Sunday, September 25, 2011

No Excuses

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea - for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. (Mark 1:16-20)

As I noted last week, the Hero’s Quest is a major archetype in stories and mythologies of all types, and writing about it in the context of Hobbits reminded me of another popular modern take on the theme: Luke Skywalker. At the beginning of Star Wars, he is a just another bored kid from the back of beyond dreaming of a more exciting life anywhere but Tatooine. He wants desperately to get off of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru’s moisture farm and go to the Academy, where he will learn to be a fighter pilot like his friend Biggs. Day after day, nothing changes, until the fateful day that two droids drop from the sky and lead him to an old hermit named Ben Kenobi.

Old Ben listens to R2D2’s message from Princess Leia, and as he prepares to answer her summons, he issues Luke the invitation of a lifetime: come with me to Alderaan, learn to use the Force, become a Jedi like your father. It’s just the ticket Luke has been looking for, the chance to get away from this backwater planet, learn to be a kick-ass warrior, have some cool adventures, and help a good cause, too. So what does he do? He whines about how Uncle Owen needs his help, how he’s busy on the moisture farm, how he’s been neglecting his chores while hanging out with this crazy old fool, how he’ll catch hell when he gets home for all the time-wasting he’s done.  He rejects the opportunity he’s wanted for so long, and he gives no good reasons for it, only excuses.

Of course, Luke does go with Ben in the end, but only after all other options are snatched away from him. He returns home to find it in ruins and his aunt and uncle dead, killed by Imperial Stormtroopers. With nothing left to lose, he finally agrees to go with Ben to Alderaan and to learn to be a Jedi. Why does it take such drastic measures to convince him? When it comes down to it, it seems that Luke suffers from comfort zone-itis, the fear of leaving the familiar to follow a call to something greater.

God wants no excuses when he issues a call, but comfort zone-itis is a widespread disease. Why do we make so many excuses instead of saying yes right away? Why is it that it sometimes takes drastic measures to break us out of our ruts and to get us to accept Christ’s invitation to follow him? I guess it’s just human nature, maybe, but I wonder how much more fun we’d have along the journey if we responded right away and didn’t waste time on excuses?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Everyday Heroes

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I; send me!" (Isaiah 6:8)

One of the great themes of science fiction and fantasy (and indeed, literature in general) is the hero's quest. Usually, the main character is an ordinary person who finds himself or herself called to complete a seemingly impossible task, but thanks to the help of many friends along the way and previously hidden reserves of inner strength, the task is accomplished and the proverbial day is saved.

Two of my favorite examples of questing heroes come from the pen of J.R.R. Tolkien: the hobbit Bilbo Baggins and his nephew Frodo. In The Hobbit, Bilbo is mistaken for a burglar and hired by a band of dwarves to help them steal back their treasure from Smaug the dragon. Frodo, whose story we read in the Lord of the Rings books, must carry the One Ring of power into the heart of it's evil creator's domain in order to destroy it and prevent Sauron's further domination. Although their neighbors might think both of them a little strange and remark upon their "Tookish" tendencies towards travel and adventures, each hobbit considers himself quite ordinary and quite unsuited for the important task placed upon his shoulders. However, each hobbit also agrees to go and attempt the quest despite much self-doubt and many misgivings.

Tolkien didn't come up with anything new here. In fact, the same theme occurs numerous times throughout the Bible. Moses makes excuse after excuse as to why he's not the right one to lead the enslaved Hebrew people out of Egypt. Isaiah declares himself to be "a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips" (Isaiah 6:5) when God asks him to deliver His messages - both of judgement and of hope - to the people of Judah. Jonah went so far as to run clear in the other direction when God asked him to take a warning message to the people of Ninevah. Ordinary people, with utterly human weaknesses, flaws, and failings, yet that's never the end of the story!

Bilbo, despite his bumbling, becomes the burglar that Gandalf knew he could be from the moment the "Burglar Lives Here" mark was made on the hobbit hole door. He helps the dwarves out of a number of scrapes and is instrumental in vanquishing the dragon and reclaiming the treasure. Assisted by both his friends and his enemies, Frodo manages to keep plodding along despite great weariness and danger until the One Ring is destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom, thus saving all of Middle Earth from certain destruction. God counters every one of Moses's arguments, appoints his brother Aaron to speak for him, and through him releases the Israelites from bondage. With a burning coal from the altar in the hands of a Seraph, Isaiah's unclean lips are purified and he steps forward to take God's message to His people. After enduring much trouble brought on by his own stubbornness, including 3 days in not-so-deluxe sub-marine accommodations, Jonah finally arrives in Ninevah and finds the people there receptive to God's message and willing to repent.

