Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Me at Three

I've been trying to get up my courage to post a photo of myself -- here and also over at Epinions, where I write book reviews. I've been thinking I might use this one, which is one of my favorites of all time. It was taken by my older sister when I was three and she was about nine. And I think it captures the joy I felt about just about everything at the time!

It also gives me insight into my own daughter, newly turned four.

Also love it because in the background you can see (just barely) our old family cat, Harvey. He was a member of the family before I was born, and lived until I was thirteen. He and I especially bonded in his old age. He was a very precious and tenacious kitty.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Putting Myself in the "Naughty Chair" (Read on...It Will Make Sense!)

For years I've been an ardent fan of the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. These are wonderful stories, ten in all, about a girl named Betsy Ray. Betsy grew up around the turn of the 20th century in the small town of Deep Valley, MN and was based on Maud Hart Lovelace herself as a girl growing up in Mankato.

Some day I will do more writing about these wonderful books and why I love them, but for now, let me just reference one of my favorite parts of the tenth and final book, Betsy's Wedding. In this book, Betsy Ray marries her high school sweetheart, that dashing newspaperman Joe Willard. Joe was based on Maud's husband Delos Lovelace, and both Maud and Delos (and by extension their fictional counterparts Betsy and Joe) were writers.

In Betsy's Wedding, set around the time of WWI, the two of them are regular attenders of a wacky and loveable group of writers. The group dubbed itself "The Violent Study Club" and besides reading to each other from books they loved, they would read snippets of writing they were working on and ask for encouragement and criticism. I've always wished, quite wistfully, that I could find a group of writers as vital and fun as the Violent Study Club.

One of their most loveable quirks was putting a member of the group in a special seat called the "naughty chair" whenever one of them got published. This always made me laugh. Since they were all struggling writers, it was their way of saying "well done!" and providing recognition, and of laughingly chiding the published writer for showing the rest of them up by actually daring to go out and get something published.

With life being what it is these days, crammed full to bursting with so much to do (and so many things I wish I could do more wholly and fully) I'm not getting much of a chance to send work out. So when I do, and when I get a positive response... and an actual feels worth celebrating.

I don't have a "Violent Study Club" (more's the pity) but every once in a while, when I get something published, I'm going to put myself in a figurative (virtual?!) naughty chair, because even small writing accomplishments are worth celebrating.

My essay "All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter" came out this past week in the "Literary Heroes" issue of Inkblots, a lovely, small and independent literary magazine edited by Melinda Lavorante. You can go here to see the publications's website and a copy of the cover of the issue:

Melinda is an excellent and encouraging editor and I appreciate the way she mentors younger writers...and doesn't mind accepting submissions from more seasoned (read: middle-aged) folks like me as well. I've already recommended her lovely publication to a talented young writer I know who is still in high school, and I'll continue to pass the word along to other writers as well as interested readers. If you love good books, especially literary classics, this magazine is an enjoyable read!

Monday, July 24, 2006

"Hold Me, Jesus..."

My four year old daughter has fallen in love with Rich Mullins' CD "A Liturgy, A Legacy and a Ragamuffin Band." Her favorite song (which is also mine, go figure!) :-) is "The Color Green." We've been dancing to it a lot. So celtic and lovely. A marvelous song of praise and celebration!

I love the whole album though, and tonight the only song that keeps running through my mind is the beautiful, prayerful "Hold Me, Jesus." Sometimes I just need to hear and pray what it says. I post it here in case anyone else needs to hear and pray it too.

"Hold Me, Jesus"

(Rich Mullins)

Well, sometimes my life
Just don't make sense at all
When the mountains look so big
And my faith just seems so small

So hold me Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

And I wake up in the night and feel the dark
It's so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart

So hold me Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

Surrender don't come natural to me
I'd rather fight You for something
I don't really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I've beat my head against so many walls
Now I'm falling down, I'm falling on my knees

And this Salvation Army band
Is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin

So hold me Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

Thursday, July 20, 2006

HP Book 7: More Final Confrontations for Harry

In my last HP post I focused exclusively on Harry's final confrontation with Voldemort. Clearly that is the big showdown we've all been looking toward for many years now. Before Harry can get a shot at the big guy, however, he has plenty of other hurdles to jump and obstacles to face, both inner and outer. Along the way, he's bound to run into some other friends and foes. Today I'd like to focus on some of those possible meetings. Let's begin with:

Harry meets...his memories

Harry's been wrestling with his memories for as long as we've known him. In some of the very earliest pages of PS/SS, we see him struggling to recall memories of his parents and the night of their deaths. More of that evening has been revealed to him, slowly, as the years go by. He first recalled the high, cruel laughter of Voldemort when Hagrid revealed to him the truth that his parents had not died in a car crash but had been murdered. He first recalled his parents' voices when he had to face the demnentors and his own worst fears in PoA.

The subject of memories in the series and how Rowling uses them to advance both her plot and the deeper meanings of her stories is a topic I'm trying to delve into more fully. So I won't post much here for now. Suffice it to say, we've been almost promised that Harry's memories, and that fateful, shaping event of his infancy, will have a role to play in the final book. At the end of HBP, Harry tells Ron and Hermione that he won't be coming back to Hogwarts in the fall, assuming it re-opens. When Hermione asks him what he's going to do, he replies:

"I thought I might go back to Godric's Hollow," Harry muttered. He had had the idea in his head ever since the night of Dumbledore's death. "For me, it started there, all of it. I've just got a feeling I need to go there. And I can visit my parents' graves, I'd like that."

What Harry will find at Godric's Hollow is anyone's guess. It may not be anything physical or tangible, though it might be. At the very least, he may tap into more memories, important ones, or discover a new piece of understanding about what happened the night his parents died. Somehow I think that will be crucial as he moves forward to accomplish this huge task that's been laid upon him, a task he now willingly takes up even if it means walking in the dangerous and costly footsteps his parents once walked.

