I don’t know if I will ever forget meeting Bob Goff in person. I had just finished hearing him speak at Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park, IL on December 4th last year. He was engaging speaker in so many ways, but the primary thing I observed from his sermon was that he was a fantastic story teller. Story telling is one of his spiritual gifts, and that is definitely showcased in this book. Although his stories were not necessarily connected, each story illustrated at powerful point and it drew you in what he was saying. It was amusing to see how he laughed at his stories, showing that he was living a joyful life to the fullest. Afterwards, I knew I wanted to meet him and get him to autograph my book. I jumped in line before it got too long and waited my turn. When it was finally my turn, he gave a warm greeting with a big hug, for he hugs everyone he meets. Although I could see that he was a joyful person while he was speaking, when I was standing next to him, his joy was contagious. He had the kind of joy that I’m sure has made other non-believers look at him and say, “I want what he has.” He signed my book, “Dear Bethel, Love God, do stuff. B Goff.” Our meeting was brief, but he left an impression on me that has lasted even since
Although it has taken me until now to read and review his book, the impressions I got from meeting Bob have only gotten stronger after reading his written words. I can now understand why this book has become so influential among so many of my peers. I have noted many people saying this book is a game-changer, and I would agree with that sentiment. If you don’t believe me, then I recommend you check it out for yourself ~ Bethel
Bob Goff’s book, Love Does, is no ordinary book, especially what many would expect of a “Christian book.” Some might consider it his autobiography, because it is full of stories from his life. From these stories, it’s easy to tell that this man has lived no ordinary life. He doesn’t respond to many of the difficulties of life in the same way that most people would. He found joy and resolve in many impossible situations and he never gave up on something that mattered to him. He came to learn many lessons through his own adventures as well as the adventures of other people in his life. Although the stories within each chapter are separate from each other, there is definitely a cohesiveness to the overarching themes of the book. Through it all, you come to the conclusion of the books title: Love Does. The kind of love that Jesus spoke of is one that leads to action, and one that gives us the ability to live our lives in the joy of His Spirit. Goff doesn’t give specific Scripture references and just explain what the Bible says. Instead on just having a Bible study, he encourages a “Bible doing,” learning what the Bible says, figuring out how it applies to your life, and then just doing it without hesitation. The examples he gives of how it has panned out in his own life are inspiring and challenging, but are also amusing and fun. His sincerity and transparency comes through on every page, drawing into the secretly incredibly life that comes with turning love into action. I would summarize the book the way Bob did when he autographed my book: Love God, do stuff.
You will definitely be drawn into this charming book when you take the time to read it and take it to heart. The message in this book is something that every person that wants to live life to the fullest needs to hear. I would recommend it to anyone – young or old, teen or adult, Christian or atheist. This book is available pretty much everywhere, so get your copy today!
I can’t believe it’s been five years since the tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, killing 160 people and destroying a main portion of the city. Joplin was the town I called home while I was in college. It’s crazy to think that I left Joplin 28 hours before the tornado hit. When I left to go home for the summer, I never would have imagined how different the city would look when I would return just three months later. I could have never guessed that my sister and her husband, along with several others, would survive the tornado in the basement of their church when the sanctuary went. And I would have never imagined that a girl that had been in choir with me in college (Natalia Puebla) would lose her life in the storm. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to witness, even from a distance on the news, because it was very personal. However, as I look back, I am amazed at all that God taught me from that difficult time. On the fifth anniversary of this catastrophic event, I wanted to share three of the biggest lessons I learned from the Joplin tornado.
