Thursday, June 30, 2011


There is a well-known story in the New Testament about hope in the darkest of dark nights. It is a story told in the book of John about three dear friends of Jesus, Larazus and his two sisters Mary and Martha, who lived in a small town called Bethany just outside of Jerusalem. These friends had developed a special bond of trust and connectedness that only people who have spent a lot of intimate time together can know. Their relationship was marked by understanding and acceptance and love.

One day Jesus traveled far away from Bethany to escape from authorities who were trying to arrest him. During his time away, Lazarus fell deathly ill. Mary and Martha sent immediate word to Jesus begging Him to come and help Lazarus. However, Jesus purposefully delayed for several days. During this period, Lazarus died and was buried. Both Mary and Martha began their period of mourning, which was made all the more desperate and troubling by the lack of Jesus' presence.

However, Jesus stayed away for a specific purpose, namely, to use Lazarus' death to bring glory to God. When He eventually made His way back to Bethany, Martha ran out to meet Him with confrontation in her eyes. She demanded to know where He had been and why He delayed so. In her very next breath she then made an amazing statement of faith, "But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." She never gave up hope. She knew that even with Lazarus in the tomb for several days, this was nothing that God could not overcome with but a word. Of course, that is exactly what happened when Jesus commanded, "Lazarus, come out!". This miracle brought many people to Jesus and brought glory to God.

An important lesson from this story is that hope need not be such a fragile possession. While our prayers may not always (or ever) be answered in the way that we desire in the depth of our hurting or loss, we need to cling desperately and lovingly to faith in our God. We need to trust that He is in control and if our Lazuruses are not brought out from the tomb, then there is a reason. We have not been forgotten or cast aside, only that there is more afoot that we could possibly understand.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Plan B

Take a look around you the next time you go to the mall, to the supermarket, to the movies. People are everywhere. Thousands and thousands just in the small vicinity around you. Widen that circle and the numbers grow exponentially. Every single one of these people with even the least bit of wear on their tires has known disappointment and hurt. From divorce, to relationship struggles, to death, to accidents, to health issues, to family problems. Nobody is immune to immense and sudden shocks to their lives. Shocks that force life to flow suddenly in a direction away from what was known or what was expected. This is a "Plan B" moment. Such times have the potential to wreak havoc on our faith and our relationship with God.

"We tend to think God is with us only when everything is working great and all the charts in our life are going up and to the right. We think that our Plan B situations are signs that we're not where God wants us to be. We think our suffering is a sign that we're getting something wrong, not evidence that God is at work to teach us and bring us blessing."

In his book Plan B (subtitled - What do you do when God doesn't show up the way you thought he would?), Pete Wilson shares his thoughts on how to approach such times in our lives. In the heat of the moment, in the depth of the devastation, he does not advocate easy answers. That notion is trite and meaningless and does no good. Instead he advocates an approach of developing a relationship with God that is tried and tested and understood well before the tidal wave strikes (not if it strikes, but when it strikes). It is O.K. to grieve and cry. It is O.K. to mourn loss. However, if we are prepared, we will never feel abandoned or forgotten. We may feel unbalanced, unsteady, and out of control, but if we cultivate a strong relationship with God, we will appreciate and grasp that He is always in control in our lives. This is not a book of answers, but a book of comfort and fellowship and perspective.

"Sometimes in the emotion of the moment, our minds play tricks on us. We think our loss is worse than it is. Like David when he recalled what he knew rather than what he feared, his sense of loss turned into a song of praise (Ps. 13:5-6)" - M. DeHaan

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


How many times are we going to see another politician fall in some self-inflicted scandal? Sex, nepotism, entitlement, lying, fraud, extortion, bribery. The list goes on and on and on. Betrayal of the very people they swore to serve. Have you ever noticed how they squeal and kick like a cornered bronco when the light of truth is turned upon them? Like a cockroach running to hide in a corner when their crimes are exposed. How they hide behind their teams of high-end lawyers and use their influence to squirm their way out of what they deserve? I list some names off the top of my head for your consideration:
  • R. Blagojevich
  • B. Clinton
  • G. Condit
  • A. Weiner
  • J. Edwards
  • T. Rangel
  • T. DeLay
  • E. Spitzer
  • M. Barry
I could, given several more minutes, continue to add name after name. When our elected officials break the very laws and moral standards that they swore to uphold, it makes me sick. These men of power always seem to get off far too easily. Slap on the wrist at the worst. Even when their guilt is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, they rarely admit their mistakes, unless their handlers spoonfeed them the right words that played well with some test audience. Their words are empty. They are not sorry for their actions, only sorry for getting caught.