After all, there are still many things we don't understand about that night ourselves. Chief among them, I think: why did Voldemort offer Lily Potter a chance to "stand aside"? (making her death more of an overt choice/sacrifice, as JKR herself has drawn our attention to in interviews). Where were some other key players that evening, especially Snape and Pettigrew? Did Voldemort intend to make another horcrux based on the Potters' deaths, and if so, was that process actually *in process* when the AK curse backfired? So much we don't know! So much we'd like to find out.

Harry meets...Ginny

I've never been wildly enthusiastic about the "shipping wars" in HP fandom (those heated debates among readers regarding who will eventually be paired with who romantically). I have always thought, however, that it was likely Harry would find himself with Ginny, at least eventually, as it seemed clear Rowling was setting us up for that. The biggest surprise to me when I first read HBP is that it happened so soon.

Upon further reflection, however, it made sense. The romance issues are primarily "side issues" -- not that they don't mean anything, and not that we don't feel some emotional investment in them (especially as they lend interest and amusement and pathos to the development of our favorite characters) but they don't drive the main plot. I think Rowling intentionally resolved some of those lighter-weight issues in HBP, not only as a gift to her fans, but as a way of sort of "clearing the deck" for the bigger issues as the epic heads down the homestretch in book 7. She doesn't want her readers wasting all their energy wondering who Harry wants to kiss. She wants readers focused on Harry's main task: defeating Voldemort.

But along the way, he's got some growing to do, and the love, support and help of his community is a huge part of that. The orphaned Harry's growth in relationships and community is not, arguably, just a "side issue" but a very important key to his becoming the man he needs to be...Dumbledore's man through and order to face and vanquish Voldemort.

And how many of us think it likely that Ginny will just acquiesce and bow out now that Harry's made his throat-swallowing "you-make-me-so-happy-but-we-can't-continue-to-see-each-other-because-I'm-afraid-Voldemort-will-make-you-his-target" speech? I don't mean to belittle the speech: Harry's making it seems completely in character with the young man we've grown to know and love, especially because we know he can't bear the loss of too many more people he loves. His substantial losses of people close to him has made him perhaps more vulnerable to suffering, not less. But let's face it, he's going to need everyone he can get on his side going into this final battle, and is it likely that Ginny, who has essentially loved him since she laid eyes on him at the age of ten and finally knows he returns her affection, will not want to help?

We don't know nearly as much about Ginny's character as many people would like. Much ink has been spilled by fans in an attempt to add to Ginny's development as a character. But we don't have to speculate too imaginatively to know she's not the kind of person to sit idly by while the boy of her dreams goes off to war. She may have been named in part as a nod to Arthur's Guinivere, but there's not much handerchief waving maiden about Ginny Weasley. Let's stop and consider what we do know:

-- She's a Weasley. This means several things: 1) She's got the red-headed temper, stubbornness, and quick-wittedness that seem to run in her family. 2) She's grown up as the only girl with six brothers, and the youngest child of seven. That means she's learned to be tough, assertive and crafty when necessary -- and that's not mere speculation, but backed up by things like the reference to how she learned to fly and play Quidditch so well...she used to break into the broom shed and borrow her brother's brooms when they weren't looking. 3) She's Molly's daughter. That not only cements some of the traits mentioned in point 1, but reminds me that, like Molly, she's likely to have some serious fears about the potential deaths of her loved ones (remember Molly's boggart?) and connected to that comes 4) Her entire family is already involved on the good side of the war effort, with the probable exception of Percy (unless you believe he's a spy). It's not just Harry's life at stake, but the lives of her brothers and parents. Ginny, skilled and courageous, has already proved her mettle in the Department of Mysteries battle at the end of OofP. She will likely prove it again.

Two other potentially relevant points to make about Ginny.

-- She knows the mind of Tom Riddle. I don't think we can underestimate that. Perhaps more than anyone else in the series, she can emphathize with Harry in knowing what it feels like to be mentally invaded and physically possessed by that evil wizard. I know that the version of Voldemort that used Ginny in CoS was a younger version (sort of a bug-ridden 3.1 instead of a fast-loading XP, not quite a full-bodied or full-souled version) but it's still the same guy. Beyond the empathy this enables her to have for Harry, I'm wondering if it might not also mean she'll be able to provide some valuable insights into Voldemort's vulnerabilities or potential strategies on down the line. Personally, I think she needs to be clued into the whole horcrux hunt.

-- She has a deep sense of gratitude to Harry for saving her life. I don't think this is the equivalent of a the "life-debt" that Pettigrew owes Harry. In that case, Harry actively spared Pettigrew's life when it was in his power (and the power of others) to take it. Ginny's situation is categorically different. She was on the brink of death, and Harry's actions brought her back from that precipice. But can you imagine the depth of gratefulness you'd feel to the one who rescued you in that way? (The whole scene in the chamber, as John Granger has pointed out, plays like a beautiful miniature salvation allegory. And Rowling has indicated that a lot of what happens in CoS is important for the end of the story.) Ginny's not just in love with Harry...she genuinely loves him. And I think if Rowling is smart -- and of course she is -- she won't use Ginny's character as mere spunky comic relief (more bat-bogey hexes, etc.) or even just as a romantic happily ever after.

Ginny should be a part of the effort to defeat Voldemort. So she and Harry really need to talk. Where better to do that than at Bill and Phlegm's (er...excuse me...Fleur's) wedding at the beginning of book 7?