The Tornado Gave Me A Context to Sympathize with Other Tragedies
Have you ever had anyone ask you where you were on 9/11? All of us that were old enough remember it. I remember where I was and what I was doing. I remember the reactions of everyone around us. I remember the fear and uncertainty that seized all of our hearts. As I look back on that event, I remember that it seemed personal because it was country I lived in. But in the end, it really wasn’t that personal. After all, I had never been to New York City or knew anyone that had been in the Twin Towers that day. All that I had seen was new footage. That’s the way it was for the majority of Americans. It seemed personal, but it really wasn’t as personal as we thought in certain respects. It was often the same way with natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. We felt bad for the people that were suffering, but it wasn’t personal because we didn’t know how to identify with that kind of destruction and loss. It’s hard to relate to something you don’t understand. At least until it happens to you or people you love.
The Joplin Tornado completely changed my perspective on catastrophic events, like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, because it gave me a context with which I could sympathize with their suffering. Although I was not in Joplin when the tornado hit, it was hard to watch the town I called home destroyed. It was personal and it was heart-breaking. People died in the Wal-Mart where I shopped dozens of times, as well as other stores and restaurants I frequented. I could have just as easier been in any of those places when it hit. As often as I am asked about where I was on 9/11, that question also makes me think about where I was on 5/22, and I remember to use those difficult memories as an opportunity to sympathize with those that face similar situations.
The Tornado Proved That God Protected So Many Lives
On one hand, it was so hard to personally witness all the destruction that happened because of the tornado. It grieves me to think about how many people lost their lives in the storm and how many more suffered the loss of homes and businesses because of it. But on the other hand, I got to hear so many eye witness accounts of how God protected so many people. In many cases, I got to hear them firsthand. Here’s just a few examples:
- My sister and her husband were preparing to start a meeting about that summer’s VBS program in the church building, along with several other people from their congregation. When the sky turned green and the sirens sounded, everyone ran for the basement. A few of the men, including my sister’s husband, quickly checked to make sure everyone was downstairs. He was the last one to make it back downstairs before they closed the door. One or two other men didn’t make it to the basement, but wedged themselves behind the refrigerators in the kitchen. In the end, everyone in the building was safe, but the sanctuary was destroyed, which was the place where they were supposed to be having their meeting. When my mom first told me about the tornado, before I saw any news footage, she told me that they had already heard from Jenn (thanks to Verizon’s cell phone service) and that they were both OK.
- I knew a few people that were in Wal-Mart when the roof was lifted off. One couple I knew was saved by a shelf buckling over them and protecting them. Another man I knew, an employee of my college, saved his wife and daughter by encamping themselves in the middle of a shopping cart ring.
- So many people I knew lost their apartments, but were somewhere else like their job or their church that night. There were also several businesses that were not open that night because it was Sunday, which saved more people.
- One of my favorite stories included a friend of mine who had just graduated and was very pregnant. She was in her apartment with her parents when the storm hit, and the only place they had to hide was the hallway. Two things happened: first, the wall of the hallway tented around them, protecting them. Secondly, despite all the debris that was flying around and the high winds, no one single thing hit her belly.
- Despite all the destruction, despite the fact that it tornado when through residential and commercial areas of the city, despite all the odds, only about 160 people died in the storm. Yes, it still grieves me that 160 died, don’t get me wrong. But only 160 died, despite all that destruction. That’s was God’s protection around Joplin, Missouri, and I got to witness it firsthand
The Tornado Taught Me About the Power of Community in Times of Distress
Probably just as powerful as witnessing God’s hand of protection during the tornado was witnessing the community and support that happened after the tornado. What others did to help the city of Joplin was an incredible thing to behold. My college (Ozark Christian College) and many of the churches in Joplin had the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus in such a blatant, tangible way. Many of these places became the distribution centers or were able to help provide temporary housing. Some eventually helped sponsor the rebuilding of houses. But in the end, everyone in Joplin had to step up their game in order to rise above their circumstances. They had to help each other achieve this goal, with the help of many outside of Joplin that stepped up to make a different and fulfill the needs of many who were in distress. Many of those that stepped up to help did so with the greatest of humility, while others lacked it. Seeing all of this was such a powerful reminder of how important it is for us as Christians to help those who are in distress and to do so with a genuine desire to serve.