"Oh, it's just partisan politics. They are attacking me because they don't want to focus on the real issues."

Bah! I say that penalties should be twice as harsh for elected officials convicted of breaking the law as they would be for non-elected citizens. As Blagojevich said after he was convicted on 17 counts of the worst possible corruption as governor of Illinois, "I frankly am stunned". You and me both pal.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Imagine stumbling upon the following ad in your local newspaper:

For hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.

This recruitment letter would stir absolutely nothing in me to pique my interest or make me look twice. However, when Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton placed this simple "help wanted sign" in his local paper in 1914, he received over 5000 responses! When I recently read about this story, it really amazed me. I could not understand the lure of this call. Adventure and intrigue and challenge come in all shapes and sizes, places and situations. Why would relentless and dangerous trudging through the frozen wastelands of the snowpack arouse the dreams and passions of so many folks?

After thinking about this for a bit, it kind of made me draw some parallels to my life as a Christian. A typical journey for a Christ follower is, in some ways, a treacherous and risky adventure. A path with no certainty of success, based upon the nebulous and tenuous notions of faith and trust and personal experience. The path that we follow causes many outside observers to judge us with a complete lack of understanding. How can we dedicate our one, brief life here on Earth to follow the writings of some folks who lived millennia ago during a pre-enlightened age of rampant polytheism and long-held superstitions? Long periods of darkness and danger are part of our paths. Safe return of some doubt, but oh the glory if we should be successful.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Beyond the Pail

Our lives are like a bucket that we struggle to keep filled with water. It seems that we would be doomed if the water in our bucket were ever to drain completely away. The issue is that problems in our relationships with others in our lives, whether friends, families, co-workers, acquaintances, create holes in our bucket from which the precious, life-sustaining water escapes. It seems that just when we get one hole patched up and leak-tight, either through a permanent fix or a temporary patch job, another one opens up. Sometimes it seems like we can never get to a point where our bucket is full and completely intact.

To me, repair work to my bucket, to those relationships that are broken or damaged, takes such a long time. It takes so much energy and work. I have come to the point where it seems like it is just not worth it. With so many people in our world and in our lives, it seems easier and more prudent just to cut away the problem areas and start again. Start again with others who don't know of our baggage or our issues or our past. Sometimes too, when we allow people to get too close to us, they serve as an anchor to our pasts when it would actually be much healthier to cut that rope and sail to a whole new place. A place without that drag or shadow or presence, where we can find freedom to let the past go. To heal. To reinvent ourselves. To wipe the slate clean. To start over with a fresh new bucket.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Through Painted Deserts

Through Painted Deserts by author Donald Miller is an updated/republished version of his first book, Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance. The original version was not a big seller, but after Miller became more widely known, his publisher decided to repackage it and try again. The book is a true-to-life account of the author's coming of age season, where he left his home and the life that he knew and set out on the open road.

"It's interesting how you sometimes have to leave home before you can ask the difficult questions, how the questions never come up in the room you grew up in, in the town in which you were born. It's funny how you can't ask difficult questions in a familiar place."

The journey documents a sort of pilgrimage when Miller was 21 as he and his friend Paul set out from Houston, Texas on their way to Portland, Oregon and the rest of their lives. They made the trip in a beat-up, hunk-of-junk, VW van. The rust bucket was finicky and unreliable, but it slowed them down and forced them to frame some perspective, and strangely enough, it also served them to appreciate their faith a bit more. The scenes and adventures and folks encountered along the way helped them to understand that life was meant to be lived, not just endured. Out on their own, barely two nickels to rub together, making their way day by day, moment by moment, allowed them to learn that possessions and stuff and never-ending aspirations are not the key to happiness. That key is found in relationship.

The book's dedication is written to Miller's mother, "Mom, here is the first book, rewritten a bit. I didn't know, when I was living it, that it was about leaving home. I think you always knew. Thanks for letting me go. This will always be yours." I found this touching, as I did the whole book. A fun and worthwhile read.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Brief Poem

An original wisp of inspiration that drifted across my mind the other day. I needed to grab it and write it down.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Smell the Roses

You likely have heard the old expression "You need to stop and smell the roses". Usually this is uttered by some intrusive fruit bat in a nagging and subversive tone. You might then think something equally subversive like, "I'd like to tell you where to shove that rose bush Thornerella". But, many of us would never dare to say something so nasty out loud. Further, many of us who are constantly on the go with our busy lives and the endless things that seem to require our time and attenion, will never actually make the time to stop and smell the roses. Given this propensity of many of us to keep our foot on the accelerator until the moment we expire, I decided to take on this rose smelling thing as a personal challenge.