Next HP post will be my last on Harry's final confrontations though I still hope to post about possible confrontations between other characters in the series. I plan to look at potential meetings between Harry and Neville, Harry and Dumbledore (??stay tuned...) and Harry and Snape.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Saint Macrina

On the Episcopal calendar, today is the day we celebrate Saint Macrina. Macrina was the oldest of ten children born around the year 327 to Basil the Elder and his wife Emmelia, a prominent Christian couple in Cappadocia (a mountainous district east of Asia Minor, where the Christian Gospel took early root). She's best known as the sister of two of the great Cappadocian fathers, Basil and Gregory, who along with their friend Gregory of Nazianzus were important defenders of Nicaean orthodoxy during the height of the Arian controversy.

Macrina is also sometimes credited with the founding of what's usually known as "Basilian monasticism" because she undertook monastic life early on and influenced her brother Basil in his formation of monastic communities. Although it was the men in the family who took center stage at a crucial time in church history, Basil's letters and Gregory's Life of Saint Macrina (a beautiful meditation on his sister's holy life and death) make it clear that they were very shaped by the deep Christian teaching and example of sister, mother and grandmother.

I became rather fascinated by Macrina several years ago when I took a course in Patristics. I ended up writing a paper about her, which I've dug out a few times over the years, including today, to refresh myself on the particulars of this amazing woman's life.

I had hoped to include a picture or an icon with this posting, but I'm still getting the hang of how to post graphics and where I can get them without either copyright infringement or stealing someone's bandwidth. I know that the "flickr" site has plenty of photos usable for blogs, so I thought I'd check there today...though it turns out they primarily feature very contemporary photos. Ironically, the name "Macrina" brought up numerous photos of rich and delicious looking rolls, breads and pastries, all apparently made at a well-known bakery named Macrina's in Seattle, WA.

Why do I say ironic? Well, my first reaction was to think how strange it was to go looking for images of an ascetical saint (who lived and ate very simply and owned almost no posessions) and find all these images of rich, gooey, fattening desserts. What a contrast in eras, cultures and values! That was my immediate somewhat cynical inner response.

But then I thought some more. Saint Macrina was actually well-known as a breadmaker. (I might add that this fact apparently didn't escape the Seattle bakery owners...yes, I googled the word Macrina and came up with the bakery's fact, it was the first hit, ahead of an encylopedia article on Saint Macrina.) Macrina's father died when she was quite young and she helped her mother raise all the younger children in the family as well as caring for her mother. Later Macrina formed a community of women, and her mother lived in the community with her, along with a number of other women (many of whom had been poor or abandoned, some of whom had once been the family servants). Among her other prayerful concerns and activities, Macrina and presumably some of the other women in the community baked bread for Holy Communion.

So perhaps it's not so ironic that I would be looking at images of rich and glorious food. Macrina lived a life of holy detachment from things, but a life rich in the inner spirit and one focused on the joys and realities of the coming heavenly banquet. In life, she had only a cloak, veil, sandals, a cross necklace and ring. She had no other clothes. But as we know from the Life of Saint Macrina, her brother Gregory helped prepare her body for burial by dressing her in a beautiful wedding gown. We who believe in bodily resurrection can only imagine the rich sumptuousness of heaven. It's hard for me not to reflect on the possibility that Macrina might be smiling at the notion that when I went looking for her today, the "icons" I saw were of cinnamon rolls and chocolate cake.

Tales from the Land of Language Acquisition

One of the most enjoyable aspects of parenting these days comes in hearing what my four year old does with language. She plays with it, relishes it, tries out interesting attempts at sentence structures, and sometimes uses words quite brilliantly...even when she's not entirely sure what they mean.

A case in point was last night. She was getting out of the bathtub, and as happens frequently, she suddenly noticed that her hands had gotten wrinkled. This always alarms her slightly, and she usually needs reassurance that the wrinkles aren't permanent.

Last night she said, in a somewhat anxious voice: "Your hands will be all smooth again. The wrinkles will be all gone in the morning."

To which I replied in my best confident-cheerful-mom-voice: "Oh the wrinkles will probably be gone long before then. Probably your hands will be all smooth again in just a few minutes."

But she persisted. "They'll DEFINITELY be gone by morning," she said.

"Yes," I affirmed.

A pause.

"What does definitely mean?" she asked.

Amazing what one can do with context, even when you're not really sure of a definition!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Feeding My Green Hunger: Wyeth's Island Roses

I frequent a wonderful blog called Wittingshire, which can be found at (Sorry, I can't seem to get html to cooperate tonight so that I can turn this into a workable link. Argh.) What I love about this blog is that the writers (a husband and wife team) share so much beauty both in what they write and in the photographs they post. Most of the photos are original to them, and I've loved many of them, but this time around they posted a thumbnail of a painting called "Island Roses" by Jamie Wyeth.

And I'm love with this painting. I love good art, but rarely do I find myself falling for a painting on first sight the way I did with this one. I've tried to find the best link I can to a good online copy of it (I'm not sure about copyright issues in terms of actually posting a copy of the print itself; the Wittingshire blog is a lot more tech savvy than my little corner here!). Anyway, check this link out -- if you'd like to feed your hunger for beauty and for green.

I've had acute green hunger for years. I'm not really a city girl at heart, but the Lord has, in his mysterious ways, seen fit to place me in a small city with a very industrial/urban landscape for almost nine years. And due to other circumstances in our lives, we've had very little time and space to go seeking the green I so often long for and feel I need. As a result, what I term landscapes of my heart have become very important to me. Some are real landscapes I've known, and now inhabit mostly in memory; some are visual and others are fictional. As soon as I saw this painting, I knew I'd found another one. I'd love to just walk inside it.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Books I've Read (Meme)

Not sure where this meme originated, but it looks like fun. I found it via a link off the Daily Meme site (a meme is a list or quiz or other odd little writing prompt).

The object is to look over the list of 100 books, bold the ones you've read, italicize ones you've started but not finished, and leave the rest as is. Then add three books you've read that aren't already on the list to the bottom. Here's mine!

