Thursday, August 28, 2008

Numbers and Letters

The sweet girl was drawing on the white board this afternoon. I paused as I was walking by and contemplated this:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

The numbers seemed straightforward enough, but I wasn't sure about the letters, so I asked.

"They're the beginning letter sound of each number," she explained simply.

Given the words won/one and ate/eight, I thought this was pretty impressive!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Making Croutons

In the midst of a busy first week of school (our homeschool journey continues into first grade, and students got access on Monday to the seminary class I'm teaching in Anglican history this semester). Lots of good things happening, and I'm trying to be very disciplined to keep on top of things despite tiredness and my worsening (recurring) hearing problem.

In the midst of busyness, sometimes it's the really simple things that bring us pleasure. Pleasure for me today came in making croutons.

Yes, croutons! I'm not, alas, very creative in the kitchen or very domestic in general. I love baking, and I'm an adequate cook, but I'm not the type of person who dreams of ways of making things from scratch (I sometimes wish I was).

But our grocery budget is so tight right now it's almost non-existent, and I've been trying very hard to not throw away anything if I can help it. I suddenly realized that I had two small chunks of butter left from the sticks of butter I usually use for baking, and 4 slightly stale pieces of rye bread that no one wanted to eat (and were either heading for the sidewalk to feed birds, or to the trash if I was in a hurry the next time I cleaned the fridge). It occurred to me that I should probably make croutons, especially given the fact that I love them and we haven't been buying them lately (every time I put them on the list, I cross them out as a non-necessity because we need to stretch the budget for other things).

I whipped out my handy Super Baby Food Cookbook (a great book, and useful for much more than making baby food) and found a quick and easy recipe for making croutons. I modified it slightly to accommodate what I had on hand and my aging oven which always needs to be set a good 25 degrees lower than recipes called for. Then I melted the butter, sprinkled in some Italian spice mix I keep on hand, and cut up the stale bread pieces into small squares. Tossed them all in a plastic baggie and then baked them for about 20 minutes at 275.

Result: really delicious smells wafting through my house and a deep sense of pleasure that we have croutons that I actually made myself and that used up food that otherwise might have been wasted.

Strange, but sometimes simple pleasures mean a lot!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Madeleine L'Engle's Austin Books Reissued

The wonderful Austin family stories by Madeleine L'Engle are being reissued in what look like lovely (and affordable) paperback editions by Square Fish, an imprint of Macmillan. You can see the cover of the first one at the publisher's website here. They're calling the books the "Austin Family Chronicles" and assigning each a volume number. Volume 1, Meet the Austins, has an availability date of September 2 on Amazon; Moon by Night (volume 2) and The Young Unicorns (volume 3) can both be pre-ordered. I'm assuming they will bring out A Ring of Endless Light as volume 4. Perhaps they'll even extend it on to a volume 5 with Troubling a Star.

These lovely books are some of the best stories L'Engle penned for young people and would make great gifts for any voracious 12 and up readers you may know. The first book actually can work for even younger readers (and I suspect would be a terrific read-aloud for even younger listeners). There are also three shorter Austin family stories that have appeared as very long picture books. Two are set at Christmas time. A Full House just came out in that format several years ago. The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas is one of our favorite family Christmas books. The Anti-Muffins is another great one, a very long short story published in a picture book format. I wonder if that one's still in print? I used to get together with a group of women friends in my college dorm, now oh so many years ago, and we briefly called ourselves the Anti-Muffins, inspired by this story!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pride and Prejudice: The Musical

I've been on a major Pride and Prejudice kick in the past few weeks. I re-watched the 2005 film version (which I'm still planning to review) and as always, that made me snicker in all the wrong places and made me long for the real thing. So I took the book down from the shelf, intending to just read a couple of favorite scenes, and instead got sucked into the delight of page one and read the whole lovely book again. I love beloved books that feel like old friends who never cease to amaze you with their wit and insight.

Loving the book made me go back to the great film adaptation from 1995. I've been having to do a lot of cutting and pasting this week on projects for VBS, so watching the movie felt like a real treat.

In the midst of all that, I paid a quick visit to Austen Blog, where I read a post that referenced Pride and Prejudice...the musical. Surely, I thought, someone is joking. But apparently not. If you click here, you will discover the web page for P&P on Broadway. Still in the works; looks interesting and a bit giggle-worthy. I rolled my eyes over the fact that it was called a "compelling investment opportunity." Huh...Jane Austen, for all her preoccupation with economics, would likely smile enigmatically over that one.