In fact, I decided to go above and beyond. I purposefully stopped and snorked about in my own personal rose bushes. But, I did not stop there. I then went and got my camera and took a picture (see above). Then with my shirt collar stained with the attar essences, I wrote a freakin' blog about it. Now, if anyone tries to wag their boney finger in my face saying that I never stop and smell the roses, I have documented proof that, at least for a few moments, I did. Now I can get back to my busy life and not be bothered by this pesky chore again.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Searching for God

"In my opinion, there are two essential problems with believing God is somebody He isn't. The first problem is that it wrecks your life, and the second is that it makes God look like an idiot."

My first experience with author Donald Miller was my recent reading of his well-known book Blue Like Jazz. After really enjoying that work and feeling, somehow, like I was a part of the conversation, I was thristy for more. I then tackled, Searching for God Knows What, the book Miller wrote immediately after Jazz. Although the style and tone and the voice are very similar, so that in a way it feels like a continuation of the same discussion, it feels a bit more intimate. While this book also focuses on relationships, it is more the relationship between the author and you, as opposed to that between the author and his cadre of friends and acquaintances.

The seed for "Searching" all started with Miller attending a seminar on how to write a self-help "Christian" book that will appeal to a large audience. He is told that to sell books, you have to talk about some known problem with people and break down a path to the solution in three easy steps. Always formulaic. Always those steps. It was then that Miller realized that this is the same approach that many folks take when trying to unpack the Bible. He realized that this approach is flawed. It does not lead to relationship with God and Jesus. "Now that I no longer see it as a self-help book, the Bible has infinitely more merit."

"Perhaps the reason Scripture includes so much poetry in and outside the narrative, so many parables and stories, so many visions and emotional letters, is because it is attempting to describe a relational break man tragically experienced with God."

"It only makes sense that if God was communicating a relational message to humanity He would use the multilayered methodology of truth and art, because nobody engages another human being through lists and formulas."

I viewed this book in quotes such as these. Small snippets that spoke to me, like the individual, but intertwined essays that made up this work. Again, Miller really spoke to me personally through the journey of these pages.

Friday, June 17, 2011


I think some people give me way more credit than is my due. As they read my blog and consider some of what I say, they seem to think that I am somehow wise and astute, that I have it together, that I am making steady progress in this race of life. However, apart from some occasional moments of clarity, I am mostly lost in the blur of the world as it spins wildly like a dervish around my head. Those few lessons that I seem to grasp nimbly one instant, are wrenched from my fingers in the very next one. Hindsight affords better vision than foresight, for which I assure you I am completely myopic.

I am going through a season of life that finds me battling a bout of depression. I feel tired and defeated and worthless. I get like this from time to time when things pile up on my shoulders. Actually, it feels like the smallest things can overwhelm me and push me to the precipice. I wish at times like this I could analyze the situation with aplomb and whip up some magical elixir to make everything right. Whisper an incantation. Poof. Of course I have no such magic within me. I feel like I am on a small boat in the middle of an ocean with a howling gale surrounding me. Some might fight and steer into the wind, try to ride it out. Me, I feel like just curling up in a ball and letting the weather do with me what it will.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Along the Watchtower

But you and I, we've been through that; And this is not our fate.

A vow of hearts and minds and bodies. Sealed with a kiss and an embrace. Oh, the brightness of the stars in the heavens. Sweet was the subtle fragrance of the lilies. More than the sum of their separate parts. Yet an autumn storm rolled in and silenced the lilting tune of the nightingale. The moonflowers and morning glories rended into nothingness under the hooves of the horsemen.

A vow of hearts and minds and bodies. Cast down into the gutter. Screams and lies and threats. The overwhelming heat of the incendiary blaze that laid waste to that beautiful garden. One a joker, the other a thief. The quickness of the wildcat's clawed swipe belying the true destruction of the wretch left behind. The Merrymaids came and vacummed up every look and promise and smile. Taken away as if they never existed.

A vow of hearts and minds and bodies. He waits still, cold and numb, still battered and bruised. It is foolish and wasteful. The outcome a certainty. Yet even if the odds are based on finding one grain of sand amongst all the sand on the earth, the joker must wait. After all, a vow is a vow, even if only one remembers.

