We rolled out of bed and into the breakfast room (well, not really, but at the rate I'm telling this story, I figured I better speed things up) where we enjoyed two kinds of quiche - ham & cheese and vegetarian - also, fresh berries, which my husband had mixed with granola and yogurt. I normally don't eat until lunch, but I can't resist free food (well, included with our stay) and I needed to fuel up for our hike at Point Lobos, "the crown jewel" of the California State Parks, "the greatest meeting of land and sea in the world", just south of Carmel and north of Big Sur.
As we were driving along the coast, my husband (eagle eye), from behind the wheel, spotted a whale! He pulled over and we raced out on the rocks to see it. Sure enough, there was a sightseeing boat (definitely getting an eyeful) not far from where we could see the spouting blowhole and then a quick glimpse of it breaching. In all our years of coming to this area, we had never seen a whale, so this was quite a treat, even though (as usual) we had forgotten to bring binoculars.
A little farther on (keep in mind, the total distance from the hotel to our destination was only a few miles), he spotted the whale again! So once again, we pulled over, and ran to the beach (sandy this time, thankfully). It was Carmel River Beach and there were others there, but farther south, and none seemed to notice, despite us jumping up and down and pointing...so it felt like a special whale showing just for us. Thinking back on it, I am reminded of how it's like following Jesus. He shows up unexpectedly, but the more we seek him, the more He reveals himself to us. Meanwhile, we're beside ourselves trying to get others to discover and enjoy this wonderful treasure with us, but they are caught up in the cares of this world, and our enthusiasm comes across as lunacy to them.
A few minutes later, we entered Point Lobos (I almost said the wardrobe), parked at the farthest lot, and began our adventure on foot. As if the crystal blue water at China Cove wasn't enough beauty, we were treated the sight of harbor seals mothers and pups sunbathing and frolicking. We lingered there, gazing over the cliffs into the sheltered cove and out into the endless ocean. Continuing our hike, we found a set of stairs and climbed down to a gorgeous white beach, watching the waves and admiring the seascape.
Up at the top and out on the trail again, a man and his wife pointed out a sea otter to us and let us use their binoculars for a closer view. That brought back memories to an earlier anniversary, our first time at Point Lobos, when I had been pining to see a sea otter (my favorite ocean animal), and sure enough, God brought us several to enjoy (and again, my husband was the one to spot them first). As we walked on, we encountered a family from the Bay Area - it turned out that the man had just got a job in our county (in San Rafael, where I grew up, one town south of our town) and was about to start work. We encouraged them about the possibility of moving to Marin (from the east Bay) and all that it could offer their family.
We made our way back to the car (saying goodbye to the seals one last time) and tried to drive out to Cypress point, but there was no room in the lot, so we drove to Whaler's Cove (where we had seen the sea otters that other time), and hiked out there. We found seals again, but the dads this time - we could tell because each of the big lugs was on his own rock...except when one would go for a swim and another would steal his "recliner."
I had told my husband about reading 1 Peter, so we had decided to read it aloud to each other, which we did in a private little spot we found overlooking a secluded cove. We only got through the first chapter, but it was just right. Then my husband convinced me to steal away under the roped off area and climb down to look into the beautiful water in the cove, which we did for a few minutes, but I couldn't full enjoy it since I felt like an outlaw!
As we hiked back, we saw a group of Japanese tourists pointing out to sea - a whale sighting! We kept vigil, me with my camera/phone ready, but of course it didn't resurface, so we walked on, and then there it was again, with no one else to see it but us. This was the clearest view yet and I even got some semi-decent pictures, albeit from a distance. My husband was convinced it was the same whale all three times. I wasn't so sure, but either way, it was an amazing blessing for the first full morning of our trip to be graced with glimpses of such a magnificent creature, and that just we two would be privy to that unique beauty of God's creation.
That was our second divine appointment and in less than 12 hours. There would be two more to come that afternoon and evening, and another the following morning, which I hope I can relate in the fifth and (Lord willing) final post...but it might take sixth or seventh installment...
So since I've failed to have a consistent Bible reading plan for...oh, a number of years...I had hoped to try afresh with the start of the church year, but it didn't happen until the advent of Lent (pun intended), at which point I began following the daily office of the Book of Common Prayer, which takes you through the Bible in two years in a sequential fashion - not in order or chronologically, but through three books of the Bible at a time with each day having a passage from the Old Testament, the Gospels, and an Epistle. It also has several psalms (think it takes you through them twice). Thematically, the readings are patterned after the seasons of the liturgical calendar. The idea is to read the Word morning, noon, and night, but I usually just do it in the mid-afternoon when my children are having quiet time in their rooms, and if I miss that, then right before I go to sleep, or if I miss that, then two days' worth at once (which is what's happened this week). I haven't yet worked in the psalms, but I'm hoping to read one in the morning and one at night.
Today I read in Deuteronomy and Hebrews about belief vs. unbelief (God's faithless and unfaithful chosen people) , and then Jesus' words in John 3 about baptism and spiritual rebirth...fast forward to tonight when I read The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald (C.S. Lewis' favorite author) to my daughters, the chapter was all about belief /unbelief - including the truth that even seeing isn't always believing, and it used the imagery of baptism - the princess submersed in a a magical bath that cleanses and renews her, inducing a peaceful sleep. As we were discussing the Christian symbolism (really the first time it's been obvious and we're pretty deep into the book) of believing the gospel, dying to our sinful self, and becoming born again, which baptism represents, I suddenly realized it was all so evident to me because I had just read it in the Bible! Yet another divine serendipity...
