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Good news according to frodo

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.  “So do I,” said Gandalf, “ and so do all who live to see such times.  But that is not for them to decide.  All that we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”  Hearing this insight from Frodo and Gandalf in the recent Lord of the Rings movies really touched my heart.

I didn’t particularly enjoy the first movie Fellowship of the Rings as it seemed too violent and traumatic for my liking.  So I planned to quietly avoid the second Lord of the Rings movie ‘The Two Towers’ but ended up going along reluctantly in order to spend time with one of my sons.  Though I had tried reading the book back in the 1970’s, I couldn’t get into it.  The endless details and strange names threw me off.  My classic excuse for not reading material like Lord of the Rings was that life has enough fantasy and fiction in it to suit me already.

Amazingly, in watching the second movie Two Towers, the penny dropped and the message behind the message began to break through.  It was like being in an AA 12-step meeting where they always say at the end: ‘Keep coming back, it works’.  Eventually the penny will drop.

When watching the Two Towers, I, like Frodo, had been going through a rather challenging year that ‘I wish…need not have happened in my time’.  Like Gandalf, I had to learn that ‘all we can decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’  I have discovered afresh that I am not alone on the journey of Life, and there are resources available to me that I might have never imagined back in the comfort of my ‘shire’.

The Shire in the Lord of the Rings is a symbol of tranquility and safety free from harm and stress.  To many of us locally, Deep Cove represents that kind of Shire.  Have you ever wondered who the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings really are?  JRR Tolkien once said that ‘the hobbits are just rustic English people, made small in size because it reflects the generally small reach of their imagination –not the small reach of their courage or latent power.’   Tolkien also said the hobbits were ‘just what I could have liked to have been, but never was.” Tolkien was deeply traumatized by the loss of both his father at age 3 and his mother at age 12.  So he never knew the safety and security taken for granted by so many other rural English children.

Bill Hybels of Willow Creek wrote an unforgettable book entitled ‘Courageous Leadership’.  Where are the courageous leaders in our highly ambivalent third millennium?  Elrond said of the hobbits, “This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields, to shake the towers and counsels of the Great.  Who of all the Wise could have foreseen it?”  Many of us shy away from facing conflict.  But the experts tell us that conflict-avoidance only makes it worse and more widespread.  It takes courage to stare evil right in the face.

The Lord of the Rings book reminds us that ‘there is a seed of courage hidden (often deeply, it is true) in the heart of the fattest and most timid hobbit, waiting for some final and desperate danger to make it grow.’  As the journey became more difficult, Gandalf said to Frodo: ‘Courage will now be your best defence against the storm that is at hand—that and such hope as I bring’.

JRR Tolkien warned against allegorizing the Lord of the Rings but believed in ‘applicability’.  As I read Frodo’s danger-filled quest, I was reminded of the applicability of Psalm 23: ‘Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou are with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me’.  King Theoden of Rohan said to his men: ‘Fear no darkness’.  Elrond said, ‘There is naught that you can do, other than to resist, with hope or without it.  But you do not stand alone.’

One of the most gripping moments in the Lord of the Rings was when Frodo had fully counted the cost and still courageously said: ‘I will take the ring, though I do not know the way.’  Frodo at that moment was choosing to face Mordor’s wasteland, vicious Orcs, giant spiders, and betrayal by Gollum.  The greatest danger that Frodo faced was the ever-present temptation to grasp the Ring for himself, and make use of its vast power for his own benefit.  After destroying the ring in the Crack of Doom, Frodo was deeply hurt by his self-sacrifice but reminded his friend Sam that ‘when things are in danger, some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.’  Frodo’s selfless actions remind me of the words of Jesus: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it’.

