Thursday, September 28, 2023

Disgruntled, Gruntled, a Took and a Baggins

I discovered a new word I've added to my collection:


Yes, it's the opposite of DISGRUNTLED (which, of course, means discontented, dissatisfied)... 

All of us prefer to be GRUNTLED.

And, yet...based on the last two posts - - - 

I'm convinced the Lord wants us to establish a Holy Disgruntlement within our souls so that we might experience more of the adventure He has planned for us on the PATH OF LIFE (lest we miss out entirely)...

Right about the time I discovered this new word (and was "gruntled to have found it"), I began re-reading the little book by JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit, as I prepare to video some of these old classics to the youngest grand-daughter when she's ready for them.

As a reminder, the book chronicles the world of the well-to-do hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, highly respected within his community. Here is why Mr. Baggins was considered so respectable: 

"...not only because the Bagginses had lived on The Hill for time out of mind, and not only because most of them were rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected: you could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of even asking him." 

In fact, Bilbo considered any adventure disturbingly uncomfortable, and preferred his same little routine about his comfortable Hobbit-home above all. Anything otherwise made him quite cross. 

So, when Gandalf, the great wizard, came by one morning searching for someone to share an adventure, Bilbo closed the discussion quickly... "We don't want any adventures here, thank you! You might try over The Hill or across The Water." By this Bilbo meant the conversation was at an end (although it wasn't, of course, or there would be no story)...

"You see, inside Bilbo ran Took blood from his mother's side of the family across The Water. The Took's were very different from the Bagginses, and every now and then one of the Took-clan would go off and have an adventure. Oh, they discreetly disappeared, and the family would hush it up; but the fact remained that the Tooks were not as respectable as the Bagginses, though they were undoubtedly richer." 

When the dwarves appeared on Bilbo's doorstep the day after Gandalf stopped by, the music of the golden harp, the songs they sang, the conversation, the mystery and the love of beautiful things shared by the dwarves, began to move through Mr. Baggins...and... 

"something Tookish woke up inside of him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and waterfalls, and explore the caves and wear a sword instead of a walking stick..."

"Something Tookish woke up inside of him..."


With that the little hobbit's adventures began...

Big. Bold. Daring. And....quite wild. Definitely nothing he would have experienced had he stayed in his hobbit-home in the side of the hill.

That "something Tookish" could be described as disgruntlement...that holy dissatisfaction for more of what the Lord has for His followers...a passionate pursuit of adventure and a life lived by faith.

It's a pilgrimage where, from one minute to the next, we don't know the twists and turns it may take, the dangers and the hardships that may be encountered, the sorrow and the grief that might be around the bend (as well as the joys, the spaces of rest and renewal, the laughter and the community forged)...

It is also a road where the heart is stirred, and adventure awaits, and a sword will lead the way - with every! single! step! heavenward!

May something Tookish wake-up inside us all...
For when it is stirred, others are sure to follow!  Absolutely nothing is more attractive than a life considered quite thrilling by others! And that, friends, is only found in Jesus...

And, for sure it won't be found if we stay sitting in our comfortable chair, with a spot of tea, before a roaring fire in our small little "hobbit" world.

Can you promise me that I will come back?

No! And if you will not be the same.
-JRR Tolkien-

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Out of the Mist and Into LIFE in FULL COLOR.

Last week's blog ran away from me. 

So, this week, I'm starting down the trail I began when another path opened up (ok, let's call it what it really was - a rabbit trail...). 

Where I began: With foghorn-blasts warning of misty days concealing the beauty of the Oregon shoreline, and the rugged potential dangers of craggy rock-lined harbors. 

Where I got sidetracked: to me it seemed like that old foghorn blew every morning of every day and I spent my childhood growing up in cold-ghost-like-mist (of course, children are great observers, but terrible interpreters and I do keep that in mind). 

As I mentioned, I found my attitude about those warnings shifting as I grew older from fear to resentment to comfortable familiarity. 

It happens.

Over time, we drown out the familiar, because it becomes normal, common, "old hat."

It's as "comfortable as an old shoe." 

(the old foghorn, above, at the Bandon Harbor and the newer below)

So, I simply went about each day with a casual acceptance that coastal weather simply was what it was, never thinking that there were other places to live, where the days were warm/fog-less, and the skies were a robin's egg blue, and the warmth of the sun kissed your skin. 

In fact, rare it was that a thought of leaving my little beach town ever crossed my mind. 


I had the privilege of being introduced to some of those other places....and, I never considered going back an option. 

