How Harry Potter Helps Me Understand the Bible

*Note: This post contains mild spoilers for the Harry Potter series.

One Saturday night, I watched the last Harry Potter movie. On Sunday morning, I went to church. These two activities seemingly don’t have much in common, but I was surprised by the way my viewing of Harry Potter informed the way I heard the message in church that day.

King Herod is mentioned numerous times in the Bible, though we never get a lot of background information on him. Other sources have recorded his often-brutal ways, such as killing his wife and two of his sons, and ordering a large group of people to be killed when he died so there would be what he deemed an appropriate level of mourning (his son did not carry out this wish, however). A ruler like him may have instilled fear and worry in people, never knowing what he might do next–or who might find themselves in trouble next. All of this backstory doesn’t come through in the few verses I read about him in the Bible though, so it’s easy for me to skim over it. Sure, King Herod wasn’t great, and then I’m on to the next piece of the story.


In the Harry Potter series though, there are seven books (or eight movies) detailing the life of Harry and the back-and-forth struggle in the magical world between Harry and the other “good people” and evil Lord Voldemort and his followers. As the series goes on, the worry and fear over Voldemort’s power and sinister ways grow and grow, culminating in book seven, when all hope seems like it may be lost. Society in the magical world is in chaos, with many people on the run for fear of being caught as part of the small remaining group who opposes Voldemort and his tactics.

Comparing King Herod to Voldemort is by no means perfect, but there are certainly similarities. They were both very powerful, had morally questionable methods of getting what they wanted, and squashed those who tried to stand against them. The main difference, of course, is that one is a historical figure who we can verify actually lived in a real time and place, and one is a fictional character who lives in the world of pages and screens.

But their similarities are why stories, even made up ones, matter. At their best, they help us better understand our actual, day-to-day lives in new ways, and give us a deeper grasp of other stories we encounter, be they in the Bible, from a friend, or in a movie. When I experience a story in a long format, getting to know the various characters and their actions, I can develop a fuller understanding of who they are, why they do what they do, and what their world is really like.

When I read the Bible, there are many instances where entire years go by in the matter of a few words or verses. It’s hard for me to fully comprehend what actually took place in that time frame and to put myself in the place of the people who experienced it, because I don’t have very much information. Other stories give me the words and ideas to better understand the fear or joy or despair Bible characters may have felt, even if the text doesn’t directly tell me what it was like for them. As I listened to my pastor talk about what life may have been like for people living under King Herod’s reign, I imagined the same kinds of feelings characters may have felt at the end of the Harry Potter series when Voldemort was in control, and it gave me a new and different view of the story.

While I don’t read and study stories like Harry Potter the same way I read and study the Bible, there’s a beautiful value in being able to take the kind of learning I get from one and letting it inform how I learn from another.

Til next time…


p.s. What are the stories that have helped you understand life differently?


Everyone Needs a Someone

Along with millions of others, I’ve been captivated by the social media project Humans of New York. Photographer Brandon Stanton photographs random people he encounters throughout New York City, and, given the phenomenal success, he’s gone on trips to other parts of the world as well. 

All of his photos and stories are as unique as the people in them, yet I’ve noticed a commonality: In many of the posts people find to be inspiring, there is a Someone. Whether it’s a supportive teacher, a loving significant other, or a kind stranger who showed up at the right time, many of the people Stanton photographs have been deeply influenced and changed by someone taking an interest in them. Usually not taking an interest in a passing, fleeting way, but a deep, passionate care for who they are as a human being.

Everyone needs a Someone.

We don’t all need the same kinds of Someones, or for the same reasons or at the same times, but we all need those people–or at the very least, that person–who sees the real us when others do not. I truly believe there would be a lot less ugly, painful messiness in the world if everyone paid more attention to the people around them, because humans were not meant to navigate this hazardous journey of life completely alone. It’s not that people can fully save us; they can’t. But they can certainly help us. They can see the good in us when we’ve lost the ability to see it for ourselves, they can challenge us to be braver and kinder and better than we think we can, and can help direct us back when we’ve lost our way.

We need other people.

It can be a vulnerable, scary, intimidating thing to admit we need other people. We’re often told we can succeed all on our own, and to some level we can, but there will always come a time we simply can’t anymore. So we need someone else to step in for us. And that’s more than okay. It can be absolutely beautiful.

Some of us, and I count myself among them, are ridiculously fortunate to have a whole host of Someones–good, loving, caring people who watch out for us. Others don’t have that luxury. So not only does everyone need a Someone, we have the opportunity to be a Someone, too. One of my recent favorites from Humans of New York is this one.


