STS-125!


OK, the less-cool-but-more-immediate part:

Over a year ago, I started working on an interview with John Grunsfeld, who is going to be conducting one of the spacewalks on the upcoming STS-125 space shuttle mission. Grunsfeld has visited the Hubble Space Telescope twice before, and will have the opportunity to visit Hubble one last time next month.

The mission’s been delayed substantially since when I first started working on it, but with the launch now immenent, my interview has finally been posted online.

And that ties into the cooler part:

Right now, I’m very seriously planning on making yet another attempt to watch a shuttle launch in a couple of weeks.

Very much a last-minute-ish thing, but I’m planning on going to try to see the STS-125 launch, currently scheduled for May 11. When they moved it up a day, that meant I could travel down over the weekend and take less time off. Right now, I have no arrangements, save for a rental car (since I blame my last trip down to try and watch a launch for the eventual death of my convertible). There’s a slight chance I might want a traveling companion, so if anyone’s interested in a cheap trip, contact me directly and let me know. I’m planning on heading down on Sunday, May 10, and coming back on either the 12th or the 13th, depending on when the launch happens.

That said, I’m totally not getting my hopes up. This will be my third time in recent years going down for a launch, and I’m currently zero-for-two. I went down for STS-121 in July 2006, and spent a couple of days on the riverside watching Discovery not move. I then went back for STS-122 in December 2007 for a couple of scrubs of Atlantis. They scrubbed so early in the day for those that I didn’t even make it down to the riverside. I did get to go to Epcot, however, so that was kind of cool. (Expanding the tally a bit, I’m also one-for-two on unmanned launches, and oh-for-one on shuttle landings.)

And now, it’s apparently time for the latest iteration of my year-and-a-half cycle. I won’t be able to continue that any longer, however — a year and a half from now, the shuttle most likely won’t be flying anymore. So it’s either see it this time, or get serious about going more often. And I do want to see a shuttle launch before they’re through. There’s a good chance there won’t be another opportunity in my lifetime to see that much power be used to put people into space.

Under my current plan, I’ve got two opportunities to see it launch on this trip. I’m really hoping it works out this time.

Weekend Update


Thoughts and stuff from this past weekend:

— Ever had one of those experiences where you feel like you are trying to do something you should be just doing? Friday night’s improv show at Kenny Mango’s was one of those for me. All night long, I felt like I was trying to do improv instead of actually doing improv. And I have no idea what the problem was. I made some bad decisions; for example, I was in a scene where the audience assigned us to be astronauts, and I spent it serving Kool-Aid. I mean, what? Seems like you could have done something more interesting with that suggestion. Beyond that, though, even in my acting, I felt like I was just going through the motions. Interesting. Rehearsal’s tonight, and I may or may not be in a show Thursday, so I need to just pick myself up and dust myself off.

— I hiked the Walls of Jericho again on Saturday. We got an earlier start this time, so saw nobody until we had reached the end of the trail and were ready to turn around, which was very cool. In the midst of it, it’s amazing to get some sense of what this planet looks like in the areas that haven’t been reshaped by man. To be sure, I’m very much a big fan of civilization, but I’m beginning to think that we should all make a point to get an occassional refresher about where it is that we live.

— Speaking of nature, I watched Disney’s Earth movie last night. To be honest, I was dead tired, so might have gotten more out of it had that not been the case, but it was, so there you go. I’ll admit that one of my first reactions was that it was much less preachy than I expected; there were references to warming climates, but it was not at all heavy-handed with it. Beyond that, it was also, to be honest, a little smaller than I expected, especially with a title like “Earth.” It was, throughout, beautiful. The cinematography was phenomenal, and the production was amazing. However, it seemed like the scope could have been larger; with less time spent on more things, rather than an in-depth focus on certain things. However, that’s purely a matter of personal taste.

— I’m getting old. Right now, I really want to go home and take a nap. Alas.

— Best of all, I got to go to church. Oh, sure, I went on Sunday morning, and that was great. My friend Eric Morgan was being installed as an elder and pastor at Sojourn, and it was good to be there for that and for his sermon.

But I also got to go Saturday night, to the home-based church I’m a part of. We don’t even meet every week, so between off-weeks and being in improv shows and traveling to Louisiana and who knows what else, I hadn’t been able to go since January, since before I was engaged. And after everything that’s happened in the last month, I desperately needed to be with my church family. I had even been scheduled to be in a show Saturday night, but begged someone to replace me so that I could go to church. I was hungry.