I even downloaded a snippet of one of the songs (called "Lizzy's Song"). With my ancient computer, I only got to hear about two lines. can't be much more over the top than than Bride and Prejudice, right?

At any rate, P&P the musical kept playing in my mind. As I was falling asleep that night, I kept coming up with potential titles for musical numbers. I must have worked on it in my dreams because when I woke up the next morning, there they all were, ready for me to jot down in my journal. I've only come up with potential numbers for the first half of the show so far. Here they are...enjoy!


Opening number: "Netherfield is Let at Last" (ensemble piece with all Bennets, some townspeople acting as the chorus. Their refrain could be "Five thousand a year!")

"I've Grown Acquainted With Your Nerves" (acerbic Mr. Bennet sings of his relationship with his wife, a la Henry Higgins. My title pays homage to Higgins' final ballad, but I'm thinking the tone of this one would be more akin to "I Shall Never Let a Woman in My Life!" A fine sentiment for Mr. B, who has a half-dozen women in HIS life...)

"He's an Amiable Man" (Jane sings of her first impressions of Mr. Bingley)

"What Do the Country Folk Do?" (Darcy and the Bingley sisters snidely speculate about the local folk in Hertfordshire following the opening ball)

"Let Her Ride in the Rain" (Mrs. Bennett shows off her matrimonial scheming for her girls)

"Never to Dance with Mr. Darcy" (brief interlude sung by Elizabeth, in a spirited style)

"Extensive Reading" (Darcy's first big solo number...I wanted to call this "Fine Eyes" but alas, the real production seems to actually have a song by that name!)

"The Most Honourable Lady Catherine de Bourgh" (Mr. Collins gets his big number, a la Gilbert and Sullivan, in honor of his noble patroness)

(Don't Like to Complain, But...) "That Man Has Done Me Wrong" (George Wickham sings the blues)

"Red Coats, Red Coats!" (a fun little ditty sung by Lydia and Kitty)

"Almost as Soon as I Entered This House/My Feelings Forbid It" (a duet by Lizzy and Collins)

"All I Ask is a Comfortable Home" (a quiet, wistful ballad by Charlotte Lucas)

"He's Quit the Neighborhood" (the neighborhood chorus shares their surprising news about Bingley)

"Decided Opinions" (Lady Catherine's warbling solo...I'm sure if she had studied music, she would have been a proficient!)

And the big finale...."It Will Not Do" (a Darcy/Lizzy duet, where they sing their way through the first proposal scene)

Who knows...I may yet get inspired to come up with possible titles for the second half. Or even try my hand at lyrics!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

100 Species Challenge (#1): The Sycamore Tree

I decided that I had to start my list of 100 species with this:

1) Sycamore Tree (platanus occidentalis)

For all the years we've lived in an apartment in an urban setting, my green-hunger has been mostly fed by the ten beautiful sycamores across the road. We can see them from our front windows, beyond the asphalt parking lot that runs between us and the parallel road. When the sweet girl and I sometimes borrow the nearest public bench for read-aloud time, it's under the shade of one of those sycamores. We've come to think of them as our special trees.

I'm not sure I even knew what they were when we first moved here eleven years ago. I grew up amongst maple, oak and pine in Virginia. If there were sycamore trees in the neighborhood, I don't recall them, and I think I probably would given their sheer size, the beauty (and largeness) of their leaves, and the fascinating way they "shed" their bark in the summertime. I love the mottled look of the trees as the bark peels away, their beautiful shades of brown, tan, cream and palest gray-green forming lovely designs and the dry, heavy "scrolls" of bark that fall to the ground. It was only through reading done for this challenge that I learned that what the tree is doing when it loses its bark really is akin to shedding, or perhaps more accurately, molting (like a caterpillar that's outgrown its skin). It has something to do with the fibers of the sycamore bark not being able to "stretch" to accommodate the growth of the tree inside.

I've also learned that sycamores belong to one of the oldest tree families on the planet (platanaceae) and that individual trees can grow to be hundreds of years old.

The sycamores in our neighborhood are probably a hybrid breed, called the London planetree, which was developed from the American sycamore. I don't know that for certain, but from what I read in an article in's forestry section, those are far more common now, especially in urban areas, as they're able to resist certain forms of illness that sycamores are prone to.

