Announcing Adam’s New Novel: The Halfling Contagion


A new novel of high fantasy and adventure from author Adam Thomas.


Plague strikes the state of Felmire.
The queen and prince fall victim.
The princess seeks a cure.

Princess Rynliana Caris Feldonsire survived the plague, but no one else has. Halfling midwife Liralee Broderil believes she knows why. Could it be the result of a secret elixir she gave Ryn when the princess was a newborn baby struggling to breathe? If so, the eternal lotus might hold the cure to the contagion destroying the human population of Felmire. But the mysterious plant blooms only one day a year, and only a Lotusborn like Ryn can find it. Will she be in time to save her people?

Mourning for his dead wife and son, Ryn’s father Tarion sinks deeper into grief and retreats from his duty as monarch of Felmire. His younger brother Reave takes it upon himself to discover a cure for the plague. Reave seeks help from the upstart healer and arcanist Victus Graves who has noticed something strange about the halfling immigrants to Felmire. None of them has contracted the illness. Are the halflings the key to curing the contagion? Or are they the cause?


Adam Thomas, writer of wherethewind.com, presents the second stand-alone novel set in Sularil, his own Tolkien-esque fantasy world. A lover of works of high fantasy ever since reading The Hobbit and Redwall way back in middle school, Adam brings his new offering to the genre with a pair of strong female heroes and a story about walking through grief and about how we treat refugees among us. (For ages 14 and up.)

For a brief excerpt of The Halfling Contagion, please click here.


Click here to purchase The Halfling Contagion
on Amazon in paperback or kindle edition.

And check out Adam’s other fantasy offerings:
The Storm Curtain
Torniel
The Jeweled City


 

Announcing Adam’s New Novel: The Storm Curtain


A new novel of high fantasy and adventure from author Adam Thomas.


The Storm Curtain is open.
The Three Sisters have fallen.
War has come to Arillon.

The orcs of Ornak have taken the islands known as the Three Sisters, bringing sudden war to the coast of Arillon, a country on the grand island of Sularil. Hopelessly outnumbered, an alliance of humans, dwarves, and elves attempts to slow the orcs’ march towards the immense city of Thousand Spires. How could the small country of Ornak contain such an overwhelming force? This is the question on the minds of Sularin general and soldier alike.

Only one person is in a position to find the answer. New recruit Grail, an elf of the Oruana Kir, is shipwrecked on her way to the front and finds herself washed ashore on the coast of Ornak. Will she remain alone in a hostile land to find answers? Or will she return across the sea to rejoin her best friend Daxa Torn in the fight? Whatever she decides, one question haunts Grail more than any other: why can she not commune with animals, taking their shapes like the rest of her people?

Adam Thomas, writer of wherethewind.com, presents the first novel set in Sularil, his own Tolkien-esque fantasy world. A lover of works of high fantasy ever since reading The Hobbit and Redwall way back in middle school, Adam brings his own offering to the genre with a pair of strong female heroes and a story about finding family and releasing shame in the midst of turmoil and war. (For ages 15 and up.)

For a brief excerpt of The Storm Curtain, please click here.


Click here to purchase The Storm Curtain
on Amazon in paperback or kindle edition.


 

I Can Carry You (May 25, 2012)

…Opening To…

Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind: a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to silver and glass, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Ch. VIII)

…Listening In…

[Frodo] raised his eyes with difficulty to the dark slopes of Mount Doom towering above him, and then pitifully he began to crawl forward on his hands. Sam looked at him and wept in his heart, but no tears came to his dry and stinging eyes. ‘I said I’d carry him, if it broke my back,’ he muttered, ‘and I will! Come, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried. ‘I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well.’ (The Return of the King, Bk. 6, Ch. III)

…Filling Up…

We come to the end of the second season of Devo180 and we find ourselves at the foot of Mount Doom with Sam and Frodo. The ring was forged in the fires of the volcano and this is the only place where it can be destroyed. Against all odds, they have reached their destination, but at the foot of mountain – so close to the end – Frodo collapses. The ring’s weight and will are too much. The hunger, the thirst, the pain, the torment are all too much for him to bear. He has struggled this far, but he can go no farther.

