I’m Not Yours to Keep

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I wrote this poem for all Mommies. Hope you enjoy and I hope it reaches and touches the right people.

Dreamstime

Dreamstime

I am not yours to keep, Mama.

I’m only yours on loan;

To give your body and your heart,

To give a safe and happy home.

 

 

Hand-picked like flowers from a field,

He placed a halo on your hair,

For you were meant to be my angel,

To be the steward of my care.

 

 

Created with the parts of you,

You love, or try to hide,

He saw the beauty of it all

And mixed it all inside.

 

 

I may have been made out of love;

Or your dignity, he stole;

But the instant I was in your womb,

I had value and a soul.

 

 

Maybe you smiled as I entered the world;

Maybe I never got the chance.

Maybe I was still as you held me

In your tear-stained, trembling hands.

 

 

Maybe I was an easy child,

Or maybe I was not;

Perhaps I was blessed with healthiness,

Or maybe, sick a lot.

 

 

Regardless of my conditions;

If it made you smile or made you weep,

There’s one thing you need to know, Mama;

I was never yours to keep.

 

 

He loved us both with such abundance,

That He chose a place and time,

To introduce us to each other;

To call me yours and call you mine.

 

 

Maybe the purpose of your love

Was to teach me something great;

Your legacy to be left in me,

When you meet Jesus at the gates.

 

 

Or maybe I was but a season,

My life a novel on a shelf;

And with me you learned to love someone

More than you loved yourself.

 

 

No matter what you sacrificed,

No matter what’s at stake;

To let me live, or let me die,

That’s not your choice to make.

 

 

The purpose of it all, Mama,

Lies not with you or me;

Our hearts and lives entwined by grace,

For all eternity.

 

 

I may be called your baby here,

But I belong to Him above;

You’ll hold account for time spent

With He who gave you me to love.

 

 

I hope at the end when at His feet,

Your halo will proclaim,

“Look not just here, but on her heart,

You’ll see the child’s name.”

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Seven Deadlies Anonymous

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I have a horrible habit when it comes to dieting. I am not one of those people who can eat the predetermined villainous foods in moderation. I just can’t. If I have a cheat day, it leads to me making exceptions for one more soda, one more bite of chocolate, one extra slice of pizza until I am so far off course that I don’t even bother to reset my sails:

“How’s the diet going, Steph?”

“Oh, you know. It’s not.”

I have done this and will probably continue to do this for the rest of my life. I am the type of person who can only succeed with dieting if I cut everything bad out without compromising for cravings or holidays. Just being honest.

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I was pondering this the other day and discovered a commonality between my dieting failures and life as a Christian. Though all sin is sin in God’s eyes, we as individuals have different thresholds of strength depending on which variant of the Seven Deadly Sins we experience, whether it be lust, gluttony, greed, slothfulness, wrath, envy, or pride. Most of those words you probably skimmed over, but there was at least one that had you readjusting in your seat, wasn’t there?

Wasn’t there? Come on. We’re friends here.

Though I am certain I—as we all have—have struggled with all of these sins at certain points in life, this post is about what I believe is personally my biggest stumbling block—gluttony. My favorite foods are my favorites for a reason. I love soda. I love pizza. If I could drink and eat those every day for every meal and not gain weight, I would absolutely do it.

What I don’t realize in the moment I’m stuffing my “gob” with multiple slices of cheesy, pepperoni deliciousness (I learned that word from Disney’s Brave, by the way), I’m not only breaking my diet, but I’m actually sinning. I am killing two birds with one stone, here. Not only am I canceling out all the hard work I put into losing weight, but I’m not practicing self-control. I’m like a starving lion encountering an unsuspecting heard of impalas in the savanna. Sometimes, I eat so fast I don’t even taste it…

Seriously, though. I stop counting slices and just eat until I feel sick. Why is this wrong, you may ask? Currently, in our society, we have a battle going on between unattainable bodily perfection and unaccountable eating habits in the name of acceptance. Some people are skinny by nature or as a result of medical issues; some people are heavier by nature or as a result of medical issues…

And then some people, like me, are in complete denial and want to eat whatever they want without a side of guilt. That is what makes it wrong. You know who you are.

The bible says, in 2 Timothy (1:7) “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” To me, this is saying that my gluttonous inner lion is in stark contradiction to who I am in Christ. Put it in perspective this way; when I overindulge myself with those extra slices of pizza because I “just can’t help myself,” I am denying Christ, because He has already given me the ability to say no. This is evident in 1 Corinthians 10:13:

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

The question is not whether the temptation is there or not—the question is, “Are you going to fall for it? Are you going to imply to Jesus by your actions that He is not enough to make you turn away?”

It’s hard. I know. Even as I write this, I know there are going to be days ahead of me where I still yield to the want for an extra soda or a couple extra slices of pizza. But here’s the crazy, amazing, unfathomable thing about the future…

GOD HAS ALREADY FORGIVEN US FOR IT! Jesus has already paid the price for not only the sin of yesterday, but for tomorrow, too. When you fall off a bike, you do not have to re-learn how to ride a bike. You simply dust yourself off and get back on. Right? Following Jesus is essentially the same way; it’s not about how many times you fall, it’s about how many times you let Him help you up.

God is constant; God is consistent. We humans are not, but letting our ships go off course tomorrow is no excuse to let it continue in the wrong direction in the days that follow. The beauty of God is that He offers unwearied, unfailing love and forgiveness to us on both our bad days and good days. The beauty of humans is visible when we are willing to repent of our shortcomings, admit responsibility for the direction our ships are going and ask God to be the wind in our sails who redirects our route.

“It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” – Proverbs 25:2

That is one of my favorite bible verses. It can be painful to let go of sin, especially this day in age, where society lives by a mantra of “If it feels good, do it! If it’s not hurting anyone else, do it!” Often, it feels like we are basically holding our potential for living a God-filled life hostage unless God lays out the blueprints for the moment (or our entire lives) out before us. Proverbs 25:2 shows that it is okay to ask God, “Why?” but we must ask this while on the journey of seeking out His glory, not like a petulant child who won’t budge unless all of our questions are answered first.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t let yesterday’s sin be an excuse for tomorrow’s. Let yesterday’s forgiveness give you hope for tomorrow, and know that when you accepted Christ as your Savior, it was not under the condition that you would be perfect; on the contrary. It was an agreement to remain imperfect, but a promise to find your strength in Him when you can’t find it in yourself.

