I Read Harry Potter (and I didn’t tell my mom)

Well, I told her after I’d finished reading all seven books.

I wanted to formulate my own opinion on the subject so I could appropriately make my case.

I was afraid, you see. I was afraid that there would be an argument or I’d get grounded or disowned.

The funny thing is, I’m 20, in college, I have a job and a driver’s license, and I’m getting married in June. So really, I am allowed to do pretty much whatever I want unless it’s illegal. And my parents are very friendly, reasonable people.

So why was I so afraid to tell them that I had read Harry Potter?

Despite what you might think, I did not grow up in an extremist right-wing, legalistic religious commune where we dressed in white and sang Amazing Grace every two hours. I did, however, grow up in a conservative, Christian, homeschooling household (which, depending on who you are, might be the same thing). If you know anything about the mainstream conservative Christian sphere, you know that poor Harry is a taboo subject. He’s a point of contention, really. Some say the books encourage kids to worship the devil. Others maintain that it is no different than your Christian fantasy staples like The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Here’s my consensus: They’re both.

Now now you uber conservatives, don’t freak out. And you, more progressive folks, don’t get your knickers in a twist. Hear me out, both of you. Here’s the back story.

The Harry Potter books first came out when I was quite young, just a bit too young to read actually, so it sort of became ingrained into my consciousness from early on that this was a touchy subject. Growing up I wasn’t allowed to read them, but I never really pursued it. I had heard the collective Christian voice tell me to stay away, to put on my gas mask and spray disinfectant into the air whenever the words “Harry” and “Potter” entered the same room.

I got older and decided to pursue writing in college. After spending a few semesters at a state school, I found this awesome Christian school where for the first time in my college career, faith and education were going hand in hand. It was a revelation for me, really. It was mind-blowing how Christianity and literature are so entwined. I was also surprised to find that some professors, who I respected as spiritually strong, would talk of the Harry Potter books in their lessons in a good way. This interested me.

Prayerfully I decided to begin reading the Harry Potter series. I decided to at least start with the first book, and then to test and discern what I thought about it. I went to the library on campus. I found it in the juvenile section, right out in the open for everyone to see (at a Christian school! The travesty!). I took the book to the counter to check it out and I felt like a brazen heathen. I hid the book under my arm as I walked to my dorm, afraid lest people point and stare and whisper behind their hands.

I took the book to my room, and I began to read.

I read the story of a little boy who learns he is a wizard. He goes to a special school to learn to use his power wisely. He makes friends and learns how to be loyal to them and to protect them. He learns that a dark wizard, who uses his power for evil, left long ago but may be coming back. And the little boy fights and beats back the dark wizard with the help of his friends and the council of his mentors.

Wow, good book. It was delightful. I had been half-expecting instructions on how to draw a circle on the floor and sacrifice a cat, but no, that wasn’t in there.

I got the second book, and then the third, and then all the way to the seventh. And the story I read was one of great loss, and great friendship, great power and the use and misuse of it. There was great love and great hatred and love vanquishing the hatred. There was great life and great death… death that was defeated by the greater life.

There was darkness, yes, and evil, absolutely, and ugliness, true, but these were seen for the perverted things that they are. Good and bad were held in their rightful boundaries. The characters weren’t perfect but the protagonists strove to be. They struggled to use their magic (really just an allegory for power) for peace and good. There were spiritual truths that, as I read, I uncovered, and they have helped me to see God and the people He loves much more clearly.

And here is what I mean when I say that Harry Potter is both a staple of Christian lit and a tool of the devil:

I mean that it can be both.

Harry Potter is just a story. You can read the story in the form of ink on a bunch of bound pages. It’s no different than any work of literature you pick up from any old place. No work of literature is inherently evil or inherently Christian. The Bible, for example, is inspired by God, but the story it records are not only claimed or used by Christians. Other religions and creeds would say that parts of it are “theirs”, and throughout history the words written in that book have been twisted and used to mean things that they never meant.

The difference is how we take in the story we read, and then in how we act upon the story. You could read the Bible, be cut to the heart, and be brought to repentance before the Lord (as most people are), or you could read the Bible, decide that it’s rubbish, and choose to follow the enemy who’s described in it (as many people do). Likewise, you could read Harry Potter looking for the darkness and ugliness and latch onto that, or your could read it, as I did, looking for the deeper truths that it contains. When you read literature like that you find gems of truth that feed your mind and soul.