And this is when Sam reaches the height of his own heroism. “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you,” he says. And Sam, himself hungry, thirsty, in pain, in torment, lifts Frodo onto his back. Tolkien narrates:

And then to his amazement he felt the burden light. He had feared that he would have barely strength to lift his master alone, and beyond that he had expected to share in the dreadful dragging weight of the accursed Ring. But it was not so. Whether because Frodo was so worn by his long pains, wound of knife, venomous sting, and sorrow, fear, and homeless wandering, or because some gift of final strength was given to him, Sam lifted Frodo with no more difficulty than if he were carrying a hobbit-child pig-a-back in some romp on the lawns or hayfields of the Shire. He took a deep breath and started off. (ROTK, Bk. 6, Ch. III)

I said on Tuesday that The Lord of the Rings is, in the end, a tale about friendship. This moment near the climax of the epic story confirms that assertion. Frodo has no strength. Sam has next to none. And still, Sam somehow lifts Frodo onto his back, Ring and all, and carries him. And the weight is barely a burden. He could have taken the Ring from Frodo’s inert body. He could have abandoned Frodo and stumbled out of the enemy’s territory and gone home. But he carries his friend and his friend’s burden instead. And he finds the burden to be lighter than all expectation.

The Ring symbolizes the desire for domination, but Sam’s selfless act of sacrifice nullifies the Ring’s power, if only for a moment. I think this is why Frodo is able to find that one last burst of energy a few pages later when he makes it to the fires. He seems all but dead at the base of the mountain, but Sam’s love and care revives him. Sam might not be able to carry the Ring, as he had for a few days after Frodo was captured, but he can carry Frodo.

Who in your life would carry you? Who would you carry? Who does God call us to carry? In all of these questions, there is one truth that cannot go unsaid – that no matter what our burdens, God will lift us up and put us on God’s back, so that we might find new strength, new vitality, new life.

…Praying For…

Dear God, thank you for another year of reflecting on your movement in my life and in the lives of all those to whom I am connected to through this devotional series. Help me to keep my eyes open for your presence all the days of my life. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, knowing that you have gifted me with companions to take the journey with me.

Light and High Beauty (May 24, 2012)

…Opening To…

Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind: a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to silver and glass, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Ch. VIII)

…Listening In…

There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. (The Return of the King, Bk. 6, Ch. II)

…Filling Up…

The second to last day of this season of Devo180 brings us to the land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. Frodo and Sam have just escaped from the tower of Cirith Ungol, where the orcs had slain each while fighting over Frodo’s mithril coat. The two hobbits find themselves in enemy territory, where no good thing grows and where danger lurks around every corner. And to top it all off, as they move ever closer to Mount Doom (the only place where the ring can be unmade) the ring resists more and more, making ever step Frodo takes a challenge.

They have reached the bleakest days of their long journey. Everything around them is strange, foreboding, hostile, and dark. Could there possibly be any hope left?

Yes. The answer to that question is always “Yes.”

Sam looks up and sees a star twinkling high up in the sky – beyond the Shadow, beyond the reach of evil and malice. And Sam realizes in a flash of insight that “in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”

The thing about stars is that we can only see them on clear nights. They aren’t visible through clouds and they aren’t visible during the day (well, except that big one we call the sun). But they are always there whether or not we can see them. When Sam witnesses the white star twinkle, he remembers the truth that even the faintest of hopes is still hope, even as the faintest of flames gives off light.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you are constantly loving this creation into existence. Help me to remember that no hope is too small to contain your promise. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, knowing that you have gifted me with companions to take the journey with me.

