Monday, December 27, 2010

The Joy of Giving

Last year we began a new tradition. Unpacking our attic, dusting off scarcely used presents and shipping them off to Goodwill just before we moved to Hawai'i challenged us to completely rethink the way we give gifts. Why do we give "a little something" just so that it can be opened now and dusted later? Why not instead give memories or a service that is desired but unaffordable? So, Jon took us out for ice cream, Laura took us out to a Christmas play, Lydia bought us a movie for movie night, you get the idea. This year, the Three Muskateers (Daniel, Lydia and Jonathan) pooled their money and took the whole family to see Tangled (I highly recommend it). For us, seeing a movie is an unaffordable luxury so this was a real treat. Dave and I still bought gifts for our children and we still filled their stockings, but with more intention towards simplicity. We also gave our kids a pretty cool memory, designing and blowing their own glass ornament. Island Glass Works is a local glass blowing business that combines chemistry, physics and art in one of a kind creations. Here are some of our memories.

First they gather the glass from the bottom of this oven.

Then they add color to the glass using glass shards.

Then they add air. We blew our ornaments through a straw.

They shaped it using tools that have not changed in 4,000 years.

All glass appears to be red when it is first out of the fire.

You begin to see the true colors as it cools.

Now that was a fun gift!
Merry Christmas from the Collins Clan!

Mele Kalikimaka

June '09 - We had one 20 foot shipping container in which to stuff our furniture, clothes, pantry and other treasured possessions. We sold most of our possessions just to fit the most important things into our container. Our packing friends were coming in 20 minutes and we still had not made our way into the attic to pull out the 4 extra large storage bins of Christmas ornaments, trinkets and treasures. No longer able to delay, we sat down and tried to think logically about very sentimental traditions. I didn't want to spend our holidays hanging snowmen everywhere, lamenting over Christmas past. Frosty wouldn't be coming to Hawai'i. We also had come to realize how unnecessary all of our decorations were and how distracting they had become. So, we left alot of our traditions in the attic, along with the Christmas tree. There was simply no room, not in the container and not in our tiny house without a basement or attic (we are all pretty violently allergic to cut evergreens). We decided to plan on getting a palm tree instead.

Last Christmas - We opened the one average size bin of Christmas treasures, we discovered that we had left some important things behind. The stockings...two boxes of ornaments...our candle nativity...our wooden nativitity...and regardless of what anyone said, we all missed our tree. We tried to make the best of it. We tried to tell ourselves that we weren't as sad as we really were but the reality was that we were heartbroken. The children had been given ornaments each year, with their name and date proudly written on each one. When it became obvious that we couldn't hang their ornaments, the children never complained (which made it worse). We discovered that palm trees, though fast becoming a favorite species of mine, are unaffordable and not nearly as practical for hanging ornaments. We bought a Charlie Brown Norfolk pine and discovered that, while fulfilling a need for greenery, their branches are useless for hanging ornaments. We made the best of our Christmas last year, missing family, missing friends, missing our own traditions. On December 26th, I turned the house as quickly back to normal as possible so that I could forget how painful it had been. I knew that God had called us here to Hawai'i, but did it have to feel so foreign, so different from all that we had known before?

This year, we bought a tree, fully lit and tall enough to reach the beams in our little house. We played music and the children hung all of their ornaments on the tree, and none of the branches wilted. For the first time in all of our Christmases, I did not have to secretly rearrange their ornaments to make them look better. The very first ornaments I was given, made by my brother David's fiance in 1987, now graced our Hawai'i home. Each of the children's kindergarten pictures, stars and yes, snowmen were proudly hung with care. During my visit back to the mainland in June, I canvased the attic for the missing stockings, my quilted tree skirt, our wooden nativity from Israel and even the nativity windmill from Holland. (I ended up not being able to fit it in my bag so I asked, okay forced, Laura to carry it on her way home. She said the pilot had to put it next to him because there was no room on the plane. How appropriate.) Nonetheless, these treasures donned our home this year. The stockings were hung on the bookcase with care. The shutters were dressed in leis and the train made its way proudly around our brightly lit tree. It felt like Christmas.