And it was wonderful. And it was just what I needed to hear; we talked a lot about resting in God. And I realized that was why I was there that night, to rest in Him, to rest in my church family. And I did. I barely said anything for most of the night, contributing all of once to the discussion, before finally asking a question of my own, applying the idea of rest to something I’ve been struggling with recently — the idea of persistence versus surrender. Are we being more faithful to petition the Lord, or to not? Should we ask things in His name, and be steadfast with it, or should we leave it in His hands? Arguments could be made that either is a demonstration of faith and trust? My heart today hurts, and cries out for healing and restoration. But maybe it’s time to let go, and just rest in the knowledge that He’s going to take care of it.

Recent Events


Stuff what’s happened this week:

— On Wednesday night, I went to Journey Group for the first time. I’m sort of uncertain about what I’m doing about church right now. I don’t know how the Susanna situation will play out in terms of my continued attendance at Whitesburg, I don’t know how many more churches I needed to visit in my wanderings I’ve been undertaking, and I’m getting to the point where I want a church family that I can meet with a bit more often than my primary congregation.

Of the places I’ve visited, one of the ones I’ve enjoyed most is Sojourn, where my friends Wendy and Eric Morgan go. (Wendy’s a fellow member of the improv troupe.) Other than the fact that I would kind of like to find a place where I could be involved in a good singles group, I really rather like Sojourn — services include great worship and great teaching. So this past Sunday, I picked up a flyer for one of their Journey Groups. Sojourn doesn’t have Sunday School, but does have small groups that meet in homes around town every week. So, I figured, what the heck?

Wednesday proved to be, perhaps, a bad week to go in order to judge the group. The one I picked, rather than doing their usual thing, was having a fellowship night of food and games. Not a bad week to pick for having fun, but tough to judge the theological aspects of it. I did have a good time, however, and met some neat new people, so I’m planning on going back again. I’ll also be attending Sojourn again this Sunday, since Eric is being installed as an elder and pastor in the church.

— Yesterday, I went with some coworkers to visit a local school. I had been invited to come talk to students there based on my talks at the library earlier in the year, and had initially agreed to come do it. After a day or two, though, in a rare bit of humility, I realized that, one, I knew nothing about talking to large groups of elementary school students and, two, was not in any sort of emotional landscape to really do what I needed to do to prepare. So I went to one of my coworkers who is a former elementary school teacher and asked if she would be willing to take my place. Thankfully, she kindly agreed.

I ended up going along, in hopes of learning something in case I was ever asked again. And it was a really neat experience, watching Jo and Denise share about NASA, and seeing the kids’ interest and excitement in learning about what the agency does. And, I did, in fact, learn something in case I’m ever asked again — I really should defer to Jo and Denise again.

— Last night, we celebrated the birthday of a friend of mine by, at her request, attending a theaterical viewing of This American Life. She’s a fan of the radio show, and it turned out that on her birthday, a taping of the radio show was going to be streamed live to theaters around the country.

I have very limited exposure to TAL, having only listened to it as a podcast a few times at Melissa’s recommendation. And it proved to be a very interesting experience watching it live — the irony was that it actually seemed less visual to me. Listening to the podcast, you’re envisioning everything in your head; when someone tells a story, you’re picturing it taking place. When they play clips from an interview, you’re imagining the interviewee talking. During the big screen presentation, however, when someone tells a story, you see that person standing there telling a story. When they play clips from an interview, you see someone push a button to play a clip from an interview. A fascinating bit of irony.

There was one quote I made a note of to send myself. A guy was telling about how he and his girlfriend refused to get married because they — and particularly he — didn’t believe in marriage. They would even try to talk other people out of it. She eventually started asking about it, but he stuck by his guns. Finally, after a particularly traumatic experience that ending up taking over his life because he was obsessed by the principal involved, she said something that caused him to see the light, and he was able to let go of his obsession. And, as a result, ended up marrying her:

“I still didn’t believe in marriage, and really I still don’t. But I believe in her, and I’ve given up on the idea of being right.”

I wonder how much the need to be right has cost me in this life, you know?

40


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Psalm 40
A Psalm of David

1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.

2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.

4 Blessed is the man
who makes the LORD his trust,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.

5 Many, O LORD my God,
are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us
no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell of them,
they would be too many to declare.

6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but my ears you have pierced;
burnt offerings and sin offerings
you did not require.

7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll.

8 I desire to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”

9 I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips,
as you know, O LORD.

10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and salvation.
I do not conceal your love and your truth
from the great assembly.

