Sunday Devotion- Writing Elf-Style

Janet Rubin

I’ve spend much of this week in Middle Earth, listening for a second time to The Fellowship of the Ring, first book in Tolkien’s Rings Series. I’ve taken on a cleaning job at my church part-time, a job that helps keep gas in my mini-van and pays for things like college text books. It’s no small task cleaning my church; I’m responsible for what feels like acres of vaccuuming, cleaning bathrooms, dusting offices, disinfecting nursery toys, washing out communion trays… More than one person has suggested that I’m some sort of saint for taking it on. It’s true that I now have vaccuum-calluses on my right hand (to go along with my fingertip keyboard-calluses), and I suppose I’ll go on letting people think I’m some sort of selfless martyr…

But they don’t know my secret.

I know that you, my literary soul-mates, who understand the lengths one will go to for time in a fictional world, will know what I mean when I tell you it’s pure joy for me to head up to church, not because I love wiping up unmentionable splatters in the restroom marked, “Brethren,” but because I’ve always got a friend with me. Someone like Tolkien, who speaks to me through headphones, taking me far away from thoughts of goldfish crackers mashed into carpet by toddler feet and into another world. Yes, people, I get paid hourly to listen to adiobooks and burn a few calories while dwelling in the house of the Lord. Really, I’m thrilled.

This morning, I weaved up and down the rows of chairs in the sanctuary walking the vaccuum like a dog named Hoover. Dragging its cord-leash behind, it sniffed hungrily at crumbs of dirt left from Sunday, then devoured them. I followed, listening as the voice in my earphones described the departure of Frodo the hobbit and his company from Lorien, the home of elves with whom they’ve just spent some time. The gracious elves have provided the company with boats and provisions for the dangerous journey ahead. They’ve also made cloaks for each member of the party. The cloaks are obviously special, made of some strange fabric and color. Sam, who is intrigued by elves and magic asks, “Are these magic cloaks?” The elf presenting the cloaks replies, “I do not know what you mean by that…They are fair garments, and the web is good, for it was made in this land. They are elvish robes certainly, if that is what you mean. Leaf and branch, water and stone: they have the hue and beauty of all these things under the twilight of Lorien that we love; for we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make.” (Tolkien, 1954)

That last part- “we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make”- stuck in my head and I had to go home and look it up in my hardcopy of the book. For, over the last few chapters, I had grown to love the land of Lorien, a place of beauty where no evil could dwell. I could imagine how lovely a cloak fashioned with the very substance of this place would be. And it made me think of all the articles and quotes I’ve read about writing as a Christian- how we don’t need to preach our message, but simply write our stories. Because if we have a heart full of love for God and His kingdom, our worldview will flood onto our pages, and hopefully, things like grace and love and redemption will shine through in our work. The elves put the thought of all they loved into all that they made. Do we work with the ever-present thought of the One we love? Perhaps, just perhaps, if we do, there will be something- dare I say- magical about what we create. Something a bit more than plot and charactors and dialogue.

Lord, my mind strays often and far from thoughts of You and all the beauty and glory of all that You are and all that You’ve done for me. Thank You for reminding me that You are the magical element that can’t be found in any how-to book on writing. Help me to skillfully and faithfully put thoughts of You into all that I make. Amen.

Sunday Devotion- Big Small Things

Janet Rubin

My friend Judith and her daughter Emily recently started a ministry they’re calling KWAM (knitters with a mission.) They are knitting scarves for orphans in other countries. Bubbling with excitement, Judith told those of us gathered at our artists’ group about the new ministry. She showed us the brightly-colored scarves she’d been feverishly knitting each night and the fliers she printed to give out at church. Judith and Emily called their first project (scarves for orphans in Chile) “Chile-warmers.”
The next thing they knew, knitters were popping out of the woodwork, dusting off their needles and setting to work. Others were donating yarn or money. And soon, Judith had over sixty scarves and $60.00 to send to Chile. In an email, Judith said this:
“Nothing else is more important to me in my life right now than doing something that is what God is calling me to do. Sometimes I have been (almost) thinking…..this isn’t much. but I cut those thoughts out, because HE gave me this passion. And any passion of HIS is not a small passion. What a beautiful gift from all the wonderful people who knitted and crocheted.we had beautiful things from women 85 and 88 years old!!! they thought they had nothing left in life to do for the Lord! this has touched MANY lives… MANY ways.”
What Judith said about thinking that what she was doing wasn’t “much” hit home with me. I’m just one of those people who dreams big. I want to do BIG things. Problem is, my definition of “big” is different that God’s. My definition usually includes something that brings me glory. His definition is all about others, and His vision blesses so many. I love hearing about those elderly women who were able to knit and contribute to Judith’s project. How sweet and tender of our God to show them that, yes, He was still pleased to use them- their hearts, their hands, their prayers. He is using His vision to bless Judith and Emily, and who knows how many children, first in Chili and soon in Ukraine. Now, He is using Judith’s “little” idea to bring churches together; seems some other churches got wind of this and their people are knitting too!
Do you think your service for God is small? One time, a little boy offered a meager lunch to Jesus…and Jesus used it to feed 5,000. It isn’t the size of the offering, brothers and sisters. It’s the size of our God…and He is BIG. And like Judith said, “Any passion of His is not a small passion.” Did He put a passion for writing in your heart? Then write, and write for Him! He will use it.
Matthew 14: 17-18 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
“Bring them here to me,” he said.
Dear God, Thank You for Judith and Emily. Please continue to encourage them and to use their efforts in amazing ways. I ask Your blessing on every child who receives a scarf- that each one will feel warm and loved and will come to know You. Help us not to believe the lies of the enemy, who tells us our offerings are too small to matter. All you need is a mustard seed’s worth of faith and a heart willing to follow the passions You put there. Thank you for caring about knitters and orphans and silly writers like me, who have big dreams and a lot left to learn. Amen.