As I contemplated my own heart and expectations of Christmas, I thought alot about how it must have felt for the Hawaiians of old to embrace the dramatic changes in their culture. In the early 1800's, when missionaries shared the good news of Jesus' birth, life and resurrection with them, the Hawaiians believed quickly and embraced their new faith whole heartedly. How incredible it must have been for them to literally be living in a stone age culture, with no metal tools or objects whatsoever, and suddenly encounter modern Western culture. So eager were the Hawaiians to show their acceptance of modernity, that Iolani Palace, the home of Hawai'i's monarchy, had electricity before the White House. The capacity of the Hawaiian people to adapt to a new culture was astounding. But many have come to question the amount of cultural changes that were made. It was the custom of the time among Western missionaries to encourage the growth of Western culture in the new converts to the faith. When the Hawaiians wanted to know how to be like these wonderful missionaries, they were encouraged to dress like Westerners and to put aside their hula and other traditions. The Hawaiian culture changed so much that by the time of Hawai'i's annexation to the U.S. in 1895, it had become forbidden to speak the Hawaiian languge. Many portraits of the monarchy of that time offer few visible signs of Hawaiian culture.

Thankfully, it is no longer forbidden to speak Hawaiian and it is no longer taboo to dance hula. In fact, many churches sing hymns in Hawaiian. Our own church sang one of the verses to Silent Night in this beautiful language. Many churches celebrate and illustrate stories and songs with hula. Thankfully, it is no longer required of Hawaiians to choose between the culture and traditions that represent who they really are as a people, and their faith in the One who came to redeem them. Having lost a tiny bit of my own culture in coming here, I have a better understanding of the pain it must have caused my Hawaiian brothers and sisters in the faith. My prayer and hope for this tiny island in the middle of the Pacific is that its people will continue to understand ways that God has revealed Himself to them in their culture and their history so that they may proclaim His goodness to their children and their children's children. That would be Christmas everyday.

"The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever..." Deuteronomy 29:29

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Sunrise

We met at the bottom of the hill of Kakapu lighthouse at 5:30 a.m. and hiked for 30 minutes up the paved path with only the light of the moon and a few flashlights. Venus, Orion and the Seven Sisters observed from above the mountains while we enjoyed the ocean winds and worked our way to the top. From the summit we could see the same beautiful coastal road we traveled in the dark. Our friends, the Wilks, provided yummy burritos when we made it back to the bottom after wishing dozens of other sunrise hikers a Happy Thanksgiving. I think we have discovered a new tradition to bring in the holidays here in Hawai'i.

This month, my third graders studied the 7 major biomes of the earth. As we celebrated Thanksgiving in our own classroom, I read to them "Over the river and through the woods" and asked them what biome was reflected. They recognized the deciduous forests descriptions and tried to sympathize with the difficulty of breezes that sting the nose and bite the toes. I read this poem to challenge them to appreciate their own colors and culture because there is a sense that the holiday isn't real unless the leaves have fallen and the weather is cold. I can honestly say that I have not seen a single maple, oak or sycamore tree here in Hawai'i, yet all the stores, classrooms and lobbies are covered with silk replicas of their leaves. I asked my students if not having those trees or experiences makes our holiday less real...they weren't sure. The association with fall colors and leaves and harvest is a good one, but not the only one. Surely the most important association with this holiday is thankfulness. In that light, we each held three kukui nuts (in abundant supply on our island and often used in making leis) and filled a glass bowl (that we watched being made at a field trip to a glassblowing shop) as 23 children counted their blessings. Another thanksgiving tradition to continue. We also discussed our own version of that popular thanksgiving poem.

Over the ocean and through the canal to Tutu's house we go
The crew knows the way to carry the canoe through the blue ocean foam
Over the mountains and through the Pali oh how the Trade Winds blow
The rains come down and rainbows abound as over the hills we go....
Happy Thanksgiving from the lovely Pacific....

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Veteran's Day : A Rest from Work

Our school closed for Veteran's Day last Thursday so the family went for a road trip towards the North Shore, where the waves can reach as high as 40 feet in the Winter. We came upon this park. Its name means a rest from work.

What a joy it was to soak in the sunshine and hear the waves. Dave and Lydia and Daniel waded out to a small island and walked around. Laura, Shawn and Jonathan climbed the foundation of an old building. And I sat still, something I don't do very often.