That, ultimately, is the greatest loss when falling to the temptation of any of the Seven Deadlies. Not so much that our ship has gone astray, but that we did not use the opportunity to bring glory to God.

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I Hope I Ruin You…

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This is a difficult thing for me to admit, simply because it is wrong (a sin) and humiliating, but I learned a long time ago that our flaws and mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of when we repent and give them to Jesus. So this is me, telling the story of how I handed one of my sins over to him. This is me, divulging an imperfection in the hope of helping someone else.

I’m a girl. Well, a woman now. But I was a girl once. Even the most compassionate of our kind has at least one moment in her past that she wishes she could go back and redo—taking part in a snooty action that excluded another girl, or contributing to gossip in a way that was more comparable to Regina George from “Mean Girls” than Jesus. It usually occurs anywhere between elementary school and college. Most of us grow out of it, though in some cases, unfortunately, some of us never do. We pick out other people’s flaws because, maybe we have trouble accepting our own. Maybe there’s someone at home, work, or school bullying us, making us feel inferior, and hurting others is the way we make up for it—a malicious scheme that we convince ourselves makes us feel better.

Upset Teenage Girl With Friends Gossiping In Background

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I’d be a liar if I told you that—even as a Christian, even as nice of a person as I am—I never looked at someone and thought, “She’s ugly!” That’s an ugly truth in itself and it makes me cringe even typing it. But I want to share a story with you about why that changed, and what holds me accountable the instant my opinion of another person’s beauty crosses my mind.

I knew a girl once who I thought was immensely unattractive. Every time I thought, “She’s ugly,” I knew it was wrong, but it would enter my mind and I didn’t reign in that thought. It wasn’t like I told it to her face. It wasn’t as if I treated her differently. It wasn’t doing anyone any harm. It was just a thought in my own head that no one else knew about.

Except one day, I was with a friend. Somehow, we got on the subject of being ugly (probably pointing it out on ourselves), and I got a horrible idea. I told her about a girl I knew who was very ugly, and I wanted her to see. So I showed her a picture.

“Look!” I said. And what my friend responded with changed my life:

“But God can still use her,” she said.

It was like a ton of bricks had been dropped on me. I remember just sitting there, staring at her in awe. It was like my eyes had been closed all that time, before being violently ripped open in front of a bright white light.

“But God can still use her.”

I don’t think I understood the impact these words had on me right away. They lingered in my mind over the following days and I pondered on them often. Weeks, probably months passed, when I saw someone else and thought the same thing…but this time, something unexpected happened. My friend’s voice echoed in my head:

“But God can still use them.”

God was using the wisdom of a friend to change my heart. It’s almost like the Pavlov’s Dog experiment. Without any effort on my part, my brain had suddenly been conditioned to respond with, “But God can still use her/him.”

It made me feel very small and very ashamed. Who am I to call someone ugly when they have been made in God’s image? Who am I to call someone ugly when they have been handcrafted by God for a specific purpose? Who am I to call someone ugly when my heart had an even more hideous quality that God had to have been disappointed in me for? Since when did my opinion—or anyone else’s—about someone’s physical beauty determine their worth; what they are capable of in God’s will?

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve discovered this can apply to many different circumstances. It’s as if that awareness was water and my friend’s insight broke the dam that was holding it back. Now it flows freely inside my head and heart. Every negative thought I have about someone is now followed up by those words:

“But God can still use that person.”

There is a quote that is attributed to Marilyn Monroe (though I don’t think it’s actually hers) that says something along the lines of, “To all the girls who think you’re fat for not being a size 0, you’re not. You’re beautiful; it’s society who’s ugly.” Well, I’m not sure who actually said it, but they had the right idea. We were created to live as innocents in the Garden of Eden. If The Fall had never happened, we women wouldn’t face a daily struggle comparing our physical images with an airbrushed woman on a magazine. The absolute only thing that we would be thinking about on a daily basis is taking walks in the garden with God.

But really, isn’t that the only thing that matters still? Society’s voice is not a voice of truth. It is a distraction.

Nothing more.

God has woven His standard of beauty all throughout the bible. Physical beauty is in the eye of the beholder; it is also something that fades with time. Inner beauty—a beauty that is rooted in Christ—will last forever, lingering in the way your generosity, love and compassion affected the people around you. It will last in the way you brought glory to God with your selflessness and kindness toward others.

I hope I ruined you. I hope I ruined you the way my friend ruined me. I hope from this day forward, any negative thoughts you have about another person—or even yourself—are followed by God’s voice:

“I can still use them. And I can still use you.”

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Are you beautiful in God’s eyes? It’s very easy to tell. His standards of what makes a person beautiful can be found all throughout the bible.

“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” – Proverbs 31:10

“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” – 1 Peter 3:3-4

“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.” – Song of Solomon 4:7

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31:30

“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

“Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” – Psalm 34:5

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10

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Why I Wrote the Sophia’s War Series and Why You Should Read It

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As some of you already know (that is, if you read my article on Harry Potter), I’m a huge J.K. Rowling fan. I consider her one of my greatest inspirations as a writer. I have always been a reader, but the Harry Potter series gave me an experience I’d never really had before. It was my first time reading a book(s) where I didn’t feel like I was a mere observer to someone’s life through a one-way mirror; I felt as if I was there in Harry’s world, being faced with the same challenges and emotions as Harry. I felt like the characters jumped off the pages and into my life in such a way that they were my friends—characters with redemptive qualities and flaws that I treasured. I loved them. I still do.

Another huge inspiration to me is Jane Austen. I love not only the romance of Austen’s novels, but being swept into such a curious time period that was early 18th century England (actually, I love any time period in England). Austen’s heroines are independent and generally selfless and good-natured, while her heroes are handsome (so handsome) and complex. I would gush to myself while reading, eager for when the stubborn heroine would come to her senses and for the hero to come rushing in at the most perfect, exquisitely romantic moment possible. Austen’s twists and turns—the way she makes her heroines as well as her readers think one thing only to discover another—was one of my favorite things about her novels. It’s my favorite thing about any novel, really. When I’m reading, I love being surprised. I love being wrong.

