Hey, anyone remember that giant ball of fire that you used to see in the sky sometimes? Whatever happened to it?

Seriously, this fall is turning kind of disappointing. I blogged last month about how excited I was about the first day of fall, but the last few weeks are not what I had in mind. I don’t mind a little rain … I’ve adjusted to the fact that going for a walk or visiting the park may involve getting wet, and I’ve pushed the limit a bit with hiking, also.

But I am tired of the dreariness. I’ve had this conversation recently a couple of times; different people have commented on the fact that it’s really starting to have an obvious impact. People’s moods seem to be being affected; reflecting the glumness of the world around.

I’m trying to fight that … If nothing else, I try to start my day by mustering convincing “Good Morning”s when I get to the office.

But, you know, I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit of sunshine soon.

Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time

Vodpod videos no longer available.

RIP, Captain Lou Albano.

Three Days

A year ago today, I returned home from work to find a box waiting for me on my front porch. I took the box, without opening it, and found my best friend at Barnes and Noble. We went out to the parking lot, where I opened the box, and held, for the first time, my first book in my hands. It was a cool moment.

Later that evening, we had dinner at P.F. Chang’s, which served as a nice celebration of the occasion. That, however, was coincidence, I had planned dinner before I had known the book was arriving that day, for an entirely other reason — I didn’t want to be alone that evening.

Two years ago today, I awoke, for the last time, married. Later that day, my divorce became official.

I’ve been dreading today. Dreading the anniversary of that event. Dreading the memories associated with it. Dreading the memories of the anniversary last year, of my best friend who went on to become my fiancée before calling off the engagement six months ago. The idea of everything that’s happened in the last two years, or in the last year, is simply insane.

I’d also thought about what I would write about today. When I wrote Tuesday that I was going to blog about watching Love Happens, I planned to tie it in with thoughts on today. I had thought maybe I would have all sorts of wisdom like I did last year. But I was wiser a year ago. And that’s a good thing.

I have only three small nuggets of wisdom this year, and that’s stretching it. I wrote last year about my senior yearbook quote, and how it seemed particularly appropriate for that time: “And what is writ, is writ. Would that it were worthier.”

In the intervening year, I’ve found a longer version of the quote: “And what is writ, is writ — Would it were worthier! But I am not now that which I have been.” And that’s the trick, isn’t it?

Second is that, the significance of today, is that it’s just a day. The irony is, two years ago, I didn’t even know I was divorced, and wouldn’t find out until nine days later. It was just another day. As is today. I don’t know what today holds, but will find out. And wake tomorrow 24 hours older than I was a day earlier.

And, finally, if there’s one lesson I can take away from the last two October 15ths, it’s almost certainly this —

This too shall pass.

For No Apparent Reason

Various And Sundry

OK, I’ve actually been blogging, like, content for the last few posts, so this is going to be one of those short bullet posts about random crap going on in my life that doesn’t merit a full entry. You’ve been warned.

–I took the pictures at the top of the entry at the STS-128 crew visit this morning. Not the most impressive crew visit we’ve had — only two of the astronauts, commander CJ Sturckow and EV1 Danny Olivas, came. (I was hoping we would at least get my erstwhile waiter, José Hernández.) But I like those pictures — between the two of them, there’s a shuttle crew picture, a giant NASA logo, an American flag, models of the space shuttle and the space station, and two astronauts. And I see that, and it reminds me I have a cool job.

–It turns out that just because there’s a zero percent chance of rain predicted for Monday when you make plans to go sailing, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a 90 percent chance by the day Monday actually comes. This is a different definition of zero percent than I’m accustomed to.

–I watched Love Happens yesterday. I’ll blog more about that later in the week.

–I watched the Rifftrax version of Plan 9 From Outer Space at a local theater Thursday with some friends. Which left the question, is it rude to make snarky remarks, MST3K-style, while watching Rifftrax in public? It actually was a lot of fun, and a cool experience laughing along with it with other appreciative fans.

–LCROSS impacted the moon Friday. It’s a good thing I didn’t write about that before today; I think I had stuff to say about it last week. I would say it’s a rare space mission when people applaud for LOS, but that’s kind of arcane, huh?

–I was in an improv show Saturday night. The bit about the puppies was inappropriate, and I’m sorry.

–Hiking Saturday morning, I took a different turn than I had before, and came across a new path, but unfortunately didn’t have time to explore it. It’s at least an hour walk each way to get back to the farthest point I reached, so I hope it’s worth it when I head back.

–Since first seeing them, I’ve found cardboard testimonies to be rather cool, so it was a neat experience for me to get to do one this weekend. Well, technically, mine was on 5×7 index cards, but the same principle applies. Except for the fact that I totally broke the format with what I wrote. It was for another video they’ll be showing at Sojourn in the future.