It's hard to believe our life in Hawai'i has only been a little over a year. The changes in our school have been quite substantial. Very few schools actually navigate successfully through the waters of changing to a Classical and Christian curriculum, but Trinity is doing just that. Our teachers are writing jingles, songs, chants and rhymes to help our grammar school students memorize. Our secondary teachers are challenging, debating and focusing. All this in just a few years. God is clearly at work in every detail and we are constantly humbled to see His loving and firm hand guiding the work here. I was recently asked to take on the role of Curriculum Instructor, coming alongside the teachers as an administrative support and I am excited by the opportunity to serve the Lord and the school in this way. I'll still be teaching third graders, but this gives me an opportunity to have an impact on other students as well.

The challenge for me and for Dave is to remember to rest from work from time to time. There is so much to do and we often find ourselves stretched too far, forgetting that "graveyards are full of indispensible people." So, I'm thankful for the rest on Thursday...and for the Veterans who gave me the freedom to work, and to rest.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What I Can and Can't Do

I can be a faithful teacher and a faithful mom at the same time.
I can't try to be Wonder Woman.

I can work and still enjoy making meals for my family.
I can't try to be Martha Stewart.

I can keep an orderly home.
I can't try to do it all myself.

I can live with less.
I can't try to have it all.

I can use the Internet to help me stay organized.
I can't stay organized if I am distracted by surfing the net.

I can do all that I am supposed to do.
I can't lose my focus.

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2

I marvel that the Lord of all left the throne, endured poverty and shame for 33 years, died for all and returned to that throne considering His work done (He sat down). That Lord is my Lord. He began the work that I take part in as a Christian. His kingdom is my focus. By His grace I can accomplish His calling. But I must fix my eyes. Ever try balancing without finding a focal point? "Let us fix our eyes"...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Along the way

The first time Dave and I hiked Olomana was in 2008, the summer that we visited Hawaii. I didn't make it to the top. That was before I knew about my heart condition, before the medication, before the recovery. So, yesterday's summit was invigorating and encouraging. You can see by the final view that the hours of pushing and pulling and laboring up the mountain are completely justified. The doubts, frustration and even fear are completely lost in the euphoria of "We made it!" So many times in my life as a Christian I've felt like I've been hiking up a mountain...will those ropes hold? Can I make it any further? Should I take the narrow path or the wider path? What is it about us that longs to see the big picture, the view from above? If only we could know the outcome of our paths before we begin...

But we were made to walk by faith; to look around us and see not rubble and dirt but paths and challenges. We were made to test the ropes. The creeds that define our faith do not bind us...they hold us. We can trust them not because they are ancient or because they are familiar, but because they are true. "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth"....There is a Creator; microbiology affirms that. "I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord." Take the narrow path; go the higher ground.He really is who He said He was. "He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified , died and was buried;" Don't look at the crags in the rocks and wonder if they'll collapse, seek the opportunities in grabbing hold and hanging on. Keep pressing on, keep believing in what is true. When you reach the top, you will see..." The third day He rose again from the dead." At that point the clarity of vision will sharpen you to see that what you thought was an obstacle, was really an opportunity. What you saw as impossible was in fact possible. "He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty." Each step of our lives is a step of faith in something...but what? Ourselves? The economy? The government?

When this hike is over, what's next? "I believe in the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting." The difference between Jesus Christ and every other leader in history is one thing: an empty tomb, a body that was never found...for 2010 years. That causes me to turn my head...and walk by faith.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

And So It Begins...

Our school has been in session for 7 weeks now. The marathon of juggling motherhood, teaching and teacher training has begun. I didn't think that this year could possibly be harder but it is. However, I know that I'm right where I belong. I love this island, its history, its culture and its people. Over the summer I worked on a curriculum that begins with what our students know and draws ever broadening circles outward, allowing students to make connections so that school feels less like a compilation of subjects and more like an unfolding story. I am most excited about our science curriculum. The focus is what students living in Hawai'i know...ocean, volcanoes, mountains and geckos....and only about 4 mammals. But by starting with what they know and teaching the history behind the science, our students will not view science as an isolated body of facts. They will learn the story of the discoveries behind the periodic table as it unfolded in history so that they will have a solid understanding of the facts. They will study the plants and animals of our island (my class is studying fish), learning the English, Latin and Hawaiian names for each. My hope for our students is that they see the world with clearer vision and curiosity. Curiosity is the greatest scientific skill of all.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Keiki Room

After the living room and lanai were redone, I began to work on the kids' room. It needed a more local and colorful look to it. It started with nicely priced quilts from my favorite store here, Ross. Then I made leaf prints from some of my favorite native plants. I've never painted on canvas before so that was a new and fun experience. They still share a room and a bathroom and a closet and it still works, mostly. We all agree it builds character. In Maryland, all 6 of us shared one bathroom so this isn't so bad.