So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Branch Point

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference", Robert Frost

Two folks get into a bit of a testy exchange. The one recognizes what is happening and has a choice of two divergent roads to journey down. One is a path of reconcilation and kindness and benefit of the doubt and respect. The other is a thorny road of anger and vehemence and hatred and frustration and fatigue. One path leads to light and strength and community. The other path is one of darkness and isolation. The odd thing is that the first part of the journey down the dark path actually seems easier, more painless, more empowering. However, just around the bend, everything about this path leads to death.

All too often for me, the road less travelled is the path of light. Most times I purposefully head the other way. I am so tired of struggling with this demon. I have been defeated by it too many times. My words and my actions seem so completely hard-wired into my being. Why even try? Jacta alae est.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

People Watching

I have just attended a week-long conference hosted by the laboratory where I work. Roughly 200 folks that represented a fairly broad brush stroke of humanity were in attendance. Men and women who spanned a wide range of the cultural and socio-economic spectrum. They traveled from universities and laboratories around the world representing the U.S., China, Spain, Cyprus, Canada, France, Germany, U.K., India, Taiwan, Japan, Italy, and Minnesota, among others. Given that the conference lasted from early morning to late at night for five full, action-packed days, I got a chance to do a bit of people watching during the talks. Below I note just a sampling of observations that I made whilst sitting in the lecture rooms where the lights were typically dimmed.

Now I note the condition of the lighting because I sense it is relevant to why I observed what I observed. My guess is that the brains of many people actually mistakenly registered the slight reduction in the lighting intensity at a much deeper level. Somehow they were led to the belief that the lighting was equivalent to that of a root cellar or an abandoned mine shaft. How else could you explain what I was witness to? This included:
  • Many people seem completely at ease picking their noses seated in and around others. I saw far too many instances of deep and lasting penetrations. Pigs root about for truffles with less intensity and noise.
  • Several folks who gave presentations in front of the group didn't seem to have any sense of shame of pulling their underwear out of their butts. It must have been wedged deep into their small intestines given the energy and exhuberance devoted to yanking out their undergarments.
  • Some folks seem to really enjoy the deep and lasting pleasures of snorking up a sinus cavity full of snot. Picture the Jim Carrey scene in the Ace Ventura movie.
  • Many "people" feel that it is O.K. to pass gas in a public setting. They somehow think the louder they are the better. Then they smirk with pride as if they feel they are deserving of a prize or a round of applause.
Oh, and this is just the stuff that I can mention publicly on this site without causing you to spontaneously combust.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Now Summer

I have never been one to shy away from stating my opinion. In fact, if you peruse back entries on this blog site, you can see for yourself that my opinions dominate nearly all of the posts. Well, of course since this is my blog, I control its content with an iron fist, so maybe none of this is surprising. Anyhow, I figure that since a precedent has been established, who am I to change things at this point?

My opinion today is that the summer season should only officially begin when I say so. (Fanfare) So, today I proclaim by the power vested in me that the summer season is now certifiably and unequivocally open. My edict has been issued because my pool boy, Jacopo, came out to open up my pool. Actually, Jacopo did a wonderful job. You see, when a pool sits stagnant for about 9 months, its composition slowly transforms and stews. Eventually it becomes about 90% green, bacterial, bubbling, toxic goop, 6% assorted dead cricket parts, 3.9% bird droppings, and 0.1% water. However, after working his magic for a mere hour or so, voilà, he has somehow managed to get the water fraction up to the county mandated 5% level! I offer a hearty bravo and the customary snapping of fingers. I show below the before and after photographs. If you would like contact information for Jacopo, I would be happy to pass it along. Welcome summer season. Let the fun begin.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Speaking in Tongues

Image after image flashes out in front of me. I sit patiently for a while watching and listening. Listening and watching. Then my chin slowly migrates down toward my chest until I am finally focussing nearly fully on a different set of images flashing in front of me in my lap. Instead of listening to what others have learned or understood, I am seemingly more interested in my own stuff. Perhaps that is why I began thinking about it in the first place. Likely, the real answer is that even though we all come from the same place more or less, we each speak a very different language. After all, your jargon is essentially a foreign language to me.

I think back to when I was new to this sort of venue. I had my pad of paper and my pencil and I actually took pages of notes. I was thirsty and tenacious to pick up everything that I could. Now I tend to focus my attention on the warm machine resting on my thighs. Sometimes all I seem capable of doing is looking up at the bigger screen and nodding before turning back to my own. In those moments I don't feel so hungry any more. Sometimes I feel content just to ride along on the hand I have already dealt myself. I wonder if my spirit has been diminished by choice or necessity. After all, I have a full platter of my own work responsibilities to deal with and your jargon is a foreign language to me.