I also learned that the biblical sycamore was probably the sycamore fig (ficus sycomorus). Good to know, as I was never quite sure how on earth a "wee little man" like Zacchaeus could have ever managed to clamber up one of the sycamores in our neighborhood. With their huge trunks, they're not exactly easy-to-climb trees!

Friday, August 15, 2008

The 100 Species Challenge

In recent years, I've spent far too much time feeling green-starved and yard-and-garden-hungry here in the post-industrial town that time forgot. Being called to urban ministry is a challenge as well as a blessing, and one of the challenges for me has definitely been green-hunger, especially since we're yardless.

One thing I've done to nourish my sanity and surrender to some more contentment is to begin to notice the created beauty that's around us, even in a small decaying city in the rust belt. I've been better at finding "pockets" of beauty, noticing things (with my eyes, my camera, sometimes my pen) growing between the cracks, sometimes quite literally. The sweet girl and I have taken a lot of nature walks, and I've tried to learn a bit about the plants and trees in our neighborhood.

So when I saw The 100 Species Challenge, I was intrigued, delighted (and yes, a little intimidated). My thanks to Melissa Wiley for posting this on her blog, where I originally saw it.

And what a great idea this is, to identify species within walking distance of where you live! Although I suspect my list will grow slowly, I'd like to give this a try -- if for no other reason than I'd love to continue to notice (and begin to name) more of the plants and trees around me. Like I said, it helps to measurably build my gratitude and contentment. Not to mention it helps me to be a better observer, and teach the sweet girl to be one too.

So here goes. The 100 species challenge! If you think you might like to participate too, see the link above. In accordance with the guidelines set out by the originator of the challenge, I'm also posting the rules here:

The 100-Species Challenge

1. Participants should include a copy of these rules and a link to this entry in their initial blog post about the challenge. I will make a sidebar list of anyone who notifies me that they are participating in the Challenge.

2. Participants should keep a list of all plant species they can name, either by common or scientific name, that are living within walking distance of the participant's home. The list should be numbered, and should appear in every blog entry about the challenge, or in a sidebar.

3. Participants are encouraged to give detailed information about the plants they can name in the first post in which that plant appears. My format will be as follows: the numbered list, with plants making their first appearance on the list in bold; each plant making its first appearance will then have a photograph taken by me, where possible, a list of information I already knew about the plant, and a list of information I learned subsequent to starting this challenge, and a list of information I'd like to know. (See below for an example.) This format is not obligatory, however, and participants can adapt this portion of the challenge to their needs and desires.

4. Participants are encouraged to make it possible for visitors to their blog to find easily all 100-Species-Challenge blog posts. This can be done either by tagging these posts, by ending every post on the challenge with a link to your previous post on the challenge, or by some method which surpasses my technological ability and creativity.

5. Participants may post pictures of plants they are unable to identify, or are unable to identify with precision. They should not include these plants in the numbered list until they are able to identify it with relative precision. Each participant shall determine the level of precision that is acceptable to her; however, being able to distinguish between plants that have different common names should be a bare minimum.

6. Different varieties of the same species shall not count as different entries (e.g., Celebrity Tomato and Roma Tomato should not be separate entries); however, different species which share a common name be separate if the participant is able to distinguish between them (e.g., camillia japonica and camillia sassanqua if the participant can distinguish the two--"camillia" if not).

7. Participants may take as long as they like to complete the challenge.
You can make it as quick or as detailed a project as you like. I'm planning to blog a minimum of two plants per week, complete with pictures and descriptions as below, which could take me up to a year. But you can do it in whatever level of detail you like.

And that's it! Stay tuned...I'll let you know how it's going. All my posts related to this will be tagged appropriately.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Faith-Art Talk

With our Sunday evening youth "group" (I use the term lightly because lately we've primarily been meeting with only one young woman) we've launched a season of discussion about faith and arts. I thought of this not only because it's a topic near and dear to my heart, one I've spent a lot of time thinking about in the past twenty years, but because so many of the youth in our particular church seem gifted in and committed to the arts. We have singers, visual artists, dramatists, and writers, good ones. And yet I sense they don't always know the best way to connect their daily lives of faith with what they're doing as artists, or see how the two interconnect.

