Another Year Over, And A New One Just Begun


It’s hard to explain exactly how I felt, a mile in the air, at the moment I stopped falling toward the Earth at 176 feet per second.

When the parachute deployed and our descent slowed dramatically, the first thought to go through my head was, “OK, now I feel safe.”

But the thing is, there had not been a moment, leaving the plane or during the mile of freefall that I didn’t feel safe. I knew the chute would deploy; I knew I would be OK.

However, it was still a nice feeling when it did.

Welcome to my 2011.

That mile has been this year — a year when everything fell apart, sending me plummeting down at terminal velocity.

This, then, is faith: that while I’ll be glad when the parachute finally deploys, there’s never been a moment that I haven’t felt safe.

I can’t imagine what it would have been like to fall out of that plane without the parachute. But with the parachute, it was fun.

It would be easy to view this past year through the former filter; months of unchecked descent. But that’s the beauty of having the parachute — if there’s one thing I’ve learned working with NASA, it’s that in the right context, freefall can be kinda awesome.

When I look back on this year, there’s no question that the things I lost will stand out in my memory. But so will many many other things:

— I saw the last space shuttle launch ever in person.
— I went skydiving, twice.
— I experienced a long-standing goal of going to a Paul Simon concert, finishing my concert bucket list.
— Even if it’s still tied up in publishing limbo, I finished the manuscript of my (apparently cursed) second book.
— I fired an AK-47.
— I gave a lecture in the very cool Davidson Center theater at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.
— I went backpacking for the first time, and camped in sub-freezing conditions.
— I discovered that I have better and more awesome friends than I ever realized.
— I got to see the number-one team in the country beat my Ole Miss Rebels.
— I went (kinda) to Space Camp.

And all of that has been during “the worst months of my life.” Not bad, really.

I’m blessed. Beyond measure.

And while I would have preferred to have bill-paying employment, this season has given me the chance to do things I wouldn’t have or couldn’t otherwise.

I enjoy substitute teaching. I have loved working at the Depot. If I could make a living doing either, I would in a heartbeat. I’m looking forward to delving further into the world of Pampered Chef. I’ve made money lecturing and selling books and taking pictures and acting and teaching and freelance writing. And along the way, I’ve met some great people. There’s a lot to look forward to in 2012.

For years now, I’ve worn some variety of cross necklace. But in the last couple of months, I’ve substituted it occasionally for a souvenir of my first skydiving outing — a closing hook used on a parachute rig. I felt a little guilty at first replacing the cross with it, but realized that, ultimately, if a symbol of being willing to step out of an airplane without fear isn’t representative of what faith in God is all about, I don’t know what is.

Welcome to 2012. Enjoy the fall. I’ll see you on the ground.

The Night Was Owned — Lady Antebellum in Huntsville



I went to the Lady Antebellum concert at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville last night. It was good. Here are some pictures.

Scenes From A Show


We had two great Face2Face Improv shows this weekend, one at Thespis Theater in south Huntsville on Saturday night, and our glorious return to Decatur after more than two years on Friday night at the new Coffee and Play House venue there, which was, let me say, incredible.

Our oh-so-talented videographer Caleb McPherson brought his still camera to the Friday night show, and got some great pics. There’s no way to really know what it’s like being at a Face2Face show other than, well, to be at what, but I share this as some random glimpses into what we do.

Back To School


When I left my job six months ago, my plan was to go back to school.

To be honest, elementary school wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

And, yet, nonetheless, that’s where I found myself a few weeks ago, marking my first day in first grade.

My plans of pursuing a master’s have been put on hold, the job search goes all too slowly, and money would be a nice thing to have. So for the second time in my life, I went back to grade school.

I’d worked once before as a substitute teacher, 16 years ago, ironically under not dissimilar circumstances — I’d hit a bump in the road in college and was reevaluating my future course, and, in the meantime, worked as a substitute in the Huntsville City Schools. I worked only sporadically then, but the highlight was, without question, going back to my high school alma mater, spending the day teaching, and, wonder of wonders, eating lunch in the teachers lounge. It was more than a little surreal, and far cooler to me than it probably objectively should have been.

And now I’m back. My first day back in the classroom was almost three weeks ago, an interesting day that I spent an hour or two filling in for different teachers who were in conferences, starting with first grade and moving on to fourth and sixth. I’ve been in high school one day, and in elementary the rest.

I’m enjoying it. A lot. For one thing, it feels like work, and after six months of not working, that’s a nice feeling. I worked four days in a row the second week, three of those in the same classroom, and at the end of those four days I was the most awesome kind of exhausted ever.

I’ve gotten to do some guilt-free reading during breaks and planning periods, and that’s been nice.

But the most incredible part of all are the occasions when I actually get to teach. A lot of it is babysitting while they take tests or read chapters or watch videos, but every once in a while, I’m teaching. In a fortunate twist, most of that has been language arts, and I can do that. We worked today on similes and metaphors, and, yeah, it was fun. A lot of fun.