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. 1984, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corellis Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Sorcerers Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The DUrbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Susskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones' Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnights Children, Salman Rushdie
101. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
102. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien
103. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle

Hmmm...interesting list. Nice of them to go so heavy on Austen and Rowling, which makes me look better. :-) I confess that three of these were read to me, by my husband: Hitchhiker's Guide, Lord of the Flies, and Animal Farm. I put Animal Farm in italics because I think I slept through most of it (sorry, honey!). My DH has read just about everything of Orwell's and I gave Orwell a mighty try when we were first married, but have really only gotten through 1984 and Keep the Aspidistra Flying (which isn't on this list)!

I was happy to be able to bold Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Once upon a time, when I was in high school, I would have had to put it in italics because I'd started but not finished it. I finally read it all the way through while in my 20s. I should have read all of Middlemarch in my college Vic. Lit. class but didn't (sorry, Nancy!). It's one of those books I keep meaning to get back to.

I clearly need to read more Dickens. I honestly don't know if I've read all of Great Expectations because when I did read it, I was in 8th grade. I think we may have read a shortened version. But I love A Christmas Carol and I really enjoyed A Tale of Two Cities when I finally read it last year. I have a feeling I am overdue for a Dickens year. Any suggestions as to which of his books to read next gratefully accepted!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

HP Book Seven: Harry's Final Confrontations

I intended to post again last night, but there was a slight accident when I was getting the Booper girl ready for bed. Nothing too serious, but as I was letting her blow off some energy before bedtime (she was running, jumping and trying to hop on one foot, a new skill she's been trying to perfect) somehow in the midst of a jumping game, I leaned over around the same time she jumped and her head connected with my mouth with some pretty major force. I was laughing or saying something at the time, with the end result being that my lip got knocked into my teeth and I got a major -- I mean major! -- split lip. It bled copiously, which made my sweet daughter weep copiously, and with all the chaos of finally getting her to bed and then realizing I had a very sore lip and a headache to boot, I didn't feel much like getting back to the blog. Instead I took some homeopathic arnica, wrapped up some ice in a washcloth and applied it, and sacked out on the couch to watch a movie with my DH who had just gotten home from work.

But now I'm ready to get back at it. Although the scar on my lip is not shaped like a lightning bolt or a map of the London Underground, without further ado, let's jump right into some of my thoughts and speculations regarding potential confrontations Harry is likely to face in book 7.

If you don't mind my quoting myself from my last post: I'm calling these "meetings" because not all of them will be confrontational in the same way, and not all of them will be initiated from one side. Some of these meetings feel inevitable to the unfolding of Rowling's intricate plotting and to satisfy her beautifully drawn narrative arc. Some of them might not happen, but I think it would be interesting if they did.

Harry meets...Voldemort

Yes, I can hear the snickers from the peanut gallery even as I type. And I cheerfully admit this one is a no-brainer. But this is where we've got to start... or rather this is where the books have to end. JK Rowling has been building toward this climax since the opening page of the opening story, and (let's face it) for a long time before that as she wrote and planned her seven book series.

What fascinates me is that we still have no clue exactly how this final battle between the seventeen year old Harry and his lifelong nemesis will take place. We don't know where it will happen, or even who will initiate it in the final analysis. I think it's safe to say that Voldemort, after being an oddly backstage presence in HBP, will be howling to go after Harry again now that Harry's mentor and great protector, Albus Dumbledore, is out of the way. But I also don't think that Voldemort is going to go off half-cocked. His schemes to return to power and to get what he wants have always been intricate and well-thought-out (and diabolical) even though they've usually been thwarted up until now.

Well, when you think about it, not all of his plans have failed...they've just not succeeded as spectacularly as he would have liked. Hid DID return to "full power" and an "embodied" existence, it just took him a lot longer than he bargained for and he wasn't able to kill Harry in the process, though he's repeatedly tried. I put "full power" in quotes and say "embodied" not human existence because we now know for a fact that he's missing at least 2/7 of his soul. Dumbledore took care of the second piece when he destroyed the ring horcrux. And Harry took care of the first (though he didn't realize what he was doing at the time) when he destroyed the diary horcrux in the Chamber of Secrets.

But there's a new element as we build toward the final confrontation between these two: not only is Voldemort determined to go after Harry now, but for the first time ever, by the end of HBP, we have a Harry determined to go after Voldemort.

During his entire life, Harry has been protected by so many people, whether he's always known it or not. Ever since hearing the prophecy (or half the prophecy) Voldemort has been sure that Harry was the only one who could bring about his downfall, so he has been after him since he was a tiny infant. Someone has almost always stood between Voldemort and Harry, literally or figuratively, beginning with his courageous mother Lily, who willingly sacrificed her life to save her son, and whose sacrifice actually sealed a long-lasting ancient blood protection over Harry. Because his mother's sister Petunia was willing to have Harry live in her house (however grudgingly, and whatever her motivations, including fear) that blood protection has lasted his whole life until now. In the meantime, Dumbledore has watched over him his whole life, sometimes from afar but more recently in a much more hands-on mentoring capacity. And there have been a host of other protectors: the Weasleys (anyone one of whom, perhaps excepting Percy on his worst days, would be willing to give their life for Harry and vice versa); Sirius Black (until his death at the end of OofP) and the entire Order of the Phoenix. Let's not forget Hagrid, whose protection of Harry started very early when he rescued him from James and Lily's house as a tiny baby and flew with him (on Sirius' motorcyle) to Dumbledore at the Dursley's. Then there's the fact that Harry has been on the receiving end of what we could really only term grace: help from the outside, help from completely unexpected sources outside of himself. His faithful loyalty to Dumbledore summons Fawkes to his aid in CoS; because he is a "true Gryffindor" he is able to pull Godric Gryffindor's sword from the hat right at the time when he most needs it; in PoA he is trained in the practice of placing himself expectantly in a moment of joy instead of dwelling in fear and thus is able to summon Prongs, the stag patronus that has his late father's animagus form, which saves him and Sirius from the deathly dementors; and in GoF the providential fact (and I don't use the word "providential" here lightly) that his wand is the brother wand of Voldemort's puts priori incantatem into effect, thereby providing Harry with a great cloud of witnesses that shield, help and encourage him in his escape from Voldemort in the graveyard.

