Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Transylvania, here I come!

Yep, that's right. Twenty-four hours from now I will be on my way to Romania (yes, home of Dracula's castle, though a visit is not on the agenda) on a 13 day trip with a team of young adults from my church. We'll be running a week of camp for teens from Metanoia, our Romanian sister church, and their friends. It promises to be an incredible, exciting, exhausting, exhilerating, frustrating, rewarding and humbling experience. And probably some other adjectives, too. :)

If you'd like to learn a but more about the trip or about Romania, including ways you can be praying for my trip, head on over to my Romania blog at

Thanks! Updates and photos and stories promised upon my return!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Literature - 1; Cinema - 0

Thanks to Charity who hooked me up with a ticket and enticed me to be irresponsible, last night I went to a midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Rereading this book back in May in anticipation of the movie's release proved to be both a blessing and a curse (no pun intended...okay, well, maybe just a little) to my enjoyment of the movie. [Spoiler alert.]

On the plus side, rereading the book reacquainted me with where the events of book 5 lie in the grand scheme of the HP saga, and so as the movie started I was able to pick up where book 4 left off -- even though it had been years since I'd seen that movie or read the book -- and I knew where the arc of this installment would end.

On the down side, having the narrative of the book so fresh in my mind made me painfully aware of the many things they left out of the movie (in some cases entire subplots or things vital to life at Hogwards, like Quiddich and Hogsmeade and R & H being prefects) and the several things they altered to either account for the omissions or hurry the story along. Though I enjoyed the film very much, appreciated what the new director did with it, and think the young actors keep getting better at their craft, I think when it was all over, my acute feelings of disappointment stemmed from just that -- the whole movie felt very hurried along.

Now, I understand that a 1,000+ page book must be significantly abridged in order to make it into a movie, but to me it seemed like even the elements and subplots they left in were rushed and flattened. When the credits began to roll I looked down at my watch and was surprised to discover it's only a 2 hour movie. I would have preferred if they had taken another 1/2 hour in order to flesh out some of the included elements and scenes, particularly the big show down in the Department of Mysteries. Thanks to Rowling's descriptive storytelling, as I read I was able to watch the whole thing unfold in my imagination with vivid detail, and felt the spectacular scene a worthy culmination of the nightmares and curiosity that had plagued Harry up until that point. With all that they cut out of that sequence, the whole thing seemed a lot less, well, mysterious. For those who don't read the books, it also seriously cuts down on the believability of the whole event -- the movie asks viewers to believe that Harry and his entourage hop off their thestrals and just burst into the Department of Mysteries and the Hall of Prophecy without meeting resistance from any kind of protective measures set in place by the Ministry of Magic. The sorcerer's stone and the chamber of secrets were protected by all kinds of obstacles that required cunning and skill to bypass, but the Hall of Prophecy doesn't even have a lock on the door? Please. Show me a multiplicity of doors in a revolving room and a brain in a tank at least!

Well, I could go on and on (which, I know, pegs me as quite the HP nerd) but for those who will go see the movie (and have read this far despite the spoiler alert) I'll reserve the rest of my disappointments for a later conversation, and end on a positive note by saying that the actress who plays the awful Professor-turned-High-Inquisitor Umbridge does so to a T. Way to be odious, Imelda!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

This is my hometown.

As I drove to work this morning I found myself wishing that I were the kind of person to soak up the inspiration before my eyes and then sit down and write the lyrics to a country song--a ballad to this place I call my hometown. Today is July 3rd, and as I drove down Main St. I started grinning like a fool at the sight of all the blankets, lawn chairs, stakes and strings that have already appeared to reserve prime viewing spots for tomorrow's Independence Day parade.

It's nothing new, but it still makes me smile every year. In fact, I think one of the reasons I'm so delighted by this hometown custom is that despite all manner of change and progress over the years--and the fact that the parade has since become an incredibly LONG and drawn out display of hometown pride mingled with conservative politics--some things HAVE stayed the same as they were when I was still a freckle-faced kid, sitting on the curb, waving my cheap little piece-of-stiff-cloth-stapled-to-a-dowel-rod American flag, hoping the next group to come down the street would toss candy into the crowd, sending us all scrambling for a Tootsie Roll or Dumdum pop as they skittered across the pavement or sunk into the grass around us.

Tomorrow morning those who've reserved seats will take their places, and the crowds will press in, and a slice of wholesome Midwestern life will pass slowly by - the classic cars and the marching bands, the Shriners in their funny little cars and the church with the shopping cart drill team, the cheesy floats and the convertibles with smiling politicians sitting in the back, the cheerleaders and the Boy Scouts, and the brigade of red and yellow emergency vehicles from up to five neighboring towns, blaring their sirens, causing dogs to bark and kids to cover their ears, even as their eyes open wide to take in the flashing lights and the gallant looking firemen and officers waving back at them. And then, when it's all over, there's the street sweeper, the signal that it's time to disperse to back yards and picnic tables to enjoy hamburgers, togetherness, and the freedom in which we live.

This is the 4th of July in my hometown. Though it's been a couple years since I've attended the parade myself, and I imagine that some day I'll move away from here, I think this will always be a part of who I am as an American.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Food for Thought

"Sabbath reveals that redemption comes through Jesus Christ, not through our hard labor. The Holy Spirit is our source of power. We are God's beloved children, utterly dependent on God, receiving everything good from the hand of God. Because we are so easily addicted to taking ourselves too seriously, because we so easily fall into patterns of idolatry that we elevate our own significance, we need the sabbath, stopping productivity, so we can remember that God is God and we are not."
Lynne Baab, in "A Day Off from God Stuff?" in Leadership Journal, Spring 2007