Magic book with bright light coming from its open pages

I didn’t plan on being a writer. From the time I was 4 until I was probably 20, I wanted to be a singer. I’ve sung in too many competitions, events, talent shows and auditions to count. I even made a couple of albums (covers for friends and family) and I’m a songwriter. When I was inspired to write a novel, it never occurred to me that it would evolve into a passion that would consume my life.

It began while I was in college. Since elementary school, World War II has always been an intriguing era to me, though not nearly to the degree it is now. At 19, I got a hankering for a particular kind of romance set during WWII. I can’t even describe to you, really, what it was I was searching for; I just knew I’d know when I found it. I looked in local and chain bookstores. I looked online. I couldn’t find the book I was looking for anywhere, so I thought, “Hey! I know! I’ll write it! If I can’t find it, that means other people can’t find it either! It obviously needs to be written.”

It started out lighthearted enough. I’d never written more than poetry and songs (and a couple of short stories in elementary school). I began researching World War II in depth and contemplating what I wanted my novel to be about—what lessons I wanted to leave with anyone who read it. (Fun Fact: The first storyline I intended on pursuing for Sophia’s War is TOTALLY DIFFERENT from what it was to become…probably going to use that original idea in a future novel, though…) I watched and read every single thing I came across that had to do with World War II. If there was paper nearby, I was jotting down ideas and quotes. If I was walking around outside, I was watching scenes play out in my head. The concept for Sophia’s War slowly began to come to fruition in my mind. Daily, I was getting visions of new scenes that propelled the story forward and experiencing all the emotions I wanted to evoke for my readers. Initially, I drew most, if not all, of my inspiration from Rowling and Austen. I wanted to write a novel that made readers feel as if they were standing right next to Sophia, experiencing it all with her. Romance was a must, though it ended up not being the focus, and I wanted to play tricks on people—make them think one thing before turning their worlds upside down with something totally unexpected…

The more I learned about the war, though, and the more I immersed myself in German history, my writing style and writing philosophies began to mature and expand. Though what I gleaned from Rowling and Austen is still a priority to me, I discovered I have a passion to write about “real” characters. I mean “real” as in genuine, not necessarily “alive” (though they are all very much alive to me!) I couldn’t take the light from Austen’s novels and use it in mine; not during a period as dark as 1940s Germany, when millions of people were being systematically murdered, Nazism was running rampant like a cancer throughout Europe, and war was turning good men and virtuous women into people who must do anything to survive.

I am a Christian. Unabashedly. Though one of the novels I have already written (and a couple I have simmering in my mind) could be classified as Christian fiction, most of my work that’s set in WWII is not. Because of my faith, I often write from the perspective of a Christian character, but the fiction itself I do not feel belongs in the Christian genre. I appreciate Christian fiction and feel that it is fulfilling a demand in the industry, however, I have a few issues with a lot of Christian novels I read. They don’t feel “real” to me—genuine. I love seeing God move, even in a novel, but what drives me insane about a lot of Christian novels is that the main character often makes bad decisions only because they are the victim of someone else’s sins. Or, let’s say they haven’t made bad decisions at all; let’s say they are good all the way around. They make almost all the right decisions (oh, besides that ONE time he looked too long at a woman in a bikini or she skipped that woman’s prayer meeting, but she had gotten caught up in a hilarious scene where a series of unfortunate events caused her to be late, so it wasn’t really her fault after all…) The people who don’t know Jesus are often portrayed as stereotypical, or pitiful and ignorant, though they almost always open up to God and you can count on them accompanying the main character to church at the end. You can always point out the Christians in the book and also the non-Christians—clearly. I’m not saying these are necessarily bad things, as it is geared toward a certain group of people within the industry (and even a certain group within Christianity, in my opinion), but that’s not really what I wanted people to think about my work. I wanted to be something different.

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The truth is, I don’t really know where my work belongs. I’m proud of that, but it’s also a little scary. My characters don’t always make the right decisions. My characters aren’t always principled. Being at war, my characters will find themselves guilty of doing much worse than missing a prayer meeting. Some of my characters get drunk; some of my characters curse. My characters have sex, in and out of wedlock; sometimes by choice, and unfortunately, sometimes not. Some of my characters know God, some of them don’t. Sometimes my Christian characters find themselves far from God because of the choices they’ve made. Even the most moral of my characters will find themselves coming to terms with sins they once thought they were incapable of engaging in BECAUSE THEY ARE IN A WAR. I write them like that because it is what’s real. And I love them for it. All of them.

I love even the most sinister of my characters because I know them inside and out, and without them, the heroes and heroines of my novels would not be the same. (Fun Fact: One day, while musing over this and acknowledging the fact that I have a deep affection for some of my villainous characters, I suddenly realized that’s the way God feels about us. He handcrafted every one of us, chose us for parts in His story. Does that mean I believe God intends for some people to be evil and others to be good? No. It’s like the story of the prodigal son; the righteous son stayed with his Father, tending to the sheep, but there was a great celebration and mercy was shown when the prodigal son returned out of repentance, regardless of his sins).

I write like this because it’s “real”. It’s life. Our life—yours and mine. I don’t write about Christians; I write about people. The reason I said it’s scary not knowing where I belong as a writer is because, as a Christian, I’m afraid my Christian readers might go into my novels with a certain expectation of flowers and butterflies. But we do not live in a Christian world, so it’s unrealistic to me to write about a main character who somehow has an indomitable, constant faith and somehow makes it through life unscathed, or with sins that are mere “surface scratches” instead of wounds that have pierced their very souls. At the other end of the spectrum, I have already experienced the fact that non-Christians will see the Christian influences in my writing and automatically assume that my work is “just another Christian work of fiction,” when it’s not. The Christians in non-Christian works are often portrayed as legalistic, hypocritical and insensitive, so when a Christian character comes along that loves Jesus but is not any of those things, they are disregarded and automatically categorized as “Christian fiction.” Both of these notions, in my opinion, are shortsighted. No, we do not live in a Christian world, but we do not live in a world without compassionate Christians who follow Jesus, either. I have tried to keep my work in that narrow area in between, because I feel that there is a literary void between these two mindsets.

I had an epiphany last year. I was sitting there, dwelling on a scene (in a future series, actually), and I remember stopping for a moment and thinking, “Whoa. That’s disturbing. Someone who isn’t like me—someone who has no interest in even fictionally witnessing a horrendous act of war—isn’t going to understand why I put something like this in here.” I began to pray, because I didn’t want to compromise the truth of the darkness in war, but I didn’t understand how portraying some of these “sins” had any redeeming value. Was it all for entertainment? What was the purpose? Was I going too far?