This was shown most powerfully when my home church brought a group down to Joplin that October for a mission trip. What was so interesting about it was that there happen to be there at the exact same time as Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was there building seven houses and rebuilding Cunningham Park. It was interesting to see how much recognition and attention this show was drawing to what they were doing. Don’t get me wrong, what they did was awesome and I even had some friends that were able to volunteer on the building crews. But in the end, it was presented as a TV show, with the intention of making it emotional for the audience and bringing the glory back to themselves. However, the group from my church was a different story. All there did was help make progress on the rebuilding of two houses and do some work in one of the distribution centers. In the grand scheme of work that still needed to get done, there didn't make a huge dent. But their humility in what they did was incredible. I was so proud of my dad and the team he led as they acknowledged that everything they accomplished on that trip was to help others and bring the glory back to God.
As I look back, I realize that there was a lot of things that I didn’t respond to as well as I wish I had at the time. The tornado was so unexpected and the scale of the destruction was so large that it was difficult to process. Much of my initial response was selfishly motivated. But out of all the things I’ve observed, one thing still stands out: God made beauty out the ashes of Joplin, Missouri. It makes me think of the song Beauty Will Rise by Steven Curtis Chapman. This song was written when he lost his five-year old daughter. If you haven’t listened to it, you can listen here:
This song applies to this tragedy in so many ways. But one of the lines of the songs that stands out to me is: It will take our breath away/To see the beauty that He’s made out of the ashes. I am now only now beginning to get a sense of the incredible masterpiece He is making as a result of what happened in Joplin on May 22, 2011. And it is beautiful. Yes, it was created through people’s brokenness and suffering, but all of it is being made into something more beautiful than any resident of Joplin could have ever imagined. We are only going to get a taste of that masterpiece while we live here this side of heaven. It’s in moments like this that I can’t wait to get to heaven, so I can see the completed masterpiece. I hope that you have come to understand it better through this post.
This blog post is an essay that I am planning to submit for a book being written about my alma mater, Ozark Christian College. They are collecting stories from 75 years of lessons learned from this school. Honestly, I feel like I could write a book about the lessons I learned while I was a student at OCC, but this is the one that was laid most heavily on my heart. I may write other essays like this in the future if others will find value in this. Maybe, you will see this essay in the book sometime soon. If any of you were a part of this community I’m talking about, thank you.
One of the lessons I learned throughout my time at Ozark was how to live out life in genuine Christian community. I remember being specifically taught during Spiritual Formation Retreat in January 2013 about how essential it is to live our lives in the context of the body of Christ. Before this retreat, I had not realized how important this concept is to our spiritual lives. Although there are several verses in Scripture that describe community or instruct us how to properly live in community, one verse stands out above the rest in my mind:
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15, NIV84)
This verse seems to bookend my memories of community at Ozark in so many ways, especially my last two semesters.
We often rejoiced with those who rejoiced while I was at OCC. We would rejoice as a campus when we all received the text that informed us that classes were cancelled (usually because of snow), especially when it happened more than one day in a row. We would rejoice as a dorm floor when one of the girls announced she was engaged. We rejoiced over someone’s birthday (On Goodman 3rd [my dorm floor, also known as G3], this included writing affirmations for the birthday girl on the mirrors in the bathroom and decorating the door of their room with toilet paper). We rejoiced whenever someone hit a milestone in their Ozark career, like when they completed their Principles Project or their Theological Integration Paper. As a music major, we rejoiced when we completed juries, recitals, or the Living Christmas Tree. We rejoiced whenever someone had plans for their future confirmed. And we definitely rejoiced when we watched our friends receive their diplomas and graduate from OCC. In those moments, the joy was all the more genuine because it was mutual. In many of those moments, G3 even made the habit of singing Doxology as part of our rejoicing. This is because we saw God’s hand in the joy we shared.
