Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I'm really into the concept of art today.

I have been redecorating my room over the past week and have spent all hours of the day puzzling, conceiving, plotting, and planning what every little detail is going to look like. It has been such a cool exercise of my creative mind muscles.

So it just has me thinking about art. What's the point of it? What does it do? I have come to the conclusion that attempting to discover and unwind God's heart is the highest artisitic endeavor we as humans can engage in (or at least the highest endeavor this human can engage in!). This attempt to discern and unearth God's heart for us--his people-- is creativity in its utmost form. I think it's ultimately what all other imagination, conception, insight, and ingenuity point to.  What is a beautiful painting, book, or piece of music but something that unveils an unseen reality that is waiting to be uncovered?

Reminds me of something Paul said in Acts:

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' (Acts 17:26-27)

I was taking advantage of God not being far from me this morning and this flowed out of my pen and onto a piece of paper. I guess it's sort of what uncovering God's heart looks like for me:

to the Artist Himself:

Plunging into the depths of life's substance, I can't grasp, but in a way understand, that you are beautiful:
though a rational realization, unattainable by mental faculties;
a truth be explored without eyes, but with the groping, yet sure, fingers of an awakened soul.
What a glorious store of blessing and experience you offer the desperate heart.
It is here, caught up in this highest form of slow, unveiling artistry, that you meet me.
and, though formerly impossible, I see; knowing nothing, but having everything, in perfect happiness with you.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why Harry Potter Means Something to Me: An Essay

Ah, the end! I thought I would share my thoughts about Harry Potter on this last day that I will ever dress up like a house elf and ride a broomstick around a parking lot, awaiting a midnight release of a book or movie.

I am writing this both hyperbolically and seriously. Mostly I am, in classic form, drawing serious nostalgia from a movie premiere (and fully aware of it) but also expressing my love and thanks for a story that has shaped a huge part of me. What are we made of, really, except the great stories that we hear and swallow? They define us. They shape us. They ignite desire in us. They call us to something greater than the humdrum existence the world tries to impose on us.

I received my first Harry Potter book on May 26,1997. It was my 11th birthday and, quite frankly, I was extremely disappointed when I opened the package to find a book. Who wants a book for their 11th birthday? I didn't. The woman (a friend of my parents') told me that this book, about a boy-wizard named Harry Potter, was the new craze in England and that she thought I would enjoy it. (suuuuurrrreee thought my 11-year-old self).

Despite my disappointment I set to reading the next day. I remember being quite surprised to find I had made it through the first 250 pages or so in about two hours without even having gotten up to stretch. I remember the room I was in. The color of the carpet. The way the sunlight hit the walls. The way my mind buzzed and filled with organized creativity and curiosity for the first time.

I feel like few people have the pleasure of pinpointing the exact moment that their mind began creating. I'm not talking about the constant stream of aliens, monsters, and manatees (yeah, my imagination was fierce) that haunted my rooms every night, nor am I talking about games me and my brother would make up or even our attempts to imagine ourselves into stories or new worlds (though all those early attempts are beautifully cemented in my memory). On that May afternoon in 1997, my mind starting actively pursuing imagination, inspiration, desire, etc.

As I flipped the pages, I faintly remember the warm shock I felt as I established the colors and textures of all the characters' robes, the moss (that I carefully placed) on the ancient stones of Hogwarts, the layout of the settings in which Harry came into and discovered himself. I was dreamer, architect, and grand designer of the Wizarding World that day. Perhaps it was simply the similarity in our ages that I shared with Harry & Co.(maybe eleven is the year we all realize who we are), but I think that was the day I discovered myself as well. Really, this might be the moment that all my longing for a real-life extraordinary existence began. And it was, for lack of a better word, magical.

From that day on, I was constantly imagining, dreaming, desiring, writing and establishing world after world bursting with places/circumstances I wanted to be (and reading HP to spur me on in my quest, of course). Places in which, quite frankly, I wasn't a socially awkward middle schooler without many friends, a weird high schooler that never quite fit in, an even stanger college student that REALLY didn't fit in, or an early 20-something realizing she didn't have to fit in : ) I couldn't stop creating. Still can't. Hopefully never will.

Tonight at midnight, millions of Potter-clad people around the world will flock to movie theatres to watch good triumph over evil in the final battle. We will act stupidly, we will have fun, we will all be part of something bigger than ourselves. I now know that this points to something buried deep within all of us. Events like this uncover the fact that we all long for this epic, good vs.evil business to be REAL, tangible, solid...why else would we care about a book/movie series that has characters called things like Winky, Lupin, Tonks, Mundungus, and Voldemort? Bahaha. It touches something significant in all of us, just as it touched something in me 13 years ago that I couldn't quite put my finger on and couldn't quite get rid of. What is any good story but a smaller version of the Real story of good truly triumphing over evil and love winning the day forever? Now: let's see Molly Weasley do the damn thing.

Harry Potter for life, baby! Thanks for the serious fun and adventure.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Doubting Thomas

John 20:24-29:

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

This is where God is meeting me today. He says engagement with doubt (rooted in Scripture) is part of the sanctifying process and to bring it on (in so many words)...and that's a good thing, because I have a lot of doubt. Always. So many times recently I have found myself praying "please let this Life be real. God, please be real" It's a strange thing to pray, but I am really plagued with confusion about how this life is supposed to look and whether anything matters at all. I'm not really in the mood to draw conclusions that make it look like I have dealt with this fully and now have it it together (I'm most likely flattering myself there because I doubt anyone has ever thought for even a second that I have it together). However, I am pretty confident when Christ says "blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" in this passage, he was talking directly to me today. And he promises he's not finished (Philippians 1:6). And that he's coming to show me his scars. Very soon.

Really thankful someone else has felt the same way and wrote a song about it:

What will be left when I've drawn my last breath,
Besides the folks I've met and the folks who know me,
Will I discover a soul saving love,
Or just the dirt above and below me,

I'm a doubting thomas,
I took a promise,
But I do not feel safe,
Oh me of little faith,

Sometimes I pray for a slap in the face,
Then I beg to be spared 'cause I'm a coward,
If there's a master of death I'll bet he's holding his breath,
As I show the blind and tell the deaf about his power,
I'm a doubting thomas,
I can't keep my promises,
'Cause i don't know what's safe,
oh me of little faith

Can I be used to help others find truth,
When I'm scared I'll find proof that its a lie,
Can I be lead down a trail dropping bread crumbs,
That prove I'm not ready to die,

Please give me time to decipher the signs,
Please forgive me for time that I've wasted,

I'm a doubting thomas,
I'll take your promise,
Though I know nothin's safe,
Oh me of little faith

-Nickel Creek, Doubting Thomas