A Look into the Life and Legacy of J.R.R.Tolkien

The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.
Today and tomorrow are yet to be said.
The chances, the changes are all yours to make.
The mold of your life is in your hands to break.

“The Father of Modern Fantasy,” John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (BBC News)

Today, nobody stumbles over the name “Tolkien” in the English-speaking world, but back in 1962, when I was in junior high, it was all news to me! The Lord of the Rings was just becoming popular in America, and one of my closest friends, Danny Green, kept me fascinated as he reported day by day what he’d read about the little Hobbit who had to leave his cozy home and go adventuring to save Middle Earth. Since those days, Tolkien’s series has ranked as one of the most popular fiction works of the twentieth century!

Fifty-five years later, I’ve still not read Tolkien’s fantasy books for myself, but I was delighted to watch the recently released movie, Tolkien, based on the youth and formative years of this brilliant and dedicated scholar!

There is so much I didn’t know about Tolkien, and almost everything I learned has made me admire him more than ever! Tolkien lived in Britain and was orphaned at a young age. He was among those who had to make his way in the world through sheer grit . . . for Tolkien—hard work, wisdom, and unending, passionate drive.

At a young age, he fell in love with another orphan, and the movie records their very sweet relationship. (Although, as in all good romances, there were many challenges, twists, and uncertainties.)

Because of his brilliance as a student and the care of the Catholic priest who was his guardian, Tolkien was eventually allowed to attend Oxford, where he succeeded in becoming fast friends with several of his classmates. (This was no easy feat, either! My father, who attended Harvard for graduate school—also in philology—as a young man during the Great Depression, found it very difficult trying to fit in with the wealthy elite without the trappings of material privilege.)

Perhaps the most difficult part of Tolkien’s journey was his military service during World War 1. The movie is PG-13, so the war scenes—though terrifying and disheartening—are not about the gore but rather to give us a feel for the intense suffering and emotional trauma that all soldiers experienced.

Did he survive the war? Did he get to marry the girl of his dreams? Did he get to finish his studies? When and how did he become so famous? All great questions, and most of them were answered in this wonderful depiction of his life!

The very best aspect of the movie (for me) was the goodness of Tolkien’s character throughout (in stark contrast to most stories you hear about the “bright young things” of his era). Sometimes people are so bright and shiny with goodness that it just makes you wonder why, so I studied more of his life from Wikipedia. There I discovered the reason: He had a “deeply religious spirit.” As Tolkien explained: “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.”

Sign in the Eagle and Child Restaurant, Oxford

Ah, ha! Yes, I did know of the connection between Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and the good spiritual influence Tolkien had been on Lewis, helping him come to faith. It was C.S. Lewis who later wrote Mere Christianity . . . the book that influenced both my mother and my dear aunt, “Lant Henna,” to believe in Christ many years hence!

Alan and I even made a bit of a “pilgrimage” to Oxford’s Eagle and Child (pub/restaurant where their literary group, The Inklings, met) with two of our sons (one of whom is now an editor and aspiring writer himself). So, we have a very personal experience of being inspired and edified by the works of both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

So, thank you Tolkien, and thank you to those of you who gifted us with this great movie! I hope many people see it and find the story uplifting and encouraging!

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

666,666 and The Boys in the Boat

The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

This isn’t really some horrible warning about the end times, but it is the celebration of a personal mile-marker in my blogging journey: passing the 666,666 view mark and finding inspiration in The Boys in the Boat. It all started (Summer Setting) back in 2008, and it took four years before my posts had been viewed 100,000 times. In the next two years, by the end of 2014, Summer Setting had been viewed over 250,000 times. Over the next three years, that number doubled to over 500,000 times. About then, life seemed to speed up rather than slow down, and instead of posting daily, I found it maximally challenging to prepare just five times a week. The lesser output definitely affected the number of visitors, but this past weekend, I passed the 666,666 mile mark: two-thirds of a million views of my blog!

This number does not reflect those people who are “followers” and get my posts sent directly to their email inbox address, so it may be that Summer Setting has been viewed more than a million times already, but somewhere deep in my heart I keep feeling the desire to keep posting, at least until I’ve reached a million views. (I’d like to say “reached a million people,” but I have no way of figuring out how many “discreet” [different, unique] visitors are viewing Summer Setting.) That may take me until I’m 75, or it may take until I’m 90, or I may die before I ever reach that goal, but however long it takes, I will definitely keep trying until I become incapable or I believe the Lord wants me to do something else.