–My aunt, whom I’ve not seen in four years (and hadn’t for probably a dozen before that) was in town this weekend. My mother’s brother, to whom she was married, died shortly after I turned four, so I have basically no memory of him. By some accounts, he was the member of the family I’m most like, which makes it all the worse I never got to really know him. It was nice getting to see my aunt, but it was also cool experiencing echoes of him through her.

–I’ve bought and borrowed even more albums since my big album-buying post — Trick Pony, Trace Adkins, Liz Phair, Matt Nathanson, Sugarland. The weirdest moment was leaving the CD store with Garth Brooks’ Greatest Hits. Never saw that day coming.

–I finished my discipleship class I started back in May, I think. To be honest, I didn’t really think I would when I started it; I agreed to come the first time assuming that life would intervene and it would be obvious I couldn’t really make the committment. And, yet, months later, I’ve run the good race. And it’s been an interesting few months.

–I read the first few pages of And Another Thing yesterday at Barnes & Noble at Bridge Street. Not bad. May have to read it.

Jealousy Unyielding As The Grave

Bella and Edward

Bella and Edward

As I wrote earlier this month, I read Twilight really just to find out what the fuss was all about, what it was about the story and the writing that people found so compelling. My plan was to read it, and be done.

But … a friend of mine insisted that I read New Moon as well; in part for the sake of experiencing one of the stories first in written form, since I’d seen the movie of Twilight before I read the book, and thus my mental picture was firmly rooted in the film version. (This made little difference, in my opinion, since I carried those pictures of most of the characters over into reading New Moon.) I think I was also supposed to read New Moon for the sake of the dichotomy between the first two books, and particularly between Jacob and Edward.

Before going any further, I have to share the caveat that my reading of New Moon was probably colored by my life this year, and, particularly, the fact that it struck me while reading the book that, you know, I can’t rule out the possibility that Edward Cullen contributed to the end of my engagement. Jerk.

To be honest, one thing that struck me about the book was how much dichotomy there wasn’t. Being aware of the whole Team Edward versus Team Jacob debate, and having heard commentary from friends who had read it, I was expecting, well, more difference. But, really, I could write a decent plot summary that would cover either of the first two books equally well. (For those who are trying to avoid spoilers, I shan’t.)

Beyond that, along the lines of the appeal of the books, it strikes me that Meyer has done a pretty decent job of creating a group of characters with whom readers can easily identify. After reading Twilight, I’d had a conversation with a friend about which character reminded each of us most of ourselves. (And, according to a Facebook quiz, I’m most like Jasper, for what it’s worth.) Reading New Moon, however, I found that at different points, I identified in different ways with different characters. I mean, obviously I identify with Edward for his raw magnetic charisma, which is just so me. (Actually, there’s a more direct — and realistic — point of identification there, which I won’t get in to here.) I could certainly identify with Jacob in the first half of New Moon; there’s been more than one point in my life where I’ve contented myself to play the role of the best friend in hopes that it would become something more. And, yeah, I’ve played the role of Bella, enjoying time with Jacob while still hoping for Edward to come back. Not proud, but there you go. But … my amazing and dynamic life aside, I would imagine that’s probably not unusual; I would imagine that a lot of people have various experiences that let them relate with Edward here and Bella there and Jacob somewhere else and someone else somewhere else.

And to that extent, Stephenie Meyer is practically the George Lucas of relationships. Just as Lucas drew on Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey to root Star Wars in the archetypes of myth so that it would resonate with audiences, Meyer effectively draws on the archetypes of relationships and sprinkles them liberally through the Twilight series so that it resonates widely and frequently with readers.

OK, having just confessed to identifying with characters, and positing that said identification is probably not uncommon, I hate to have to note that the other thing that struck me is the extent to which the books are thus far a giant melting pot of relationship issues. I would love to see a counselor deconstruct how much of what the books want to portray as “romantic” is actually what might be better termed “unhealthy.” I was a bit bugged in Twilight by the fact that romantic hero Edward is a stalker; I was possibly even more annoyed in this one by the depth of his control issues. I mean, seriously, dude …

Having finished New Moon, I’m currently reading something that’s not Twilight, and my plan is that I’ll watch the movies, but probably not read the next two books. However, I have to admit, there’s at least a possibility I may change my mind …

Live Unconditionally

That’s my new mantra. I’ve been writing it on my hand or wrist for the last week, just as a reminder. Doesn’t mean I’m actually doing it, but, hey, just setting the goal is a good start, right?

Two characters from the Bible have kept popping up in conversations this summer, and I’ve taken that to mean that I probably should be learning something from them. To be fair, I’ve been partially responsible for recurrence of one of them, even if someone else planted the seed originally. The other, however, has a life of his own.