We're going to be looking at various excerpts and chapters from some books on how faith informs, inspires, and encourages art (and vice versa). This week we're reading a letter to young artists by Calvin Seerveld, a reformed thinker who works at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto. He penned this letter in November 2001 for inclusion in Michael Card's excellent book on faith and art: Scribbling in the Sand.

Seerveld has a creative and not always easy way of writing, but there is much to be gleaned from his work. I thought I would jot a few of the insights that struck me most deeply as I read a few times through his letter. I'm paraphrasing and consolidating a number of his points.

1) The biblical injunction to "love our neighbors as ourselves" is for everyone. But when you hear that word as a Christian and an artist, it becomes "a guideline for blessing" particularly because "it extricates you from the moil of serving yourself..." Seerveld goes on to say that it also frees you from feeling like you have to jump into the midst of whatever art is elite, popular or current.

2) When we make our art, whatever kind of art that is, we should craft it first and foremost before God. He's our primary audience. "...craft it as psalm before the face and ear of the Lord and let your neighbor listen in."

I like that he uses the word "neighbor" here instead of the more common term audience. It's true that someone who is part of an audience is a listener (hence the connection to "aud" or "audio") but it's freeing and humbling to remember than anyone we hope to communicate with, touch, bless, or challenge through our art is a fellow member of the human race, a neighbor whom we are enjoined to love as we love ourselves.

3) Art is for celebration AND for lament. "...make merry before the Lord God, God's people, and even one's antagonists..." (THERE'S an interesting idea!) but "Also be as free as the biblical psalmists to cry out to God from the pits of despair" and on behalf of others and their despair.

He even suggests that churches, which move heavily in the realms of praise, might consider moving more into the realms of lament. We need to learn how to "weep with those who are weeping" and that means really trying to understand the depth of human need and sadness especially as we craft "elegies, memorials and sad songs that are authentic..."

Seeveld seems to classify almost every work of art made authentically from the depths of a believing heart as a "psalm" in a general sense. But he doesn't think these psalms are made or should be made only for the believing community. He encourages young artists to "make these psalms for settings outside the worshiping church door..."

4) Consider that not every person has been equally gifted with the ability to imagine or to articulate the joys and blessings that they see, hear and touch. For some people, the imagination is "underdeveloped." As a "professional imaginator" you can help your neighbor in need of such imaginative help. You've been called "to make such treasures known to those who walk past such creaturely blessings by fashioning a necklace of words...or the jewel of a melody..."

Later he suggests that people in our culture often experience "artistic alienation or displacement..." and that we need to "give the neighbors what they imaginatively need, not just what they want..." I find that perceptive, especially when we consider that sin (and just plain caught up-ness in the frantic pace of information and culture, be it good or bad) often corrupts our "wants" or makes us think we want things we really don't, or makes it hard for us to discern between needs and wants.

5) A Christian artist must not ignore the reality of sin. That would be hypocritical. But our treatment of evil within our art must not ever be "self-righteous" or filled with an "angry coldness." Our awareness of our own struggles with sin and of the "waste that sin brings into God's good world" should invest our works with an authentic sadness, not coldness.

6) If art is what we choose to do, then we should seek training to become skilled. Faithfulness (even when art is only shared with a small number) is more important than seeking after stardom. "The key thing is to be a reliable artist in the imaginative task you the fruit of our imaginative hands can be wholesome food for those who receive it." He encourages young artists to find talented mentors they can trust, and to "become a craftsmith worthy of hire."

7) Artists do have a redemptive task. It not necessarily to convert people or to do apologetics (though I would argue that artistic gifts and approaches can be brought to bear on the gifts of evangelism and apologetics). "A Christian artist simply needs to give away your imaginative insights to whoever crosses your path, and the Holy Spirit will take it from there."

8) You will know you have been a faithful trustee of your imaginative gift when you see disbelievers experiencing something deeper, perhaps even something unexpected, in your work. That might be a sense of "wrestling with God," a sense that your "trusting in God...(is) winsome" or that the celebration of passionate faithfulness that permeates your song (or characters, etc.) "sounds unusual" given the way our world usually looks at or celebrates love.

We can help people persevere, we can "dispense a simple joy and peace that surpasses understanding" through our art.

9) Artists need to offer hope. We ought "to be earthy with our redemptive cheer..." to bring hope to the dispirited.