Boys rowing in preparation for the 1936 Olympics

Please don’t be critical of me for being a “numbers” person. Life is not about numbers, it’s about loving God and loving others. It’s about serving God and trying to reach out to others with the love of God in whatever way we can. Dreams and goals are only worth pursuing if they are God-inspired, for his glory and our good . . . or at least, that’s what I believe. Nevertheless, I think dreams and goals can be good for us. They challenge us to keep going when we’re just tired enough to want to quit, and they help us focus when the ubiquitous attractions and distractions all around us might otherwise derail us. (Or, should I say deboat us? 🙂 )

One perfect example of this is found in a book I just finished, The Boys in the Boat, which is a fabulous non-fiction account of the young men from Washington State who set their hearts on winning a gold metal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The book is powerful and inspirational. A movie version is in production right now, with Kenneth Branaugh directing, and I can hardly wait for it to come out!

The story was especially thrilling to me, because it is a story from my parents’ generation! In fact, my mother and uncle spent their summers working to help build the Hoover Dam during the same year several of these young men were there! (Well, my mother worked as a waitress, serving food to the guys who were hanging over the side of the cliff chipping away at granite with jack hammers.) It’s also a story of gut-wrenching difficulty to overcome human limitations in order to reach a worthy goal. My mom lived on skim milk and bread at times in order to survive college during the Great Depression. Goals are good. Hard work is good. Survival is good. Success is profoundly satisfying!

Have you heard about the Olympic runner, Eric Liddell (who won a gold metal at the 1924 summer Olympics in Paris)? God infuses us with abilities and gives us purpose. He also wants us to give everything we can muster to achieve “my utmost for His highest” (as Oswald Chambers wrote).

So, whatever abilities God has given us—whether it’s writing or rowing or running or something else—let’s use those gifts and give it everything we’ve got to accomplish whatever goal God puts in our hearts! Ready to race?!

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

A Peaceful Heart (by Jane Anderson)

I once bought a greeting card that asked, “Ever have a day when everything went right?” Then inside, the answer: “Yea, me either.” So you’ll recognize my story. I was thinking about how this all happened a few years ago when everything started off on a smooth path then the switch flipped and things derailed. Surely you’ve had those days when life jumps off the track and you have to will yourself into a positive attitude to reclaim your joy. Are you with me here?

One morning I jumped out of bed with my “Yay! It’s going to be a great day!” eagerness. That lasted all of one hour when I remembered that I had to drive the truck. ERGH! (grumble) I don’t like driving the truck … but then I realized, “Hey! Get over it! At least you have an alternate vehicle.” Besides, as a reward I’ll treat myself to Starbucks before my appointment. Anticipation.  I was off and running again. OK I can handle this.

I drove up to Starbucks and checked the breadth of this Semi (exaggeration) I was driving and opted to park it and walk in rather than navigate the drive-thru.  Inside I got my latte, life is good. Outside, the truck has turned cranky on me and has now forgotten its role for today – to get me safely, and without incident, to my destination.  It won’t start. In fact, it won’t even try. Turn the key … nothing! Turn the key again … nothing! We could play this game all day, but I have an appointment. ERGH! (grumble) I can feel the joy needle slipping into the depleted zone.  Then I heard this voice in my head say, “Count it all joy”. Come on, Lord. You want me to find joy in this? Are you kidding me? I have to WALK a mile now.  Then God said, “Let’s try. Make it a game.  It’ll be fun. I challenge you to find 3 good things in this bad situation”.  Well alright, but I don’t really see what difference it makes. The stupid truck is still broken and I still have to walk a mile – on the busiest road in the area, and, oh look! The sprinklers, right on my path, are running full blast.  But OK.  Game on!

  1. As I was approaching the blasting sprinklers – they shut off. Really? Wow!
  2. I looked down and realized I had decided to wear flat shoes instead of dress-up heels. Huh. That was pretty cool.
  3. Instead of the normal oversized, overstuffed, spilling-out-of-the-top bag, all I had to carry was my purse and a folder.

I got to my appointment, all intact, not wet from sprinklers, no bumps, bruises, or wear and tear on my emotions. I even pulled out all the information I needed without needing to trek back to that cranky old truck. Relief! Thankful!