A Not So Extreme Makeover

Last summer I began a quest to find a leather recliner for my husband. Poor guy, he sold his papa bear-sized chair to make the trek here. I was so excited to find a chair that was just right at the Salvation Army. It was so large that it made our other furniture look like something from a Hobbit hole. Then the quest began for a leather couch, which we bought from a really nice guy named Rick on Craig's List (see Google Chrime to find out more). Once the living room was all on the same scale, we rearranged the lanai. Little by little, our house had a new look. So I thought I'd post the pictures here since you can't come for tea.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Keeping it Simple

These mountains are what we wake up to each day. The clouds are constantly changing around them, creating a new painting moment by moment. The power lines are a bit of a downer. If you look closely between the peaks of the mountains, you can see some water falls trickling down. Those waterfalls carved the peaks the way unconditional love smoothes a heart of stone.

The year before we left for Hawai'i I came to the conclusion that an enormous part of my life was spent simply managing my possessions. Saturdays were chore days, where the whole family chipped in in to dust, polish, clean, straighten, vacuum or put away our accumulation of possessions. But cleaning wasn't just for Saturdays. Every day had a list of chores assigned to it in order to keep our family of 6 fed, clothed and clean. I think the initial misdiagnosis of a possibly shorter life due to a heart defect caused me to ask myself what I was doing with my life. I wondered if I was spending the time that God gives me each day in a way that increases peace on earth or simply reduces dust collection and laundry pile-ups. Not that laundry and cleaning are bad things, but I became convinced that if I would let go of some of my stuff, I could have more time to do the things in life that really mattered such as helping people, writing, and loving my family. Our move to Hawai'i provided an opportunity to rethink my home and life with a focused goal: make more time of people-oriented tasks and less for possession-oriented tasks. Saving time became even more critical when we decided that for the first time in our marriage, both parents would work full-time. To keep ourselves from burning out, we made some specific resolutions:

1. Spare the stuff. Keeping only the furniture, toys and knick-knacks that were useful (or too meaningful to lose) and ridding our lives of the rest of the things we were holding onto was really helpful in freeing up our time. The less things we have, the less we have to dust or maintain, the more time we have for other things, most importantly, people.

2. Smaller is better. I was always thankful that we lived in a small home in Maryland but our current house is even smaller. We determined to furnish our home with only the necessary furniture for living comfortably. So, not only is our home smaller, more importantly, it is less cluttered. It used to take us hours as a family to get our house spiffy clean. Now it takes about 30 minutes.

3. Touch it once. One huge time saver is to set up systems for mail, laundry, food and other daily tasks so that the items involved are touched as few times as possible in the completion of the task involved. For instance, in our home in Maryland, the mail was brought in, put on the step, taken upstairs to the office and put in a basket. Now, the mail is brought directly in the location where we pay bills (the most important part of mail). Some of this is the difference between living in a one level home instead of a multi-level home, but some of the process just needed fixing. Dishes are another example. In our old house, we had a dishwasher and many cabinets. Each day someone would empty the dishwasher, put the dishes in the cabinet, take the dishes out later, set the table, then re-load the dishwasher and start the process over again the next day. I still wish we had a dishwasher, but now I have a dish rack (which used to be an aquarium stand) that displays my dishes and utensils and allows them to dry at the same time. Now, I don't set the table during the week, only on Sundays. So for a regular meal, we grab the dishes from the rack, fill our plates and enjoy our dinner at the table in the lanai (in beautiful weather all year long). Such a simple thing, but every few minutes saved adds up.

4. Keep it simple. Life can be so complicated and we add to the frenzy with all of our unrealistic expectations. One area we have tried to keep more simple is gift giving.I was horrified to discover that many of my attempts to love our kids by blessing them with toys or other treasures ended up in the attic only to have me drip with sweat as I packed them up for Goodwill.It has been such a relief to look at birthdays as days to go and do special things we wouldn't do otherwise instead of feeling compelled to go out and buy something. So far, our children have said they really like this method of gift giving better than before.

