring would have power over him and so he declined it when Frodo asked him to take the burden of the ring from him.

The Lord of the Rings is not known as a love story. But truly it is. The person with the biggest heart and the most steadfast love is Samwise Gamgee. Just an ordinary hobbit living an ordinary life. There is nothing much to note about Sam. We first get a glimpse into the love Sam has for his friend Frodo when Frodo tries to leave him behind. Frodo sets off in a boat determined to carry the burden of the ring alone. Although Sam cannot swim, he follows after Frodo into the water. Frodo is forced to save his hobbit friend or let him drown.

Samwise quote 2Later in the story when it is apparent to everyone but Frodo that Smeagol aka Gollum was manipulating Frodo, Sam suffers abuse for trying to reveal the creature’s less than honorable antics. Later Smeagol makes Frodo believe Sam has stolen the last of the food, and he is left behind. Sam comes to the rescue, though, when Frodo is led into a trap and captured. Sam saves him and continues to encourage Frodo in his trek to Mt. Doom until the ring is finally destroyed (no thanks to Frodo’s desire to keep the ring.)

Love doesn’t let others carry their burdens alone. Love does not give up, even when you can’t go on any further. Love believes when all hope is gone. Love, when paired with bravery and determination, can defeat any evil that challenges it.

I want the kind of love Sam showed Frodo. I want a Samwise kind of love.