I wrote the following in my prayer journal this summer and I was reminded of it this past week when we attended homeschool day at the Cal Academy of Science, where we watched Journey to the Stars (links to the 27 minute video) in the planetarium. "Watched" is an understatement; experienced is more like it. My 5 yr-old captured it best "I feel like I went on a rocket ship through space!"
Father, are you still creating? You rested on the seventh day, not because you needed to, but because it was an example for us, whom you made in your image and likeness, and so we, too, are compelled to create. With you, Lord, a thousand years is like a day, so does a day, or a millenium or more go by without you creating? Is our universe one of many? Or is every "new" thing here a work of your creativity? From the sun setting to a birth of a child?
It seems like you finished creation, and I know you will one day restore it to its original glory...in fact, even more glorious...but what about now? You designed this world so perfectly that even in its fallen state, so many things are regenerated, and it seems to happen through the scientific processes you put in motion, so that it appears you are no longer creating in this universe, but I wonder if it just appears that way to us because we are constrained by our five senses - that we cannot perceive your transcendent "hand" maintaining and creating.
Or have you willfully confined your creativity in our rebellious world to the spiritual realm? And so there is decay outwardly, but inwardly, you create life. Your common grace sustains your creation and your redemptive grace makes souls into new beings, a work that is not finished until you restore all of your creation.
You don't operate in time as we do - you always were and always will be - so is everything really happening simultaneously in the spiritual realm? I am groaning with your creation, longing for everything to be made right and to see you make all things new. Amen.
You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you." ~Nehemiah 9:6 (this whole chapter I read today blew me away).
I almost didn’t want to watch the final installment of the Lord of the Rings because I didn’t want it to be over. We were privileged to be able to see it at the best theater in the Bay Area, the Tamalpais, which is one of Steven Spielberg’s favorite moviehouses (it’s also where I once sat behind George Lucas when I was a teenager–wish I could remember the film!).
But Lucas and Spielberg had nothing to do with this movie, or the entire trilogy, which surpassed anything they’ve ever produced, in my humble opinion. It was masterfully done, but the secret to its success was something we can all relate to–-a great writer. The makers of the films were faithful to Tolkien’s text and masterfully depicted the intricacies of his imagination.
What really made this movie special for me was how clearly Tolkien’s Christian faith played itself out on the screen. I’m sure most members of the audience were oblivious to the metaphorical imagery (not allegorical since Tolkien himself denied using that literary device). I gleaned more than I’m sure Tolkien intended, but I believe that when the hand of providence is involved, certain stories take on a life of their own.
I couldn’t help but see Christ in both Frodo and Sam. Frodo bore the ring, “his burden”, our sin on himself and endured something of a crucifixion of spirit. He knew he was the only one who could carry the cross, so to speak. At one point, Sam says something like “I cannot carry your burden, but I can carry you.” That reminded me of the poem “Footprints” which speaks of how we feel so alone in our hardest times because we only see one set of footprints, but the footprints are actually God’s because he is carrying us.
Christ’s humility was personified in the hobbit demeanor which was always humble and giving. Both Frodo and Sam were servant-leaders like Christ, but Sam was the best example. He always put Frodo before himself, even allowed Frodo to make the wrong decisions, and stuck by him even in the face of his betrayal (reminded me of Jesus and Peter). Sam even carried the ring, and wasn’t tempted by it, in order to protect Frodo and the rest of Middle Earth from it falling into the wrong hands. Sam also seemed like the beloved John, the disciple who was closest to Jesus.
In Gollum, I could see both Adam and Judas. He was the first ordinary person to take hold of the ring, even though it meant murder. Original sin brought death into the world. When he pretended to leave behind his sinful life, he was so steeped in it – his own pride and lust – that he betrayed the one who was kindest to him and the one who had the power to liberate him from his sin (the ring) eternally – Frodo as Christ.
Aragon too was a Christ figure, the King himself. That final battle was like Armageddon. The Bible says that when the Lord returns, the dead in Christ will rise up to be with the saints (all the Christians). That’s exactly what happened when they freed the dead spirits from the mountain (mind you, I’m not Catholic so I don’t believe in purgatory).
Everyone who was part of the fellowship of the ring was Christlike in their willingness to sacrifice their lives for the others. My memory might be deceiving me, but I think that in the earlier films, both Aragon and Frodo were brought back from the dead.
Bilbo resembled John the Baptist. He prepared the way for Frodo by acquiring the ring. He was also Frodo’s uncle which is interesting since John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin. He also lived in seclusion like John in the desert.
In the first film, Gandalf seemed like the primary Christ figure but as the story continued, he seemed more like the Father to me. He directed their every move and knew what the final outcome would be. Both Gandalf and Aragon constantly empowered and encouraged the people. They literally breathed life, in the face of death, into their hearts.
The concluding scene reminded me of Christ’s ascension and the bittersweet farewell with his disciples.
The most significant aspect of Return of the King was also probably the most obvious theme: courage. As a person who struggles with fear (I even whispered to My husband in the theater that if I was faced with those orks, trolls or any of the other hideous creatures, I’d kill myself on the spot), this film really spoke to me. Gandalf constantly stressed not giving in to fear. They all knew that in their own strength, they would be defeated, but that greater forces were at work. Ultimately, God’s goodness always triumphs over evil.