(Some thoughts running through my mind as I sat through a session of talks in a conference at work.)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Embraced by the Spirit

There are some common platitudes heard in Christian gatherings. When you are dealing with some kind of struggle that is weighing you down, invariably someone will utter, "Just give it to God." I have never understood fully what this means. Sometimes folks who have no answers or sage advice to dispense, feel they have to say something that at least sounds good. However, despite my lack of understanding of "giving it to God", I do think there is a kernel of relevance in this statement, namely, that we should live in constant communication with our God. When we labor and flail and sink under our own efforts, when we are so tired and frustrated and spent that we have no strength to pray, there is someone who indwells us that pleads and groans to God on our behalf. This someone is the Holy Spirit.

I think the notion of God, His Son, and His Spirit being three distinct entities but only one being, if you try to wrap your mind around it, might actually cause your eyes to bleed. It is a very tricky and convoluted and not really comprehensible notion. Jesus told his followers that after He left the Earth, God would provide His Spirit to dwell within people who called on Him. This Spirit was meant to be the earthly presence of God after Jesus ascended into heaven. Jesus didn't go into great detail or provide any sort of manual or how-to guide. If anyone tells you that they understand all of this completely, then I would urge you to beware. There are lots of areas where we can only make assumptions.

Seeking wisdom, clarification, and truth in this area, I was lead to read the book Embraced by the Spirit by Charles Swindoll. This work was not meant to be a detailed investigation and unpacking of scripture. It was meant to be a dialog in a very conversational style. It was an attempt to help build greater intimacy in our relationship with God by giving us a few practical suggestions for seeking out or better tuning into that "still, small voice" within us so that it is more than a "still small voice". A peaceful and enjoyable book for your devotional time.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A+ America 6

I read the news online each morning to keep my finger on the pulse of the goings-on in the world. The pounding that mother nature inflicts on us and our stuff is such a regular aspect of our news, that I know I am completely desensitized to it. I feel badly about my blasé attitude and how quickly my eyes bounce off to the next story. However, behind each news story are a host of real people who are dealing with very real suffering and very real loss.

Yet I sense that you don't actually appreciate the positive developments that occur in the aftermath of such devastation until it happens in your own local community. I think that's because T.V. news stations really like storms for the photographs. It's a real ratings booster to show buildings and cars that have been crushed like balsa wood models in a wind tunnel. But there is something good and warm and wonderful that emerges after such a storm passes that the news programs never seem to show. Something that you witness only when things happen in your own back yard. There you see that people actually reach out and offer what they have to those most deeply affected. These people are regular folks like you and me. They are not missionaries or do-gooders or clergy or sandal-wearing corn-nuts.

Not too long ago, my local community was hit by a series of tornadoes that did some horrendous damage to a school and several neighborhoods. Three folks were killed in the storm. However, immediately after the sun came up the next day, many folks were offering up their spare bedrooms, their pantries, and their stuff to help out those most affected. When you hear stories like this, it shows you that there is more to humanity than all of the negative crap that seems to saturate the news day after day. So, to those who step up when disaster strikes, I say A+ America.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I know something about the number 800 that you don't. My knowledge is based on the field of numerology and my own personal study of several years of publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals. From the heavily government funded Commission of Numbers and Number Studies, or CoNNs, (with research grants totaling nearly 1.5 billion dollars per annum), they have concluded that the number 800 possesses the following energetic vibrations: material possessions, abundance, authority, leadership, cosmic awareness, self-motivation, prosperity, and infinity. Wow, and you thought that your government was actually wasting your tax dollars! Oh, and one more thing, none of what I have said so far has any truth to it whatsoever. However, the number 800 is a big deal today. Today I am celebrating my 800th blog post. I think that this is pretty neat, far out, and altogether kooky. Thanks (as usual) to my small cadre of loyal readers. I appreciate you stopping by. Lots more to come from my ever fertile mind as we march toward number 900!

Monday, June 6, 2011


A treadmill is a most discouraging piece of equipment. After 30 minutes of strenuous effort, you end up at exactly the same place from which you began. It's not even that you have navigated a circuituous path, you truly never moved from your initial position. You have pushed your body to the limit. You are soaked with perspiration like a sweat-lodge resident. Your muscles ache and groan and complain. Yet, you have not taken a single productive step away from where you started. So why bother? What do we hope to attain? Why do we even consider opening ourselves to such pointless activity?

chagrin - a feeling of vexation, marked by disappointment.

