Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The view from our Hobbit Hole

Geography and place play an important role in our spirituality. The theologies of creation and incarnation tell us that God expresses his grace and goodness in the ground we walk on, the oranges and broccoli we eat, and the flesh and blood people we love.
The houses or rooms we live in are also expressions of spirituality. I frequently have dreams of houses when I’m entering a new ministry, relationship or phase of life. An important part of these house dreams has to do with light and windows and the view. In “real life,” I like to go through new (or old) houses and imagine what it would be like living there. And one of the first things I look for is the view. Can I see trees from the windows? How much light comes in? One of my favorite book titles is A Room with a View. That’s what I want. Always. That’s what feeds my spirit—beauty and light and trees.
These last few years on our trips to La Paz, we’ve stayed in budget hotels near the Friends Church on Max Paredes Street. Some of our rooms have overlooked sections of the city, always impressive. But even though these rooms are economical, according to USA standards, they have slowly been draining our resources. Our Bolivian colleagues realize this, so they’ve recently made an effort to prepare a small apartment for us here on the church property. We made our contribution, and on Saturday morning we moved in. We’re still in the fixing up stage and, quite frankly, having a lot of fun. We feel a bit like newly weds, acquiring the basics in bedding, towels, kitchen stuff. We also feel like jugglers in a circus, trying to keep in the air the balls of simplicity, comfort and economy.
The space is small, the d├ęcor Spartan. Originally planned to be used for hospitality, carpenters have put in wooden panels to divide the one room into a study area, a bedroom and a kitchen, with a small bathroom (where everything works!). The kitchen has only a counter and a sink. We added a double-burner hot plate; maybe next year we’ll put in a small refrigerator. And maybe we won’t. The bathroom is closet-sized, with the electric shower head in the middle of the ceiling. When we shower, everything gets wet. We have to come out into the kitchen to dry off and get dressed. But, like I said, everything works.
We first named our new home, “The Cave,” which gives an idea of what it’s like. Connected to the second floor of the old mission house, it’s tucked in a walkway between the church and the Friends school, surrounded by concrete and tall buildings. I’m trying to add the word “cozy” to the descriptors “small, dark and cold.” To facilitate our positive attitude, we’ve changed the name from “The Cave” to “The Hobbit Hole.”
But the thing is—the window. It’s large and opens into the study and the bedroom. That’s good. However, the view is of the brick wall four feet away. That’s not so good. And at no point during the day does any sun enter our Hobbit Hole. So.
So, what do I do with that? I accept this as a challenge. If my spirituality runs deeper than the view out my window and the sunshine on my face, this is the time to prove it. I’ve chosen “glory” as my theme this year. “Glory” signifies many things, among these—beauty, splendor, recognition, honor, light. All the things that touch my spirit when I imagine a sunny room with a view can be summed up in the word, “glory.” That’s what I really long for.
So, I read that “Christ in me is my hope of glory.” I read that “You, O Lord, are a shield to me. You’re my glory and the lifter of my head.” And more, so much more. Yes.
So, in the early morning, I come into the study, cup of steaming coffee in hand, wrap myself in a wool blanket, sit in front of the small space heater, close my eyes, and give myself time to enter into the Presence. And soon I begin to sense it. The glory. It’s here. It’s Him.
I can’t begin to describe for you the beauty of the view from this place.
Welcome to the Hobbit Hole!
Living room/study
A place to sleep
A place to prepare simple meals
The view!


  1. Glory--both references are so fitting in my life right now as well. Please share any insights you glean as you focus on glory this year. Please. As for the "hole 'n the wall," perhaps the money you're saving will provide enough for a reunion with 2 of your dear friends--Scotland, Oregon or Virginia? Which shall it be?

    I'm just very grateful that you and Hal are good friends and that you read together, thereby inviting many guests into any space you inhabit. Small or tiny spaces can host unlimited guests. Plus books simply don't mind the view.