5. Stay close. My life in Maryland was anything but strategically located. Now that we live here, I can see the value of small town life. Everything is close. We grumble when we have to go "all the way into town" because it means going through the mountains and driving for 20 minutes. We are so used to 7 minute drives that 20 minutes feels like a day trip. Having lived here a year, I am astounded by the time saved (and gas, too) because we live and work and worship closer to home. I had no idea how much living closer to everything would reduce stress.

6. A place for everything and everything in its place. This sounds nit-picky but it's so helpful to really think about the most strategic place for everything instead of the place things ends up. Being intentional about our home will help us be intentional about our lives. Keeping after my kids about putting things away helps them be intentional about their lives, too.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Don't panic.

Google Chrime is a short story, slightly based in reality, just like its author. It was just for fun. I'm a big fan of Flannery O'Conner, who wrote stories to expose the reality of sin in the world and the need for a Savior. So this is in her style, but I don't even come close to her skill. Most of it really did happen that way except Rick is really the nicest guy ever, tattoos and all. His wife was worried that we would be freaked out by following him down the country road and I told them that I was thinking it would be a fun mystery/short story. Sorry for the panic.

Google Chrime

"Hey, Daniel, come and take a look at this before I post it on my blog. Dad and I are going to Starbucks to check out a couch from Craig's List." Leslie called down the hall as she searched for her keys and shoes. "Daniel."

"Coming said the grumpy teen, "Why do I need to look at it before you post it? It's not about me again, is it?"

"Well, sort of. It's kind of a mesh of Proverbs 13 and you and life in general. Just read it. If it's okay, click "Publish Post." If you don't like it, save it and I'll re-do it when I come back. We should be right back but we might be a little while if we like the couch."

"What? You're looking at another couch? How many are you going to look at?" grumbled Daniel.

"It's only been a few and this one is in Kaneohe, only a few minutes away."

"Wait. You said you were going to Starbuck's. Why are you going to Starbuck's to get a couch?"

"Rick said he'd meet us in the Starbuck's parking lot so that we didn't get lost."

"Who's Rick?" asked Daniel, exasperated.

"The guy with the couch from Craig's List! Anyway, I don't actually have his address but I know he drives a black '62 Chevy pick-up and he sounds like a really nice guy on the phone. Okay, so Laura's not home. You're in charge. Don't abuse that responsibility. Got it? Love you. Bye."

"Okay, whatever, bye."

"Read it please!" called Leslie from the back door.

"Bye." called Daniel from the kitchen.

"Now please!"

"Okay, Okay!" Daniel walked over to his mom's chair and recognized immmediately the need for a comfy couch in the living room. He begrudgingly picked up her laptop and sat down. "All right, so what do we have here. "Daniel touched the touchpad to read the laptop screen. "'From the fruit of his lips a man enjoys good things, but the unfaithful have a craving for violence.' What in the world is she talking about? Here we go again..."

Dave and Leslie pulled into the Starbuck's parking lot just as it started to rain. They circled a few times but couldn't find the black Chevy. Leslie's phone rang. "Hi Rick, yes, we're here. Oh, now I see you." She smiled as she looked at the face of the man on the phone. He smiled at her and said, "Is that you?" They both laughed and closed their phones. Rick called out of his window, "I live just down the road a bit, follow me."

"Okay, great." yelled Dave from the driver's seat.

Daniel neared the end of the blog post..."'Righteousness guards the man of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner.' Okay, whatever. I guess it's not too bad. Now what did she tell me to do?" Daniel clicked the button to publish the post and, as always, he then selected "view blog" so he could see the final product. "Hey, I took that picture. Hello sunset, you are looking mighty fine, I must say." Daniel scrolled down to see the rest of the blog and scanned the followers. "Hey, she has a new follower...."

"He seems like a nice guy." observed Leslie. "No tattoos, no piercings, just a nice guy who wants to go back home and take care of his parents. Did I tell you his wife is a third grade teacher too?"

"How did that come up?" wondered Dave.

"I don't know. Oh, wow it's dark back here. There aren't any street lights really. I'm glad he met us at Starbucks."

"Let's just hope this couch doesn't have cat scratches all over it." said Dave disapprovingly.