And, let me hasten to point out, I’ve also been too lazy to actually do a serious study on either of these guys, but think I’m about to start. I even included a biography of one of them in my big Amazon order I mentioned recently. So what I write here isn’t really so much my conclusions, as the foundation of what I’m going to be looking at. If this post is horribly ignorant, just let me know where the flaws are, and I’ll be sure to look at those things as I’m diong my actual research.

Anyway, the characters in question are David and Hosea. Initially, I assumed these were two separate threads, they came from different places and seemed to tie in with different, albeit possibly related, issues. Recently, however, I’ve decided that there is a common thread to the two stories —

Live unconditionally.

The seeds of the awareness of David were planted very early this year, as I was reading Gene Edwards’ A Tale of three Kings: A Study in Brokenness. I read the book, got out of it what I got out of it, and moved on. When I returned to David, it was for reasons that had nothing to do with that book. Instead, it was more inspired by some stuff I read about Saul in God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God, which I wrote about a while back.

The issue then was what the difference was between Saul, David and Solomon, and particularly the first two. All three start off annointed by God, and recognized as Godly men with great promise as king. All three stumble, to varying extents in varying ways. And all three come to very different ends. All three paint VERY different pictures of redemption. Sure, God redeems everything, but in Saul’s case, the redemption doesn’t help him much. On top of all of that, David is called a man after God’s own heart. He’s far from perfect, so what quality in imperfect David does God identify with Himself?

I chipped away at it gradually, not making much progress but, without knowing it, gathering pieces of the puzzle, until I came across an answer that I’m working with now. My discipleship group leader was talking about David as a model of a bad father, and that he wanted to learn from David’s mistakes in raising his own kids. Basically, his take was that David became different following the death of his child by Bathsheba; that he became more passive. And, as a result, he became a poor father who failed to be the head of his house and install discipline, which led to the revolt by Absalom. That passivity was captured, he argued, in his reaction to the revolt; not really even trying to maintain power, and just leaving his fate up to God and the people.

But it struck me that the approach of the “weak” later-years David was not that much different from the “strong” younger David, when Saul was king. He fled, but continued to do what he was supposed to do. He refused to claim the mantle of leadership, but allowed others to choose to follow him. He wouldn’t kill his enemy himself. And, he trusted that if God wanted him to be king, he didn’t have to make it happen, he would be king.

In short, I would argue, David lived unconditionally. He was the unconditional king — he didn’t make anyone follow him, he allowed people to choose to follow him. He did what he felt he was supposed to, regardless of what anyone else did or didn’t do.

And, I would further argue, that may well be why David was a man after God’s own heart — he was a king much like God is a King. God makes no attempt to force us to follow Him, to accept Him as King. He simply does what He would do if He were, and allows us to choose whether or not to follow Him.

The story of Hosea, to me, has two pictures of unconditionality, one of which took longer than the other to get. The first is the picture of unconditional love — buying his adulterous wife back after she left him. And even this is something that I struggle with. It’s easy for me, not just in relationships but in general, to think this is something that comes easily to me. I’m not one to harbor grudges, to dwell in resentment, even when some might argue it would be in my best interest. But is that really unconditional? Or does it come with expectations? I mentioned in a blog post the other day about love songs with substance the Alanis Morisette song, “You Owe Me Nothing in Return,” which includes the line — “You can ask to live by yourself or love someone else and I’ll support it.” How many of us are really anywhere near that level of unconditional love? I love you enough that I don’t care if I’m with you or not? Yeah. Wow.

But the second lesson of Hosea for me is this, as I put it on Twitter last week after church — “Hosea was a prophet, not a beggar.” Chapter 1 of the book talks about his wife leaving him. Chapter 3 talks about their reconciliation. Chapter 2? Prophecy. When his wife leaves, Hosea doesn’t beg her to come back, and doesn’t even go after her until God tells him to. In the meantime, he’s off being a prophet. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do, living his life for God.

Again, he’s living unconditionally — living the life he’s supposed to, and trusting the outcome, the future, to God.

Working from that point, I could come up with more examples, more support. But that’s beside the point, because those are the two stories I was given to work with.

The issue of surrender has been a big theme for me this entire year, and one that I’ve really struggled with. It’s a balance I have a very hard time with; I just really didn’t have a good enough picture of what that looks like to even try to walk it, despite trying to work on it and grow in it over the last seven months or so.

It’s not atypical for me, however, to have something make more sense to me after having the same picture presented to me from a different perspective. And while I’m a long way from being able to actually walk the idea of living unconditionally, I think I’m making more progress with it than I was with the idea of surrender. Live how I’m supposed to, don’t try to force an outcome, and trust the future to Him. Sure, it’s hard. But if I ever figure it out …

My devotional book this week talked about trapeze artists at the circus, and compared God with a safety net, “one that never wears out and that prevents (us) from making fatal spiritual mistakes.” It went on to talk about the freedom that gives us: “Secure in his arms, we can learn to take the risks that faith requires. If you have been playing it safe, resisting some new direction in your life that you know to be right, take some time today to meditate on God’s faithfulness. Tell him you want his will more than you want your own. Then go ahead and do whatever the Father asks!”