In the midst of my prayer, it hit me, and this is something I remind myself of often now:

“You have to show them how bad war is so they can see just how great God is.”

We don’t serve a mediocre God. We serve a powerful, awe-inspiring God who has the ability to wipe clean the black on our hearts from things much worse than missed prayer meetings.

I always cringe when I hear a song or read a book where faith in God comes across as corny. God is not schmaltzy and clichéd, and regrettably, it is my opinion that most Christian fiction is. That is not to say that I think all Christian fiction is clichéd. In particular, I find Francine Rivers’ work to be fantastic and a welcome exception to the rule. And I’m not saying that my work is somehow better than anyone else’s just because I have different goals as an author—I respect and admire anyone who pours their tormented, impassioned heart into words. Besides, who am I, but a budding author with a dream and a fiery heart? I suppose all I want is an opportunity to explain my writing philosophy and my purpose in writing so you might see what makes it unique—so it might appeal to you enough to take a chance and dive into Sophia’s world.

Sophia and all the people she meets and builds relationships with have come a long way since I started this journey almost eight years ago. Originally, I wrote it as one giant manuscript before deciding to come back to it and turn it into a series. Though I love the characters and the story, I felt that it was written so poorly (first endeavor to write a novel, remember!) and it was so long that I didn’t think it would ever find its way into readers’ hands. It needed a lot of work, and I’m constantly moving from one project to the next, so I didn’t think I would ever make time to go back to it. It had been five years since I had even looked at Sophia’s War, when one day last year I began to reminisce about the dynamic between Sophia and another character in the series. I suddenly realized the world had to know about them. It didn’t matter how long it took, what other projects I needed to put off or how much work needed to be put into it. It had to be done!

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So that’s where I am now. I have been improving on the series for the past 8 months. Book 3 in the series, Stalemate, will be released in February and I’m currently in the middle of editing and rewriting scenes in Book 5. There’s still more to come and I can’t wait to relive it all again with Sophia.

Today, I invite you to meet Sophia and the others who bring this story to life. Sophia’s War is a series with vivid characters, romance, suspense and surprises that will draw you in and make you cheer for every small victory and fear what comes next with every step Sophia takes. It’s a perilous adventure that will be on your mind long after you’ve finished reading it.

You never know. It might be just what you’re looking for.

Get started today!

Want to meet the characters in Sophia’s War first?: Your Next Favorite Book Characters

Purchase Sophia’s War: The End of Innocence (#1) here!: The End of Innocence

Purchase Sophia’s War: Lies and Allies (#2) here!: Lies and Allies

When You Have Nothing Else to Bring, Bring Glory.

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I don’t know how else to explain it but God.

Sometimes words just enter my head. Sometimes, I experience a feeling or even a particular message that gives me this unshakeable need to demonstrate in a novel or short story. I don’t mean that in an “I hear voices” kind of way. I’m also not confusing these occurrences with my own thoughts, though I do hear it in my own head voice. The other day, I was bathing my daughter and all of a sudden I heard song lyrics from a song that has yet to be written:

“You were made to bring glory to a glorious God; to be all that you are, and not what you’re not.”

I just smiled, because what an incredible message is that to comprehend and share with others? “You were made to be all that you are, not what you’re not.”

We are constantly obsessing over our deficiencies: Too much make-up; not enough make-up. Too much flab; too much bone. Not pretty enough. Not financially fortunate enough. Too much of a perfectionist; too lazy. Not a good enough parent; an overbearing parent. Too much to handle; not enough to fight for.

I could go on. You get the idea—fill in the rest with the damaging thoughts that cross your mind on a daily basis. But I finally comprehended what a beautiful revelation it is to just BE. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but BOTH of those things were woven into you for one purpose—to bring glory to God. We don’t have to be ashamed of what we aren’t, because God IS. He is enough to fill the holes of imperfections in who we are.

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Lightstock photos

We don’t embrace our flaws and sinful natures, accepting that that’s just the way things are; we embrace Jesus, and He embraces us back, blemishes and all. He causes the lame to leap. He causes the mom who feels like a failure to see the joy that comes simply from being loved in her child’s face. He causes the girl who feels ugly to see someone of value and worth in the mirror. He causes the woman who feels like she isn’t enough to realize that someone gave His life just to have her.

He tells us that we are MORE—that our weaknesses and frailties have been bestowed upon us not to dishonor us or bring us to shame, but to honor HIM. To BE for Him, in spite of all of those things.

No matter what you have to bring to the table, just bring it. Bring it to Jesus.

And in return, you WILL bring glory to God.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.” – Isaiah 55:1-13

“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5

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From Lonely Little Girl to Loved Happy Woman

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I have been dreaming of my future husband since I was a little girl. I don’t mean I let white pillow-cases cascade down the back of my head, pretending it was a veil. I didn’t even imagine I was in a wedding gown when I dressed in a flowing Belle costume for Halloween in second grade. I mean, I was literally dreaming of the man who would be mine from the moment I comprehended the concept of marriage.

Couple holding hands

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I often tell my friends that I was meant to be a wife. I have been devoted to my husband since before I even knew who he was. As with most of you, my teen years had been volatile and confusing. I grew up as an only child in a broken family which wreaked havoc on every aspect of my life. My parents love me, and even as a child, I knew they’d do just about anything for me (…except work things out). But because of the circumstances, because of the bad blood between my parents, I often found myself being pulled in opposite directions. Looking back, though most of my relatives meant well, I would hear things about both of my parents that would harm my perceptions of them both. As a child, it would cause me to take sides. Once I matured, I began to get fed up and frustrated, asking both sides of my family to keep my parents’ history to themselves. (Did they? Do they? Not always. Even now with me being a 26-year-old woman, it’s a work in progress).

But up until that point, I didn’t know how to handle it. I felt alone. I felt sad. As most of us do, I had daddy issues as well as “mom-is-going-to-drive-me-crazy” issues. To God’s credit alone, I found myself seeking solace in His arms and in His word, especially during these unstable years as a child, adolescent and teen. I couldn’t tell my mom things about my dad without risking fueling the hate—same with my dad. I had no siblings who could commiserate. I was put in the middle, trying to love two people I was also being told to resent.