Often times I've explained to folks who've asked if I don't miss living by the beach, "Yes, I love the ocean. Salt water runs in my veins; but, something happened when I moved where the sun shines more often than it doesn't. In the sunshine, I felt like I came to life. I didn't realize what I missed, because I just didn't know."

I just didn't know...

And, so, I was comfortable living in the shrouded mist of foggy days. 

A while back I picked up an old book, written by a gal who, along with her husband, served the Lord as a missionary in China back in the 1950's. 

In Isobel Kuhn's book (By Searching), she recites a poem, instrumental in changing the course of her life, taking her from the "shrouded mist of foggy days" to another place where she basked in the abundant life in the SON (my words).

Here's the poem, by John Oxenham, written late in the 19th century:

To every many there openeth 
A way, and ways, and a way. 
And the high soul climbs the high way, 
And the low soul gropes the low, 
And in between are the misty flats 
Where the rest drift to and fro. 
But to every man there openeth 
A high way and a low - 
And every man decideth the way his soul shall go. 

"In between are the misty flats, where the rest drift to and fro..."

The misty flats.



Status quo.

"Old hat..."

"As comfortable as an old shoe."

But, there's so much more!

Of course, I've transitioned to spiritually speaking.

The Lord has so much more for us on the High Way.

Hopefully, we've all avoided the low road that leads to destruction, but often times we're content to dwell in those foggy flats.

Why? Because we just don't know and the unknown is a bit scary!

What if I venture out of my comfortable little home-town, and life out there is hard?

But of this I am assured...

The High Way leads to abundant life; a life of adventure; a life where we journey with the Lord  (the Lion of Judah) who is not so safe, but is always good!

No, the (physical) sun doesn't always shine, even in sunshiny places...but, on the HIGH WAY, we are assured that we are always in the presence of the SON, who brings joy, no matter the circumstances.

His way (author, Mark Buchanan, calls it THE HOLY WILD) is a place: 

"Where life is lived to the hilt. It's the life where we walk day in and day out with the God who is surprising, dangerous, and mysterious. It's a place of risky adventure where sometimes nothing makes sense, and yet is filled with glad surprises. It's a place where we are called to live out a dangerous faith with an untamed God."

OH! There's SO! MUCH! MORE! When we walk the HIGH WAY with the WILD, UNTAMED GOD of the UNIVERSE and experience what it means to live in the SON, the adventure is limitless! 

Life with Jesus is never's full of joy and sorrow, easy and hard, peace and unrest, unity and conflict, friends and enemies, laughter and lament... all of that, we CAN see with clarity, color and beauty, when the SON shines bright and burns off the misty fog.

I never want to go back.


Thursday, September 14, 2023

Beach-Living, Foghorn-Blowing, Warnings

I grew up on the coast of Oregon. 

I woke (what seemed like) every morning to the foghorn bellowing from below the cliff on which my home sat. 

I didn't realize until recently that federal and international laws require them as a crucial navigational tool, preventing many a shipwreck.

These horns provide fair warning to those sailing in the thick soup of foggy weather, that craggy coastlines or other dangerous obstacles are near. 

Interestingly, from something I read not long ago, the actual sound can be heard for up to 20 miles off shore.

As a kid, the sound seemed haunting and fearful, matching the ghost-like quality of the mist as it silently moved in from sea to land. 

As I grew older, I grew resentful of it....the sound told me today would be another cold, dreary day on the coast (I'm definitely a gal who loves the sunshine). 

Over time, I learned to tune out the warnings...simply because of the familiarity. 

Now when I hear it, the familiarity of the sound brings a measure of comfort and symbolizes the sound of home: safe and protective.

No question, trying to navigate by boat, or by vehicle, through the thick mist of fog is crippling.

Ultimately, fair warnings bring great appreciation.

As I was reflecting on the absence of that low, mournful morning sound and the smell of coastal air, which I exchanged for my mountain home, it crossed my mind that we could use a spiritual foghorn...

Something bringing Jesus-folks fair warning that danger lurks nearby, as our "faith boat" sails toward craggy shores and potential shipwreck.

Of course, I mused, we have one, if we dared to heed and not tune it out.

It comes in the form of a book - God's Holy Book!

Yet, a 2021 Barna report shows only 9% of self-identified "Christians" possess a Biblical Worldview, believing the Bible to be accurate and reliable (Barna report), and only 1/3 of pastors spend time routinely reading and personalizing it. 

Barna goes on in his article to give an urgent plea to us all to know, teach, live out the truth of the Scriptures. 

He adds this (which makes the significance of the research stated above actually even more beyond belief): 

"Too often...people who want a certain reputation or image embrace the label 'Christian,' regardless of their spiritual life and intentions. 'Christian' has become somewhat of a generic term rather than a name that reflects a deep commitment to passionately pursuing and being like Jesus Christ."