I enjoyed the latte on the trip past the now silent sprinklers, in my flat shoes, carrying only my purse in one hand and Starbucks in the other.  Balance is good, right? By the time I was at my destination (on time), joy was back. Did the game fix my truck? Not really, but it fixed me. I had to get the inside right, so the outside would come out right too.

Oh – and here’s the kicker. When my husband, said owner of cranky truck, went to pick it up later? It started right away! Really, God? Seriously? And to that, He reminded me that He has me in the palm of His hand and he teaches me what is best for me, when I need to learn it. (James 1:2 – Consider it pure joy ….)

That story is insignificant to the trauma in many lives, and I don’t pretend to minimize what you may be going through. Life is tough. I decided to tell that story because we all have to decide. Will what is happening now make me bitter or make me better? No matter what knocks you off track. No matter what your circumstances today. Seek joy. In this life, we have to look for the slivers of hope and glean as many positive fragments as we can so all those thoughts plant seeds of joy. Finding something good in our mess is the best survival mechanism. It isn’t easy. It’s worth it.

On days when nothing fits and life is broken, I read Philippians 4. Be joyful! Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation, with a thankful heart pray and ask God to take your burdens and your worries. The peace of God, which we humanly can’t understand, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Ask God to infuse your mind with thoughts of whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—thinking about such things will quiet your anxiety….. And the God of peace will be with you.

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:4-9).

This charming post was written by my friend Jane Anderson, who brings much joy and blessing into my life!  Jane is a Christ-follower who reads, writes, and lives encouragement as her ministry. If you’d like to read more of her writing, you can access her blog here:http://refininggrace.com

Cec Murphy on Atalanta’s Excess Baggage

Ever since I listened to Cecil (Cec) Murphy speak at a writers’ conference about five years ago, I’ve been a fan, not just of his writing (which is excellent) but of his character and long life of fruitful ministry. He began with six years on the mission field in Kenya—about sixty years ago—and has never stopped working, even though he’s authored or co-authored more than 135 books and could be resting on his laurels (which would provide a very comfy cushion for sitting)!

Cec still puts out a weekly blog called Writer to Writer as well as a monthly newsletter. He is busy leaving as large a legacy to the glory of God as possible, and he’s definitely a mentor and inspiration to me.  I was particularly touched by his last newsletter so asked if I could share it with you. As always, he was gracious! Here it is:

Excess Baggage

As I stood in line at Delta’s baggage check-in, the agent said to the woman in front of me, “You’re nineteen pounds overweight. You’ll have to pay for the excess weight or take out some of the goods.”

The woman dropped out of line to repack and stuff items into her large purse.

As I watched, I thought of the excess luggage most of us carry—hurts, slights, betrayals, and rejections. We haven’t let them go, even though they weigh us down. For example, whenever someone mentions a person we haven’t forgiven, we feel a heaviness inside. Even anger.

Those thoughts reminded me of Greek mythology and Atalanta, the fleet-footed goddess. Her father, King Schoeneus, wanted her to marry, but she refused. Finally, she agreed to marry only if her suitor could outrun her in a footrace. If the challengers lost, they would be put to death. Many young men tried, lost the race—and their lives.

Hippomenes became the next suitor and asked the goddess Aphrodite for help. She gave him three golden apples.

The race began and Atalanta was soon twenty yards ahead. Hippomenes rolled one apple in front of her, and she stooped to pick it up. A little later, he rolled out the second and she grabbed it. And the third.

By then, Atalanta was so weighted down, Hippomenes passed her and won the race.

The story teaches us that we self-sabotage by holding on to “golden apples” of anger, resentment, and unforgiveness. They hinder by weighing us down in successfully running life’s race.

We know they’re there, and we know they hold us back. Even so, it’s not easy to cast off those hurt feelings and rejection. With God’s help and opening ourselves to individuals we trust, we can dispose of the things that weigh us down.For any of you who’d enjoy reading more, here’s the link to his blog: https://t.e2ma.net/message/yb7lv/yjxfi

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Offerings for NaPoMo (National Poetry Month)

Do you enjoy poetry? Write poems? Since 1996, April has been designated as National Poetry Month in America to celebrate and encourage the enjoyment of poetry. Usually I take the opportunity to write a few poems, but so far this spring I’ve not slowed down enough to allow literary creativity to send up any new shoots from my soul. Nevertheless, I’m a believer (in good poetry), so I’m going to share 10 quotes on poetry with 10 poetic photos from around my home in the hopes of inspiring us all to poetic endeavors, and if you write any lovely poems between now and then that you’d be willing to share, please add them in the comment box below or send them to me via email (or message me on FaceBook), and I’ll reserve April 30 for sharing what we create. Sound like a plan?

“Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks.” Plutarch   “Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.” Carl Sandburg   “Always be a poet, even in prose.” Charles Baudelaire   “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings:
it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” William Wordsworth  “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought
and the thought has found words.” Robert Frost   “As to the pure mind all things are pure,
so to the poetic mind all things are poetical.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow   “A good poet is someone who manages, in a lifetime of standing out
in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times;
a dozen or two dozen times and he is great.” Randall Jerrell   “Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose-petal
down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.”  Don Marquis   “Why should poetry have to make sense?” Charlie Chaplin   “If you cannot be a poet, be the poem.” David CarradineAnd so, I’ll await with great expectations for any expression of emotion
mixed with bits of wisdom or puzzlement that blossom from our hearts.
May we all find some quiet time for reflection and meditation this spring! “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure” (Proverbs 4:26).

(As might be obvious, the last photo was not take around my home. 🙂  Rather, it’s from Meijer Garden, where “the butterflies are blooming” through April.)

Happy Tenth Anniversary, Summer Setting!

Summer has now been setting in my life for many years, and yesterday marked my tenth anniversary of writing “all about it!” With over half a million views and 2,222+ followers, I’m still incentivized to write my heart out when and while I can! Beyond that, people from 215 nations and territories have stopped by at some time or another, which is approaching most of the countries in existence, except for the heart of Africa and Turkmenistan. (This is the beginning of the “Global Map”of visitors to Summer Setting; the complete list of nations is at the end of this post.)

As I prayed about what to write for this personally special occasion, it occurred to me to look back and remember all that God has done for me as I’ve attempted to glorify Him, enjoy Him forever, and share His love with you:

From seven years ago: This is my 365th post since starting to blog three years ago, and I discovered with astonishment and joy that this site  has been visited almost 30,000 times! “Summer Setting” was intended to have a double meaning, expressing both the sentiment that the setting of my life is still sunny and warm—like  summer sunshine—but that I am aging and this wonderful “Indian Summer” season will transition into fall soon.  Like the shimmering sun disappearing behind a vast expanse of ocean, the summer of my life is setting.

I want to thank each person who has cared enough to look in on my life and  walk the pilgrim road with me a little. Thank you for this wonderful privilege! It’s my earnest desire to bring joy to you as I share what I’m learning about the life and love that God has granted me.

Because of my husband’s prostate cancer, I’ve been reading a lot about life and death issues lately. I found this touching quote from Walt Wangerin’s Letters from the Land of Cancer (written as he was preparing to meet his Maker): “Good night, good friends. The nice thing about these letters is that you can quit reading them at any paragraph. No guilt to you, no fear in me that I might have burdened or bored you.”

And so it is with me too! I will begin my “second” year’s worth of letters—casting them into cyberspace like crumbs upon the waters—with the hope of encouraging whomever God sends my way…and very eager to hear anything you’d like to share with me. May the Lord bless you!

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11:1)

Fifth Anniversary: Today is the fifth anniversary of my blog. I’ve been blessed by more than 128,000 visits (nearly half of them during this past year) from 168 countries and now have 193 “followers”. . .

It’s a “dream come true” to be able to share God and all He’s done for me with people around the world. When my sister and I were in our early 20’s, we started a trek around the world to share the good news of Jesus, but our mother almost died in a car accident, and so we came home. Probably for the best. She was not a believer at the time (although she did become a Christian before she died, praise God! 🙂  ), and my naive sister and my naive self might have gotten ourselves killed on such a mission. However, the Lord knew our hearts were in it…and still are! So, now, at the tender age of 62, after having reared our brood of seven darlings, my husband has granted me the freedom to write a blog rather than get a full-time job somewhere.

