Permission to Study

As someone with a degree in English, I am familiar with analyzing texts and the practices and theories that go with that. As a Christian, I know what it’s like to have something sacred. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with reading practices for my sacred text of the Bible. I have read passages, felt like it spoke to me, looked at the footnotes, navigated to some related passages, and moved forward. I didn’t know how to go any deeper.

And that’s why I’m thankful for my favorite podcast: Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.

You might be asking, “how does a podcast about Harry Potter help you to read the Bible?” It may seem counterintuitive. But these two Harvard Divinity School graduates walk through each chapter of each book (so far, we are on Order of the Phoenix) in a specific theme and use sacred reading practices to analyze the text. In essence, this is what I did in college. And, since I did a few papers on the Harry Potter series, I’m familiar with analyzing the messages and symbols in the books. But for some reason, I never thought to apply those same practices to reading my Bible.

I always had this perception that using study methods on the Bible was wrong, but the more I’ve listened to the podcast and done Bible studies, I realized something: how can I begin to further understand something if I don’t study it. It may sound odd, but its almost like the podcast gave me permission to study what I love. Ya know what I mean? And it’s for that I’m grateful.

I may not always agree with everything in the podcast, but that’s the beauty of not only these types of endeavors, but also of textual analysis: each interpreter can see something different, the text can speak to them differently, and each person has their own opinions and ideas on what they encounter. It doesn’t mean anyone is wrong. What is important is that you are exposing yourself to new, and sometimes different, ideas and figuring out your thoughts through it all. What’s important is that you are learning.

I’m thankful that I learn things every day. I’m thankful that I can learn valuable lessons from something that could be seen as simply entertainment. And I am thankful that there are people who take the risk to analyze pop culture in unique ways and share that adventure with others.


Whoever You Are

Why are you so far from me?
In my arms is where you ought to be.
How long will you make me wait?
I don’t know how much more I can take.
I miss you, but I haven’t met you.
Oh, but I want to. How I do.
– To Whom It May Concern 
by The Civil Wars

. . . . . .

Anytime I watch The Hunger Games I end up on a binge-listen of the band The Civil Wars.   Their music is hauntingly beautiful. They have 2 songs on the film soundtrack, one with Taylor Swift and one on their own, and I love both of them.

So as I began my binge-listen, their song “To Whom It May Concern” off their Barton Hollow album played, and it really stuck with me this time more than any other. While it could have a few meanings, the one it had to me is probably fairly obvious.

. . . . . .

Telling someone you recognize change and want to get to know them as they are shows understanding and grace. It can take a lot of emotional energy and patience. In the end, though, it’s worth it. You learn to love someone for who they are, not who you think they should be or even who you think they are–but who they have created themselves to be.

This is something I am learning and trying to practice. I had a terrible habit in the past of telling people what I think they should do, how they should act, who they should be. What I’ve realized is I was placing my own expectations on someone else, and that isn’t fair. Because we are different people. I cannot expect another person to do what I would do simply because they are not me.

I want to stop doing that.

I realize this means practicing patience. It means showing grace. It means constantly checking in with myself to see if these expectations are realistic or not. But it’s something I am willing to do.

. . . . . .

So, wherever you are at in life, whoever you feel you are, do not be afraid to be yourself. Allow others in. Do not make the decision to cut them out of your life for them, even if you think that is what “should” happen because of whatever predicament you are in. Allow them to get to know you so they can make the decision for themselves.

They just may surprise you.

. . . . . .

Dear whoever you might be,
I’m still waiting patiently.

We Can Run, Or We Can Learn

“You are more than you have become.”

“I know what I have to do…but going back means facing my past, and I’ve been running from it for so long…” 

– The Lion King

. . . . .

Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever felt you owe yourself more? Have you run from your past only to realize it will catch up to you eventually? As Rafiki tells Simba (after hitting him on the head to prove a lesson): “The past hurts…but we can learn from it.”

We have to face our past, our demons, if we want to be mentally healthy moving forward. Often when we run, we become worse because we are so focused on avoiding our problems. We think avoiding the problems will make them go away. We resort to other things to numb the pain we–inevitably–feel. Because we know, deep down, that avoidance doesn’t make the problem disappear. It enhances it, makes it worse, prolongs it. The sooner we deal with it–whatever “dealing with it” looks like–the sooner we will be on the path to recovery. Recovery, in turn, takes its own shape based on the issues that need to be faced and the wounds that need to be healed.