Wonder, Joy, and Fear (May 23, 2012)

…Opening To…

Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind: a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to silver and glass, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Ch. VIII)

…Listening In…

They all gazed at him. His hair was white as snow in the sunshine; and gleaming white was his robe; the eyes under his deep brows were bright, piercing as the rays of the sun; power was in his hand. Between wonder, joy, and fear they stood and found no words to say. At last Aragorn stirred. ‘Gandalf!’ he said. ‘Beyond all hope you return to us in our need! What veil was over my sight? Gandalf!’ (The Two Towers, Bk. 3, Ch. V)

…Filling Up…

The wizard Gandalf died defending the fellowship from the monstrous Balrog while the companions were fleeing from the mines of Moria. The fiend of flame and shadow took one step onto the bridge of Khazad-dûm and Gandalf smote the bridge with his staff. The narrow way collapsed and the Balrog fell, but not before ensnaring Gandalf with its whip and taking the wizard with it. The two fell an impossibly far way down. And that was the last the fellowship saw of Gandalf.

Until the moments before the quotation above, at least. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli come upon a traveler in the forest. They don’t recognize him at first, and they think he might be the evil wizard Saruman. But no. He is Gandalf, but not the Gandalf they remember. Not exactly. Aragorn wonders how his vision might have been so impaired as not to realize that Gandalf stands before him. The wizard, for his part, looks brand new – dazzling white and brilliant.

Sound familiar? It should because this scene mimics two different parts of the Gospel – the Transfiguration, in which Jesus becomes dazzling radiant before three of his disciples; and the Resurrection, in which the Risen Christ meets many of his followers but they don’t recognize him right away.

Now, I could stop there and just say, “How cool! Tolkien borrowed from the Gospel!” But I should probably say something else. So here it is. Notice what Tolkien says: “Between wonder, joy, and fear they stood and found no words to say.” I can’t think of a better description of how the disciples must have felt when they met the Risen Lord. Heck, I can’t think of a better description of how I feel when I stumble into God’s presence.

There’s wonder because we realize that luminous mystery abounds about us. There’s joy because we realize we are not alone. And there’s fear because we realize we’ll never fully understand the mystery. When we stumble into God’s presence, we find ourselves awash in all three of these states. And we find that we have no words that are deep enough for the experience.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you fill my life with wonder, you shower joy upon me, and you quiet my fears. Help me to proclaim your movement in my life with the words that you set on my heart. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, knowing that you have gifted me with companions to take the journey with me.

Trust to Friendship (May 22, 2012)

…Opening To…

Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind: a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to silver and glass, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Ch. VIII)

…Listening In…

‘It is true that if these hobbits understood the danger, they would not dare to go. But they would still wish to go, or wish that they dared, and be shamed and unhappy. I think, Elrond, that it this matter it would be well to trust to their friendship than to great wisdom.’ (The Fellowship of the Ring, Bk. 2, Ch. 3)

…Filling Up…

Today is day two of five with The Lord of the Rings to close out another season of devotiONEighty. The four hobbits, with the help of the mysterious stranger Strider, succeed in making it all the way to Rivendell. The escape from several challenges on the way, but nothing that could prepare them for what is further on the road.

A council meets in Elrond’s house, and the council decides that the ring must be destroyed. Frodo accepts the burden to carry the ring once more, but he must need companions. The council decides that a company of nine is suitable to match the nine black riders that are hunting for the ring. With two spot to fill, Gandalf speaks the words above in support of Merry and Pippin, who might have been left behind otherwise.

What a wonderful thought Gandalf voices: “It would be well to trust to their friendship than to great wisdom.” Wisdom in this case says to send a few more stout warriors, the better to protect the ringbearer. But Gandalf councils against this. Rather, the friendship that the hobbits have for each other is fiercer than any warrior, stouter than any sword or armor.

The Lord of the Rings, in the end, is a tale about friendship. In our walks with God, we often talk of bearing one another’s burdens or of having fellowship with one another. But I don’t often hear of us talking about the friendships that we make because of our relationships with God. The old hymn sings: “What a friend I have in Jesus.” But do we really consider Jesus a friend? I imagine that many of us would think such a thing presumptuous at best.