I look at it as being allowed to be a self-supporting missionary of sorts, trying to reach out with the gospel of hope from my desk at home. I don’t suppose my sister Annie and I would have really made it to 168 countries in our trek or have met 128,213 people on our way. Isn’t God amazing? He hears the cries of our hearts and delights to answer. Granted, the answer has come some forty+ years later, and in a way I could never have dreamed, but God is full of surprises and has an infinite number of ways to answer our prayers and fill our hearts with joy! Bless you for being a part. I am so grateful for you and your ministry in my life, too! Thank you for being fellow pilgrims with me through this awesome life!

Eighth Anniversary: On Submitting our Passions to God   Today marks the eighth anniversary of Summer Setting, and I’ve been thinking about how much I enjoy photo journalism. Actually, I love it with a passion. It’s “work” so satisfying that I look forward to it. It’s therapeutic; it energizes me; it makes me feel happy! Reminds me of my son Michael, who got totally splattered with fresh concrete once while helping build a house down in Mexico. Instead of expressing dismay (which was my reaction), he just grinned: “I never knew this mission trip was going to be so much fun!” What can I say? When you feel really passionate about what you’re doing, what’s a little mud on your face?

Ninth Anniversary: April 8 marked the ninth anniversary of my blog, Summer Setting, and it’s still one of the highlights of my daily life! Although my primary goal in writing is an attempt to be faithful to the calling I feel like God has given me, it’s been super rewarding and motivating to check in on my “Stats” page every once in a while. For instance, this past week people from over 60 countries looked at blog posts, and in the last 3 days Summer Setting was accessed over 1,300 times. That sounds like a lot to me, but given that I now have close to 2,000 followers, it also seemed like a curiously small number until I learned from WordPress’s “Happiness Engineers” that their statistics don’t include any of the followers who have asked to have my posts sent directly to their email accounts every day, since they don’t have a tracking system to know who has opened those emails.

 

And, those reminiscences now bring me back to the present! I’ve been struck by several verses from the Gospel of John lately. In all we do—whether it’s writing a blog, studying and trying to grow up, working at a job, taking care of children, sitting in a retirement center or trying to survive in a  refugee camp— may everything we do be to the glory of God and to lift up the name of Jesus! May we seek the honor that comes from God alone, testifying to His Word and His truth, so that others too may know the joy of His salvation and eternal life.

Jesus said, “I receive not testimony from man; but these things I say, that ye might be saved.” (John 5:34) “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (John 5:44).

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).

 

United States

333438

United Kingdom

20172

Germany

17946

Canada

17192

France

11776

Australia

8483

Taiwan

8263

India

7658

Philippines

4728

South Africa

4030

Italy

3815

Brazil

3385

Netherlands

3069

Ireland

2661

European Union

2632

South Korea

2519

Spain

2518

Russia

2348

Thailand

2345

Japan

2268

Indonesia

2217

Turkey

2071

Singapore

1945

Norway

1827

Poland

1690

Romania

1579

Mexico

1493

Malaysia

1467

New Zealand

1442

Belgium

1425

Sweden

1326

Greece

1204

Switzerland

1202

Hungary

1176

Israel

1075

Hong Kong SAR China

1019

Colombia

959

Ukraine

946

Czech Republic

910

Vietnam

885

Pakistan

854

Austria

828

Argentina

823

Denmark

823

United Arab Emirates

814

Finland

765

Portugal

713

Saudi Arabia

649

Croatia

632

Serbia

600

Bulgaria

596

Slovakia

478

Egypt

463

Trinidad & Tobago

414

Kenya

410

Chile

366

Nigeria

363

Slovenia

351

Tunisia

318

Bangladesh

315

Lebanon

313

Sri Lanka

304

Peru

293

Puerto Rico

284

Lithuania

275

Estonia

260

Jamaica

249

Latvia

249

Kuwait

240

Morocco

211

Georgia

197

Iraq

193

Tanzania

193

Ghana

183

Macedonia

181

Algeria

175

Qatar

173

Malta

164

Jordan

162

China

161

Cyprus

156

Bosnia & Herzegovina

155

Costa Rica

150

Cambodia

148

Ecuador

143

Albania

140

Venezuela

137

Belarus

134

Iceland

115

Nepal

115

Armenia

101

Uruguay

97

Azerbaijan

96

Guatemala

93

Oman

90

Dominican Republic

87

Bahrain

87

Palestinian Territories

85

Myanmar (Burma)

