Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Recently, I’ve been reading through Paul’s letters. It’s always a good refresher to read an epistle a day and get a panoramic view of Paul’s mindset and priorities. One of those priorities which has stood out to me is the way that Paul constantly exemplified and commanded thanksgiving. I don’t hear enough or think enough about this practice which seems to be as fundamental to being human as eating and breathing. Paul holds a rich theology of enjoying God’s creation with thanksgiving—“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:4). 

 Like so many, I’ve often been influenced by a spirituality which ignores or denies the goodness of creation. I used to implicitly believe that true spirituality consisted of dividing my mind somehow so that the more important part of me was constantly thinking about theology, praying, and reciting Bible verses, while the less important part of me could unconsciously float through necessary activities in the real world. When I thought like that, Paul would startle me when he would affirm the goodness of creation, like when he speaks to the people of Lystra proclaiming that God had “did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).  I would think,“ ‘rain, fruitful seasons, food, and gladness’ seem so unspiritual.” Isn’t that an absolutely horrible way to live?

My parents have never lived that way. When I read Paul’s commands to constantly give thanks, I think of them. More than anything, they are people characterized by a simple gratitude and a joyous wonder at God’s creation. To them, everything is a gift. It’s a cliché statement, but I’m not really sure how else to say it.  Because they lack presumption or entitlement, they are thankful for everything.

It’s not necessarily what they say, but their overall attitude.They are obsessed with the weather and hope for a beautiful day so that my dad can do his job, but even if doesn’t, they sit on the porch and wonder at the thunder and the lightning and the wind. When my dad gets business, it’s only from the Lord. When my parents have company, my mom chatters more happily about it than a Christmas present. They love it when people feel comfortable enough to just stop by and hang out for hours and hours. To them, it’s a gift to mow the lawn and smell the fresh-cut grass. For my mom, the crispness of clean sheets, the clarity of washed windows, the glory of a shiny sink can make her day. They love anything that is fresh and green and growing- - flourishing herbs, hydrangeas, soybeans, grass, green beans, corn, strawberries. They rejoice in their work, in their meals, in their church, in their home, in their garden, in their family, and in their friends 

I don’t know anyone else who can talk so excitedly and at such great length about the weather and cleaning products and trucks. Admittedly, I tease them for it, often. But the more I learn, the more I realize that their attitude is so beautiful and humble and good. I hope that the same deep and simple gratitude will grow in me. It all reminds me of Gerard Manley Hopkin’s perspective in “Pied Beauty.”

Glory be to God for dappled things— 
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; 
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; 
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings; 
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough; 
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim. 
All things counter, original, spare, strange; 
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) 
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; 
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise Him.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Summer of Harry Potter

Well, for the past month or so, Jon and I have been obsessed with Harry Potter. After years and years of ignoring the series (for some now incomprehensible-to-me reason), we have been taken over by the craze. We are buzzing with excitement, “Have you read them??? Have you read them??!!” as though we had discovered a new phenomenon, as though we weren’t the last people in the world to read them.

Why did it take us so long? We’re both wondering that. I think we felt a latent defensiveness against them because of our love for Lord of the Rings. Now, after reading Harry Potter, I have no idea why LOTR and HP were compared to each other. Nonetheless, Jon and I previously felt that people pit them against each other and so, of course, we would side with Lord of the Rings and turn our nose up on Harry Potter.

We have clearly repented and have realized that we can love them both because they are both wonderful in their different ways. Harry Potter is ridiculously fun to read. Of course, if I am really needing a glimpse into the battle between good and evil and need to weep at the beauty of goodness and the destructiveness of evil, I will always go to LOTR. The good is more good and the evil is more evil. And of course, it just demands more of you.

But all of those considerations certainly cannot null the fantastic world of Harry Potter. (Look at me, I am falling into the very same comparisons I rejected at the beginning of this post.)  It’s taken me a while to stop pining for the world and missing the characters and wishing I hadn’t finished. But I do still miss all of them—Harry, Hermione, all of the endearing Weasley family, Luna, Neville, Dumbledore, Hagrid.

The character development was wonderful, the relationships resounded with the realities of growing up, and the overarching plot quite simply echoed the Gospel. How ironic that the Gospel is right under our noses in a rampantly bestselling series that Christians boycott because there is magic and “bad things” in it. How that makes me squirm.

Well, anyway. It’s just fun. Spells are a common part of our everyday life now. I text my husband, “Accio Jonathan” when I want him to come home. Jon decided one of our chopsticks would suffice as his wand at the Harry Potter party we’re going to. And now, we’re just brainstorming on our costumes.