But there were also moments that we mourned with those who mourned. We would help each other bear grief or get through difficult seasons of life, simply by being there for each other. Sometimes, you just needed someone to listen when things were getting difficult. Other times, you were the one that needed to do the listening and offer your shoulder to cry on. On G3, it seemed that if you were going through something, you could literally walk out into your hallway and walk into any room to ask for advice or comfort. Even if you may not have been super close, the girls on my floor would probably have dropped anything to help each other if they needed it. Some of those moments of turning to others for help were so beautiful and powerful. But there was one instance in which together, our whole campus learned what it truly means to mourn with those who mourn.
When our friend and fellow student Brandon Stuckey passed away in a car accident on February 6, 2013, we had the opportunity to live this out. Many of us stood outside of Boatman dorm for hours that night. We sang songs about comfort, peace, and heaven. We prayed for his family, his friends, and his dorm brothers on Boatman 3rd. But most importantly, we comforted each other in our tears. Even though we were all hurting from this loss, we declared together that we would trust the Lord, even in our grief. When we are bearing such extreme or sudden sorrow, we are called to cry with our brothers and sisters, to help bear the burden of their pain. Although that was one of the hardest nights on my life so far, I cherish the bittersweet memories of community. In fact, I remember that another student posted on Facebook, “Tonight, the term ‘Christian community’ was defined.” I agree.
[This is not part of the essay, but this video is a spoken word poem I just released this month about the experiencing of losing Brandon. It specifically talks about Christian community and mourning with those who mourn]
Because of these and other experiences, I believe that the term “Christian community” was defined not just that night, but throughout my whole experience at Ozark. Much of the other experiences I had fell somewhere in between the two extremes of sharing great joy and sharing extreme pain. But through all the highs and lows, I learned that the place where we find the best community is in the place where those that surround us are willing to identify with us, regardless of our current emotional state. Through that, we learned many of the other concepts about genuine community in Christ that are also listed in Romans 12, like be devoted to one another in brotherly love (vs. 10) or doing what we can to live at peace with everyone (vs. 18). We had the opportunities to live these out every day in the context of community in Christ. It was something that on one hand I loved while I was in school, and on the other hand I took for granted while I was a student, especially my first few years. After I went on Spiritual Formation Retreat, I made more intentional efforts to build community and to get to know more people on campus. And it made my experience my last two semester all the richer. I definitely missed that when I completed my internship my last semester as a student, but it also made me more intentional to seek out community at the church where I interned. This, again, make my experience all the richer.
As I remember the community we fostered at Ozark, I praise God that He brought me to OCC, so that I could learn what genuine community looks like. This way, I can help others seek it out for themselves, both within their own churches and within the body of Christ as a whole. I hope anyone else that reads this story will be inspired to do the same.
It’s hard to believe that this year is finally drawing to a close. But then again, I find myself saying that at the end of every year! There have been a lot of good things that have happened this year. But what interesting about many of these good and awesome things as I look back on them is that I didn’t expect most of them to happen. If you had told me a year before that some of this stuff was going to happen, especially the things I became in charge of, I might have laughed at you or been uncertain that I could. But I am so grateful for each and every one of these experiences, as I know that many of them are shaping me into the person I am becoming.
Although I originally planned to do a “Top Ten” sort of list, what I discovered is that there were a couple of categories of events that repeated itself in different ways throughout the year. So this list contains ten of these categories, but under these categories there may be several different events listed. There are also some events that I have written about in more detail on different blog posts, so I will link those posts after I describe the event. This will give those of you that haven’t caught all of these stories a chance to catch up. This will also give details to a few events that I wanted to write about, but I either ran out of time or didn’t think there was enough detail to write a whole post about it. There are also not in any exact order or ranking. I hope that you are able to see how blessed this last year of my life has been. Here we go:
1) Writing and Directing The Door (An Easter Drama)
In January of last year, my dad (aka my church’s senior minister) asked me if I was interested in writing and directing an Easter drama for my church to be performed on Easter Sunday. I had only worked on writing small skits and hadn’t directed anything other than kid’s musicals, but I knew it was something I really wanted to do. When we started working on the script and trying to find a different angle for the Easter Story, it turned out to be about the resurrection appearances of Jesus that happened on the Sunday after He rose. We titled it The Door, which is referring to the fact that when Jesus first appeared among his disciples, he got into the room despite the fact the doors were locked. Although my dad did guide me and assisted some in writing the script, the rest of responsibility or delegation was left on me.
