Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Something Wicked?

McKenna and I enjoyed one of the final LA performances of "Wicked" last night at the Pantages Theatre. What a treat! I'd heard some of the music and a lot of buzz about the production. It is nothing short of phenomenal--and, we had the extra-pleasure of listening to two of the original LA cast members: Eden Espinosa and Megan Hilty. The music and lyrics are magical, but these two young women prove that often there is nothing more electric than the human voice.

Am I gushing? Yes!

To say that McKenna was thrilled is an understatement. And, I was swept away for two hours into the Emerald City.

All this to say...

Could the artists and singers and writers and actors who are Christ-followers create something as powerful if they drew on the rich, colorful, chaotic, and sometimes dark cast of characters that roam throughout the Old and New Testaments? I mean...why not? These stories are engaging, full of danger, love, life, birth, death, battles between good and evil, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, lovers, they reveal eternal themes and are truly at the heart of many modern "successful" stories, plays, musicals, and movies.

Why not?

But, let's be clear: it would have to be quality. Quality means money. Money means (generally) involving Hollywood-types with no interest in spreading the gospel. Surely, though, there would be a way to infiltrate this world and have a hand at creating some of the culture we enjoy.

Am I dreaming? Yes!

However, I am persuaded by the words of Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) herself:

I'm through accepting limits
'cuz someone says they're so
some things I cannot change
but till I try, I'll never know....

So, if you care to find me
Look to the western sky
As someone told me lately
"everyone deserves the chance to fly"
And If I'm flying solo
At least I'm flying free
To those who'd ground me
Take a message back from me:

Tell them how I
Am defying gravity
I'm flying high
defying gravity

Monday, December 22, 2008

Big Year

Amidst market crashes and housing bubbles one child had a very big year:

Wylie Barnes Harris.

From his summer camp experiences (culminating in the zipline), his triumphant audition for a speaking part in this year's class musical, to most recently--agreeing to ride the California Screamin' roller coaster on our annual vacation trip--2008 will be remembered as a one big reality tv show for Wylie loosely patterned after "Fear Factor".

Tim, McKenna, Campbell and I have been jaw-dropped. If you had bet us a couple years ago he would have accomplished the list above, none of us would have taken the bet.

So, what changed? What clicked? What continues to prompt a child with extreme sensitivities and challenges to grow past his fears? I wish we could test what it is...I wish we could bottle it and give it away to other people in fear.

Maybe, it's been those prayers at night: "make us brave".

Maybe, it's unconditional love.

Maybe, it's imagination.

Maybe, it's positive "modelling".

Maybe, it's just growing up.

Maybe, it's just the beginning of many more amazing years watching Wylie zigzag toward his potential.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


December is full of traditions.

The Harris kids walked Yucaipa Blvd with the Yucaipa Swim Team in the Yucaipa Christmas Parade for the 4th year in a row. It was chilly and grey for the 2nd year in a row. Since Wylie was awarded the Sportsmanship award earlier this year, he had the privilege of actually riding in the uncovered-covered wagon float. This is a privilege he has been waiting for a while.

Another tradition with the Harris Ranch is a periodic flooding of some portion of the houses we've owned. This year's flood is our downstair's bathroom wall and my office. In addition to drying out the wet stuff, the leak had been small enough and gone undetected long enough to birth the dreaded four letter word of flooding: m-o-l-d. So, the bath is now "quarantined" and the downstairs looks like something out of "E.T." after they discover him wandering around outside. As I blog, industrial fans and humidifiers create a blanket of white noise around my head. And, since this was finals week for CSUSB and University of Redlands and I was grading into the wee hours of the morning and I had stacks of papers and case studies all around my office floor the night the water finally broke...well, you can do the math.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

My CSU students were great about things. In fact, they presented me with a Christmas gift. I've never had a class (in all my years of teaching college students) give me a gift. A lone student here or there, but never the full cohort. What was particularly touching was the gift sack: they all signed it with very sweet words. And, they decorated it with econ-meaningful pictures and sayings.

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la, la, la!

Anyone who was at Solid Ground a couple weeks ago when I spoke can appreciate the humor and irony of the current state of our home/my office. Life is particularly good; we are particularly blessed; Christmas is just around the corner; I've never been in love with God more than just now in this moment.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Signs of the Season

Is it just me, or do you think this Christmas season is going to be a bit more Capra-esque than most in recent memory? I could swear that more of my neighbors have their lights up and got them up just after Thanksgiving. Is it because everyone feels it? This Christmas begs for more light than seasons past just to balance the darkness that has been fouling everyone's mood since September.

Daily experiences are more bittersweet it seems. Take today for example. Our friend, Kindra Crandell, gave birth to her second child--a son named Gideon. She and Steve and little Esther are so stoked! We all are rejoicing with them. There's the sweet!

This afternoon, however, a tractor-trailer pulled away from my neighbor's former home holding just want they wanted to take with them. They left so much behind. The house is a vacant shell--lifeless and cold without a family in it. And, it will be months before another family brings life and warmth back. There's the bitter.

My own children are making their lists and checking them twice. Our stockings are out and will soon be hung with care. But, Santa has to do more with less this year. We all know he can, but it's a subtle reminder that wealth--like beauty--can be fleeting. I suspect simple gifts will be exchanged at gatherings and we'll all be more grateful than usual for the gestures.

What I loved most about "It's a Wonderful Life" was the way the ordinary people made the miracle happen in the end. To be sure, Clarence earns his wings, but the miracle happens when the neighbors, friends, customers, and family members show up for George. When the realization overcomes him--when he truly understands that all is not lost, that there is still hope--his eyes dance with gratitude and joy. It is a priceless moment. What I am feeling, and imagining is that we all will have the chance to be a miracle for someone this Christmas. Showing up for someone could turn the bitter--sweet. Exchange hope for despair. Let's be brave and show up. (By the same token, if you feel more like George this year, maybe a miracle is just around the corner for you, too).