Worth the risk? The Courage of Neville Longbottom

‘You can’t go out,’ said Neville, ‘you’ll be caught again. Gryffindor will be in even more trouble.’
‘You don’t understand,’ said Harry, ‘this is important.’
But Neville was clearly steeling himself to do something desperate.
‘I won’t let you do it,’ he said, hurrying to stand in front of the portrait hole. ‘I’ll – I’ll fight you!’
Neville,’ Ron exploded, ‘get away from that hole and don’t be an idiot –’
‘Don’t you call me an idiot!’ said Neville. ‘I don’t think you should be breaking any more rules! And you were the one who told me to stand up to people!’
‘Yes, but not to us,’ said Ron in exasperation. ‘Neville, you don’t know what you’re doing.’
He took a step forward and Neville dropped Trevor the toad, who leapt out of sight.
‘Go on then, try and hit me!’ said Neville, raising his fists. ‘I’m ready!’

‘Neville,’ Hermione said. ‘I’m really, really sorry about this.’
She raised her wand. ‘Petrificus Totalus!‘ – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 16

It’s been a long time friends. But I’ve returned to continue my quest through the Harry Potter Series. I think I started this about six months ago and I’m still not done blogging about The Philosopher’s Stone. But it ends tonight.  1 down, 6 to go.

This post is rather timely. My friend and I recently agreed to challenge each other to risk one thing every day.  I wouldn’t call myself much of a risk taker.  I love adventures, but I can easily be talked out it if I consider the risk for too long.  In essence I am too conscientious and I think too much. And also, I’m a hobbit.

So for the past week I’ve been trying different areas of risk, some academic, some relational, some related to my physical health. With the idea that the more you get used to the anxious, “fight or flight” reaction associated with taking a risk, the more comfortable you will be. I still get nervous, but now I’m so committed that its kind of fun.

So I chose this scene from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for a couple of reasons.  It would be easy to look at Neville’s seemingly small active of bravery as being pointless and wasted. After all, he only gets to put up his dukes and tell his friends “you can’t go out there”, when Hermione easily applies the full body bind curse leaving him frozen on the floor.  Nice job Neville.

But it goes deeper than that.  It wasn’t a small act of bravery at all. Neville, the boy whose parents are locked up in a mental hospital after being nearly tortured to death, who has few friends, save the trio, who is quiet, awkward, and seriously lacking in confidence, had the courage to stand up to his much more confident, strong and popular friends. For an eleven year old boy that’s a big risk.  Heck, even for an adult its a big risk.  Having the courage to stand up to your closest friends when you think they are doing something they shouldn’t is one of the biggest interpersonal risks I can think of.  Dumbledore agrees.

‘There are all kinds of courage,’ said Dumbledore, smiling. ‘It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends. I therefore award ten points to Mr. Neville Longbottom.” – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 17

Sigh, if we only lived in a magical world where you could always count on random and completely arbitrary point changes from Professor Dumbledore to save the day. But even without that, there was  second reason why Neville’s act was important.  His attempt to stop his friends may not have gone very well , but this one act was the start of the maturation process for an 11 year old boy.  Six years later, Neville will step up at a time when no one else could, to help take down the biggest enemies they have ever known. When his brave, bold, risk taking (and sometimes wreckless friend Harry Potter was erm, significantly wounded, Neville saved the day.

And perhaps the same is true for us. I’ve taken a few risks that seemed to fall completely flat.  Showing up by myself at events by myself in hopes of meeting people, only to have a miserable time, making major financial and time investments to apply to grad school, only to end up one step short of my goal (the next year went much better :), telling the boy who completely held my heart exactly what he meant to me, and not getting anything in return.  They could all feel like complete failures. But they don’t. As someone who has always been a touch timid, I have no doubt that each and every risk, while not always immediately productive, has helped to shape me into a more adventurous woman.

So here’s to taking a leap, diving in with both feet, or maybe just tiptoeing out your hobbit hole. Whatever it takes, here’s to being risk takers. If Neville can do it, we can too.