I know what it’s like to run. When I graduated from my master’s program, I felt like my life had come to a screeching halt. I had been in school my entire life, and every time one school season ended, I knew another was approaching three months later. But with my tassel moving to the other side of my cap, I realized my life was also transitioning. And I had no idea what to do. I felt I had lost my purpose. And it affected everything else in my life–my passions, my relationships, my marriage.

It took me a long time to realize God is the only one who can fill that void, heal that pain, start that recovery, and deliver my purpose. Because He does not judge us like humans do–He looks at our heart. He sees and feels our pain, He hears our cries, and He wants to help us. We only need to cry out.

If you’re running, stop. It doesn’t matter where you are, just stop. And begin moving forward. Try prayer. Try reading the Bible. What’s the worst that could happen?

The Most Magical Library

Large dark marble columns. Bronze statues of influential authors encircling the uppermost levels. Stained glass windows reflect the white and gold of the ornate domed ceiling. Curved wooden desks with glass tops and desk lamps that take you back to university libraries of old, a matching wooden desk chair sits at each station. Dark patterned carpet muffles any footsteps that may fall.

There’s no denying the beauty and sacredness of this place.

 . . . . . .

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress may be the most ornate room I have ever been in. The feeling begins the moment you walk into the building and make your way toward the Room.

Once you check your bag, bringing only what you need in a clear plastic carry bag, you make your way through the marble lobby of the Library and into a winding hallway. I felt I was being led down a secret passage, like I was being let in on an age-old secret. Take the elevator one level up, and you walk into the entry to the research area.

I stopped to take in my surroundings and just oogle at everything in front of me. I almost cried at the mere sight of it all. I was overwhelmed, in the best way possible, and I couldn’t wait to spend time there working. The receptionists and research assistants asked me a few times if I needed any help.

“Oh, no,” I told them, politely giddy, “I’m just exploring.”

They gave me polite nods in return, with a “let me know if you need anything,” but their expressions told me I may have been the most excited person they had seen enter the building. They probably thought I was crazy.

. . . . . .

Ever since I learned to read, I have been enamored with words and books. I used to annoy my parents just reading every sign I encountered. I would check out stacks of books from the library only to return them a few days later and replace them with more. I was the child that read multiple books at a time. In fact, I got in trouble for reading. Specifically, I once got reprimanded in a junior high English class because I was trying to read my book under the table while we were watching Romeo & Juliet (the one with Leonardo DiCaprio).

Being someone who loves books, I love libraries. I love looking at the architecture, the layout, the offerings of texts. When I got to my first university, I had to drag my mom to the library just to look around. I would hang out on a high-level floor in-between classes just because I reveled in the silence. When that library was redone, I spent even more time there. When my husband and I transferred universities, he chuckled as I begged him to let us explore the library of this new college so I could just see it.

Being an hour from Washington D.C., I decided a few months ago to get my Reader Card for the Library of Congress. This gives the card holder access to the Reading Rooms of the Library, which means access to the books. Granted, you can’t remove books from the premises, but it was still so magical to me.

Unfortunately, photos are strictly prohibited, but I guess that means I’ll just have to go back.

. . . . . .

Today I got to put that Reader Card to use.

I spent about three hours in the Library. Maybe two of those hours were me writing, working on my memoir, and exploring what books I may find. The last hour was me perusing the Library Shop because there’s no way I could leave without purchasing something. (I went for a t-shirt with a Hermione Granger-inspired quote: “When in doubt, go to the library.”)

Exterior of the Library of Congress

I could have spent much more time there, but I got really cold. (They must have had the air conditioning turned on super high.)

This was one way for me to get in “the writing zone” and take my writing seriously. And in that room, I felt like a writer. It was an incredible feeling. I worked on my memoir, editing and adding, and separating certain paragraphs that would fit better in another location of the memoir. I began constructing the layout of the memoir, the general theme, and stories I could add to it.

I felt so inspired.

It was a moment where I thought this is what God has me doing… I suddenly felt this is what it means to take my writing seriously.

I can’t wait to go back.