11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD;
may your love and your truth always protect me.

12 For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.

13 Be pleased, O LORD, to save me;
O LORD, come quickly to help me.

14 May all who seek to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.

15 May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”
be appalled at their own shame.

16 But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation always say,
“The LORD be exalted!”

17 Yet I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
O my God, do not delay.

There Are Always Possibilities


OK, this is nominally a book review, but I’m afraid it’s going to be a bit rooted in the period when I read it.

I’d been meaning to get around to reading God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God since January, when some people at church were talking about starting a reading group for it. As it happened, however, I didn’t start it until the day Susanna called off our engagement.

The basic idea is this — there are parts of the future that are written, and there are parts that aren’t. God is sovereign over the universe, and has the ability to control anything He chooses to. However, He chooses to give man free will, and that free will means that man can make choices that affect the future. God is aware of all the possibilities those choices present, but not what choice will be made until it is. This doesn’t mean — and this is the part that challenges people — that God isn’t omniscient. People hear that, and assume the book is arguing that there are things God doesn’t know. To the contrary, the book is adamant that God knows everything, but argues that the outcome of those choices can’t be known until they are made. God doesn’t know that I’m going to choose X in much the same way He doesn’t know Hillary Clinton is president — not because He’s not all-knowing, but because it’s not knowable.

Now, at this point, I realize the odds are pretty good that you’re shaking your head in pity at my waywardness, and I’m not going to try to spend any more time on whether the book is right or not. It does a thorough job making its case, rooted in scripture, and there’s really no need for me to try to present a watered-down version here. To be honest, however, I really don’t know. I’ve long wondered about this issue, but don’t know that I’m ready to completely embrace everything the book argues.

However, I think it matters less what you believe in this case than what you live, and I think a lot of Christians, even if they say they don’t believe this, live like they do, to varying degrees. But I think it actually makes us better to live as if we believe it completely.

We should pray as if God heeds our prayers. We should live as if our choices affect our fate.

The most interesting thing I’m struggling with, however, is the idea that God makes decisions, blesses people, makes promises, etc., based on our potential. He sees who we are, and who we could be, and acts accordingly. An example being Saul, whom God annointed and blessed as king based on the fact that He was a good man, and should make a good king. Saul, on the other hand, utterly failed to live up to that, and God had to revoke his blessing and install David as king.

And the application of that one is a bit more interesting. It brings up the possibility that God acts in our life based on what should happen. He could, hypothetically, to choose a perfectly random example, bring two people together and bless their relationship based on the potential they present. These two people should make right choices and should have a great relationship, just as Saul should have made a great king. But they fail not to live up to that potential. More to the point, they choose not to. When that happens, does the blessing get revoked? The annointing removed?

I’m really not doing the question justice, because it would require a lot more scriptural support to get too deeply into it.

But it’s very much something that I’m working through at the moment.

Counting Down


I’ve had this trip in mind for a while, and had hoped it would work out a bit differently, but, in light of recent events, thought I would put it out for the blog audience.

I really want to see a shuttle launch, and there are now only perhaps eight opportunities before the fleet stops flying.

According to this site, launches are planned for the following dates. Keep in mind, these will likely change drastically as missions are delayed, etc.

12 May 2009
13 June 2009
6 August 2009
12 November 2009
10 December 2009
11 February 2010
8 April 2010
31 May 2010

Would anybody be interested in a trip to Florida to try and catch one of those?

My First Prom Date


Back in better days, Susanna and I were putting together a decent list of relationship books we were supposed to be reading. There were counseling books from her dad, some we picked out on our own, stuff for the Fireproof class at church, stuff her mom recommended, and stuff for the nearly-wed group at Whitesburg. We were tracking them down piecemeal; a purchase from Barnes and Noble here, one from Family Christian there, an order from Amazon here, etc. And some of them involved us having the same book, while others were his-and-hers selections — a book for guys for me, one for women for her.

So one day, a box from Amazon arrived, and I opened it in front of Susanna and started divying the books up. “Here’s one for you,” I said, “and then here’s my book for the class.” She looked at me rather dubiously, and I looked down and realized that the book I was holding was titled “Becoming The Woman Of His Dreams.”

“Well, sure,” I tried to recover, “I’ve always wanted to become the woman of my dreams.”

And today I finally got the chance:

I was drafted to play in a “This Is Your Life” roast for Dave King, the former director of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

And, hey, for this being my first prom date, a NASA center director’s not half bad, huh?