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Goodbye Mr. Keating: On Robin Williams and the public’s response to suicide

“My time in the arena made me realize how I need to stop punishing her for something she couldn’t help, specifically the crushing depression she fell into after my father’s death. Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them. – Katniss Everdeen, Catching Fire (written by Suzanne Collins)

I’ve always found this quote intriguing. Apparently I’m not the only one.  According to Kindle, it is the most frequently highlighted passage of all time (see 7 things the most highlighted kindle passages tell us about American readers.) When Robin Williams died of an apparent suicide, this quote immediately came to mind.

In the days since we first learned the news, the public response has been quite revealing. Most often, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of compassion and the outreach to others who may be considering suicide, the provision of crisis hotline numbers.  And of course there are the tributes to Mr. Williams. The many wonderful memories he left us.

And then there’s the “suicide is selfish” camp.  I’ve heard some harsh comments that made my blood boil, the cold comments about him “obviously not thinking about his family” and “taking the easy way out”. I know there are many who do not understand depression, so I try to have patience, but I have low tolerance for comments made my people who just don’t understand. Katie Hurley’s article offers a nice rebuttal (There’s nothing selfish about suicide) and I’d like to offer my own as well.

As a clinical psychologist in training, I’m daily asking my clients whether they are considering harming themselves. When I first began training I wondered how open they would be with me, a stranger for whom they were only beginning to build rapport. But they are. When given a safe place, and an objective and hopefully non-judgmental ear to listen, hurting people will often (though not always) open up about past or present feelings about taking their own life, or similar themes like wanting to run away, to escape, to be free. It seems to help, talking about it. And maybe not having someone react with shock or disgust.

Because the truth is, more people than you realize have at least thought about suicide at some point. For people dealing with severe depression or other mental illness, these thoughts can become more frequent. And the deeper they draw in, suicide can become a much more salient choice, while at the same time, the other options for coping seem to disappear. Sadly, for some, they may reach a point where they can see no other way. I hear people talk about those who attempt suicide “not thinking about their families” and I wonder what they would do if they were battling severe depression.  If they had spent months, years living under the metaphorical “dark cloud” of depression, shutting out the sun to the point that you forget that it ever existed. If they had gone so far in that they began to dissociate from themselves, to the point that they didn’t really even know who they were anymore.  It’s agony. It’s unbearable. It’s utterly frightening  And don’t get me wrong, I am not and will not advocate for suicide as a solution, in fact I am trained to work with people to help them find alternatives, but having my own experience with depression in the past I hope I can empathize with those who see no way out. It has nothing to do with “not thinking about your family”. When things get that dark, when those feelings seem permanent and not situational, it can be difficult to recognize your value to your own family at all. Depression deeply affects your identity, you ability to accurately see where you fit in society, even within your own household.

The Catching Fire quote above may be better understood when put this in context. In the first book, The Hunger Games, the strong, tough and proud Katniss has no compassion for her mother.  She’s angry and resentful that after her father died in the mine explosion, her mother slipped into a deep depression, stopped working and stopped providing food, to the point that Katniss and her little sister Prim almost starved. Katniss couldn’t understand then how a mother could ever react that way. But now that she, having survived a brutal Hunger Games, where 24 children from the outlying districts are forced to enter an arena and fight to the death where only one person comes out (orrrrr: SPOILER ALERT:  maybe two), Katniss seems to have a better grasp on incomprehensible pain. And even though her own response to grief wasn’t the same as her mother’s, she is now able to understand that sometimes when people experience events or a situations that feel so overwhelming, they are no longer able to effectively deal with it.

My point in writing is this. I know many of you may have differing opinions on suicide. Whether it’s wrong. Whether it has religious implications, or even whether it is selfish.  I’m not here to tell you what to believe. But I ask you to consider this. First, have you walked in the shoes of the severely depressed? What about those with other severe mental illness?  If so, I really hope you can appreciate the suffering. If you haven’t experienced it, please try to imagine every ounce of joy being sucked out of life, to the point that you can’t remember that joy ever existed.  Then imagine feeling that same feeling day after day after day, for weeks, months, years. Imagine feeling that you are beyond repair, that you are too broken to be of use, imagine feeling without hope.  Imagine that these feelings are not momentary, rather imagine that they are your life.  Once you’ve done that, I would ask you again if you can feel compassion for those who suffer, and maybe even imagine why they might consider ending their life. While I do not believe anyone is too broken to be healed or worthless or truly without hope, I do believe that these FEELINGS and perceptions are very real. And being able to understand why a person might be feeling the way they do can go a long way in helping them.