And that’s where I find myself — I realized two years ago that He’s much better at the big picture than I am. I can easily trust Him with where I’ll be five years from now. I know that I couldn’t begin to make plans for the future that He couldn’t do far better than. But I still struggle with the small picture. I can trust Him with five years from now, but can I trust Him with today? Do I really trust Him that I don’t need to worry about tomorrow, I need to just do what He would have today? Do I really trust Him that I don’t need to worry about whether I’m loved, I just need to love? Do I really really trust Him to do, to live, without worrying about the outcome, without second-guessing the results of what I’m doing?

Answer: No. But I’m working on it.

And Another Thing…

There are some things that are just so … unlikely, or something, that despite the fact that they’re something I would be interested in, they just fall off my radar. Basically, my mind logs the information, decides it’s either not true, or too remote, or something, and puts it so far on the back burner that it disappears.

Which happened to me the other day. I had earned a $100 gift certificate from Amazon, and used it for a giant shopping spree, clearing out things that had spent months on my wishlist. It was a lot of fun, and I’ll post the results when my goodies arrive.

However, one thing I didn’t do was pre-order anything — there are books I’m very much looking forward to, like John Grisham’s Ford County, which comes out on Nov. 3, and Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey, which comes out Dec. 29. Since I wasn’t sure whether Amazon would wait to ship the rest of my load until they came out, I opted to limit it to books out currently.

But I was looking at my news feed today, and was reminded of a book that I had heard about, and was interested in, but which has completely slipped off my radar. Last I heard about it, it was being written, but sounded a long way from becoming reality. But the item in my news feed today actually had cover art for the book, which made me think it might be closer to publication.

And it is: Eoin Colfer’s And Another Thing…, the sixth book in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, is going to be released on Monday.

So, for those of you out there who have read the DNA books … are you going to be reading AAT?

What Will You Say About Me? — Lori McKenna

(Anybody who has any conversation with me about music for any amount of time pretty quickly learns that one of my favorite artists, if not my absolute favorite artist, is Lori McKenna. She is an amazing writer; I am blown away by her ability to paint nuanced, believable and real emotional landscapes that reflect the fact that feelings are rarely simple, but are so often a roiling mixture of complementary and conflicting emotions. Anyway, a while back, Lori posted some unreleased tracks online. Since the lyrics weren’t available yet, I took it upon myself to transcribe them in case anyone was looking for them. [I made a good faith effort at the fourth track, “Happy Drunk,” but it was harder to make out completely.])

Forget the promises;
Swallow the pain;
Forgive ourselves our sins and learn to love again.

Look into new eyes, as hard as it gets;
Everybody lives with a little regret.

What will you say about me
When she asks how you know
About the color of the sun going down in Mexico?

And when she starts to fall,
Will it scare you at all?
Are you gonna tell the truth or hide it like a thief?
What will you say about me?

When you look over your shoulder
Will you see a mistake?
Or will you see the love that brought you to a better place?

What will you say about me
When she gets to your heart?
Do you tell her that I’m still holding a little part?

And when she starts to fall,
Will it scare you at all?
Are you gonna tell the truth or hide it like a thief?
What will you say about me?

What will you say about me
When she gets to your heart?
Will you tell her that I’m still holding a little part?

And when she starts to fall,
Will it scare you at all?
Are you gonna tell the truth or hide it like a thief?
What will you, what will you say about me?
What will you say about me?
What will you say about me?

Lori McKenna — “It Hurts For A Reason” Lyrics

(Song Can Be Found Here: There was one word in this one that I couldn’t make out.)

Everybody says I should be over you by now,
But I just hold out.
Everybody tells me I’ll find somebody new to love,
But my heart’s sold out.

This is not some tearful goodbye,
I’ll feel better in the morning.

No, it hurts for a reason.

I can’t just love you and not love you anymore
Because you said so
And threw water on this flame.
I turn to ice every time I hear your name
Because you grew cold.

If pain is all that I have left,
Then let me have it for a while.
I won’t _______ you with a smile.

It hurts for a reason.
It hurts for a reason.
Love like this can’t come and go
without leaving one hell of a hole.

I won’t feel this way forever,
But I’ll feel this way forever because I want to.

I’ll give love another try.
And if right now I wonder why,
Because I have to.
When he goes in for that first good night kiss,
I’ll remember this …
I’ll remember this …
It hurts for a reason.
It hurts for a reason.
I know, it hurts, for a reason.