Sunday Devotion-The Watcher

Christa Allan

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.” Psalm 139:15 NLT

When my children were young, we lived in an area with a community pool. The kids and I would schlep there, the car a container of wiggling bodies, pool toys, and towels. Sometimes Penny, our saved from the dog pound pooch, would trot behind the car and follow us for the three blocks it took to arrive.
The older kids would peel themselves off the car seats and dash in. Shannon and John would do the barefoot-on-the-hot-concrete-alternating-foot-high-step while I totted Sarah. Eventually, we’d locate a spot to accommodate us–generally, the people who were already there were happy to clear out–and we were ready for splash down.

While I’d be crouching in the baby pool digging wet leaves out of John’s mouth or trying to stop Sarah from drinking the pool water, a chorus of “Watch me, Mommy! No, watch ME, mommy!” Watch this, MOM!” would rise from the shallow end of the big pool. It was like being at a tennis match, with three balls in play at one time. I’d glance at the two kids hovering around my ankles (which looked three times their normal puffy size through the water, my ankles–not the kids), then I’d quickly look up and start counting heads. If I could not find Head #3, I’d be sliced open by a bolt of panic. Which one? There’s Michael. There’s Erin. Okay, where is Shannon? I’d scream at her siblings to look for her. After their eye rolls, they’d point to the steps. And there she’d be. Her pink “babing” suit clinging to her wiry little body, her blonde hair looking pre-punk rocker in its just surfaced from the water wetness. She’d smile at me, and I’d be drenched with relief.

Reading that passage in Psalms reminded me of those days of being the watcher. Sometimes I miss that. They’re older now. But I wonder how many times, in their adult lives, their hearts have called out, “Watch me, Mommy.” Watch me as I struggle with friendships and dating, as I graduate from high school, as I pretend to be happy when my dream is crushed. Watch me, mommy, as I start college and face challenges of independence and working; watch me as I begin to learn who I am. Watch me mommy as I go to Italy with the Navy, as I get married, as I move to another home. Watch me, mommy, when my son dies, when my daughter is born. Watch me, mommy, take the steps you’d knew I’d have to take all along–those steps to self-reliance and trust and hope and faith.

Watch. To keep vigil. To guard. To protect. Watch me, God. Watch them.

Sunday Devotion- MInd Control

Janet Rubin

We’ve got an infestation at my house. Mainly in my daughters’ bedrooms. Hundreds of little critters that seem to just keep multiplying. You can’t cross the room without stepping on a few…

Okay, don’t email me the web site for a good exterminator. I’m talking about stuffed animals. My girls love their furry little friends and take great pleasure in accumulating more. They count their animals like Scrooge counted his money. Last I knew, they were reporting a collective total of 200. Wow. I’d object, but the girls save up for most of these and buy them themselves. And the animals don’t sit around gathering dust. They all have names, little animal families, and endless adventures.

The other day, Cassidy interrupted my writing to share the interesting fact that all of her animals have the same favorite color she does– blue.

“That’s amazing,” I said. “What a coincidence that they would all have the same favorite color as you do!”

Cassidy replied with a duh tone of voice, “Well, they all have my mind.”

Of course.

Well naturally that got your Sunday devotion writer thinking. The animals do all have Cassidy’s mind. Until she adopted them, they were nothing but fluff-filled toys on store shelves. But adopt them she did, and with her love and imagination, breathed life into them, giving them names, personalities, and things to do. And, I assure you, none of those animals does a thing without her direction.

The whole thing is an imperfect metaphor for God, the creator, and us, his children. Imperfect for a couple of reasons: For one thing, Cassidy didn’t create the animals. For another, the animals have no free will. They must do what Cassidy wants them to do. Like little robots, they must have a parade if told to have a parade, or go to sleep if instructed to go to sleep…or marry whatever other furry animal Cassidy considers a suitable match.

In these ways, we are different. God did make us:

Genesis 2:7And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

God created us in His image. That phrase- “in His image”- intrigues me. I often think that this is why we are creative; because we are god-like. This is why we are relational, why we value beauty. But He meant for us to also have His mind. Which I think means having his attitude. Or liking what the One who bought us (“You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” 1 Cor6:19) likes. For Cassidy’s elephants, bears, and unicorns, that means liking the color blue. For us it means things far more significant. God even sent Jesus to show us what that looks like:

Philippians 2:5-8 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

Yet, He doesn’t force us to have His mind. Based on the verses above, I’d say having Christ’s mind has a lot to do with being focused on humility and obedience, not being caught up in our own image, and not being superior to anyone, but serving, and taking up a cross. As for liking what God likes? Here’s a good list of stuff He digs:

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Lord, thank You for breathing life into me and for giving me a choice. I chose to be a part of your family, accepting the gift of soul-cleaning, life-giving blood of your Son. Now, I want to choose to have Your mind, and that part is proving more difficult. Please help me Lord. Put Your mind in me. Strip away my pride. Help me to think of others before thinking of myself. Give me the courage to be obedient and to carry whatever cross You have for me. Fill my mind with good and lovely things. Renew my mind. Amen.