There were so many things about doing this drama that I enjoyed. Writing and researching for the script was one of my favorites. It was awesome to get into the accounts of the resurrection of Jesus and translate it into dialogue. I also enjoyed working with the actors. They were an enjoyable group of people to work with. They were also patient and understanding as I was trying to learn how to direct and block scenes properly. I also had a few people that helped with behind the scenes work that were awesome. I think I may write a little more detail about it around Easter this coming year, but this drama was such a great ministry opportunity that I enjoyed so much.
2) Summer Ministry Opportunities
I had two main ministry opportunities over this summer. The first was to work on worship planning with my friend Sarah. My dad approached us about planning worship services at the beginning of the summer, because it would give him a break from doing it and give us an opportunity to use our talents in that area. We loved the idea and enjoyed working with each other. I had worked with planning services with my dad as well as on my internship, but it was nice to work on planning with someone else. Plus, out of all the things I’ve been trained to do in music ministry, the planning of worship services is one of my favorite things to do.
The second opportunity was to be the music leader for our VBS program. For many years, it was my mom doing music with me as her assistant. But since my mom was Assistant Director this year, I was chosen to be in charge of music for the first time. I had the opportunity to work with a few junior high age girls as my helpers and we had a lot of fun. It was another great opportunity I was blessed to have.
I also had the chance to be involved in honoring my dad for his 15th anniversary at the church. They had a potluck for him and there were some notes and letters people had written to my dad that we had the chance to read out loud. It was a blessing to know how much my dad’s ministry has touched others’ lives. That’s part of my motivation for wanting to make ministry into a vocation someday. It was a very special day.
3) Event Planning
I was also given the opportunity to be in charge of two events at my church over this last year. The first was a free screening of the movie Ragamuffin, the film about the life of Rich Mullins. Although we didn’t have a ton of people come to this screening, it was a lot of fun to get to show a movie that not only impacted me, but has also impacted the lives of many others who have seen it. I was so blessed to be able to share it in this way.
[To read my review of the movie, click here]
I also got to be in charge of coordinating the Anima Series Tour. You may have already heard me talk about this event, but it was awesome that my church’s leadership not only granted permission for this event to happen at our building, but they trusted me to cover all the other details like advertising. It was much more involved than the movie screening and it was great challenge to put everything together and support one of my favorite YouTube channels in the process.
4) Being in Mary Poppins the Musical
I had the blessing of getting to be in the KVTA production of Mary Poppins this fall as a member of the adult ensemble in October. It was so much fun! I hadn’t had the chance to be in a theatrical production of that scale since college. It was also a Disney musical I've loved since I was a little girl. It was great production with such a fantastic cast. Everyone encouraged and supported each other in a special way. Being in Mary Poppins was an experience I won’t forget.
[To read more about my experience in Mary Poppins, click here]
5) Christmas Unwrapped
I also had the chance to be involved in my church’s Christmas production. In the past, we did a program we called Bethlehem Walk, in which we recreated a first-century marketplace and had a short nativity presentation. We decided that we needed to make some changes, so we created a new program called Christmas Unwrapped. We basically made the nativity presentation longer and more detailed, and then condensed the marketplace to just a few booths. We also inverted their locations in the building. We wanted the focus to be on the story of Jesus, and we felt this was a better way to do this.