But Jesus himself named his disciples his friends when they lived by his commandment to love one another. When we see friendship as a spiritual calling, we can walk through all sorts of new doors that God opens for us. Think of your closest friend. How does your friendship with that person support your relationship with God? How does your relationship with God support that friendship? Friendship is one of the greatest gifts that God has given us. We may not be privy to great wisdom, as Elrond is, but all of us can share in the gift of friendship.

…Praying For…

Dear God, thank you for the friends that you have given me to support me in my life with you. Thank you for the laughter, the joy, and the consolation they have brought to my life. Help me to do the same for them. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, knowing that you have gifted me with companions to take the journey with me.

Butter Scraped Over Too Much Bread (May 21, 2012)

…Opening To…

Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind: a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to silver and glass, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Ch. VIII)

…Listening In…

‘Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change, or something.’ (The Fellowship of the Ring, Bk. 1, Ch. 1)

…Filling Up…

This week is the final week of devos for the 2011-2012 season. Devo180 will be on hiatus from Memorial Day through Labor Day, but other great content will be showing up on WheretheWind.com, so stay tuned. I began the second half of this season with a week of devos about a favorite film of mine, The Princess Bride. So I thought I’d end with another favorite, The Lord of the Rings, except I’d rather talk about the books than the films (which are also awesome, by the way). So without further ado, here’s the first of five days of reflections on our life with God as seen through the lens of J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece.

The quotation in the “Listening In” section above takes place right at the beginning of the story when Bilbo and Gandalf are talking before Bilbo’s secretive departure from the Shire. Bilbo has just used the ring for the final time and now he struggles to leave it for Frodo, his nephew. The ring has power over him, has been exerting that power for decades – slowly, patiently – so when it comes right down to it, Bilbo is quite reluctant to let go of it.

The ring was forged as a means of domination and used for evil purpose. By the time Bilbo discovers it, the ring has been lost for hundreds of years, but it has not lost its design. Thus, it represents the willingness of the individual to control his or her own life completely and eternally. While this might not sound like a bad thing, the eventual trajectory of such a desire leads either to total isolation or to total domination (which brings us back to evil purpose again).

When Bilbo says that he feels like “butter scraped over too much bread,” he clearly states what it feels like when we attempt the fool’s errand of taking total control of our own lives. When we neither wish for nor invite God’s sustaining presence into our lives, we too can feel “all thin, sort of stretched.” How many times have you felt at the edge of collapse? In the days leading up to it, how much did you rely on God? If you’re anything like me, then not much.

The answer to finding the right amount of bread to scrape our butter over (to stay with the simile) is giving up the ring as Bilbo does; that is, giving up our need to control, to dominate, to be self-sufficient. The good guys in The Lord of the Rings are never alone and there’s a reason for that. We need each other. We don’t need the ring.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you are always present in my life no matter how often I ignore you. Help me to let go of my need to control and to be self-sufficient so that I may rely on others and on you way before I begin to burn out. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, knowing that you have gifted me with companions to take the journey with me.

Shaking Off the Dust

(Sermon for Sunday, November 21, 2010 || Christ the King, Year C, RCL || Colossians 1:11-20)

Ever since I bought my piano a little over two years ago, a stack of music has sat atop the instrument gathering dust. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, Debussy – the keyboard works of these great composers continues to fulfill the lackluster role of impromptu lamp stand. To make matters more pathetic for this stack of music, the lamp, which I purchased at the same time as the piano, was bulbless until a few weeks ago when I finally remembered to pick up a bulb at the grocery store.

You might wonder why I bought a piano at all, if I never get around to tickling the ivories. Good question. At the time, I had grand designs, which have since descended through the realm of simple designs and the land of hope and settled comfortably in the valley of pipe dreams. Perhaps, my future children will learn the instrument one day and redeem their father’s purchase. Recently, my fiancé has sat down and played for a few minutes here and there. But mostly, the piano simply takes up space. And the stack of music atop the instrument gathers dust.