I dreamed of easier days. I clung to the hope that someday, it wouldn’t be like that anymore. I dreamed about finding a love I could only seem to find in God—unconditional and without having to keep my guard up all the time.

Jesus has always been enough for me, but that didn’t stop me from hoping I could find a great man someday. Sometimes, I look back on my behavior as a teen and cringe because of how mentally and emotionally stunted I seemed to be. I had been granted a wisdom that had me looking 5-10 years ahead, but in the moment, I was immature. Sometimes, back then, Jesus was the only hope I had.

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I prayed every night, often in tears for God to be preparing me, just as He was preparing my future husband, for the day our paths were to cross. I took the heartbreak of boyfriends who were not meant to be in stride, asking God to let it hurt if it only meant that someday, I’d find someone who would endeavor to see and understand my heart. On the really bad days, I would ponder on the possibility that I wasn’t meant to be with anyone. Maybe I was supposed to be single for the rest of my life. I felt like that whale they discovered who sings in a much higher frequency than the rest of her species. She is forced to swim alone, unnoticed and unheard by her kind, never crossing their migration path because she cannot hear them and they cannot hear her. http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/worlds-loneliest-whale-sings-at-the-wrong-frequency.html

But even as a teen, I accepted it, knowing that being alone might have been something God called me to be. Things were hard then, but I knew I must have been learning something; someday, I’d be able to be treated as an adult by my parents instead of their Stretch-Armstrong child. Someday, I’d have the strength to voice my opinions to my parents and others without being made to feel guilty. Someday, it wouldn’t hurt anymore.

Someday, I’d find my soulmate.

I caught glimpses of him sometimes. Sometimes, I’d feel him in my dreams. One time, the vision of a smile entered my mind, and I knew it was his. Whenever my heart was broken, I’d shed my tears while thinking of my future husband: “These are for you, because you’re going to be worth it.”

College wasn’t much easier for me. I had basically started a new life, though my problems with my parents still hung over me like a dark storm cloud. It was a time of growth for me—spiritually, mentally, emotionally, relationally. My faith was allowed to flourish and one day while walking across the college campus I paused, the knowledge striking me that I was going to meet my future husband there.

“Really, God? Is he really that close?” I thought. “Well, where is he? Point him out to me!”

Days passed. Weeks passed. Months passed. I thought maybe I’d imagined it; that I wanted to find him so badly that I’d let myself believe I was near him. I went ice skating just before Christmas with a huge group from college, all of whom I did not know. It was such an idyllic setting; I felt like the heroine in a romance novel, and I remember looking up at the sky, thinking, “I wish he was here, holding my hand. Oh well. At least we’re looking up at the same sky somewhere.”

There were a few things I’d asked God to give me in my future husband, knowing I could get all of them, some of them or none of them at all, but I asked anyway. I wanted him to love God. I wanted him to come out of nowhere. I thought about my future husband so much that I feared I’d see him coming, then over-analyze it, believing I was only telling myself something I wanted to hear. I wanted to share music with him; at the time, it was my passion, my outlet for all the pain and confusion of growing up. I wanted him to be able to know my heart; to seek to understand who I was, what my passions were and empathize with my sorrows.

I wanted him to be my new start; to be someone who would stand by me and offer either a crying shoulder or a strong defense in battles I felt I’d been fighting all alone.

The first time I saw Adam was in my Old Testament class. For some reason, the moment sticks out in my mind even now, though it would be a long time before I knew who he was to me. He came into class in a sky-blue colored shirt, carrying his books at his side. I watched him walk up the aisle, noting his blue eyes and blond hair, thinking, “He’s kind of cute…” before turning back to the conversation I was in, forgetting the moment before class had even ended.

A few weeks, maybe months later, I was hitting a ball against a wall in a racquetball court (definitely not playing racquetball, as I am sports-handicapped—I liked the way the rooms were small and echoed so I usually went there to sing). A guy (Adam) who had been playing volleyball with his friends had walked over while my back was turned, opening the door. What he said next is up for debate, because I don’t remember exactly, but we have established that it was either regarding my singing or because he wanted to show me how to play racquetball since I was doing it all wrong. When I asked Adam about this and what he remembered, he said, “I don’t remember what I said, but I know I came up with one of those two things. I just wanted a reason to talk to you.”

I was writing songs a lot during that period of my life, but lamented the fact that, though I could sing, I couldn’t play any instruments. My life with Adam started when he volunteered his piano skills to accompany my songs. We got together on a daily basis to play and sing together, which transformed our friendship into something more.

Two weeks after we started dating, I was rummaging through my desk for a pen when I heard God say, “This is it for you, Steph.”

I don’t want you to get the impression that Adam and I got married, grasped hands and skipped off into the sunset. (In fact, when I look back on the week of our wedding, it’s like looking back on a bloody battle scene from 300. I desperately wanted the white dress and to involve family and friends while we made a covenant with God, but sometimes, I wonder why we didn’t just elope…) We have our ups and downs; external and internal factors may put a strain on our relationship at times, and sometimes we make decisions that make life harder on us than it has to be. I naively expected life to be an easy, smooth road upon finding my Prince Charming, but it’s not always been. God gave me reinforced strength in my husband, but He has broken both of us many times over the years, in different ways and for different reasons.

We have had to accept that we are not soulmates; there’s no such thing. We were both created as individuals to bring glory to God; we just happened to get married, too. We have both had to accept that we cannot save each other, but that we can be one another’s confidante and best friend. We have had to accept that in my weak moments, he has to be strong, and vice versa. We have had to ask for forgiveness for hurts rendered on the heart of the person we promised utmost devotion to, as well as have the strength to forgive when asked.

Waiting for a man who is committed to me and believes in me has changed my life. Knowing there’s someone in my corner who will support and defend me has made me less afraid of being myself. I have had a lot of hurt and bitterness to work through from my past, and I’m so grateful and to have a loving, patient husband who has been present in my struggles and held my hand as we overcame them together. I have come to understand that dedicated, constant love is not defined by how perfectly smooth life seems to be going. It’s saying, “I love you” when your heart hurts. It’s hearing “I will never give up on you” in the dark, turbulent days of marriage. No matter how hopeful and optimistic you are on your wedding day, I will tell you right now that those ugly days will happen.