In addition to being the youngest person on the leadership team, I was part of the nativity drama as singer in costume. I sang the song “Mary Did You Know?” just after they reveal the baby. Aside from enjoying the opportunity to perform this powerful song, it was also a small dream come true. You see, I’d watched my mom sing in the nativity presentation for Bethlehem Walk for years, which made me want to do the same. But I had not had the chance. It was either that someone was more qualified than me to sing, or I was away at college and couldn’t come home that weekend. I was so excited when it was finally decided that I would sing one of the two songs we had in the drama for Christmas Unwrapped. It was such a great experience.
6) Befriending Angela
Over this last year, I’ve had the privilege of making a close friend. At the time and stage I’m at in life, it’s hard to find friends that you are able to hang out with consistently. But I had the chance to get to know Angela over this last year and it has been such an awesome blessing to my life. Aside from our shared love of Disney, we also are at a similar place in our lives and have been able to encourage one another as we figure out what God wants for our futures.
[To read the story of how I met Angela, along with other funny stories of how other friendship started, click here]
7) Social Media Teams
Something I got to experience for the first time this year was being involved with social media teams. It was awesome to be involved with using social media for something constructive and getting to connect with new people along the way. Throughout the year, I was a part of three teams, all of which have blessed me in different ways.
Ragamuffins Street Team
This team was a little different from the other ones. Our primary purpose was to support and promote the upcoming film Brennan, about the life of Brennan Manning. This film is coming from the same people that made the film Ragamuffin that I mentioned earlier. In fact, that screening was done in promotion of the next film. It has been awesome to see what God has been doing as the filmmakers have been working on the movie Brennan. I can’t wait to see what will happen when this movie releases this year.
8) Meeting/Connecting With Famous People I Admire
As I have been looking back through this year, I have been surprised about how many people that I admire that I have met or connected with over this last year. I would consider them famous in my book, but then again I guess it depends on how you define fame. Anyway, here’s some of the stories of how it happened:
[To read more about the impact Dave's brother Rich Mullins has had on my life, click here]
[To read more about the story of how I met Jon, click here]
Dannah Gresh & Dr. Juli Slattery
Although I have still not met these ladies in person, I was blessed to connect with them through the book team for their book, Pulling Back the Shades. I’ve been a huge fan of Dannah’s books for a while, but I didn’t know much about Juli until I read the book. What I love about them both is that they are passionate about declaring God’s truth about sexuality and encouraging women to pursue God’s best through His plan for their sexuality. As part of the book team, I got to participate in two Google chats with them. I also interacted with them some on social media. A few weeks after our commitment on the book team was finished, my mom when to the Hearts at Home Convention where she not only met these two ladies, but she actually got to be Dannah’s speaker assistant! Although I was kind of bummed I didn’t get to meet them in person, I did get a few autographs out of the deal.
9) Writing More Spoken Word Poetry
Although I did publish my first spoken word poem on YouTube in 2014, I have had the opportunity to develop my skills as a spoken word poet with the release of two more poems in 2015. At the beginning of the year, I wouldn’t have called myself a spoken word poet. Aside from my one poem, I never intended to write another one. But when I found myself on the book team for Pulling Back the Shades, I felt the conviction to use this ability to bring awareness to the topics discussed in the book. As it turns out, it has been my most popular poem I’ve released so far, thanks to some of the members of the book team sharing it.
After this I still went several months without writing another one, until I remember a topic I was passionate about – modesty. I had done so much research on the subject and knew it so well that I knew I wanted to write a poem about it. It took me a few months to get around to filming it even after I wrote it, but it was so worth it to me. Although it still hasn’t gotten very many views, I know that for now, it’s important for me to be faithful in the little things.
After all this, I have started to think of myself as a spoken word poet. I hope and pray that God will be able to use this talent I’ve discovered for His glory in the future as I figure out the best way to use it for Him.