The foghorn blasts with warning for us all.

It mourns loudly as the crippling fog rolls toward shore, and we don't acknowledge its clear and present danger.

It signals a dreary outcome unless we turn to heed its cry (read this quote by Whitefield carefully).

It rings out a hope that says home is close, offering up an earnest plea to gather as many together as we have opportunity to present the gospel.


This blog started with one thing in mind and the Lord seemed to give it a life of its own...or maybe a LIFE OF HIS OWN. 

So, perhaps next week, I'll head the direction I originally intended: it's just so easy to grow up in a foggy world, where sunshine is rare, believing that's all that life offers.  What a shock to my system when I realized there is MORE TO THIS LIFE!

For now:

The foghorn is blowing. Will we hear it; or will we ignore it, simply because we (in general) have stopped taking God at His EvErY Word?

Remember, fair warning gives way to great appreciation when heeded!

Thursday, September 7, 2023

An Apple Watch, Wonder, Worship, and Waiting for the Lord...

Yesterday, I found myself reflecting on my once-upon-a-time-Apple-Watch.

Purchased as a brand new Series 2 (I think the new ones are Series 8, so that tells you its age), it promised to improve my health, keep my memory on track, alert me to incoming text messages and emails, advise me of the weather, cook dinner, and tell time.

No question, it kept many of those promises.

Each year it got older, and newer models hit the shelves, but my trusty old watch kept ticking.

Until this year, when it died a natural death; and, upon its demise I decided not to replace it. 

That decision didn't require much thought. 

You see, what started out as a pleasant give-and-take relationship, began to take a troubling turn. 

The thing became extremely bossy

It yelled at me to get up and move more. 

It beeped at me when I didn't immediately respond to its reminders...

...and, I'm not sure it wasn't swearing at me when I was late heading outside for my daily walk. 

When it started demanding I leave for appointments RIGHT NOW, or take my daily supplements, or find a moment to breathe, I began to think it simply invasive.

So, my wrist is now watch free.

For the first few weeks, I must have looked down at my wrist a hundred or more times a day to see what time it was or to check for messages/reminders; AND, because most of the time, I had the volume muted and the vibrate option on for notifications, there were times I felt phantom vibrations on my wrist, and glanced down to see what my watch wanted now...

Even from watch-heaven the thing attempted to direct my life.

Honestly, I had no clue how frequently I watched my watch...

Over time, as the tan lines faded from my wrist, I finally stopped looking.

I began to realize something important.

As I stopped watching my watch to see the time, or how many steps I'd taken, or if I had any incoming messages, I had more time to look around at my world.

I began to notice little things: 

Lady bugs on the leaves of the wild flowers on the side of the road...

The signs of changing seasons...

The bright blue of the morning sky...

A caterpillar crossing my path...

When my eyes were distracted, I noticed my wonder and delight at the Lord's creation waned...and, that meant, so, too, my worship.

I might have even missed things I certainly should have been cautious of, like this spider I nearly stepped on top of in my oblivion...

In all this watch-pondering, my mind took a turn to the number of times Scripture uses words relating to having our eyes open, watching, looking... 

We are to watch how the Lord is at work in our lives...

We are to keep our eyes on Jesus, the one who writes the story of our faith-life...

We are to steadfastly watch over (guard) the gospel so that it is not maligned, added to, or taken away from...

...and, we are to watch, wait, and listen for the Lord to speak to us, guarding our own souls (Proverbs 24:12), that we might escape temptation (Mark 14:38) and avoid a spirit of religious pride (Matthew 16:6)...

BUT, most of the time, Scripture tells us, our eyes are to be open and looking for the signs of His coming (Matthew 25:13).

Peter writes about those who mock this notion, and his grave concern over how the church as a whole might be affected (read 2 Peter 3). Paul touched on the same with the Thessalonians...

However, over the years, I fear far greater than trouble caused by scoffers from outside, the church's "watch" has died on the inside...
(and, I am the church, so no pointy fingers, here.)

Gone is the potency of the message.

We've become dull of heart to its critical importance. 

Most of all, because we aren't watching, waiting, worshipping, and working with this in mind, our lives are lived carelessly and unfocused.

So, as Peter wrote the displaced church of God in those early years of Christianity, perhaps we need a reminder:

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for [the return of the Lord], be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 3:14-18, ESV

We don't need an Apple Watch to notify us of the "times," or boss us about; but, we do need to be on the alert:

Eyes open in wonder: WATCHING... 



Welcoming the Coming of the Lord.