It doesn't stop there, either! Simon Peter, the bumbling fisherman whose ego writes checks that the rest of him can't cash, becomes one of the great leaders of the early Christian church. Saul, proud persecutor of Christians, does an about-face on the Damascus road and becomes the first great missionary in church history. I could go on and on....

All of these heroes have two things in common: they were all ordinary, imperfect people, and they all said "yes" to the call (however reluctantly). In addition, although they could have made excuses and refused the mission, they all trusted the call-er to know what he was doing and to have faith in their ability to do the job.

I am an ordinary person, but I too can do great things. All I have to do is say "yes" and trust the One who Calls to take care of the rest.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Eye of Orion ... or Somewhere Else?

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

"You didn't always take me where I wanted to go," said the Doctor to the TARDIS-in-human-form. "No, but I always took you where you needed to go," she replied. This pivotal conversation in "The Doctor's Wife" made a big impression on me, as you already know if you read my previous post. Just recently, however, I saw another scene from that episode that made me think some more.

After the adventure is over, Amy and Rory have been saved, and the soul of the TARDIS has returned to her mute home in the pan-dimensional blue box, the Doctor prepares to depart. He races haphazardly around the console, turning dials and flipping switches while keeping up a running dialogue with himself. He turns one last dial and announces his destination: "Ok. The Eye of Orion, or wherever we need to go." Before he has a chance to pull the last lever, it moves all by itself, the machine's acknowledgement of the Doctor's willingness to give up any illusions of control he might have had, because he now realizes that he was never in control to begin with.

How much less stressful would my life be if I stopped trying to be in control of everything, if I stopped getting angry at finding myself in a difficult situation or not being where I wanted to be? What if I faced each situation with a different attitude, that of seeking to discover what purpose I am to serve in my present circumstances, however negative or unwanted I think they are? As much as I'd like to think it or make it so, I'm not really in control, and even though I really want to go to the Eye of Orion, that doesn't appear to be in the cards right now. To have the Doctor's attitude about the whole thing - to stop fighting the inevitable and to make the best of what comes - is my goal right now.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Where Are We Going?

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
My current favorite episode ever of Doctor Who (so far) is Neil Gaiman's masterpiece from series 6, "The Doctor's Wife." In it, the Doctor and his companions land on a sentient asteroid that steals the TARDIS after transferring the machine's consciousness into a human body. As a result, for the first time in their centuries of traveling together, the Doctor is able to have conversations with the one object that has been with him almost constantly.

Frequent viewers of the show know that many episodes are set up by the fact that the TARDIS fails to land at the time and place the Doctor had directed it to go - sometimes they end up in the wrong place and sometimes it's the right place but the wrong time, but at any rate, they find themselves in the middle of a crisis, followed by lots of running around and day-saving. Now that he has the TARDIS in a form that can answer him, the Doctor confronts her with the fact that she doesn't always take him where he wants to go.

"No," she replies, "but I always took you where you needed to go."

It was not until I was thinking about the episode later that I realized how profound that statement is, especially in regard to my life at the moment. "Why, God?" I ask. "Why are things going this way for me? Why aren't you answering my prayers? Why can't things go right for a change?" I wonder - if I stopped to listen to the still, small voice, would I hear the same answer that the Doctor heard? I suspect so, even though that's not always exactly what I want to hear....


Welcome to the Geeky Squirrel's home on the web! I have been kicking around the idea of starting a blog for a while now, but until recently I hadn't come up with a good angle. I know too many other fantastic music teachers with music ed blogs who share much better ideas than I could come up with, so that was out. I already write for the awesome blog doing a lot soundtrack reviews, geeky music posts, and various other assorted sci fi and fantasy topics, so there's no need to duplicate that. I am not so egotistical to think that anyone really cares to read about random events in my life, either, so for a while that was that. Until...I had an awesome idea as I was driving down the road one day - a song I was listening to reminded me of something and then something else and then, hey! I can write about that, it would be a short devotional thought-type thing, and - that's it! That would make an interesting blog! So that was about a month or so ago, and now here we are. (There's actually a little more to the story than that, which you can read about on the About page)

Now, I am not the biggest geek in the world, but I'm still pretty geeky and I plan to write about geeky science fictiony and fantasy kinds of things, including but not limited to Doctor Who, Star Wars, J.R.R. Tolkien, and whatever else I happen to be reading or watching at the moment. I'll try to set things up, but I'm not going to go out of my way to explain things that the average watcher/listener/reader of a particular thing would already know. If there is interest/demand for it, however, I am willing to start a glossary or explanation page for terms that fans of a particular thing would know but non-fans wouldn't. Feel free to comment on a post if there's something you don't get, and if it happens often enough I will make another page - the two tabs I've got are looking pretty lonely up there anyway! As I write more, I will probably be adding a page of links to references and things as well, so look for that.

Thank you for visiting, and I look forward to geeking out with you.
~Ann, AKA The Geeky Squirrel