But this stack of music gathering dust isn’t really music at all. The books of Beethoven’s sonatas and Chopin’s waltzes and Debussy’s preludes are simply bound pages adorned with groups of five lines and thousands upon thousands of cryptic markings. We might call these pages by the name of “sheet music,” but the “music” exists wholly apart from these “sheets.” Only when a person, who is trained to decipher and articulate the cryptic markings, sits down with the intention of translating the notes into sounds does the music ever have a chance of happening.

Our lives follow this same pattern. We have the capacity to make beautiful music with our lives, but mostly we keep our lids closed, content to exist as furniture taking up space. Mostly we keep our covers closed, content to sit in a stack of unread books. Mostly we sit around gathering dust.

Of course, this manner of existence is not the life that God yearns for us. Today, on the final Sunday of the church year, we celebrate the reign of Christ. We give thanks for the reality that Christ is our sovereign, our ultimate authority. And in our celebration and thanksgiving, we acknowledge that Christ does not reign over a world full of inanimate furniture and closed books. Rather, Christ reigns precisely to pull and push and prod us out of the state of dust gathering.

To start shaking off the dust, we must first examine just what we mean when we claim that Christ reigns. As the One who reigns over us, Christ is our ultimate authority, but we encounter trouble when we link Christ’s authority to the paltry earthly authority we encounter on a daily basis. Certain people have authority over us based on their roles. Teachers and principals have authority over students. State troopers have authority over motorists. Judges have authority over those indicted of crimes. This earthly authority has its roots in a punitive system, where citizens cede a portion of their personal sovereignty to certain offices in order to make the society function more smoothly. People recognize that if they break the rules of the society, the Authorities have the right and the ability to punish.

Detail from "Descent into Rivendell" (2003) by John Howe, who is the best Tolkien illustrator of all time.

We may use the same word, but Christ’s authority is of a wholly different sort than the kind we encounter in our principals, state troopers, and judges. Far from being simply punitive in nature and bound by office or title, Christ’s authority arises from Christ being the author, the writer of the great script of creation. Think of it like this: before J.R.R. Tolkien put pen to paper, Middle-Earth had no ability to capture the imagination of readers. But over forty years, Tolkien authored story after story, character after character, slowly building a world of dark forests and misty mountains inhabited by elves and hobbits and wizards. Tolkien is the authority behind Middle-Earth because he authored the fantasy world into existence in the minds of his readers.

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul speaks of Christ’s authorship in similar terms: “In [Christ] all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

As the author of all things, Christ has reigned since before the first things were created. And the script of creation continues because Christ has never stopped writing. And now Christ has authored our lives into being. We are small stories that help make up the great script. At the end of the Gospel according to John, the narrator concludes: “But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). What the narrator doesn’t say is that all the other things Jesus did have been written down. Christ, the author of each of us, wrote those things down in us. We are the books that the world itself cannot contain.

The problem is that too often we are the books sitting atop the piano gathering dust. Too often, we fail to remember that we are not our own authors. Too often, we fail to acknowledge that we are not in charge of our own lives. Today, we proclaim that Christ reigns in each of us. Christ is in charge of our lives because Christ continues to author us into being. The author has written the words of life within us, the special words unique to each of us. When we begin to seek for those special words, when we look inside ourselves and begin to read the story of how Christ reigns in our lives, we start to shake off the dust.

Like the sheet music, we are just closed books until we begin to participate in the telling of our own stories. As the author of each of those stories, Christ has penned a work about himself, a work which we proclaim in the living out of our stories. We could choose to stay atop the piano gathering dust, but what kind of forlorn existence does this entail? How could we read the words of Christ in the lives of those around us if we remained dusty, closed books? There is far too much love and grace in the pages of our lives for us to waste them by staying closed. There is far too much that Christ is doing for us not to participate in Christ’s reign. There is far too much beauty to bring to the world for us not to let the author spill the words of life from our stories into creation.

And so, as one book trying to shake off the dust, I ask you: how does Christ reign in you? What words has the Author of each of us written in your hearts? Or, to use the words that close Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day”:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”

Food (namely herbs and stewed rabbit) for the journey

The following post appeared Wednesday, December 9th on Episcopalcafe.com, a website to which I am a monthly contributor. Check it out here or read it below.