I have no example of a good, Christian marriage in my life—in my parents or anyone else. (EDIT: I have no example of a Christian marriage that has stood the test of time). I’m not saying that out of hard feelings. I get it. Life happens; people are unforgiving, whatever their reasons are, and people make bad life choices that seem unforgivable. None of that changes how I feel about the family that I love.

If I lived by statistics, the future wouldn’t look bright for us. But God has been faithful to me since my prayers for this man I am now bound to began as a child. He kept my heart resilient. He kept me from making mistakes with boys I would most likely regret today. He gave me all the things I asked for in my future husband and then some.

He was writing our story long before we even knew it had started. Years later, Adam was reading a journal I’d begun for my future husband. In one entry, I talked about that night at the skating rink, gazing up at the sky and wishing he was there.

“Wait,” Adam had said. “Is this for real?”

“Yeah,” I answered, blasé.

He stared at me a moment. “I was there. I was there the same night you were at the same rink. You went with your friends, I went with mine.”

No matter what the future holds, no matter what obstacles we are certain to face, I know that God was smiling at us both that night and that He continues to smile at us today. If our marriage ever fails, it will not be because God’s hand wasn’t in it. It will be because we let ourselves get in the way; it will be because we began to care more about our selves than one another. It will be because we have become unforgiving. It will be because God is no longer the love of both of our lives.

If you are single, I would highly recommend starting a journal and writing down every little thing. Who knows? You might someday find out like I did that it wasn’t such a “little” thing after all. Pray for your future husband NOW. Pray for your future marriage. Pray for your future children, even. Pray that God keeps your heart focused on Him. Pray that He will someday give you a companion, a lover, and a best friend all in one, all to serve the purpose of glorifying Him. Don’t be afraid to pray for all the things you want in your future husband, but keep your heart open to the fact that there are things you may want or need that you don’t even realize yet.

I have plenty of friends who have already endured the pain of divorce. I am someone who has experienced the effects of someone else’s divorce, and have watched friends and relatives endure the same. No matter the reason, no matter what’s already been done, we serve a forgiving God; a God of hope and new beginnings. Jesus gives us all a clean slate, whether it’s to transform a broken or even dissolved marriage, or to find a new beginning with someone else. Only you and God understand your circumstances, but I would encourage you not to give up hope either way.

Our God is faithful. Trust Him with this area of your life and you won’t be disappointed.

Why Harry Potter is Allowed in Our Christian Household

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Harry Potter’s famous scar.

I’m not going to lie, I’m really excited to write this article.

I am part of the generation that grew up alongside Harry Potter. I began the series when a teacher in my seventh-grade class read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for us during the reading hour after lunch. My interest was immediately piqued. I watched The Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets a year and a half later, the only two films that were already available for purchase at Wal-Mart at the time. Upon finishing the Chamber of Secrets, I craved more, reading every book that had been published in the series up to that point, eagerly checking every so often to see when the next movie and book would be out.

I remember shedding my first tears over the death of a fictional character as I read The Goblet of Fire. I remember being in college, staying up until midnight just to get the movie of the same title when it was released. My mother gave me Order of the Phoenix as a Christmas gift, and I began reading it immediately, not finishing until the following morning. The Half-Blood Prince was the first book I purchased at a midnight release, and I went to the theater with my husband when the movie came out on our honeymoon. I was visiting my dad for the summer as a teenager when The Deathly Hallows (book) was released, and he, at my incessant requests, waited in line for over an hour just to make sure I got a copy that night. I finished it just as the sun began to rise the next morning. I still remember sitting on the bed smiling to myself and staring at the cover, in awe of the epic conclusion. I went back and read the last three chapters right away because once did not feel like enough. I was there for the midnight film premieres of the Deathly Hallows parts one and two. I rewatched the entire series in the couple days preparing for the birth of my daughter, and took the first book with me to the hospital, both of which were to help distract me and settle my nerves.

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Harry Potter’s glasses.

I was fortunate, because though I grew up in a Christian family, I was still allowed to follow a series that most Christian families and churches prohibit. I can tell you from a sincere heart that I will forever be grateful for this: not only did the Harry Potter series leave lessons that resonate with me even to this day, but it taught me to love reading. Perhaps even more importantly, it made me want to be a writer. I am almost certain that if it weren’t for the masterful storytelling and, not just reading wonderfully developed characters, but experiencing them as if they were my very own friends, I would not have been influenced to strive for the same for my own readers.

There are really only two things I cannot wait to talk to my daughter (and any future children) about: Jesus and Harry Potter.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying here that Harry Potter is the same as Jesus. One is the Son of God, and the other is a fictional character thought up by J.K. Rowling. Though we talk about Jesus and I read my daughter Harry Potter (here and there), she’s not old enough to really comprehend or communicate regarding either yet. It excites me to think about my daughter asking questions someday about Jesus, hopefully welcoming Him into her heart, and watching what He does with her life. It also excites me to think that she may experience the same magic through books that I did with the Harry Potter series.

I always wonder if some of my anti-Potter Christian friends find my affection for Harry hypocritical, as if it is some exception I have made that is in defiance of God—as if the Harry Potter series is somehow equivalent to Game of Thrones (another article for another time). Well, I’d LOVE to tell you why it’s not.

I have witnessed the resistance, fear even, of certain fictional subject matter in churches over the years. I remember watching The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring with my mom when it came out. I’d never heard of it before—had no idea it was an epic literary achievement. I researched it (to find out when the subsequent films in the series were coming out) and discovered it was written by a Christian man. Upon reading this, the idea of resisting the power of the one ring as a representation of sin made sense to me, as did the clear line between good and evil. The elves pray, and in my opinion, Aragorn has always symbolized a real man—what a godly man is supposed to be. (Once again, another article for another time). You can imagine my surprise, my dissent, even, upon hearing a pastor in the church I was attending at the time slam Lord of the Rings. I sat in disbelief, listening as he said he didn’t have time for those “boogers” (the orcs), that it was Satanic, and that instead of watching a film with demon-like creatures for entertainment value, we should be reading our bibles.

Well, I could write an entire essay on why I disagree (and probably will someday), but really, I just sat there in embarrassment. This was coming from a guy who obviously had never watched the movie, read the books, or even researched it for that matter. I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t read our bibles, by the way (of course we should). I’m arguing against the flawed opinions and misunderstanding of fictional characters.

So what does this mean for Harry?