85

Bahamas

83

Luxembourg

81

Honduras

80

Mauritius

77

Uganda

77

Panama

76

Moldova

74

Kazakhstan

67

Bolivia

65

Mongolia

64

Zimbabwe

59

El Salvador

58

Paraguay

57

Botswana

57

Montenegro

56

Barbados

56

Namibia

47

Ethiopia

45

Zambia

44

Brunei

42

Guam

39

Aruba

35

Laos

33

Libya

32

Belize

31

Nicaragua

31

Sudan

30

Maldives

29

Guyana

28

Monaco

28

Syria

28

Madagascar

28

Afghanistan

23

Bhutan

22

Cameroon

21

French Guiana

21

Fiji

21

Curaçao

20

U.S. Virgin Islands

20

Martinique

19

Antigua & Barbuda

18

Guernsey

18

Isle of Man

18

Jersey

18

Cayman Islands

18

Bermuda

17

Mozambique

17

Côte d’Ivoire

16

St. Kitts & Nevis

16

Réunion

15

French Polynesia

15

Uzbekistan

14

St. Lucia

14

Kyrgyzstan

13

Djibouti

13

Guadeloupe

13

Papua New Guinea

13

Macau SAR China

13

Angola

13

Sint Maarten

13

Haiti

12

New Caledonia

12

Suriname

12

Andorra

12

Faroe Islands

10

Yemen

10

Seychelles

9

Benin

9

Rwanda

8

Senegal

8

Lesotho

8

Micronesia

7

Vatican City

7

Turks & Caicos Islands

6

Burkina Faso

6

Solomon Islands

6

Gibraltar

5

Northern Mariana Islands

5

Somalia

5

Liberia

5

Grenada

5

Tajikistan

5

Congo – Kinshasa

5

Gabon

4

Guinea-Bissau

4

Vanuatu

4

Cuba

4

Malawi

4

Swaziland

4

Åland Islands

4

British Virgin Islands

3

Iran

3

Cape Verde

3

Liechtenstein

3

Samoa

2

Greenland

2

Togo

2

Falkland Islands

2

Cook Islands

2

Dominica

1

American Samoa

1

Caribbean Netherlands

1

Tonga

1

Congo – Brazzaville

1

St. Pierre & Miquelon

1

Sierra Leone

1

Gambia

1

Palau

1

Netherlands Antilles

1

North Korea

1

Burundi

1

South Sudan

1

St. Vincent & Grenadines

1

Timor-Leste

1

Marshall Islands

1

Mauritania

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How Do You Feel About All the Infringements on Your Privacy?

I love the internet bringing the world to my doorstep, but I really don’t like it invading my bedroom, do you? Am I the only person who notices my computer coming on in the middle of the night or who finds it unsettling to have Siri interrupt my conversations? Do you, like me, get frustrated with all the breaches in security and privacy on the net? My Facebook account was hacked recently …or at least someone was able to set up a fake account using my photos and information to solicit for other connections (to hack as well). I’m beginning to feel a little like the King of Syria from the story in 2 Kings 6, where he thought some enemy was spying on him and reporting everything he whispered in his bedroom to the King of Israel.

In my case, if it’s just the American government spying on all of us, then I don’t actually feel like it’s an “enemy,” but whatever happened to the sanctity of home? I’ve been slowly trying to make the emotional adjustment to the realization that everything I ever say or write is recorded, and I try to imagine that I’m relatively safe since I’m trying my best to live a moral, law-abiding life. But, what if America’s government begins persecuting Christians? In at least 68 countries around the world, the governments restrict, persecute, or at least don’t protect the religious freedom of Christians. If America changes radically enough, then I will be in big trouble, because my faith in Christ and love for God are woven into the woof and warp of everything I say and write. The day may come when I will become a lawbreaker because I worship God!

While pondering this issue the other day and feeling a little distressed, I began meditating on Luke 12 (which I’ve written out below) and found myself greatly encouraged and comforted, so I wanted to share what I read with you. If you feel alarmed because everything you write and every call you make is being recorded somewhere here on earth, take heart! It’s always been recorded in heaven anyway, along with every thought!

Our job is to be pure and faithful followers of Christ. If the world sees what’s going on, so much the better! If we are persecuted for our faith, that shouldn’t surprise us. If lifting up the name of Jesus and testifying to the goodness of God gets us killed, then that’s a price worth paying, because some silent observer may be drawn to God through what we share. Be faithful! “Thou, God, seest me.”

He began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.

“And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.

“And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” (Luke 12:1-12).