These are only a few of the instances that show the ways Harry has been protected and helped against the rage and hate of his enemy, Voldemort. He has been lovingly sheltered, which is why he's alive. And I'm not saying that all that protection and help is a thing of the past. Far from it! But as we turn to book 7, we find two things staring right at us:

-- Harry is perhaps at his most vulnerable and in some ways appears the least "protected" he has ever been

-- Harry has accepted the fact that it's his calling to confront Voldemort, and feels has been given his instructions or "marching orders" from Dumbledore: find and destroy the remaining horcruxes, and then go after the weakened Voldemort and face him

Harry's vulnerability and seeming lack of protection go hand in hand. First, he's lost most of his most important mentors and guides. Sirius' death was a blow, but Dumbledore's death is the real crusher. It not only robs Harry of his physical nearness, wisdom and strength, but all members of the wizarding community that are on the side of right (members of the Order, many of the students and teachers at Hogwarts, and others) now stand without Dumbledore's help and protection as well. Rowling has repeatedly reminded us, in words and actions, that Dumbledore was "the only one he (Voldemort) ever feared" and now that he's out of the way, there's a real potential here for things to fall apart as people give into fear. If you'll forgive the pun, Hogwarts has lost its "head" but we can fervently hope that Harry and others who were close to Dumbledore's heart will not lose their's. For Harry, I think the pressures are going to be undeniably hard: on the one hand, he's lost the every-day guidance of his powerful mentor just when he seems to need it most, and on the other hand, the rumor mill has been flying (fueled by the Daily Prophet) and many people have surmised that he indeed may be the "Chosen One," the only one who can defeat You-Know-Who. Therefore a lot of people may be turning to Harry for leadership, and putting their hope in him. That's a lot of pressure on a just coming of age seventeen year old.

Ah yes, he's coming of age. That brings us to point 2. The blood protection which Dumbledore invoked (that Lewisian "ancient magic") after Lily's giving of her life for her's coming to an end when Harry turns seventeen, which is the age when wizards come of age. Dumbledore asks the Dursleys to allow Harry to come back to their house one more time before his seventeenth birthday, to ensure that the protection stays in place until then (he needs to be in a place where his blood-kin dwells) but once Harry becomes a man, that protection and everything it's meant for his safety will be gone. Does Voldemort know this? Good question.

My third and last point about Harry's vulnerability is that when we last saw him in HBP, he was struggling with real grief over Dumbledore's death and real rage toward Severus Snape, the man who carried it out. I'm not trying to go all Jedi-knight here and say that Harry has to find some weird place of calmness and detachment in order to fight more effectively. I think Harry's pain and rage are legitimate and necessary -- and I think Dumbledore would think so too (remember at the end of OotP when Harry was raging around destroying things in his office?) because he knows, and has told Harry, that one of Harry's strengths is his very humanity, his ability to love and lose and hurt. But I do think that Harry has to guard against the things that would kill his humanity, that would (if you will) turn him more Voldemort-ish. He can't give in to fear and he can't get stuck in rage. I think he's already made a good start at the first by the end of HBP, and that Hermione and Ron's loyal presence will be a big help in both endeavors. But he needs to be careful, and he needs to keep grounding himself by remembering and heeding Dumbledore's counsel that love is the only weapon that can ultimately deafeat Voldemort and also protect Harry from the lure of power that has so corrupted Voldemort.

I don't think, by the way, that Harry is as vulnerable and unprotected as he probably feels at the moment. He has Hermione and Ron (perhaps his most valuable assets at the moment, both because of their loyalty and talents and because they know him so well and are privvy to the whole story and know what he needs to do); he has Ginny and the rest of the Weasleys, Remus Lupin, Hagrid, Hedwig, and I'd add Neville and Luna (and quite possibly the rest of the now-defunct but I hope soon to be resurrected DA). He owns Grimmauld Place now, and has the loyalty of the Order of the Phoenix. He is armed with all the knowledge that Dumbledore has been able to pass on to him, and I don't think Dumbledore's wisdom will completely dry up in this forthcoming book. In the magical world Rowling has created, there are far too many possibilities left open for at least some form of ongoing communcation and help: the headmaster's portrait, Fawkes, the pensieve with potential stored memories of important events and instances that Dumbledore wasn't able to share while he was alive. Because of the pity he took on Peter Pettigrew, one of Voldemort's closest servants owes Harry a life debt. And I think there is still a very, very strong possibility, if you follow the subtext and sniff for clues beneath the surface, that Dumbledore has bequeathed Harry the gift of Severus Snape, that unlikeliest of protectors, who has now forever cemented his closeness to Voldemort's inner circle but whose ultimate loyalties remain in doubt for many readers, this one included.

And let's not forget one other thing Harry has: his mother's eyes. If eyes can be considered a window to soul, then I think we're being reminded by this repeated reference that Harry has been shaped by an example of sacrificial love from before he can even remember. At its core, his identity has been formed around this kernel of truth about who he is and about his story: he is a beloved son worth dying for. That is what he will be living out of as he faces fear and hatred and possible death. And it's a good place to be.

Whew. I think that's probably enough for starters! I had thought I'd tackle several Harry confrontations today, but need to give my fingers a rest. The others won't be nearly so long...this one was the motherlode of all confrontations!