The biggest argument against Harry Potter in Christian circles is its use of “witchcraft”. I put that word in quotation marks because it is my personal opinion that what the bible condemns is completely different from the magic in the Harry Potter series.

The reason being is actually very simple and quite plain once you think about it. The source of Harry’s powers, along with his friends’ and every other magical character in the series, does not come from outside of themselves. It comes from what is already within them. They do not drink virgin’s blood for strength. Demons are not summoned (or even mentioned) and spells are not cast for the sole purpose of revenge. They do not worship Satan or draw their powers from him. They are wizards, just like Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings. I think the confusion comes in since the term “witch” is used in the Harry Potter series. Think about this: if Rowling had used “wizard” as a broader term to envelop all, she might have redefined the whole meaning and genre of what it is to be a wizard (the way some vampire-loving authors who shall remain nameless have redefined what a vampire is). “Wizard” is generally a word used to describe a male with magical powers, so what is the opposite? Or rather, a term that describes a female with magical powers? The only one that comes to mind is “witch”. So instead of Rowling creating a completely foreign label for “females with magical powers” that might have left some of us confused or even rolling our eyes, she used a word that already existed.

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A Firebolt broomstick.

Honestly, (and I think any Potterhead would agree), the magic isn’t even why we love Harry and his friends. The wizarding and witchcraft comes secondary when it comes to what has resonated with us as children and into adulthood. It’s something that touched us on a much more relatable level, and inspired us to acknowledge our flaws while embracing the heroic qualities inside ourselves that we love so much about Harry and his friends:

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Friendship:

(“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecc. 4:12)

Harry, the arrogant, headstrong boy with unshakable courage. Ron, the youngest boy in a large, poor family with fierce loyalty. Hermione, the bushy-haired, rabbit-toothed girl with the brightest mind of her age. Neville, the boy with poor wizarding skills and a devastating family history with a strong moral compass. Luna, the girl that is relentlessly teased with the ability to see the good in everyone. Ginny, the youngest and only girl in her family, with strength and wisdom beyond her years.

Though the series focuses primarily on the friendship between Harry, Ron and Hermione, they are still a part of a larger group of friends. What binds them together is not a web of interdependent relationships, but the fact that they accept one another for who they are, inadequacies and all. As a result, with every book and movie, we see them flourish, little by little, until the end, where we see them do great things when faced with insurmountable odds in spite of their shortcomings. Harry’s friends are the only ones who stand by him unapologetically while he’s telling truths no one wants to hear; they hold him accountable when he tries to take people and situations on alone. We see Ron overcome his deep-seated insecurities and become a hero in his own right. Hermione makes tough decisions at her own cost to protect her parents and to help Harry defeat Lord Voldemort once and for all. We see Neville—a meek, fearful boy—become a protector and a warrior, drawing his wand and a sword in battles he knows he cannot win because he believes in what is good. What Rowling has done here is something incredible. It’s not about Harry; as a reader or viewer, we realize he is the only one who can stop Lord Voldemort, yes, but his friends are not mere sub-characters to support him. We care for them, and we identify with them. What Harry and his friends have taught us is that everyone has a part to play, and it’s important.

A Distinct Line Between Good and Evil:

(“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21; “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Tim. 1:7).

Any literary aficionado will tell you that writing a character or novel where good and bad is in black and white does not make for unforgettable literature. What makes literature a classic is where morals are lost in a murky gray and we find ourselves making exceptions for characters’ bad decisions because of who they are or what they’ve been through. Not with Rowling. With the Harry Potter series, there is good, and there is evil. An oft-repeated point communicated to Harry by the wise Professor Dumbledore is, it is not where you come from or what your abilities are that define who you are, it is your choices that define who you are. (“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”) You are responsible for how you treat others, and if your decisions are for good or for evil. This series is filled with instances of the main character making difficult choices because they are right, even when he’s being ostracized, slandered and mocked. That speaks volumes, and as Christians, is something our children can definitely identify with someday.

I’m not going to elaborate on this, as I do not want to give anything away, but I am going to at least plant a seed of curiosity and thoughtfulness here. Despite being a Christian, I am guilty of something when I read stories such as this: perhaps this is a result of vicariousness, but when the hero encounters someone he knows has no good inside him—someone without mercy—I think, “Kill him. Just get it over with and kill him so no one else will get hurt.” That is a “greater good” mentality. After reading the Harry Potter series, I immediately realized…

Not once do Harry or his friends use a deadly curse on someone who is unquestionably evil. Once, in a moment of weakness where he loses someone he loves, Harry uses what Rowling calls an “Unforgivable curse” on Bellatrix (Voldemort’s right-hand woman). It is a torture curse that is virtually ineffective, though, and Voldemort sadistically explains to Harry that he has “to mean it.” There is a battle segment at the end of the series where perhaps killing curses are implied, but we as the reader or viewer do not see them. Many of our heroes in this series have perfect reasons to hate Voldemort’s followers, or Death-Eaters, because of the damage and loss they precipitated when Voldemort was in power the first time. So yes, some of them wrestle with wanting revenge. But they never follow through with it. When it comes down to it, they use spells to shield themselves or disarm their opponents, protecting themselves or their friends.

The Harry Potter fangirls vs. The Twilight fangirls:

(“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Prov. 31:30; “A gracious woman gets honor…” Prov. 11:16; “…when we acknowledge God’s supreme role in our life and set our mind on Him, He enables us to be women of hope.” –Elizabeth George)

Harry Potter vs. Twilight. Okay, I won’t go there. But let’s look on a much smaller scale, such as the standards of the women in these two series. As good parents, this is a very unnerving time for us regarding our daughters. We live in a time where our little girls are being exposed to sexualization at an alarmingly young age. We live in a time where Bella Swan is more appealing than say, Anne of Green Gables. We live in a time where a relationship and dependency on a boy is sought over self-discovery and an identity in Christ. Well, let me assure you: there are examples to be made out of the women in Harry Potter.

Hermione Granger is very unlike the beautiful and elegant Emma Watson in the movies. Physical beauty is not a description of Hermione in the series. She has bushy, wild hair and buck teeth that Draco Malfoy exaggerates with a spell in order to humiliate her. Funnily enough, while I read the books, never once did I pity Hermione for her lack of physical beauty; quite the opposite. To me, it added to her charm. On more than one occasion, we hear Hermione described as “the brightest witch of her age.” She is smart, she is disciplined, and she is independent. Her knowledge is what gets Harry and Ron out of a lot of tight spots, or helps them further their quest to defeat Lord Voldemort. Do you hear me? What makes her exceptional (and what everyone notices) is not her physical beauty, but her brain. This is literally a series where the reader or viewer is more captivated by a female hero’s brain than her beauty! To me, that is quite an accomplishment.