Many people who love the Lord of the Rings don’t realize that JRR Tolkien was a deeply committed Christian whose values permeated his unforgettable trilogy.  Tolkien knew the power of Story in touching hardened hearts like that of his friend CS Lewis who, through Tolkien’s influence, moved from hard-core atheism to passionate faith in Jesus Christ.  My prayer for those reading this article is that we too may discover the message behind the message in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

p.s. For more on Tolkien, just click

 

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector

BSW, MDiv, DMin

St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

-award-winning author of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’

p.s. In order to obtain a copy of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide :  Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada

You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide


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The Irreplaceable Psalm 23

By the Rev. Dr.  Ed HirdPsalm23

Again and again when people are buried through St. Simon’s North Vancouver, their family asks for Psalm 23.  Regardless of whether they have been in church for years, Psalm 23 seems to have a comforting power that touches people again and again. Why is Psalm 23 so meaningful to so many people?

 When Dr. Billy Graham preached a while ago in a Russian Synagogue, what was his topic?  None other than Psalm 23.  Whether Jewish or Christian, Churchgoer or NonChurchgoer, Right Wing or Left Wing politically,  Psalm 23 seems to speak to all of us.  All of us  can find strength in knowing that the Lord is our Shepherd.

There is an extremely popular book written by a Canadian agrologist entitled “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23″.  Philip Keller, unlike most of us, is an actual modern-day shepherd, who has spent many years in agricultural research, land management, and psalm232ranch development in  British Columbia.

 From Keller’s first-hand experience, Psalm 23 has burst open with many new insights  and surprises.  For example, what does it really mean to say “I shall not want”? Keller says that this is a picture of “a sheep utterly satisfied with its owner..utterly contented in the Good Shepherd’s care and consequently not craving or desiring anything more.”  Does this describe our personal day-to-day lives?  I remember seeing a poster which read: “Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.”

Why does Psalm 23 talk about “lying down in green pastures”?  Keller tells us that sheep will never lie down until four conditions are met:

1) they must be free of all fear

2) They must be free of  torment by flies or parasites

3) They must have a full belly

4) They must be in harmony with their fellow sheep.

Green pastures did not just happen by psalm-233accident. A good shepherd would put tremendous labour into clearing rough rocky ground into lush pasture land.  Psalm 23 tells us that Jesus the Good Shepherd desires to take away our fear and disharmony so that we can find the inner peace that we have always been looking for.

What about “leading us beside still waters”?   What difference does that make?  Keller tells us that  sheep are made up of about 70% water on average.  Without a clean water source, sheep become restless and dehydrated.  As well, sheep will not drink from fast, flowing waters, but  rather from still calm waters.  So too the Good Shepherd desires to fill each of us with calmness and stillness, with living water that can quench our deepest thirst.

Psalm 23 reminds us that the Good Shepherd desires to “restore our soul”.  When a death has just occurred in our family, we often feel heavy and burdened inside, even down cast.  Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”.  All of us need that inner rest from time to time.  Sheep, from time to time, may fall on their backs, and be unable to get up again by themselves.  When a sheep becomes “down cast”, it can quickly become a casualty to sun stroke, or attack from wild animals.  A Good Shepherd will restore his sheep when they become cast down.

Psalm 234Perhaps most familiar of all is the phrase: “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death , I will fear no evil, for You are with me”.  Think of funerals you have been to, and what comfort these words have been.  Keller tells us that the only way to the mountainous green pastures is through the dangerous mountain valleys where wolves and coyotes are in hiding, waiting for their next victim.  Psalm 23 reminds us that  the Good Shepherd is also a warrior who will fight for us and protect us, even in times of death and tragedy.

All of us want to be loved and cared for by significant others.  Most of us believe that there is a God out there. The good news of Psalm 23 is that God really cares about each of us in a way beyond our wildest imagining.  That is the meaning of the poetic language speaking of the Shepherd preparing a table before us, anointing our head with oil, and our cup overflowing.  All of this means that God personally cares for you.

No matter how tough life gets, and how many setbacks you face,  Psalm 23 tell us that God is there for you, and will never give up on you.