It’s hard to me to believe that I have been writing on this blog for a year now, and have written about 35 posts. Blogging and writing is something I’d wanted to do for a long time, but just never got around to doing it. But I finally came across a website builder I was happy with, I decided to start writing when I felt led to write. When I became a member of the Pulling Back the Shades book team last January, I started trying to publish a post every Friday. Although I haven’t always kept up with that, this did at least get me into some sort of routine. Now, I’m getting to the point where it feels like something is off if I go too long without writing something. This is something that I hope to keep doing for a long time to come.
There you have it. These were some of the highlights of my year. Of course there were other good things that have happened as well as bad things that have come to pass in 2015. But through it all, the Lord has been there with me, either blessing me directly or blessing me by being present in the difficult times. I hope this will be the same next year, and for every year as long as I live. I hope that all of you are able to find the same thing. I also hope that you might continue to share in my journey through life by reading my future blog posts or subscribing to my YouTube channel. I appreciate those of you that have. There are some good things to come in this next year, so stay tuned!
Happy New Year!
Some of you may be surprised to discover that this is not my first blog. In fact, there was a time when I was managing three blogs at once! Back in the days before Twitter or Facebook even existed, or even as Myspace was gaining popularity, the most popular "social media" site (although that term hadn't even been invented at that point) among my junior high and high school friends was Xanga, which was primarily for blogging. At first, I had one personal account, but then I was interested in being involved with some fandom groups. I ended up making two more accounts, one about my favorite music group of the time Jump5, and the other for The Lord of the Rings.
What was so interesting about what I did with those accounts though is that instead of just blogging about how much I loved these fandoms, I wanted to keep the focus on Jesus. My usernames on these accounts were Jump5lovesJesus and LOTR_LordofAllKings. I started to write devotional thoughts around lessons I’d learned from this film trilogy and music group. When I went back to these sites a few years ago, although I was kind of laughing at some of it, I was also surprised at how decent some of these devotions were. There were some pretty solid thoughts, considering I was 15 when I wrote them!
When it came to the LOTR ones, most of the thoughts were not totally unique to me, for a lot of LOTR devotional books have talked about things like Aragorn’s servant/king journey, or Sam’s loyalty to Frodo, or even the boundaries changed by the trans-racial friendship of Legolas and Gimli. But as I was looking through these old blog posts, one of them stood out as being the most unique thought I shared, which was a comparison of an LOTR character with a prominent character from the Christmas story. And this idea has stuck with me ever since.
How Frodo’s Story Relates to the Nativity Narrative
Frodo Baggins was shocked by everything Gandalf was telling him. He was only a Baggins of Bag End, a hobbit of the Shire. And it was just a simple Ring he had received as an heirloom from his Uncle Bilbo. Yet Gandalf told him that it was an instrument of absolute evil being sort out by the Dark Lord that created it. The Ring of Power, so it was called.
If something was not done soon, the life of peace his kin-folk had known in the Shire would be gone forever, and this evil would eventually take over all of Middle-Earth. Gandalf told him that those seeking the Ring would be coming for it very soon. So the Ring could not stay the Shire anymore, and Frodo was the most likely candidate to take it out of the Shire since he had the Ring in his possession.
Somehow, Frodo sensed that this task would be his to bear. Yes, he was afraid of what would lie ahead for him. He wondered why he was one that had this task fall into his lap. He wondered if he really could succeed with all this evil set against him. But somehow, he knew that this was something he needed to do. In the film version, when he comes to this realization, he takes hold of the Ring in his fist, and then he asks Gandalf a profound question without hesitation:
Gandalf did not want Frodo to go on this journey alone, so when he found Frodo’s gardener under the window outside the house, he told Sam that he was go with Frodo with the instructions to never leave Frodo.
Throughout the journey, Frodo is supported by Sam, but is also guided and comforted by those that had greater spiritual wisdom than he, like Gandalf and Lady Galadriel. Although he had no idea the amount of danger or the perils he would face, he knew that only he could complete this task, and he would be faithful to that task, no matter what.