So yes, I am now a Harry Potter fan. But please understand me. There are stories floating around this great wide web about men and women who grew up in conservative Christian backgrounds and were alienated, choosing to break away and swing far in the other direction. This is not one of those stories.

I am still a conservative Christian, working out my salvation before a merciful God Who has saved me. I just really like the Harry Potter books, because weird as it sounds, they have helped to bring me closer to the merciful God who saved me. This is not the same for everyone, and you know what? That’s okay. Harry Potter might be a stumbling block to you, and if it is, then please don’t read it. We are each at different places in our walk with the Lord, and you might be in a place where Harry Potter could be a slippery slope, in which case I’d say stay away!

But my main point overall is this: hey Christians, don’t judge a book by its cover (see what I did there?). Don’t label a work of literature as “Christian” or “Secular” just because of who wrote it or what it’s about (or what you might think it’s about). That’s easy to do because it’s lazy. It takes time to read, take in, and discern the deeper meanings of a book. It takes time, but in the process you find so much that you would have otherwise missed.

One of my biggest issues with the typical conservative approach to Harry Potter was the amount of assumptions made about it when most of the assum-ers had never read it. We Christians like to do that, I’m afraid. We can be prejudiced. And we can turn our prejudices into doctrine. We do that. It’s sad. We can make arbitrary rules (Gandalf the Wizard is okay. Harry Potter the Wizard is… devil worship?) that are not often grounded in truth or knowledge.

I don’t say all this to give a license to “do whatever because hey! you might find some deeper truths!”

No. That’s not what I’m saying.

am saying to be mindful. Be prayerful. Be discerning. Be kind, and above all, be fair.

Be… a bit like Harry Potter.

Crafter(ish)day: Book News

Happy Saturday folks! Are you as glad that it’s finally the weekend as I am? I seem to say something like this nearly every weekend, but this time I mean it. I really do. I had a harrowingly busy week in which, just as I got a little break, the clock seemed to jump half an hour and up I was again! Whew.

Remember the exciting news I shared with you? About the book I (and my brilliant colleagues) will be publishing this semester? Well in the weeks to come I will be sharing our progress on Saturdays, toward the end of the week when our week’s work is done. (Don’t worry though; if you were super attached to those craft posts, I’ll try to fit them in here and there. :o)

So here’s this week’s news: The book is called The Bestiary of People We Know and Love and Hate. Rather hefty title, eh? What does it mean, you ask? What the heck is a bestiary? According to Merriam Webster online it is

2.b.  an array of real humans or literary characters often having symbolic significance

or,

3. an unusual or whimsical collection

In short, our book will be a collection of writings on – you guessed it – people we know and love and hate. This week we submitted our work and will continue to be polishing, editing, and perfecting. Stay posted! Come April we will have the book available for print on demand! Such excitement!! :o)

Can’t wait until then? Interest piqued? Check out our Facebook page and remember to check in here for my updates!

I have some really exciting stuff planned as far as posts go this week. Stay tuned and have a happy Saturday everyone!

{stay frosty my friends}

Grace and Peace

Today I read the book of Philemon. At first glance it seems kind of mundane. Paul is writing to his friend (Philemon) to ask him for a favor. It’s the kind of really short book you are tempted to skip over when you read the Bible. Maybe you haven’t heard of it at all.

But I read it today, and I could not get over all the good stuff in it. I’ve read it dozens of times, but never has it just burst with wholesome, living goodness before. Here are a few of my favorites:

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (vs. 3).

I just love this greeting. Paul uses it a lot. I think I might start using it. In my hectic days, the most I often muster by way of greeting is a high-pitched “hey” or a breezy “how ya doin’?”. Just think if I stopped my acquaintances in the hall outside classes and proclaimed grace and peace to them from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Not only would it take a while, but I’d also probably come across as a tiny bit mystical. That’s a shame. In our really graceless and peaceless world, blessing someone like that would not be remiss. I might do it anyway.

“I thank God always when I remember you in my prayers” (vs. 4).

Have you ever felt like this? Right now I am in the fever of a new engagement and it’s very easy for me to thank God for Alex when I’m praying for him. But what about the times when someone is really hard to live with? It’s not easy to thank God for them. I’ve heard it said that it’s hard to stay angry at someone when you’re praying for them. That may be true, but it’s a heckuva lot harder to thank God for them in that situation. My prayer is that I will always thank God for the people in my life (hard to deal with or not) when I pray for them.

