Band of Gold

Sometimes I really don’t know if owning up to my nerdy interests is hurting or helping my social life.  I’m the kind of girl who reads for fun (gasp!), digs superheroes, loves British television (Downton Abbey, Doctor Who – I’m officially in love with the 10th Doctor, btw), and would much rather attend Comic Con than a girly tea party any day… unless that tea party happens to take place in London in which case I’m grabbing my biggest hat and heading out the door (supposing a Tardis isn’t already available, of course – see Doctor Who reference).

But whether or not you’re as well versed in the nerd culture as I am, you’ve probably heard a thing or two about the fandom that is the Lord of the Rings.  You know, hobbits, wizards, creepy, balding, bipolar creatures obsessed with jewelry – that stuff, them peoples.  The movies are epic, the books are… difficult, and the soundtrack is inspiring.  It’s the stuff that great novels and their spin-offs are made of.

One of the more famous characters from the Lord of the Rings franchise is Gollum.  He’s that creepy, bone thin, overly cooked hot dog, wide-eyed, creature who openly expresses his obsession with “the ring.”  The sight of him creeps me out and every time he calls the ring his “prrreeccciouuuusss” I just want to throw him in the river.  Yes, I feel that passionately about him.

However, as much as I don’t like him, he’s probably, in my opinion, one of the most well written characters throughout literary history.  Tolkien didn’t settle on creating Gollum to be a one-dimensional character; Gollum is, in one body, two people.  He is Gollum (the evil version of himself) and Smeagol (the nicer, yet equally creepy version of himself).

Gollum is the guy who is overcome with selfishness, greed, and obsession.  Smeagol, meanwhile, hates the ring for the way it has overtaken his life.  He wants the ring destroyed because the ring is destroying him.

I don’t know if Tolkien purposely wrote this character to show the human battle between flesh and spirit and right and wrong, but that’s exactly what he did by creating this literary enigma.

There was one time in my very early years when in a toy store I spotted a kid-sized red car with a yellow top.  According to my parents’ legend, I climbed in the car and it was a… “struggle” to get me out.  They said I never reacted that way to any toy and was never the kind of kid to get all crazy over stuff like that.  I’m still not, but I’m pretty sure if you put me in a Camaro or Dodge Challenger I’d have a similar reaction – just sayin’.

As it turns out, I did end up getting that car.  Just to clarify, my parents didn’t buy it for me that day – they didn’t reward bratty behavior and they’d definitely be the first ones to ship me off to Singapore if I ever acted like “that kid.”  Although my parents recognized my extreme passion for motor vehicles and would give me the world if they could, they understood the value of raising someone who isn’t given what they want simply because they demanded or felt entitled to receive it.  I’m thankful for having parents who know how to give me what I need over what I want.

I can say with 100% certainty this instance was the first and last time a material possession caused that kind of reaction in me.  I’ve learned that stuff is just stuff and if I really want something then I’ll work to get it and be content if it never becomes mine.  I am a non-material girl living in a material world.

My dreams on the other hand have become my “rings.”  Getting married, having the dream job, etc., have at one time or another turned me into the Gollum/Smeagol character.  These things, while certainly not bad in and of themselves, have caused me to act, well, crazy.  I’ve cried, whined, yelled, kicked, screamed – all the things extreme fits are made of.  At times, I’ve gotten so focused on WHAT I think my dreams should look like and WHEN I think they should happen that instead of being content and trusting in God’s plan and timing I straight up turn into a Gollum.

Fortunately, God – in all His love, grace, and mercy towards me – hasn’t given in to my crazy fits or demands.  He’s helped the Smeagol to overtake the Gollum in me and has given me the strength to overcome that nasty, obsessive, think I know better than the Creator of the Universe, mentality.

Yes, it’s an ongoing process, but He’s teaching me how to let go of my will so that His can be done.  And so far I’ve found that His way and timing (though not always to my liking) is far better than my own.  Oh to think of the bullets I have dodged.

Whatever your “rings” are in your life, stick ‘em in your pocket and continue on in your journey.  Yep, they’re going to call out to you, tempt you, and drive you crazy until you reach your destination, but it’s far better to own the ring than to be owned by the ring.