Friday, July 14, 2006

HP Book Seven: Final Confrontations

My inner Harry Potter geek has been showing up a lot here lately, and I have a feeling that may be the case for a while. That's because I've been active again over at the HogPro boards, discussion forums moderated by my favorite HP critic/ commentator John Granger. I joined the forums last fall when a number of us were riding high from the release of Half-Blood Prince and the subsequent terrific discussions we'd had in John's Barnes and Noble reading group. I spent a lot of time at the HogPro forums during the fall and early winter, and then other parts of life intervened and I found myself lucky if I could check in two or three times a month during the spring.

Now summer has come, and with it my enthusiasm to read HP again and spend more time discussing the stories. With JKR happily writing away, I figure we may have about a year until book 7 comes out (okay, I'm optimistic!) and I'd like to do some more thinking and writing before that final book is released. And there's no better place than the HogPro boards for thoughtful discussion and provocative questions. Even better, hanging out there again has compelled me into some re-reading of parts of the books...all six of which are currently piled on my loveseat.

I'm working on a serious essay regarding the ways in which Rowling uses the motif of memory/memories/forgetfulness in the stories. I hope I'll have a chance to finish that eventually and post it here, but it's slow going at the moment since I've done a lot of the fun thinking and now am having to comb through the books for the exact scenes and quotes I need to flesh out the essay. In the meantime, I thought I'd have fun doing some casual reflecting on the stories, and I thought I'd start with some speculation on possible confrontations in book 7.

We know this book will be fraught with all kinds of confrontations, for at least two reasons: the wizarding world is at war and we're winding down to the ultimate showdown, and Rowling has presented us with a complex web of personal relationships throughout the series.

So here's what I'm going to do: reflect on some potential (some possible, some seeming necessary) "meetings" between various characters...pose some thoughts as to why she might or might not go in that direction and what might happen as a result. Some of these thoughts will be serious, and some just pain fun and speculative (and hopefully you'll be able to tell the difference). I'm calling these "meetings" because not all of them will be confrontational in the same way, and not all of them will be initiated from one side. Some of these meetings feel inevitable to the unfolding of Rowling's intricate plotting and to satisfy her beautifully drawn narrative arc. Some of them might not happen, but I think it would be interesting if they did.

So stay tuned. My first post (later tonight I hope) will appropriately focus on the confrontations or meetings that our hero Harry is likely to encounter.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

One, Two...Buckle My Bear

My daughter doesn't seem to want to travel anywhere these days without her three favorite travelling bears. She does have a most beloved bear who stays home...he is very old and getting a bit worn and is not generally an outdoor bear. The three bears who travel are a small blue one named "Blueberry" (I think D. or I named him when she was a baby) and then two slightly larger brown bears which she has creatively dubbed "Nose" and "No-Nose." In case you're wondering, they're so named guessed it. Nose has a nose and No-Nose doesn't.

When the three bears come on car trips, at her request we usually buckle them into seatbelts next to her booster seat. This led us, a few mornings ago, to the silly phrase "One, Two...Buckle My Bear." The whole family worked together then to come up with a complete rhyme from one - ten. The Boop has been breathlessly quoting it for much of the week:

One, Two...Buckle My Bear
Three, Four...Go to the Fair
Five, Six...Sit on a Chair
Seven, Eight...Comb my Hair
Nine, Ten...Go Way Over There

I really like it! We happened to pick up Ruth Krauss' classic picture book "Bears" last week at the library, but didn't read it until a couple of days after we came up with our poem. And frankly, I think we've got the book beat. If only we could find ourselves the equivalent of a Maurice Sendak to illustrate it.

The Wit and Wisdom of the Man I Married

Once in a while, my DH (that stands for "dear husband" by the way, not "designated hitter" in case all you baseball fans are wondering) says something so wise and humourous that I find myself grinning in delight and rehearsing a prayer of thanks that I married this marvelous man. One of those times was earlier this evening.

We've been busy lately -- basically working four jobs between us and not getting much time together. We had about twenty minutes at the dinner table all together as a family, and then he was rushing out the door to yet another meeting. As I walked him to the door, we happened to be chatting about some of the online articles I've been reading in my attempt to stay up with what's happening in the Anglican communion post General Convention. I was telling him about the 10 questions TIME magazine recently put to the Episcopal Church's presiding bishop elect, Katharine Jefferts-Schori. He asked how she did on the questions and I wrinkled my nose and admitted the answers had been pretty appalling. Especially this answer, which I proceeded to recap for him:

Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?

We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.

I kid you not. The presiding bishop elect of the Episcopal Church in the United States really said this. I think I sounded pretty pained when I told my husband about it. He paused thoughtfully, taking in her answer, and then he lifted his eyebrow, smiled, and said "Well, God put himself in a small box. It was called a manger!"

Can I get an Amen??!

Really. My husband cuts through to the heart of things and he often does it with such warmth and wit. He helps me to keep the big things in perspective, and reminds me to keep majoring in the majors, which on certain days can keep me from despair. Thank you, God, for giving him to me!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Even Mountain Girls Long for the Ocean Sometimes

In spite of the fact that I "should spend my summer in the mountains" (see silly quiz I posted earlier this month) I'm actually finding myself longing for the seashore a lot this summer. I think because it's been so long since I've been to the ocean and because the Boop has never seen the sea...and boy, does she want to!

We've been reading some stories by one of her all-time favorite authors, Shirley Hughes, and in at least two of the stories we've read over and over this week, Alfie and his little sister Annie Rose go to the beach. Yesterday my sweet girl got out a blanket and lots of plastic play food (along with her fabric rings and some colorful sponges) and set a feast for her bears in our living room. When I asked what she was doing, she announced "having a picnic at the beach!" Hmm. Well, the carpet is sand colored anyway! When she was done, she packed everything up again in her little doll stroller and a backpack and headed "home" with her furry family -- home being her bedroom.