"Or that it's not 5 inches too short for you." said Leslie, reprovingly. They turned onto another road. "Okay, there are, like NO houses here. Can I have some of this undeveloped land for a small price?" wondered Leslie aloud.

The black Chevy pulled into the grass in front of a house. A middle-aged man wearing a polo shirt, khaki pants and dress shoes got out of the truck, certainly looking like someone who hasn't blended with the local culture and wants to go home to the mainland. Rick walked over to the driver's side and waited for Dave to roll down his window. "Dave, you can back into the carport if you want, to make it easier later."

" Okay, thanks." said Dave with a smile. He turned to Leslie, "How did he know my name?"

"I must have mentioned it. He's probably in sales or something so he knows how to remember names. Or maybe he's a Christian and Craig's List is his front for getting to know people. Relational evangelism meets the Internet!" quipped Leslie, seriously considering blogging on the idea as a valid ministry option.

"Well, he's not wearing a white oxford with a blue name badge so I don't think he's a Mormon missionary. Too bad."

"Why?" wondered Leslie.

"We'd know that the couch was smoke-free." laughed Dave.

"Oh, you're funny. Okay, so you have the money? Please don't haggle him on the price, he said his wife didn't want to negotiate on the price."

"Okay, okay. I have the money but do me a favor and leave your purse here so I don't have to drive back to get it when you forget it."

"I'll put it under the seat."

"Actually,I'll put my phone there, too so it doesn't fall out while I'm carrying the couch...IF I carry the couch, that is."

Daniel clicked on the name of the new follower and noticed his name. Rick Hobling. "Ha, Rick! That's funny. I wonder if he's selling a couch on Craig's List." he laughed. Unable to resist the power of the Internet, Daniel clicked on Rick's profile. "Hey, this guy lives in Kaneohe! I'll bet it IS the same guy!" That is SO funny. I gotta call mom and tell her. She would laugh so hard." Daniel dialed Leslie's cell. No answer. Then he dialed Dave's. "Oh well. I guess she'll find out when she gets home." Then, just out of curiousity, Daniel googled Rick Hobling.

Dave and Leslie both removed their shoes and entered the house, noticing that the owner, however, did not. Definitely not meshing with life here thought Dave. "The couch is up the stairs and to the right." noted Rick. He motioned for Leslie to go first. Dave followed. The hall was dark. They got to the top of the stairs and turned right. They entered what they assumed was the living room. There was a red carpet, black curtains which were drawn shut, but no couch. They turned around confused and heard Rick lock the front door down the hall. Leslie's stomach sank and Dave grabbed her hand protectively while he reached for his phone. His phone! It was in the car!

"I want to thank you for coming to take a look at my couch," said Rick. "Unfortunately, it's no longer available." Dave could see that there was no easy way out of this. Though Dave had more leverage, he didn't know what this guy was planning to do. Dave put Leslie behind him.

Rick leaned over to look at Leslie, "You have an interesting blog. I've been following you for some time anonymously. But today, I made myself your last follower."

Leslie was stunned. What was happening? Who was this guy? Why was he doing this? "Have I done something to...was there something that..."

"Oh, don't worry. It's nothing personal.It's just that, well, I can. So I do. You're not the first and you won't be the last. But I WILL be the last follower on your blog, be sure of that." Rick reached into his back pocket and pulled out a rope while at the same time a loud crash was heard down the hall and heavy footsteps were heard on the stairs. Rick turned around and Dave kicked him onto the floor grabbing Leslie's arm and pulling her out of the room just as the police came in wearing bullet-proof vests and pointing guns at Rick. "Mr. Hobling, you're under arrest."

Shaking and nearly sick with fear, Leslie moved toward the front door. "How did you ever find us?" she asked one of the policemen.

"Mrs. Collins, you should be very thankful for that son of yours. He is a quick thinker. Mr. Hobling left his mark on your blog and Daniel followed it. When he saw Mr. Hobling's own blogs and his other activity on the Internet, Daniel called us right away and, thanks to your cell phones, we were able to find you... Mr. Hobling is wanted in 3 states for murder.