Second, once we have some compassion, I ask that you open your heart to the people in your circle who may be suffering in private. Are you comfortable reaching out to them?  Are you comfortable being fully present with them, not trying to fix their problems, but just listening. There are indeed very effective treatments for depression. But whether you are a trained professional or not, it always starts with having someone who will listen.  Don’t tell them to “snap out of it”, don’t offer trite suggestions that imply “if you’d just do this, you’ll feel better”.  This will just be perceived as dismissive and entirely unhelpful. Just listen. And if it feels appropriate, tell them why you love them, why you value them. Don’t assume that they know.  Depression steals away all feelings of self-worth. Remind them of why you are glad they are in your life. And while you’re at it, try doing this with everyone you love. Give them specific examples, details of what you appreciate about them. When your world is a big gray cloud, these specific examples can be a little more effective than just saying “I love you.”

Finally, may I request that we stop passing judgement on people so easily. I never met Mr. Williams, but what I’ve learned about him was that he was a brilliant man, with a brilliant mind, who loved his family, adored his children, all the while battling severe depression and addictions for years, decades even.  I don’t know what thoughts haunted him. But I know he suffered for a very long time and he did make attempts at treatment. For whatever reason, he reached a point that he could see no other way. My heart breaks for him and for those who loved him dearly. I so wish this could have ended differently. But for a man who went out of his way to bring joy to others through his movies, through his charity work, through his visits to our troops oversees, I only hope that his unfortunate end can bring about positive change for others.

I can only imagine that Mr. Keating would have liked that.

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The Orphan, the Bookworm and the Ginger: On Why We Need Each Other

First, can we just pause and savor the cuteness? “Not me, not Hermione, YOU!” I’ve probably watched this scene 100 times. But I digress.

Wizard’s chess is undoubtedly my favorite scene from “Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone”, possibly because I consider it Ron’s breakout moment (and he is my favorite Weasley).  But what I love about its book chapter, titled “Through the Trapdoor” is that it highlights the importance of friends and why we need each other to get through, well, just about anything.

Through the chapter, as the trio proceeds through several dangerous challenges, we witness how Hermione’s bookwormish, know-it-all nature safely gets Harry through the potions challenge (which could have left him drinking a deadly poison), Ron, who rarely gets praised for his intelligence, brilliantly and bravely navigates them through the Wizard’s chess board, ultimately sacrificing himself, and Harry faces down the evil Lord Voldemort for the first time.

I highly doubt if three Hermiones, three Rons or even three Harrys could have gotten through the whole challenge together.  The trio are all different from one another and often these differences serve as mere annoyances. But in their differences also lie their strength.

Harry, no doubt, has had the heaviest burden laid upon him, but he never has to go through it alone, though that’s not to say he doesn’t try. At times Harry intentionally  holds information back from Ron and Hermione or goes off on his own in an attempt to prevent his friends from being hurt, only to get himself into trouble. Other times one member of the trio will be so annoyed with another (usually Ron and Hermione) that they distance themselves from each other. And here they are their weakest.

One of the things I appreciate most about the way J.K. Rowling wrote the students at Hogwarts is that even the more minor characters each have their role to play. In addition to the trio you have Ginny (strong, quick witted and outspoken) who will speak up whenever necessary, regardless of the consequences, you have Luna whose whimsical, quirky personality always breaks up the mood when things are getting a bit too serious, Fred and George Weasley’s jokester presence is critical, especially as the books progressively darker and of course Seamus is always good anytime you need an explosion or two.  Not to forget precious Neville Longbottom whose story arch is so powerful that I’ve decided to dedicate my next post entirely to him.

In my own circle of friends I have outspoken leaders, behind the scenes planners, book smart and street smart, brash and kind, peacemakers and instigators. I have extraverts and introverts, analyticals and intuitives.  None are better or worse then the other. But they all bring something different to the table. And no one, including myself, is made up of all of these qualities.

The bottom line is we need each other.  Our differences may be annoying at times, they may provoke quarrels and may disrupt the peace, but they keep things interesting, alive and fun. And when the going gets tough, as it often does, I’d much rather have my quirky cast of friends around me then go it alone, or even make the journey with a bunch of people just like me. No, that doesn’t sound like a very good story at all.