Photo and Quote Credit: Brandon Stanton, Humans of New York,

“Both my parents were in prison while I was growing up. I’ve been in prison for 90% of my life, mainly for drugs. When I got out in 2014, there was this old lawyer in the Bronx who took an interest in me. His name was Ramon Jimenez. He’s kind of like a community activist. I don’t know why he cared so much, but he sat down with me and tried to map out my life. When I tried to start selling drugs again, Ramon came out and stood on the corner with me for three days straight. Here’s this 72 year old dude, shadowing me wherever I go, screaming at anyone who tried to walk up to me: ‘I’m calling the cops!’ I was so mad. But after three days I gave it up.”

It’s one of those stories I wish we had more of–who is this Ramon guy, really? How did he get connected with the man in the photograph? Why did he care so much?

As much as I’d like to know that information, it’s almost superfluous to the story. Ramon cared. He showed up. He became a Someone to this man who needed one.

That’s all we really need.

It’s okay to need a Someone, and it’s possible to be one. We don’t all need to be superheroes, but we can be a Someone.

Til next time…


p.s. Have you had a Someone in your life?

Blogging is Like Wearing Pajamas

Sometimes writing, and blogging in particular, is scary. As honored as I was to share my story at Prodigal, it was intimidating to see the retweets and the shares slowly spreading my story further and further. Of all I’ve shared here over the past two and a half years or so, that was perhaps some of the most personal. And there it was, travelling out into the world before the eyes of many people I personally know, and many more I don’t.

Many bloggers share stories more personal than mine, of their loves, their losses, their frustrations and their joys. Others are nearly all business, keeping the personal info to a bare minimum as they post their recipes or tips on how to get more Twitter followers.

So I’ve come to the realization that blogging is kind of like wearing pajamas. On the Internet.


Pajamas are something that only people you tend to know well see you in–family, close friends, roommates, maybe classmates on a “Wear Your PJs to School” day in high school or college. Other than that though, pajamas are kind of a personal thing. So is writing.

Some people don’t wear much when they sleep, just like some bloggers hold nothing back. If it happens in their life, you will read it on their blog. Other bloggers are like Barney Stinson from the show How I Met Your Mother, who takes great pride in his suitjamas. It’s all about business, the how-tos, with very little personal feelings divulged.

And then there are all the people who fall somewhere in between, wearing baggy pajama pants or old gym shorts and ratty t-shirts, maybe footy pajamas or a nightgown that could be worn to the store as a dress. These are the bloggers, and I classify myself among them, who share a lot, but not all. It’s not lying or being insincere, but knowing what they or are not comfortable with sharing with the world.

Like pajamas, none of these approaches to blogging are bad; it’s simply a matter of personal preference. So far, I don’t regret what I’ve shared in this space. That’s what makes blogging so difficult though–it’s not a one-time decision, but a continual process. I don’t decide which pajamas to wear for the rest of my life, but for each night.  So each time I type, I’m faced with the decision of what goes into the post and what doesn’t. Suitjamas? Old gym shorts? Or something else?

Til next time…


p.s. If you blog, what’s your approach? How do you decide how much to share?

Giving Words Feet

I love to read. If I could count all the blogs and books and magazines I’ve read, the number would astound me. I’ve read some incredible stories, teared up at the heartbreaking and heartwarming, been inspired by hope and joy and love. I’ve had my breath taken away by stunning writing, sat in awe of the emotions evoked by words on a page, been too moved to continue reading. They’ve caused me to think deeply, given me glimpses of ways of life completely different than my own, sparked conversations I never would have otherwise had.

The gift of being able to read other people’s words is a wonderful one.

It takes great courage, dedication, and sheer sweat to write well, and I am so thankful for those who do.


Yet in all the goodness of words, I have discovered a danger: Reading about other people’s experiences cannot replace having my own. 

Photo Credit: Flickr User francisco.j.gonzalez, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User francisco.j.gonzalez, Creative Commons


Reading about food is not the same as cooking dinner.

Reading about travel is not the same as getting on a plane.

Reading about loss is not the same as attending the funeral of a loved one.

Reading about marriage is not the same as walking down the aisle.

Reading about God is not the same as loving him well.


Objectively, I know this. But I don’t always think this way. I don’t always want to believe it.

Maybe, if I read enough books and blogs and magazines, it will make it hurt less when something terrible happens to me or someone I love. Maybe, if I read enough, I’ll someday have the perfect marriage. Maybe, if I read enough, I’ll be a really good Christian.

Words, by themselves, cannot do any of these things. They can inspire, teach, compel–but they cannot do. At some point, my actions have to put feet on the ink.

I believe, very strongly, in the value of reading. Reading other people’s stories is an enriching, life-giving, good thing. But reading other people’s stories instead of living my own is a bad thing. Life will be messy and beautiful and painful and joyous, and no amount of words can live that for me. Reading can teach me about these things, but words are not action.


It’s up to me to give them feet.

Til next time…


p.s. How have you put feet on what you read?

Telling Stories To An Empty Room

Happy Birthday, my little blog! Two years ago I started posting here, largely out of a realization that Facebook Notes were never going to catch on the way that I had hoped and looking for somewhere to share my words.