"Every prudent man acts out of knowledge, but a fool exposes his folly." Proverbs 13:16

Friday, July 9, 2010

That Dangerous Harry Potter

People have asked me for years about my opinion regarding Mr. Potter, the wizard of Hogwarts. For over 10 years my response has been "I have too many classics to read right now to read Harry Potter." C. S. Lewis encouraged his readers to develop a diet of classics that was peppered with lighter and more trendy reads. Following his advice, and heeding to my own personal challenge to read what my kids were reading in school left me with little additional reading time. But now my kids are reading Harry Potter. My time to read it has come. Going to the library 12 years after the first book was published, I find it's still a favored read among adults and children alike. That tidbit alone would make it seem that it's well on its way to being a classic. So what do I think of Potter so far? I'm just finished the first and in the first half of the second. I know next to nothing about J.K. Rowling other than that she is a woman with chutzpah and imagination. I've heard that she was modeling herself after C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien. If nothing other than first initials and a two-syllable British last name, those are good men to model. She does seem to be keeping with their example of casting fantastical light on how people find their identity, their bearings, their true North. And, like Tolkien and Lewis before her, the sage advice that she would offer is better received from wizened characters like Gandalf, Aslan and Dumbledore.

I'm trying to understand what some Christians have been so upset by for so long about Potter. I've heard that her books blur the distinction of evil and good. I haven't seen evidence of this. In fact, in the first book, the antagonist, whom Harry defeats, says, "There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it..." Lewis' antagonists in both Narnia and his space trilogy say this very same thing. And, like Lewis, Rowling has these evil men defeated by the gentle, faithful, yet undaunted protagonist.

Some say that they portray witchcraft in a good light when it is really a form of Satanic worship. Really? But Gandalf's use of magic is okay? Bilbo's invisibility ring is okay but Harry's cloak is not? I know that witches, as seen in Shakespeare's Macbeth have often been portrayed as communing with evil, thus deriving their power. But is that what Rowling is doing? Is she trying to say, "See, we've been wrong all along. Witches are good. Follow all of them." Is she encouraging her readers to abandon God in their quest for power? Is she even giving them a reason to head towards worshipping Evil? Or is she staging the struggles for identity and purpose in a world where our inward struggles against pride, anger, resentment, insecurity and power can be more clearly seen? Instead of wooing her readers into a dark world of magic so that she can cast an evil spell on them and render them powerless, is she instead drawing her readers into the idea that we live in a parallel universe the way that Lewis did with the Pevensie children who were Kings and Queens in Narnia (as Christians are considered royalty in Heaven) but children in London? At the school of Hogwarts, we learn that Muggles are those who are nonmagical. Some Muggles refuse to see the magic all around them, while others can see and even believe, but aren't magical. Most Muggles live in a world where what they see is what get. Wizards and, dare I say it, witches, on the other hand, believe that they have been given a special calling, a gift of magic that is to be used for a good purpose only. They believe that they are to use their magical powers carefully and they must be trained well if they are to be truly useful. Isn't this the message of the New Testament? Aren't we given a royal heritage as our identity? Haven't we been given magical power in the gifts of the Spirit and in prayer? Aren't we spiritual beings living in a world of stubborn Muggles? Perhaps this isn't what Rowling is saying, but hats off to Rowling for portraying the study of Latin, the dusting off of ancient books and the study of logic as worthy pursuits. Like Lewis, I think Rowling is forcing her characters and her readers to recognize that the struggles at Hogwarts are the same struggles in the world of Muggles, and the world that we call life. The book of Hebrews refers to this idea of parallel worlds as types and shadows. The Apostle Paul, defying all fear of mixing religion with magic stood in the center of Athens and proclaimed Jesus Christ as the unknown God of their mythology. He wasn't saying that the evil acts of the gods and goddesses of Ancient Greece were now okay, he wasn't leading his fellow Greeks to worship these gods, he wasn't blurring the distinctions of truth. He was saying, "That parallel world of magic does exist. Your ancient stories are just types and shadows of a greater truth. Jesus Christ was that truth. Follow Him." I don't know whether J.K. Rowling holds a Christian worldview of mythology, magic and morality. I still haven't figured that out about Shakespeare, but that doesn't keep me from reading his works and, most importantly, talking about them with my children.

I'll leave you with my favorite passage from The Sorcerer's Stone, a conversation between Dumbledore and Harry after Harry defeated the evil Voldemort in what I'm told is his first of many battles. "Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn't realize that love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever." Perhaps these books really are dangerous. They might lead us to look into what it means to be loved by someone who laid His own life down for us that we might have some protection forever.