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A mother’s love – The sacrifice of Lily Potter

 

Lily’s patronus – a silver doe

Lily: “Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!”
Voldemort: “Stand aside you silly girl … stand aside now.”
Lily: “Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead.”

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 9

Happy Mother’s Day! What better way to begin the Harry Potter discussion than to discuss the importance of a mother’s love. Once we get to the Deathly Hallows, we will return to this topic as it applies to many mother’s throughout the series, but for today, we begin with Lily Potter.

The Harry Potter series has a host of heartbreaking themes, but Harry’s journey through his teenager years without ever having known his parents, might be the most heartbreaking of all. At around age one, Harry’s parents, Lily and James Potter were both murdered by the evil Lord Voldemort. Thanks to a prophecy, Voldemort sought out the Potters in an attempt to kill their little son, Harry.  James tried to hold him off, to allow Lily and Harry to escape, but Voldemort quickly disposed of him. He offered to spare Lily if she would give him her son, but she refused.  And then she was dead. But, when Voldemort went to cast the killing curse towards the tiny, baby Harry, the curse backfired and hit Voldemort himself, leaving Harry with only a lightening shape scar on his forehead.

harry potter scar

Lily’s loving sacrifice, willingly giving her own life for her son, saved him from a curse with no known protection.

“Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love.  He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you, leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign, but to be loved so deeply, even though the person who loves us is gone, will give us some protection, forever. It is in your very skin.”

– Professor Dumbledore to Harry, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” Chapter 17

tumblr_lv4xk2Mo9N1r19909o1_500

James, Lily and Harry

 

This Mother’s Day as I think about Lily, I am even more so thinking of my own mom. Without going into to many specifics, I can say that I was not born at a time that was not at all convenient.  There were even some who thought she shouldn’t keep me. But that was never a question for her.  I’ve gone through this life, having endured many hardships of my own, with a similar protection cast around me. It becomes most visible in times of great stress. Those moments when I’m closest to breaking. That is when I most notice the power of my mother’s love. In those moments when all I can do is weep hysterically, she is the first person I think to call. I have no fear of judgement, I don’t worry that she’ll tell me to buck up and get over it. No, I know she will be there, listening, and yielding that comforting voice that tells me you will get through this. Just breathe.

During my Junior year of college I faced one such crisis.  I was midway through my nursing curriculum, and hating every minute of it. But this, had been my entire life’s dream. To become a pediatric oncology nurse.  So much of my identity was wrapped up in this. I was going to become a nurse. It was all I would ever talk about.  But once I really got into the clinical aspect of nursing, I could find nothing that I enjoyed. Each night before clinicals I was restless. I couldn’t sleep no matter how hard I tried. I had heart palpitations that scared me. If this was how I reacted towards my chosen profession, how was I going to get through the rest of my life?  Was this all there was? Panic and fear about my career. The thing I would be doing every day for the rest of my life.

Near the end of the semester, when the tension had built up to a point I could no longer tolerate, I called my mom crying.

“Mom, I need to tell you something.”

“Yes, honey, what is it?”

“Mom, I think I want to drop out of nursing school.”  I proceeded to tell her all about my concerns. I was so sure she would be disappointed.

“Are you sure that is what you really want?” she asked.

“Yes mom, I am.” I said, feeling as though the entire weight of the world had lifted, knowing I was being truly honest.

“Then that is what you should do, honey. And I will support you.”

It was one of those life changing conversations. A mother’s love, changing a crisis into a healing. The permission to be free, to choose my own path, to change course. And I’ve never forgotten.

I don’t think my decision made a whole lot of sense to her at that time. In fact, there have probably been many times when I’ve made life decisions that made no sense to my parents. But they’ve been there, providing guidance, feedback, support and love.

This Mother’s Day I say thank you. My mom is too modest and humble to acknowledge what she has done in my life. She may not really even know. But like Lily, my mom has saved me, time and time again. She and my dad have made so many sacrifices to get me to where I am. They haven’t gone unnoticed. I carry the mark of their love upon me every day. Every single day.