10) The Holy Spirit is the artist's "true source (of) wisdom." We need the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit to discern our calling, and our place in society. That may mean (and often has to mean, given our culture) that we need to work with integrity at other work as well as our art, in order to put bread on the table. If I'm reading Seerveld rightly here, he prefers that artists do that than to giving in to art-making that is formulaic or overly commercial.

11) Good art is "a worthy living sacrifice of obedience in response to Christ's command" to follow him.

12) Guard against loneliness and isolation. Artists (like all human beings and all Christians) need community. When you're tempted to feel you're "the only displaced artist left faithful to the Lord" (a la the prophet Elijah) remember your heritage, both the living, local expression of your heritage (your church community) and the huge line of saints who have gone before, including many who exercised artistic gifts. Seerveld reminds us artistic saints have existed since Adam first sang his poem for Eve before the fall!

13) Find a specific example "of Christian artistry in history" and seep yourself in it. Love it, learn from it, and find ways to add to it or extend it through your own "new" work. Then freely give it away.

I call that connection with the art that comes before us a long, ongoing conversation or dance. And it's great joy to join it!

Does any of this ring particularly true or potent for you? How do you wrestle (or have you wrestled) with any of these insights in your artistic life?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Feeling Sheepish

I've not had time to blog for a while, for all sorts of reasons. August has turned out to be incredibly busy, especially as I slide the slippery slope toward school. The sweet girl and I begin first grade (year 2 of our homeschooling journey) on the 25th, and that's also the week the seminary class I'm teaching (Anglican Essentials) goes online.

In the meantime, I'm trying to coordinate the craft projects for our church's upcoming VBS, which will run next week. We're doing the Good Shepherd (Psalm 23) as the week's theme. Who knew how many lame lamb crafts were online? :-)

Seriously, I'm having fun but feeling a tad bit overwhelmed as I try to find "sheep" crafts that will work for various ages from pre-k on up to rising 6th graders. I've learned to felt wool this week (and the sweet girl had a lot of fun helping me with that) and I'm finding various types of coloring pages, puppets, paper plate crafts, etc. For the third day we'll be focusing on the shepherd becoming a sheep, so we'll focus on the birth of Jesus. It's been very interesting looking for manger crafts in August. I'm sure I'm throwing off all sorts of search engine statistics!

If anyone knows of any good sheep-y crafts, let me know...

Monday, August 04, 2008

When Story Brings History Alive

I've been thinking a good bit about how story often invites us into history, often by bringing "alive" a certain time and place in ways that textbooks just can't. And I came across a funny incidence of that just this morning.

I'm trying to read a certain amount of "church history" (in any form) every day, preparatory to teaching my class again in the fall. I'm not limiting myself to just re-reading the texts we'll use in class; I'm letting myself range wherever my interests take me. One of the books I'm reading is Paul Cavill's book on Anglo-Saxon Christianity. He provides commentary about the Anglo-Saxon period and then supports it with excerpts from primary texts from that period.

I was reading along this morning rather drowsily, mostly just trying to stay faithful to the discipline of reading a set amount per day. I was working my way through an excerpt from Tacitus, who was describing the Germanic tribes (the Angles and Saxons) who were coming into Briton. And then I got to these words: "On the field of battle it is a disgrace to a chief to be surpassed in courage by his followers, and to the followers not to equal the courage of their chief. And to leave a battle alive after the chief has fallen means lifelong infamy and shame. The chief fights for victory, the followers for their chief."

Suddenly I found myself awake and chuckling. I didn't have to stretch too far in my imagination to form a picture to accompany these words. I had the whole scene from Prince Caspian right at my fingertips. Remember when Lucy revives Reepicheep, and he stands before Aslan, dignified but mortified by the loss of his tail?

"Why have your followers all drawn their swords, may I ask?" said Aslan.

"May it please your High Majesty," said the second Mouse, whose name was Peepiceek, "we are all waiting to cut off our own tails if our Chief must go without his. We will not bear the shame of wearing an honour which is denied to the High Mouse."

"Ah!" roared Aslan, "you have conquered me. You have great hearts. Not for the sake of your dignity, Reepicheep, but for the love that is between you and your people, and still more for the kindness your people showed me long ago when you ate away the cords that bound me on the stone table (and it was then, though you have long forgotten it, that you began to be Talking Mice), you shall have your tail again."