And here I am, still writing on here but sometimes wondering what the point is. I declared myself a writer last fall, but I certainly don’t always feel that way, especially now that I have a job that takes up 40 hours of my week, and as I still try to figure it all out, it takes up seemingly many more hours of mental energy. When I get home, I usually want to remove my brain, set it on a shelf, go to bed, and put it back in the next morning–not use it some more to write words I often doubt the value of.

Where does the value of writing really come from anyway? Is it the reading? If so, I might be in trouble.

Sometimes it feels as though I’m telling stories to an empty room.

In her book Cold Tangerines, Shauna Niequist writes of a conversation she had with a middle schooler.

“I write, too.” She said it like it was a confession or a secret. She leaned toward me and opened a notebook and showed me page after page after page of precise cursive. “Do you have any advice for me?” she asked.
“Thank you, and keep going,” I said. “Thank you for writing, because I love to read, and I’m so thankful to writers like you, for writing things for me to read. And keep going, even when people make you feel like it’s not important. It might be the most important thing you do. Keep going.” –Cold Tangerines, p. 229


I love those words, the encouragement they gave to that girl and to me. But it’s hard to believe sometimes.

WordPress has a nifty, horrible, convenient, torturous function called “Site Stats.” I discovered it within the first few days of creating this blog, but I sort of wish I never had, or that I could disable it. (Though truthfully, the sick part of me that feels the need to check it compulsively would balk at that) It can be disheartening to see how many people haven’t read a post I feel passionate about, that I have invested time and energy in and, perhaps courageously so, clicked the “Publish” button. Really though, I wonder if there’s a number of readers I would ever deem “enough,” or if more readers would only result in me desiring…more readers.

There’s another side of writing though–the writer. And that is where I remind myself there is always value. Admittedly some of these posts are less polished than others, a little haphazardly thrown together, perhaps less worthy of being on display. There are others though, ones I have molded carefully, painstakingly, combing over time after time for words that don’t belong and tweaking so they convey exactly what and how I need them to.

And those posts–those are why I write.

There is a piece of me in those posts that won’t, can’t, find expression elsewhere, and to keep it to myself feels almost selfish, as though I might be clutching a precious gift to myself.

So I hit “Publish.” I let those words out, even when it feels like they are floating into an empty room, because to do otherwise would be a misuse of what I have been entrusted with.

And so for every time you join me here, to sit and listen and give these stories an audience, I thank you. Let’s hang out a few more years.

Til next time…


p.s. Does writing ever feel pointless for you? How do you get past it?

Not the End

Typically I’ve avoided posting the full lyrics to songs, but in this case, I think it’s important. There is beautiful, hopeful truth in these words.

This is Not the End–Gungor

This is not the end
This is not the end of this
We will open our eyes wide, wider

This is not our last
This is not our last breath
We will open our mouths wide, wider

And you know you’ll be alright
Oh and you know you’ll be alright

This is not the end
This is not the end of us
We will shine like the stars bright, brighter

As a reader, sometimes I can’t help but think of my life as a book. It would have neatly divided chapters, a well-thought out plot, characters that can easily be categorized as “good” or “bad” and who come and go in the course of the story. And, as with all books, there is an ending, maybe happy or sad or somewhere in between, that wraps things up. Or leaves them frustratingly open-ended, as the case may be.

My life is not like that. At least, not right now.

Granted, there are some characters that have been in my story that I don’t think will be making return appearances, whether because of distance, dislike, or simply being in new phases of life. That’s okay. Normal, even, for people to come into our lives and to leave it at some point.

There are other characters that have been around for a while, and I think will continue to be on pages for the foreseeable future. Whether it’s every day, every few months, or every few years, I have a sense that our paths will keep crossing. And that’s okay too.

This is where my struggle comes in though: plot. Twists and turns, good and bad, that may leave me laughing or crying or both. These plot points involve characters that will continue to be in my life at least for the next little bit, so it is difficult for me to remember…

There is more to be written.

This is not the end.

This is not the end of this.

“This is Not the End” is not only a beautiful song, it is a helpful reminder. Whether in a time of joy or one of despair, there are more words to be spoken, more steps to be taken, more life to be lived. And I find myself pondering again the thought of redemption, and the beauty and the gift of hope. The idea that despair, sadness, darkness does not have to be the final word.

I’ve written about redemption before, but I just can’t seem to help doing it again. In Albert Wolters’ book Creation Regained he writes “Nothing in the world ought to be despaired of. Hope is grounded in the constant availability and the insistent presence of the good creation, even in those situations in which it is being terribly violated.” There is reason for hope of brighter, better things, because even in the messy brokenness of the world, there is also good, beauty, and light. Even though I may not be able to see it or feel it at every single moment, redemption may be lurking around the corner, just out of sight.

Or it might not be.

That’s the thing though…hope for it remains. Because this is not the end. There are more words to be added…

Til next time…


p.s. Previous thoughts on redemption…