How Mary’s Story Relates to The Lord of the Rings
Mary was shocked by everything the angel of the Lord was telling her. She was just a simple, ordinary girl from the town of Nazareth in Israel. She was just trying to live her life the way she should, as she was preparing for her marriage. Yet this angel told her that she was to bear the Son of God himself, even though she was a virgin and had never been with a man.
This child would not only be God’s son, but he would also be the Messiah that had been prophesied to redeem Israel for thousands of years. He would bring the salvation everyone had been hoping for. Not only did this not make any sense, but she also knew the way that this would look to everyone around her, including her fiancé. There was the possibility of facing a premarital divorce or public disgrace. She knew it would be impossible to convince others it was true.
Yet somehow, she sensed that this must be her task to bear. She wondered why she out of all other women had been chosen, but the angel told her that she was favored in God’s eyes. Yes, she was afraid of what the future would hold, but she realized that this was something she needed to do. After the angel told her how it was going to happen to her, she responds humbly without hesitation:
The Lord did not want Mary to go through this alone, so when her fiancé Joseph was ready to divorce her quietly, the Lord sent the angel to tell Joseph not to leave Mary.
For that point on, Joseph supported Mary, but also guided and comforted not only by those that had greater spiritual wisdom than she: not only the angel, but also her relative Elizabeth. Although it was not easy and she had no idea what the future would hold, she knew that this was the task God had given her to complete, and she would be faithful to the task, no matter what.
Similar Callings, Difference Responses
Although their stories and their tasks are very different from each other, it’s interesting to see how similar their callings are and the support they received along their journey. As I look at their responses, I see two different ways that we may be called to respond, depending on our situation.
Frodo was called to action. Something bad was going to happen and the clock was ticking. Although Gandalf didn’t directly tell him what he needed to do until he asked, Frodo understood from what he was told that something had to be done fast. Since the Ring was already in his possession, he was the most likely candidate to take the Ring out of the Shire. Eventually, when the Council of Elrond is trying to decide who would have the task of taking the Ring all the way to Mordor to be destroyed, he realized it had to be him. He declares that he will take the Ring to Mordor. When the Fellowship of the Ring is chosen, Boromir tells Frodo in the film, “You carry the fate of us all, little one.” But from the beginning, Frodo knew that he had to do something about it.
Mary was called to faith. The angel told her what was going to happen; she just had to be willing to accept the task she had been chosen for. She didn’t technically volunteer for the job, but she accepted God’s decision with the greatest of humility. She just had to let it happen to her. Once she was pregnant, she simply had to live out each day and each situation she found herself in by faith. No matter what she faced, she had faith that the Lord will fulfill every single promise He had made to her. She simply had to do what He asked. It would even mirror the decision her Son would make the night before He was crucified, when He told the Father, “Not my will, but your will be done.” They both needed to surrender to the Father’s plan, no matter what the cost.
I think that most situations we find ourselves in will require us to respond in faith, with action, or maybe both. But I find the examples given in these stories to be so striking. I feel like any of us should give one of those two responses any time God places something in front of us for our future. You probably won’t be called to destroy an evil ring in a volcano and you definitely won’t be called to bear a child as a virgin, but we will be called to action or faith throughout the circumstances in our lives. To ignore these callings is to ignore God’s best for your future. To accept will demand much, but will be more fulfilling that living our lives exclusively within our own plans. So next time you know God is calling you, remember these two responses:
What must I do?
Let it happen just as you say.
To conclude this post, I thought I would share a video I uploaded to my YouTube channel a few years ago that was inspired by my original blog post. Its clips from The Lord of the Rings to the song Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant. I think a few people thought this was a little strange when I first started sharing this, but those of you that have read my thoughts here will better understand the point I was trying to communicate.
Two lines worth paying attention to in regards to how they relate to Frodo’s story:
I am waiting in a silent prayer / I am frightened by the load I bear
Do you wonder as you watch my face / If a wiser one should of had my place
One more thing I almost forgot:
Merry Christmas and
Happy Incarnation Day!