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector

BSW, MDiv, DMin

St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)

-author of the award-winning book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’

p.s. In order to obtain a copy of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide :  Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada

You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier


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A River Still Runs Through It

By the Rev. Dr. Ed HirdA%20River%20Runs%20Through%20It

It’s hard to find a really good movie that the whole family can watch together, without exploitive sexuality and violence. My extended family could not stop talking about ‘The River Runs through It’.  So eventually I too saw the movie and  joined the ranks of the enthusiastic “River” boosters.

 

The movie is directed by Robert Redford and the star of the movie “Norman” looks remarkably like a junior Robert Redford. It is set in the Midwestern United States of the 1920’s. Its breathtaking scenic shots are reason enough as to why this movie was an Academy Award winner.

The movie begins by having the elderly Norman recall his father’s words: “Someday when you are ready, you might tell our family story. Only then will you understand what happened and why.” An intriguing feature of this movie is that all the meaningful statements are deliberately understated in a way that provokes curiosity. For example, Norman commented: “in our family there was no clear line between fly fishing and religion.” Norman doesn’t really explain what he means, Instead he just teases your imagination, and then moves on. The symbol of life at its best was “the river running through.”

 

A%20River%20Runs%20Through%20It2Again and again, as tragedy and setbacks hit the Maclean family, they seemed to find solace and refreshment by returning to their family river, the big Blackfoot. As the movie put it, “Beneath the (river) rocks are the words of God. Listen … and if Paul and I listened very carefully all our lives, we might hear those words.”

Norman’s father was a rigid, but well meaning Presbyterian minister. There were times in the father’s life where his rigidity seemed to totally alienate his sons. Yet again and again their common love for the river would bring them back together as a family.

 

As Norman put it, “In the afternoon we would walk with him while he unwound between services and he almost always chose the path along the Blackfoot, which we considered our family river, and it was there that he found his soul restored and his imagination stirred.” Norman, of course, is making a clear allusion to the well known Psalm 23: “He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul.”

In contrast to the modem tendency to “pigeonhole” religion into a small private slot, Norman’s father saw religion as a totally normal part of everyday life. Faith was as normal for him as breathing or fly fishing. Flyfishing for the Macleans was a symbol of an integrated and healthy spirituality pervading all of life. As Norman put it, “… Paul and I probably received as many hours of instruction in fly fishing as we did in all other spiritual matters.”

 

Norman’s father saw fly fishing as symbolic of the rhythms of life that we all need to discover. Norman comments: “As a Presbyterian, my father believed that man by nature was a damn mess, and that only by picking up God’s rhythms could we regain power and beauty. To (Norman’s father), all good things come by grace, and grace comes by art, and art does not come easy.” Norman’s father trained his two sons to cast “Presbyterian style”, on a four count rhythm between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

A%20River%20Runs%20Through%20It3

One of the most significant moments in the movie was the first time that Paul the younger brother broke free of his father’s instruction, into a shadow casting rhythm all his own. All of us, at some point, need to break free of our fathers’ spiritual instruction, to find a relationship with God that we can call our own Secondhand spirituality can only take us so far.

Paul stayed at home for college, unwilling to “leave the fish he had not yet caught. Norman went east for college, and entirely abandoned fly fishing.

 

When Norman returned home, he felt embarrassed and awkward down at the river, because he had lost touch with the rhythms of life while at college. Yet as the elderly Norman looked back on his life, he confessed that he was “haunted by waters”. Despite all the tragedy and horror of life, Norman’s returning to the river replenished him again and again.

As Norman put it, “… when I am alone in the half light of the canyon, all existence seems to fade to a being with my soul and my memories, and the sounds of the big Blackfoot River, and the four count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.” A Jewish Rabbi said 2,000 years ago: “Whoever believes in me, streams of living water will flow from within him.”

My prayer for those reading this article is that streams of  living water may flow through the middle of our lives, bringing a peace that passes all understanding.

 

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector

BSW, MDiv, DMin

St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)

-author of the award-winning book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’

p.s. In order to obtain a copy of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide :  Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada

You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

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