CLEF Newsletter - January 2020

“…But the Lord abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment. And He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity. The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble, and those who know Thy Name will put their trust in Thee; for Thou, O Lord, hast not forsaken those who seek Thee” (Psalm 9:7-10)

“I made a promise, Mr Frodo. A promise. ‘Don’t you leave him Samwise Gamgee.’ And I don’t mean to. I don’t mean to” (Sam-wise Gamgee, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, J.R.R.Tolkein).

At the beginning of each New Year the desire for a fresh, new beginning fills our soul for the hope and optimism we crave toward realizing our dreams, or just finishing well. In earnest we endeavor to establish guidelines and guideposts to help us direct our efforts and stay within the lines of best practices to make encouraging progress toward our highway to happiness. Yet deep inside we know that the way we seek is a road less travelled, and why it is so rarely turned upon, much less remained upon. Getting to the places in life we know we need to be, places of such high value because they come at such a high cost, requires a resolve, resilience and reaffirmation of our expectations and very identity with the hope that lies before us. Resolving to manifest the markers of such determined purpose, process and progress along the way may for a short (short!) time delude us into thinking that determination is just a matter of decision, but inside we know that the duration of our resolute fortitude must be rooted and compelled by something stronger than mere desire for the end result. Resolutions require irresistible and overcoming provocation.

The Lord Of The Rings trilogy is for me the masterpiece of all cinematic production. That’s saying a lot in light of all that cinema has achieved, but J.R.R.Tolkien’s tale of friendship, love, determination and sacrifice is a theme in life that we’re all wired to aspire to, even emulate. Yet though the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. We can barely stay on track with a decent exercise and diet routine. How do we transcend the bounds of mortal triviality into the realms of extraordinary grandeur?

Ego-centric magnificence is a train wreck. But the beauty that arises from striving to do the right thing, regardless of the cost, is a pursuit in life which transforms us from mortal to everlasting, from the mundane to the astonishing and magnificent, and we would scarcely realize how we got there. It is a coming into place for the highest purpose and plan for our life when it wasn’t what we set out to do, but what we could scarcely do otherwise.

Samwise Gamgee’s character in this timeless tale is a portrait of any ordinary everyman. He is a simple Hobbit who aspires to nothing more than family, community and a secure way of life. Yet he is suddenly brought into the vortex of a battle for the survival of his world and all who inhabit it. But the focus for that survival centers on one solitary thing: a promise he makes, to stand by his friend, and to help him do what he cannot on his own. Samwise is no superhero, but as the epic saga unfolds, Sam becomes someone far greater than the sum of his inward and outward parts, and fulfills a critical role which ultimately, in league with his charge, delivers the world against all incalculable odds. He does so staying true to the character that makes him so genuine and authentic. Sam is not out for fame and glory. He only wants to make a decent meal (“Potatoes. Boil em, mash em, stick em in s stew”), always remember the good things in life (“It’s be spring soon, and the orchards will be in blossom...And, they’ll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields...and eating the first of the strawberries and cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?… There’s some good in this world Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for”), and to be faithful to his friend (“I’m coming Mr. Frodo… I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you”). What truly moves us forward in the place we find ourselves is not a raw and deluded determination to go forth and conquer our world, but rather faithfulness to a simple and divine ordinance to keep and protect the people and things in our life that matter the most.

Sam’s unfaltering passion was his love, from a pure heart, a clear conscience and a sincere faith (I Timothy 1:5). In the middle of the story when Frodo tried to leave the fellowship and advance on his own, Sam chased after him and nearly drowned trying to reach him. Frodo reached down and grasped him before he did, and they went on together. At the end of the tale, it was Frodo who was hanging over the fires of Mt. Doom with one hand, and this time it was Sam who grabbed ahold, and brought him up.

We don’t go through life alone, and the circumstances and people God places us into and with, all have a purpose to enlarge us more greatly than what we are, and to prove His faithfulness, through us and with us. Trusting Him for that purpose and in that process with the faith, hope and love only He can provide, is to write a story for our lives that could never have been written or imagined on our own. As you take a first step into 2020, stay fixed upon the grip of His Power and Love for you.

“Do not fear, for I Am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I Am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10).