“…I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you…” (vs. 8-9).

To me this is most significant. Paul is a pretty important guy here; an apostle, a prolific missionary, a high authority in the church, and a writer of most of the New Testament, and yet when he asks this favor of his friend he does not order him around even though they both know that he could. Instead, he chooses to appeal to him in love. Wow. If only we operated this way! If only we treated our fellow church members, co-workers, or family with such consideration! If our political, societal, and legal systems implemented this policy, I think that the world would have a lot more grace and peace.

Paul is not Christ, of course, and so of course he is not perfect. But here he shows the attitude of Christ, and he reminds us of Jesus’ desire that “all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13: 35). Sadly, the world does not know us by our love. Fellow Christians don’t even know each other by their love. We are known by our hypocrisy, our trite rituals, our foolish arguments and prejudice. Let’s change that, shall we? Let’s appeal to our fellow human beings, our fellow image bearers in for love’s sake. Let us thank God for each other in our prayers –  let us pray for each other in the first place! And finally, let us bring grace and peace to each other from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

And for crying out loud, read Philemon.

Real

Happy Tuesday friends! In less than a week I will be back at school, starting classes for the spring semester. Ahh!

First order of business: I recently opened my new Etsy shop! It’s a humble beginning, but it’s a start in my dream to bless the world with my knits and stitches (and to make a buck in the process! ;). Click on the picture to be whisked away. Also, keep an eye out for the badge I have lurking in the sidebar. >>>>>>

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Okay now, Second order of business: some news.

I got engaged!!

Ahhhh!

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Please pardon the girlish squeals; I’m still suspended in some kind of surrealist painting. A pretty one, though.

I have spent literally my whole life thinking about marriage, all in ways that most girls do. When I was little I drooled over Disney movies. When I got older I designed my wedding dress. When I met a very handsome man named Alex I giddily imagined the moment. As time went on and I realized that he was the loving, goofy, suave and manly man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, I heartily looked forward to it.

And yet, when we walked in the park in the cold January night, when the moon hung like a pearl in the deep teal sky, when we shivered at our special bench, and when he suddenly dropped to one knee and opened a beautiful velvet box, it felt so surreal. This was a moment I had “planned” for my whole life.

I was going to be so cool, I had determined in my dreams. I’d be perfectly beautiful, with perfect smooth hair and perfect makeup and perfect, ethereal clothing. I would also be perfectly thin and graceful, and so perfectly poetic and witty when I said yes. The sun would be perfectly setting, while a balmy breeze blew perfectly in from somewhere and a perfect mist was setting in from the perfect fog machine over there.

In short, a movie. I was imagining a movie.

in reality, a ninny. I was an absolute ninny.

“Let’s head back,” he said after a few minutes shivering on the bench. It was really cold.

“Okay,” I agreed.

We stood, and then he knelt. He took out the beautiful ring.

And my eyes got really big and I think my jaw dropped – at least a little.

And the funny thing is, I don’t perfectly remember all that he said. I feel bad about that, but honestly, I was in shock. I wasn’t cool. I wasn’t perfect. But he loved me and wanted to marry me.

So I said yes. Well, to be more accurate:

Yes…” in a wobbly breath.

“This is so… weird,” in a whisper.

…yeah…” barely talking.

Then I giggled ridiculously while he smiled and gave me the ring and laughed and hugged me, and I clutched the velvet box with the ring still inside of it and kept repeating the same three phrases over and over:

“Wow.”

“This is so weird.”

“I love you.”

And then we walked to the car and my legs were jelly, and I didn’t even put the ring on until we were in the car, and then I kept looking at it and saying my three phrases. My vocabulary had gone on vacation. It didn’t decide to return until about an hour later. The awesome thing is, this amazing man still wanted to marry me after I’d been such a goof. It’s probably helpful that he knew this about me before he proposed :o)

So, we’re engaged. And it’s awesome. And so weird. But awesome. And I’ve learned through all of this that movies are crap. Life is not perfect in the Hollywood sense of the word. The images and ideas that shaped all I expected romance to be fall woefully short, because they are not real. Real life is messy and silly, ridiculous and imperfect. And you know what? I love that. I love that Alex and I can laugh over how crazy shocked we are that such a big moment in our lives is here. I love that we don’t go through life with ease, perfectly prepared. Sometimes God calls us to be unprepared, to have faith and to enjoy this messy, imperfect life for what it is. When we do we experience something better than a fairytale.

We experience something real.