But let’s take a look at some of the other women of Harry Potter: Ginny Weasley, one of my personal favorites. She is Ron’s little sister, the youngest in a family full of boys. It is evident throughout the series, however, that she knows how to hold her own. She is mentally strong, athletic, and a powerful witch. Most boys are intimidated by her. Luna Lovegood is considered airheaded and whimsical—sometimes crazy—but the beauty of her character is that she sees the good in everyone. There are times where Ron and Hermione don’t understand Harry’s pain, but Luna does. Luna commiserates, and she feels compassion for both the mistreated and the misunderstood. Mrs. Weasley—the mother of seven children—is an awesome representation of a mother. Not only has she built a splendid, beautiful home for her family, but her children respect her and she is a woman to be reckoned with. Though the Weasleys may have had little financially, they are overabundant in love and family, and Mrs. Weasley warmly accepts Harry as if he is one of her own.

Sacrifice:

(Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13)

In the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I got to say about that.”

Love:

(“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9; “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8; “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22:6; “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.” Psa. 103:13; “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10)

In the least corniest way possible, Rowling has made Love itself the most powerful magic in Harry’s world. There is power in love, and it isn’t even clearly understood how powerful love is until perhaps the very last book. One of the things about Harry Potter that makes me emotional (and many of my Potterhead friends) is the aspect of a parent’s love. Harry’s father’s infamous arrogance becomes trivial when we understand he gave his life trying to protect his wife and son from Lord Voldemort. The wizarding world as a whole mourned the loss of such a gentle spirit that was Harry’s mother, when she literally stood between Harry and the most evil wizard of all time in an attempt that took her life. Our boy Harry has been dealt a miserable hand in life, and despite the abuse he suffered by his aunt and uncle, despite feeling alone, hunted and unexceptional for most of his life, the love of his parents for him is undeniable even to himself. It’s what makes him feel worth. One of the most poignant scenes in the entire series happens toward the end, where Harry faces the ghosts of his parents and guardians. He realizes he has never been alone; that they have always been with him. It is their love that gives him what he needs to fulfill his destiny.

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The Harry Potter series is not a tale about “The Boy Who Lived.” It is about the uncompromising loyalty of friendship. It is about the strength and leadership of trusted mentors. It’s about the love of a mother and father who sacrificed their lives to save their child…

It is about always choosing what is right over what is easy.

I’m not going to sit here and bash those of you who have chosen to exclude Harry from your children’s childhood. To each his own. What I hope to accomplish with this article is to shed light on why there may be some misunderstandings as to what Harry Potter is and what it teaches. If you took out the offending word “witch” and perhaps even the magic and left the lessons within the series, there would be no offense to be found for most Christians.

I would like to add here that Rowling does not shy away from death. The series starts off lighthearted but gets more foreboding and serious as it progresses. You know your child’s mental and emotional maturity better than anyone. Perhaps they do not yet have the capacity to handle the concept of death. If you’re even on the fence just a little, however, I would suggest watching it yourself first and making your own assessment.

If you’re afraid your child may be influenced by the use of magic, imagine what your child is going to discover upon finding a particularly nice looking stick outside. (First of all, kudos on making your child play outside, and bravo to him for having an imagination!) Imagine him or her waving it around, shouting spells like, “Expelliarmus! Expecto Patronum! Obliviate! Alohamora!” Do you know what they’re going to discover? That the type of fantastical magic exclusively in Harry’s world is fictional. They can’t actually wave a wand and expect light to shoot out and locks to open or a shimmering dog patronus to prance around them.

Still not good enough? You’re afraid it might influence them to seek out the Satan-worshipping witchcraft of this world? Then let me suggest something that seems to be a little radical this day in age:

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN. The essence of Harry Potter is not the magic. It is the good. It is about doing the right thing even when it’s not easy. It’s about speaking truth even when no one believes you. It is about being loyal to your friends. It’s about forgiving your friends and asking them to forgive you. It’s about being one of the good guys.

What I look forward to is talking to my daughter about everything, especially Jesus. Jesus is noticeable in everything, as is His absence. There are many, many, many qualities exemplified in the Harry Potter series that are encouraged and required of Christ-followers, and I can’t wait to point them out to her.

And you know what magic we all have in us that Harry has? Goodness. Love. Honor. Loyalty. Courage. Sacrifice. Those ARE real. That is the kind of power your child will discover is in our world and in Harry’s.

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The symbol for the Deathly Hallows.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from both the books and the movies:

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

“Me? Books and cleverness. There are more important things: friendship and bravery.”

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

“You think the dead we loved truly ever leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly in times of great trouble?”

“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

“Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”

“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.”

“Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort…”

“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”

“It is my belief…that the truth is generally more preferable to lies.”

“There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!” snarled Voldemort.

“You are quite wrong,” said Dumbledore, speaking as lightly as though they were discussing the matter over drinks. “Indeed, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness.”

“If she could have done one thing to make absolutely sure that every single person in this school will read your interview, it was banning it!”

“You don’t understand—there are things worth dying for!”

“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”

“We Slytherins are brave, yes, but not stupid. For instance, given the choice, we will always choose to save our own necks.”

“It is not how you are alike. It is how you are not.”

“You’re the weak one…and you’ll never know love or friendship. And I feel sorry for you.”

“It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”

“Dumbledore says people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right.”

“You are protected, in short, by your ability to love!”

“Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love.”

“We’re all human, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.”

“You’ll stay with me?”

“Until the very end,” said James.

“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise they wear it well.”

“I’m going to keep going until I succeed—or die. Don’t think I don’t know how this might end. I’ve known it for years.”

“You think I’m a fool?” demanded Harry.

“No, I think you’re like James,” said Lupin, “who would have regarded it as the height of dishonor to mistrust his friends.”

“We’re all going to keep fighting, Harry. You know that?”

“People die everyday. Friends, family…they didn’t die in vain. But YOU will. Cause you’re wrong! [His] heart did beat for us! For all of us! It’s not over!”

What are your favorite quotes? What do you love about Harry Potter?