Subbing pays quite poorly, so this is something I have to do while I have no job, and will have to give up when I get one again.

To be honest, I’ll be way more sad about the latter.

Matthew Perryman Jones — “Looking For You Again” Lyrics


Looking For You Again
Matthew Perryman Jones

Your breakdown was easy to see
And it took you away, further from me
Sifting through mishaps and photographs
I think of you, much more than I should
More than I should

And I’m falling down
Like it’s holy ground
I’m looking for you again
I’m looking for you again

Slow regrets
That live in the dark
And I wrote them all down
But I know them by heart

I’ve counted the cost of this loneliness
And I’ve paid for the crime
And one day I’ll die
With you in my mind

And I’m falling down
Like it’s holy ground
I’m looking for you again
I’m looking for you again

I’m not letting you go again
I’m not letting this story end
I’m not letting you go again, love, no

I’m falling down
Like it’s holy ground
I’m looking for you again
I’m looking for you again

“Looking For You Again” is available as a free download on Jones’ website.

Review — “The Voice” New Testament


With a unique approach to translation and presentation, the new “The Voice” New Testament does a great job of making The Book feel like, well, a book. Neither completely a word-for-word or thought-for-thought Bible, “The Voice” builds on a direct translation approach at its core, supplemented with in-line context and a creative approach to dialogue that combine to make for a easily accessible text.

I’ve not had the chance to take “The Voice” to church yet, and I’m interested to see how it works as a functional Bible, but I imagine I’ll stick with a more robust study Bible there. (“The Voice” features little in the way of “extras” outside the main text, with what there is primarily focused on helping the reader to understand how this version came about and how to use it.) But at home? “The Voice” may very well be the best Bible I’ve encountered for just sitting down and reading. I find myself being careful with some of the context — anything extratextual lends itself to opinion — but the structure makes the reading flow easily. The Gospels, in particular, seem the best material for this approach, which brings a modern voice and feel to the narrative. (I received a review copy of “The Voice” through Booksneeze.com)

The Voice On Booksneeze

“… We Never Lose A Party”


Photo via Parade magazine.

This is why I love Ole Miss football, this is why I’m proud to be a Rebel, and this is what it means to me to be an Ole Miss fan.

For those that don’t follow such things, this is not exactly the best year ever for Ole Miss football. In fact, it’s what those in the know might call “bad.”

We’ve lost every game we could possibly lose, including some that took work. People are calling for the firing of the athletic director, the coach, the coordinators and the mascot. And, yes, I’m serious about that last one.

And in this midst of all of that, there’s a great piece by Rick Bragg in Parade magazine this past Sunday, which says things like this:

In the hours before dawn and leading up to kickoff, this small parcel of grass will become the scene of an elaborate banquet, with silver winking in the strong sunlight and fresh flowers perfuming the air. A feast will be served on real china, with mimosas poured into real glass flutes—an enormous buffet dinner, not a quick bite grabbed from aluminum foil and plastic everything. Elegant women in sundresses and even black cocktail dresses will gather with men in honest-to-God neckties, even in the unrelenting late-summer heat, because that’s just the way it’s done in these parts. Polo shirts are about as dressed-down as it gets.

It’s called “tailgating,” but really, that’s like referring to a Mardi Gras ball as a backyard weenie roast. …

Ole Miss won a share of the national title in 1959, 1960, and 1962, but the tailgating tradition was less elaborate in its beginnings, just a card table and a cooler for most people. “But it just kind of grew,” he says.

Comer may want the Rebels to prevail, but off the field, “we love to say to people walking by, ‘Come on over and have a drink, have something to eat.’ ” …

But at Ole Miss, in the football-obsessed South, the tailgating celebration isn’t just about the game; it’s about tradition, in the grandest sense. …

For many of those kids, the words to the Ole Miss cheer are the first words they learn, after “Mommy” and “Daddy.” It is inescapable in the Grove. People walk by, tip a glass, and belt it out: …

At some schools, the whole mood of fall Saturdays swings on the game’s outcome, and it is that way to some extent in the Grove.

“Daddy keeps a bottle of champagne in the cooler for when we win the Alabama game,” says Karen. “We haven’t opened it in a while,” her father admits.

Like the other faithful, he waits for a return to the days when every Saturday was a wild celebration. But in a way, he says, every Saturday at the Grove is a celebration, if not of football, then of family.

Tailgating has become a kind of antidote for when the Rebels lose. “I guess you’ve heard it said,” says Nannette, “that at Ole Miss we might lose the game, but we never lose the party.”

Sure, we’re not the best team in the country, and we haven’t been for more than a decade before I was born.

But for the Rebel faithful, that have been through many, many lean years during their life, it doesn’t matter.

Win or lose, we’re Ole Miss.

And proud of it.