Reepicheep...honorable Anglo-Saxon warrior? Who knew?!

Friday, August 01, 2008

What's Up With Orphans?

I'm writing as many reviews at Epinions as possible this summer to earn some much-needed income. Among other things, that means I'm reviewing almost every longer book the sweet girl and I have read aloud together this summer.

So I just posted my review of The Boxcar Children and found myself chuckling as I described the incredible resourcefulness of the kids. I mentioned that realism wasn't high on the author's agenda, since the book is not only a series book for the younger set, but an orphan story, following in the tried and true footsteps of that literary genre. Which got me thinking...what IS it about orphan stories? Why do people love to write them? Why do we all love to read them?

I've thought about this before, of course, but it hadn't dawned on me quite as forcefully as it did today just how many orphan stories dot the landscape of children's literature. Harry Potter, I think, has become the undisputed king of orphan literature, but J.K. Rowling certainly draws heavily on her predecessors.

Besides Harry Potter, and of course the Boxcar Children, I can think of a number of other famous literary orphans. The Little Match Girl. The Lost Boys. Maria Merryweather in The Little White Horse. The Fossil girls in Ballet Shoes. Pippi Longstocking. Oliver Twist (if you count that as literature for children....) . Anne of the Green Gables. Gilly Hopkins. Sara Crewe in The Little Princess. Cousin Maggy Hamilton who comes to live with the Austin family (though Madeleine confessed that she had a hard time getting Meet the Austins published because of Maggie's orphaned state, showing that the idea must have gone out of vogue at some point in the 1950s). Ender Wiggin isn't precisely an orphan, but he's taken from his parents at the very beginning of Ender's Game to live in a kind of army barracks with other special children who are being trained to fight a war. And Bean, Ender's Shadow, is an orphan.

And a lot of literary characters in stories for children and young adults have lost one parent. The March girls haven't lost a parent exactly, but their father is away on the frontlines of a war for over half of Little Women. In the recent marvelous family stories The Penderwicks, the Penderwick girls have lost their mother (though the second book deals with their eventually getting a new mother). Jem and Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. Nancy Drew. Jim Frayne in the Trixie Belden series is an orphan (I put him here because he does at least have a stepfather, albeit a nasty and abusive one...Jim is adopted by a very wealthy family by the end of the second book. He still has to deal with orphan "issues," however, and the stepfather turns up like the proverbial bad penny a few more times in the series.) Luke Skywalker is orphaned to all intents and purposes (and okay, I'm stretching a bit to call him a literary character, but Star Wars is a big part of our cultural story consciousness). The Herdmans, in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, have a mother, but she's a stressed single parent whose kids are so out of control that she's become a workaholic in self-defense and not just because the family needs the money.

And don't get me started on literary characters who have neglectful, hurtful or emotionally absent parents. (Dudley Dursley and Eustace Scrubb, anyone?)

I'm sure I'm missing more...

And I'm sure someone has explored this phenomenon in depth somewhere in a master's thesis. Still, it's interesting, isn't it?

I wonder how much of it has to do with the general loneliness of the human condition. Even those of us who come from families where we feel loved and secure have known times when we've been absolutely sure that we must have come from some other family (especially in adolescence, when we feel we're just far too different from anybody else)! Clearly someone left us on our parents' doorstep. And growing up is a lonely business in general. Sometimes we feel all "on our own" as we learn to master certain things or come to grips with our feelings and with the state of our broken world. Whatever adversities we face, it certainly helps us to have heroes, heroines, role models who have faced worse, and shown that life can be "gotten through" -- and not just gotten through, but finally lived abundantly, joyfully and victoriously. So many of the stories just mentioned also show the power of community (outside of one's family) in someone's life: the characters forge relationships that sometimes feel as close or closer than blood kin.

I also wonder deep down how much of the need to write/read such literature stems from a deep spiritual hunger. We long for a deep sense of family, a deep connection with our Heavenly Father. Those of us who know Jesus and have been adopted into the family of God have been blessed to have those hungers fed, but we still know others and can still remember ourselves what it was like to be "outside the fold." As people made in God's image, but who are fallen and in exile, we know deep deep down inside ourselves what it truly means to long for home, to long for family, to hope for adoption.

No wonder we get find ourselves tearing up as we stand behind eleven year old Harry when he sits, mute and hungry with longing, in front of the images of his family in the Mirror of Erised.