* * *

The hobbits Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee arrive in a heather-strewn woodland between the River Anduin and the mountains that border the dreaded land of Mordor. After some walking around and griping about the knavish Gollum, who is their deranged hostage and guide, they sit down for a meal, as hobbits often do. They eat herbs and stewed rabbit and then…

Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) make stewed rabbit in The Two Towers (2002)

…I have no idea what happens next.

I’m twelve years old, and I have made it nearly two-thirds of the way through The Lord of the Rings. But I can no longer bear it, and I shelve the book. It’s just so boring. All they do is walk! They start in one place, walk for a bit, meet someone and chat, and then walk some more! I just want them to get somewhere! I want to yell, “Get to your destination, Frodo – don’t stop to eat herbs and stewed rabbit, which the author has described in painstaking detail! Just get to the mountain and be done with the ring! Enough of this walking…”

A year later, I’m thirteen (a much wiser and more mature age), and once again I pick up The Lord of the Rings. Maybe this year, I’ll finish it. I begin at the beginning, and they walk and meet folks and chat and run away from enemies and Frodo and Samwise reach the heather-strewn woodland and eat herbs and stewed rabbit and then…

…I have no idea what happens next.

My wisdom and maturity are no match for the walking. Again, I stop reading. The quest is just too long and arduous and their destination is still on the other side of the mountains and several hundred pages away.

A year later, I’m fourteen, and I pick up The Lord of the Rings again. On page 641, Frodo and Samwise sit down for a dinner of herbs and stewed rabbit and then…

…I keep reading. They find themselves in the middle of an ambush, Sam sees an oliphaunt, the hobbits are captured by people who are supposed to be on their side, and the story goes on and on. A few days later, I finish it. And I’ve read it at least eight more times since.

Finally, at fourteen, I could appreciate the journey, and let the destination take care of itself. Tolkien understood that a destination is more than a physical place. A destination is the culmination of all the shaping events of the journey that brings you to that ultimate location.

Every year, after the tryptophan has worn off, we begin just such a journey in our walks with God. While secular Christmas disgorges itself out of shipping containers every year the day after Thanksgiving, we have the opportunity to let Christmas happen only after the four weeks of Advent have run their course. Christmas is the destination. And Advent is about not arriving at your destination before you are shaped by the journey.

Have you ever had the soup du jour at a restaurant? It’s not some fancy French dish. It’s just the soup made for that particular day. Likewise, my journey happens every day. Every encounter, every decision, every road taken or not shapes me. The season of Advent gives me a dedicated four weeks to notice the shaping influence each day has on my journey with God.

On the first Sunday of Advent, we heard the psalmist pray, “ Show me your ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths…All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness” (25:3, 9). This Advent, I’m adopting this prayer because I’ve always had trouble not skipping to the end of the story. Every year of my childhood, I wanted to open the windows of my Advent calendar all at once. I just couldn’t wait to open tomorrow’s window tomorrow. Now, at twenty-six (a much wiser and more mature age) I pray for God to give me the patience to notice each day’s impact on my life. When I ask God to “teach me your paths,” I’m not hoping for some inside knowledge about the destination. I’m simply asking for guidance along the road.

Some time ago, I heard this illustration (the origin of which no longer resides in my brain). Have you ever noticed that headlights only show you thirty or forty yards ahead of your car on a dark night? But they still get you to your destination. Likewise, God teaches me God’s path even as I am struggling to stay on it. As I walk towards Christmas on this particular Advent journey, Christ walks a few steps ahead of me, illumining the road to his own nativity, to his own unique and wonderful expression of love and faithfulness.

Despite my opening description, my love for Tolkien’s works of fiction is deep and abiding. They taught me the lesson of Advent: don’t arrive at your destination before being shaped by the journey. I pray that, during this season of Advent, God teaches us God’s paths, which are love and faithfulness. And I pray that we may meet someday on the road, about which Tolkien’s Bilbo Baggins rhymes:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.