So carry on, Hobbits! Enjoy the journey and remember that the Author of your life knows the beginning, end, and every twist of your story.  You are His precious.

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Pour Some Sugar On Me

A Lego portrayal of the Israelites and manna. I couldn't have thought of a better picture if I tried!

I still remember the day I went to see “The Prince of Egypt” in the movie theater.  Growing up in the church, it fascinated me to see a famous bible story portrayed on the big screen.  Even with “Ice Man” (a.k.a. Val Kilmer) doing the voices for Moses and God, I was still able to watch this movie as if I were looking through a window into the past.

The movie did a pretty good job showing how this point in history was a terrifying, hopeful, epic, and miraculous event.  Of course, it also showed what a flawed man Moses was and how God STILL used him despite his past, fears, and insecurities.  That’s not something you see very often in cinema.

The other thing you don’t see or hear of very often is the story of what happened after God used Moses to deliver His people from Pharoah’s tyranny.  The story (and God) didn’t just stop at freeing the Israelites from slavery – no, God wanted to lead them to a promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey.  I think my promised land might also include some steak, bacon, chocolate, tortillas, salsa, a little bit of cilantro, grilled onions, and Diet Pepsi in its most perfect form as served up by Taco Bell (it’s true – theirs is the best).  Mmm, yeah.

Actually, that heart unfriendly food list was a pretty good segue into this next point.  For whatever reason, it took God’s people forty years to reach the promised land, and along the way they needed some provisions to complete the journey, namely food.  The story goes that the people prayed for food and God sent down manna from heaven.  Manna is basically this wafer type stuff that God would spread on the ground, the people would gather it, pound it together, and bake little cakes out of it.  So, pretty much like scones from heaven… as most scones are, in my opinion.

Anyway, this was all the Israelites were allowed to eat during their journey.  Whatever God allotted them for that day was what they had to live on.  If they tried to store some for the next day, it would decay, worms would grow in it, and it was just straight up nasty.  No one wants to own that scone.

It took a long time (just growing up and having life experiences, really) for me to see that there was a point in the way God provided for His people: He wanted them to rely on Him alone for their daily needs to be met.  I’m sure many of them questioned why He insisted on forty years of forced vegetarianism (I would have), but I’m also sure they finally reached a point where they no longer worried if they would receive what they needed to survive one day to the next.  The menu may have been a little too predictable, but at least they could count on always being fed.

So this brings me to this morning when I was getting out of the shower.  As I buried my face in my towel I let out a groan mixed with words like, “Why, God?  What is going on?” and the oddest word popped in my head, “manna.”  Weird.  But God, as I know Him anyway, is quirky like that.

Suddenly everything came into focus (and not just because I moved the towel from my face).  I understood that I am in a desert time in my life and God is only providing me manna for this journey, no extras.  This means a couple of things: 1.) I need to be grateful for His daily provision, (i.e. food on the table, roof over my head, love from family & friends), 2.) Instead of getting caught up in where my life has been, where it’s going, or even what’s going to happen tomorrow, I need to just trust God to get me through today, and 3.) This desert journey is only a temporary journey and I best learn what God wants to teach me as quickly and efficiently as possible so I can get out of here a.s.a.p.!

Sure, it’s not easy transitioning from days of feasting (hello CNN!) to the days of the one item menu (hello unemployment), but it’s all for good reason.  I don’t know what God is preparing me to do or who He’s shaping me to be, but I’m sure this desert wandering (and trust me, I’m wandering) is so I’ll be ready to play when it’s my turn to step up to the plate.  It’s all very Mr. Miyagi making Daniel-san paint the fence so he knows how to fight (rent the o.g. “Karate Kid”, people).

I don’t know how long this desert living is going to last – I hope not much longer – but I have to take a cue from the Israelites and continue to rely on God and God alone to provide my manna one day at a time.  It’s not the feast I am desperately craving, but the manna menu is only temporary.  I just need to remember that even though I’m not gnawing on the fattened calf, my daily needs are still being met by a loving, though sometimes hard to understand, God.  And maybe, just maybe He’ll let me negotiate a side of honey butter and a latte while I tumble with the tumbleweeds :).