So Happy Mother’s Day, to all of the women out there who have sacrificed for their babies. Whether it be money, sleep, peace of mind (have you ever met a mom that didn’t worry?), and those who have in some way sacrificed their life. You deserve way more than a day to call your own, but may today be one of celebration for you. For your service, dedication and love, we are all the better.

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From muggle to Hufflepuff

And now for something a little different.  Over the past two years I have rediscovered my love of great fiction. I am humbled with gratitude for the tremendous amount of color and beauty these books have brought back to my life.

Throughout the next, well, who knows how long it will be, I’m going to start working my way through specific book series. While I’d love to do an in-depth chapter by chapter book analysis, I just don’t have time to commit to that right now. Instead I’ll be reflecting on my favorite characters, scenes and themes and at times, how they related to psychology and more. I’ll still be posting on other non-book topics, but I’m excited to finally get started with this.

I’ve only been thinking about it everyday, for the past two months.

First up, a little story about an 11 year old boy named Harry James Potter.

As of October of last year, I was one of the rare few who had never read the Harry Potter books.  It’s OK. Go ahead and judge me. I judge me too.

Anyways, that has been remedied. I finished the Deathly Hallows in February and am happy to say I am now a proud member of the Harry Potter fandom. I was so surprised by just how incredibly rich these books are, how packed they were with wonderfully important life themes, not just for teenagers and children but for adults of all ages.  Jo Rowling has gone to great lengths to bring a multitude of characters to life, to the point that I am fully convinced that Arthur and Molly Weasley are very real people, who are still raising their huge, red headed family, hanging out in the Burrow, somewhere in Devon, England (can I go there please?).

After I finished the books I dove in head first and immersed myself in every in-depth discussion about the books and the movies that I could find. I got caught up on Pottercast, Mugglecast and I recently discovered Alohomora!  But still, I needed more.

So I decided to do another re-read, this time with the Stephen Fry audiobook (AWESOME) and write up my favorite themes and aspects of the books as I go through them.  I’ve got about 10 themes to go through for the Philosopher’s Stone and hope to get those up sometime this weekend.

In the meantime, a summary of important HP details (also known as my faves):

My Hogwarts House: Hufflepuff (though I tried to manipulate the sorting into Slytherin, even though I’m nothing like Slytherin). Apparently, one cannot manipulate the sorting hat.

Favorite character: Draco Malfoy (see above)

Favorite teacher: Remus Lupin (anticipate lots of discussion on Lupin), runner-up Minerva McGonagall

Favorite Weasley – Ron

Most redeemed – Severus Snape (Always)

Best quidditch commentary ever – Lee Jordan

Favorite creature: Dobby, the free house elf (still crying)

Favorite book: A tie between Half-Blood Prince and Prisoner of Azkaban.

If I could borrow (steal) one Hogwarts item it would be: The Marauders map (Mischief managed)

Favorite incantation – Expecto Patronum (I really want my own patronus!)

Alright, that’s it for now. Looking forward to getting this thing started.  So excited!

“Dobby is FREEEEEE!”

 

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An ode to our veterans

Yesterday I started my new clinical rotation at the VA.  As I am considering a career at the VA post grad school, I am excited to see what happens.  One thing is for certain. After one session with a veteran, hearing about the details of their experiences in combat, I am certain I will never look at my day-to-day stressors the same way again.

I truly can’t fathom how our service men and women manage to do what they do, day after day, month after month and year after year, in the midst of the most hazardous conditions. All I can say is thank you – for taking the risk, for being committed and for being willing to do what many would not be able to do.  I certainly couldn’t.

But should you need someone objective to talk to, to sort things out, to help you heal, to assist you in making a transition back to civilian life, I sure hope that I or one of my mental health colleagues can be there to meet your needs.

It’s really the least that we can do, considering all that you’ve done for us.

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On music, film, literature and faith (why Aslan brought me closer to God)


Dearest,” said Aslan very gently, “you and your brother will never come back to Narnia.”
Oh, Aslan!!” said Edmund and Lucy both together in despairing voices.
You are too old, children,” said Aslan, “and you must begin to come close to your own world now.”
It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
Are are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” – C.S. Lewis

Sigh. This was supposed to be my Easter post. Two weeks later, we can file this in the better late then never category. Blame it on grad school.

As my faith has continued to grow, my eyes have been opened to the many different ways that people come to develop a relationship with God.