A picnic at the beach sounded like a great idea to me too, and since we couldn't really get there any other way, taking the imaginative route was a terrific idea. It was a perfect time to bring out a book about another family that had to imagine the seaside too. So we read Charlotte Zolotow's The Seashore Book (see above!) a wonderful story about a little boy who's never seen the ocean, but who goes there by closing his eyes and listening to the beautiful word pictures painted by his mother.

We also made a yummy summer drink. We call it peppermint/apple/lemon drink; I adapted it from a recipe my sister Martha gave me years ago. All you need to do is boil 2 - 2 1/2 cups of water, and then steep a peppermint tea bag or two for a few minutes (how many bags and how long you steep can be adjusted to make peppermint as strong or weak as you'd like). Then add about 1 1/2 - 2 cups of apple juice (I used juicy juice, but any 100% juice or fresh juice should work fine). Finally, add a bit of lemon juice, again adjusted to your taste. I added about a tablespoon. Add ice and you've got a really delicious and not too sweet summer cooler. We liked it so much yesterday we made it again today!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Odds On Harry

There's been a sudden flurry of renewed media interest in Harry Potter book 7, still being written by author JK Rowling. That's because JKR gave one of her very rare interviews recently, in which she let "drop" a couple of statements about the possible fate of some unnamed characters.

I put "drop" in quotes because JKR, for my money, is one of the most careful and cagey interviewees I've ever seen. She's known for years the shape and ultimate direction of her story, and since the books have become such a publishing phenomenon, with thousands of people speculating on what she's going to do next and what will happen to their favorite characters, she's had to really hug the major plot points close to her chest. She's *good* at that, and I admire her for it because it shows how much she cares about her story. She's also savvy enough to know that fueling speculation from time to time just peaks our interest. But she's not, repeat not, going to give away anything major or anything that we couldn't have perhaps already guessed.

So it's amusing to see the brouhaha that often results from some of her simple statements. People can spin them all kinds of ways. One often quoted exchange from the recent interview is this:

Jo: The final chapter is hidden away, although it has now changed very sightly. One character got a reprieve, but I have to say two die that I didn't intend to die ...

Judy: Two much loved ones?

Jo: Well, you know. A price has to be paid. We are dealing with pure evil. They don't target the extras do they? They go for the main characters, or I do.

and then there was this:

Richard: I was dodging around the death bit, because I know you can't answer that queestion, But you know how Conan-Doyle got sick up to there of Sherlock Holmes ...

Jo: Yeah

Richard: so pushed him off the cliff at the Reichenbech falls, I'm not asking if you have done that obviously, but have you ever been tempted to bump him off because it is such a huge thing in your life.

Jo: I've never been tempted to kill him off before the end of book 7. I have always planned seven books and that is where I want to go, where I want to finish on seven books. But I can completely understand the mentality of an author who thinks well I am going to kill them off because that means there can be no non-author written sequels as they call them, so it will end with me and after I am dead and gone, they would not be able to bring back the character and write a load of ...

Richard: That never struck me before. I thought it would free you up.

Jo: Agatha Christe did that with Poirot, didn't she, she wanted to finish him off herself.

The furor over these quotes seems to come from (A) people being worried because she said two characters will die in book 7 and (B) people thinking perhaps there was a slight slip of the tongue or that she said more than she intended in the "I've never been tempted to kill him off before the end of book 7" line.

Let's look at those in reverse order for a moment, because I think the first one is more interesting.

The "I've never been tempted" quote comes in the context of that long rambling exchange when the interviewer is pushing her on whether or not she's ever been tempted to do Harry in simply because she's tired of writing the character or stories. Rowling charitably goes where the interviewer wants to go here, but it seems pretty clear that she simply means to say that she never would have killed Harry off on a whim. She planned seven stories, and seven stories she will write, no more, no less. She's been clear about that in other interviews. If he dies, and that's still a big if, it will not be until the end and the final confrontation, no sooner. I think it's clear she has some sympathy for other authors who have decided to kill off main characters to stave off unauthorized sequels, but can we really believe that a woman who has so carefully crafted, plotted, themed and envisioned a sub-ceation of these proportions would suddenly decide to kill the hero if she hadn't planned to all along, just to safeguard her literary creation for posterity?! Especially considering she's given tacit approval to thousands of fan-fiction stories about him already. Come on! Let's be honest. Whatever Harry's destiny is, Jo Rowling decided it long, long ago and (here's the important part) it has shaped every bit of the narrative that precedes it. The Harry Potter sories are grand stories, and teleologically shaped.

Now, having said that, I'm going to go out on a limb and say the most interesting part of the interview was that she said two characters that she had not intended to kill (and not just any two characters, but two "main" characters) have died thus far in the writing of the book 7. The fact that at least two characters are going to die is not gasp-worthy in and of itself, considering the wizarding world is now in an all-out war against Voldemort and his minions. But it is interesting to note that two characters have died that Rowling herself did not expect to kill off, and "one got a reprieve." Hmm. Even more interesting.

I think this says volumes about Rowling's artistry and creativity. She has set herself firm limits as to the ultimate scope and shape of her story, but within those limits, she is writing freely and still exploring where the narrative wants to go. She is still choosing among the smaller "what ifs" even with the grand finale in view. That's exciting. Like "fireworks in your pocket" (as a professor of mine once described the dance of freedom/limits when writing traditional poetic forms). What this tells us is that the story's very much still in process, a living, breathing story whose rich depths and implications are still being played out in the fertile imagination of its author. Wow! Book 7 is going to be stunning.