I’m thinking back to an Easter service about 5 years ago. My church back home does this huge beautiful Easter celebration and as is tradition they typically do a reenactment of the Crucifixion scene. For many it is very powerful and moving. As for me, I remember being struck by how unaffected I was by that portrayal, how all I wanted to do was look away. It bothered me that such a powerful and critical scene merely fell flat. For a moment I felt ashamed. Was this a reflection of my faith? Was I having doubts? Maybe.

That night my family watched the “Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, the film depiction of C.S. Lewis’ book. If you know the book, you’ll know that it represents many elements of the Easter story.  I can still remember how overcome with emotion I felt when Aslan was sacrificed on the stone table to save the life of Edmund Pevensie, the young boy who had betrayed Aslan, his own family and all of Narnia.

When Aslan saved the traitor.

I knew exactly what it  represented, and for some reason every ounce of that symbolism DID connect with my spirit and helped me feel closer to God. There was no resistance. And I bawled my eyes out.  Why did a movie impact me, but my experience in church did not?

I, like so many others, started off life with a sad impression of religion.  I attended a church steeped in legalism, more focused on enforcing rules than sharing the love of Christ with hurting, broken people (aka, all of us). Thankfully, my parents taught me a much different view of Jesus at home and have continued to do so throughout my life. Otherwise, who knows what would have happened.

Still, I continue to find myself highly resistant to most Christian symbols.  You won’t find me decked out in crosses, I avoid religionese and I tend to be skeptical when first meeting someone who is outwardly “very religious”.  I should clarify that I am not referring to people with strong faith, rather people who throw religiosity harshly in your face. Nor am I against churches. I attend a rather wonderful one myself. But I’m not a fan of those who emphasize religion rather than a relationship with Jesus.

Still, I was sad that very meaningful symbols, such as Jesus’ death on the cross, did not resonate with me as I felt it should.  Or did it?

What I’ve realized is that the other approaches are far more effective in my Christian journey. Books and stories, along with music are all languages that have greatly improved my relationship with God and has helped me understand the struggles of creation better.

A few years ago I was going through a particularly dark year. I was experiencing a great deal of internal struggle and loss. Seemingly every two months a loved would die. I spent much of that period with my head down, blue, just trying to get through the day.

That year it was music that led to a strengthening of my faith. In particular the music of the band called Lifehouse.

“The broken lights on the freeway left me here alone
I may have lost my way now, haven’t forgotten my way home

I’m falling apart, I’m barely breathing
with a broken heart that’s still beating
In the pain, is there healing?
In your name I find meaning
So I’m holdin’ on, 
I’m barely holdin’ on to you.

I’m hangin’ on another day
Just to see what you will throw my way
And I’m hanging on to the words you say
You said that I will be OK” – Lifehouse “Broken” 

(a life changing performance of this song can be found here

I can still feel the combination of grief and peace I experienced driving in my car and hearing this song for the first time as tears poured down my cheeks. I can’t explain why it was so powerful, only it was exactly what I needed, at that very specific moment in time. I’ve always been a music lover, but that year the power of music helped me understand just how caring and loving God was. It helped me understand how well He knows little ole me, and how much more I had to learn about Him.

What I’ve come to understand is that God reveals Himself to us through every aspect of creation, in ways that He knows will work for our own minds. After all, He created us and He created our minds, so who could possibly know us better?

As someone for whom faith is very important, but who is still somewhat resistant to religion, I am so incredibly grateful that I have a Heavenly Father that knows just where to reach me. He doesn’t demand that I find Him in one particular place, rather He continues to pursue me with indescribable love and what I can only describe as supernatural patience. I’ll admit, I can be a resistant free-bird at times, and I’m sure I make the pursuit a bit more challenging. Thankfully, He is the very best at dealing with us challenging, resistant, difficult, frustrated folks called human beings. And just knowing that He is willing to pursue me in whatever ways I need, makes me all the more excited to get to know Him better, to love Him more.

So in closing, I want to thank every author, songwriter, filmmaker, artist or teacher that has ever created a work that has served to grow my faith and the faith of others. I know I am not alone in this. But most of all, I want to thank God for inspiring these folks, even if they don’t know the impact they have had and for using these works of art to draw my closer. I truly couldn’t be more grateful.

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