Of course newspapers and magazines have picked up on the various quotes and have begun running odds on who's going to die. I opened this week's copy of *Entertainment Weekly* to find the headline "Will Harry Potter Die?" imposed over a picture of movie-Harry leaping from the unseen clutches of the Hungarian Horntail. The story speculated on which characters might or might not die, and gave some rather brief and lame reasons for its conclusions. In case you're curious, they gave Voldemort even odds and the odds on Harry are 9-2. (More evidence of her artistry --that we're still this unsure this late in the game!) Hagrid's 3-2, Ginny's 6-1, Snape is 2-1 (though I was surprised they thought he would die a martyr on the right side; I wasn't sure that idea had caught on in mainstream media); Ron 20-1, and Hermione 50-1. Frankly, I think they missed a whole plethora of just as likely possibilities, all of whom could be considered "main" characters in some sense. Let's not forget the rest of the Weasleys (Percy, anyone?), Peter Pettigrew, Draco Malfoy and Remus Lupin, just for starters.

And let's not forget that Harry DID survive that Hungarian Horntail. He's "the boy who lived," you know. It was the title of the very first chapter in the very first book. Wouldn't it be a wonderful title for the last chapter too?

More thoughts on Harry soon!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Anthropology, Not Theology

I'm still reading blogs and articles on the recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church, and the continuing "sorting out" that the Anglican communion is doing in light of recent actions and inactions of the American church. I'm doing this in part because I want to, and in part because I need to... I'm teaching the course on Episcopal Ethos again this fall and need to be very clear in my thoughts on the present crisis. Not always easy in the midst of a very busy season of life, and lately it seems like all seasons are busy!

Anyway, be all that as it may, I just read one of the shortest and most helpful summations of the problem of the theological crisis in the church. This is from the blog of Fleming Rutledge, Episcopal priest and well-known author. She writes:

"Never has it been more obvious that the ruling theology of ECUSA is not theology at all, but anthropology. We are going to build the reign of God. We are going to develop relationships. We are waging reconciliation. We are admiring the creation (which apparently is not fallen or in need of redemption). There is no room here for God to do anything."

Note: she emphasizes the word "we" in italics at the beginning of each sentence, to drive the point home. For some reason I can't get html tags to work in this post, or I would have copied it exactly.

Of course by that last comment she doesn't mean, I don't think, that God cannot work where ever he so chooses to work (even in places where it may seem impossible to us!). What I hear her say is that the leadership of the church is not really leaving much of a place for God to do anything, nor do they see much of a need for God to do anything, either because they think everything's all right or because they're handling things just fine on their own, thanks. Perhaps not surprising that contemporary cisis of theology in the anglican tradition was born from the ashes of deism.

Reminds me of that wonderful poem by Sir Thomas Browne:

"If thou coulds't empty all thy self of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, "This is not dead,"
And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou are all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes He says, "This is enow
Unto itself -- 'twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for me."


Importantly, Rutledge also adds "The traditionalists/orthodox/evangelicals -- or whatever we are -- are in grave danger of falling into the same modes of labeling, sneering, dismissing, demonizing and so forth as the theological liberals, if indeed we have not already done so in a manner fatal to our committments."

On that last, I have to say several things: I'm grateful for the admonition which I think we need to heed; I'm prayerful that it will not be so (please Lord, don't let it be so); and I'm wondering what she's seen or heard that makes her sound so grave toward the end of the statement. Much of what I have read from orthodox anglican evangelicals in recent weeks has been humble, sound and charitable -- though I've been trying to stay with blogs and articles of people I know and trust at least by reputation.

I just pray that we will not be "replete with very thou." Stuffed with self is the the way I often think of it, and in this time of painful and necessary change in the communion, I pray that we won't be. May we leave room for God to do what He needs to do -- indeed that we will realize that only God can do what needs to be done, through us, around us, even in spite of us -- to bring about his glorious kingdom purposes in the church and in the world.

Monday, July 03, 2006

"Idols Can't Answer Our Prayers!"

My dear four year old daughter (I do love saying that!) declared this truth to me last night during family prayers.

We've been working on learning about the ten commandments for the past couple of weeks. It just so happens, in a beautiful bit of unplanned (by us) synchronicity, our family Bible reading during our evening candle-lighting has been focused on the prophets. For several nights in a row we were reading stories about the prophet Elijah and how he told -- and showed! -- bad king Ahab and the prophets of Baal that there is only one true God. Their idols, the little gods they prayed to, couldn't hear them or answer their prayers.

The Boop has really soaked this in, and keeps connecting it to the first two commandments. I think we drew that connection for her originally, but she keeps coming back to it. "The people broke the first two commandments," she keeps saying.

But it was last night that I could tell she was really "getting it." Because when she suddenly crowed out "idols can't answer our prayers!" she actually said it with a chortle and added something giggly along the lines of "they can't hear us!" And I had to laugh along with her. I must add that the laughter felt very biblical. Elijah himself, along with the prophet Isaiah, sees the absurdity of attributing "real" attributes to unreal "gods" made by human hands. They don't have hands or eyes or ears. So when we try to get them to meet our needs, they simply can't. Maybe they went out for a stroll or are taking a nap, Elijah suggests sarcastically, and it's a bit of dark humour, but it's humour nonetheless. No wonder my daughter got the giggles!

Of course it's humour within the context of God's tremendous compassion for his people -- the people of Elijah's day as well as our own -- who persist in making idols, who keep thinking that they (we) can receive guidance, love, hope, fulfilmment, help, from things or people that shouldn't have God's place in our lives. The reason Elijah and Amos and Jeremiah and Isaiah and others kept bellowing, whispering, and singing God's reality into the ears of bad kings and confused false prophets and clueless sinners was because God longed for them to know Him -- know Him as the real and living God who alone made them and who made them for himself, not for some unreal substitute.

Somehow I Knew This Already...

It's late and I'm tired, but I just took one of those lovely, silly quizzes...and for a change, it came out just the way I would have guessed it would!

You Should Spend Your Summer in the Mountains

You're quiet, introspective, and a great thinker.
You need a summer vacation that gets you away from the crowds and the heat.
So retreat to the mountains, where you can clear your head.

Ah....wishful thinking!
So where should you spend your summer?