Life, it sometimes seems, is much like our time on the treadmill. We exert ourselves to the breaking point, giving of our time, our money, and our energy, only to find out that we have made no progress. Dang. I start to think why should I even try to work on my shortcomings, to try to improve my attitude, to make myself into a better person? It seems that I never get anywhere. Of course, this recognition is just so utterly defeating. It quashes my spirit and makes me want to give up. Why pour good money after bad? Why not just accept myself for who I apparently am, warts and all, and find some peace? A simple cost/benefit analysis would seem to indicate that this is the smart move.

However, each morning, no matter how rough the previous day was, I resolve to keep on in the fight with renewed vigor. I don't know why. I really can't make sense of any of it. Perhaps it is something chemical or biological and out of my control. Some might suggest that this is a mark of our humanity. I sometimes think it is a form of madness. Albert Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. But perhaps, the truth is that I would rather maintain an uneasy status quo with my nose just sticking up above the water's surface than give up and spiral into chaos and darkness.

Friday, June 3, 2011


When you watch an old western on late-night T.V., there is typically a tense scene at the end where the dastardly villain is gunned down by the good guys. This judgement is usually well deserved after several hours of bank heists, cattle rustling, and train robberies. As the ne'er-do-wells clutch their chests and dramatically meet with their demise, the audience feels a certain warmth and release. Some even yell out a hearty, "Huzzah!". The bottom line is that we love it when people get what they deserve.

So it is with this spirit that I felt a certain joy when I listened to the news on the radio the other day. It seems that a certain individual was terrorizing an RV park. As the happy campers slept peacefully in their beds, this villain was syphoning gasoline from their tanks. Cue the hisses and the old timey piano medley. I can picture this monster wringing his hands while he chortles and sneers. He might even have had a handlebar mustache that he menacingly twisted for effect.

Well, justice was ultimately served. One evening he came upon a camper, and though it was dark, proceeded to insert his syphoning tube into what he purported to be the petrol tank. He put his lips to the hose and drew in deeply, deeply, to bring forth his prize. However, he was more than surprised to suck in a huge mouthful of raw sewage from the vehicle's holding tank. As he lay on the ground retching and convulsing, the police nabbed him and threw him into the hoosegow. Then the closing credits rolled to our mirthful glee and cheering.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


After finishing the book Graceling by author Kristin Cashore, I learned that she had written a companion book entitled Fire. Fire is actually a prequel to Graceling, taking place some three decades before the narrative of the first book, in a vast kingdom well to the east of the setting in Graceling. The land is inhabited by the Dells, but they are constantly having to deal with aggressions from Lord Mydogg and his loyalists in the north and Lord Gentian and his growing ranks in the south. This, coupled with bands of raiders and general lawlessness away from the cities, makes skills in survival critical.

In this land are wonderous creatures, termed monsters, who look like ordinary dogs, leopards, birds, and bugs, but they are adorned in brilliant colors, purples and golds and fuschias. These monsters tend to be much more aggressive than their standard counterparts. Another monster in the Dellian kingdom is unique. Her name is Fire, and she is the last surviving human monster. She possesses a beauty that overwhelms all who witness her, causing unguarded men and women alike to be drawn to her with uncontrollable lust or rage. She also has the ability to control weak or willing minds, as well as the power to sense and understand all those in her immediate surroundings. She can enter minds and understand intents and purpose and thoughts, and if she so choose, she could enslave those same minds.

Fire is a young woman of deep passion and feeling. Her father, Cansrel, also a monster with the ability to control and manipulate others, used his abilities to accumulate wealth and power. Ultimately his cruelty led to madness, a path that Fire was determined never to follow. The story of Fire is really a tale of choices and consequences from Fire's long-time beau Archer and their tempestuous relationship, to her separation from him to find peace and follow her heart, and ultimately to her journey to make amends for the tortorous and wicked legacy of her father. At numerous junctures along the way, she could have so easily slipped away and become a mirror of her father. However, her strength and determination to be a positive force are uplifting and empowering. The undercurrent love story between Fire and the King's brother Brigan and Fire's relationship with his young daughter, also builds through shared pain and triumph.

Fire was not really related to Graceling save for one interesting graceling boy who plays a critical role in that later tale. However, it gave Cashore a world and a period that had already been established on which she could paint a different portion of the canvas. She has a strength in developing characters (especially strong female leads) and pulling you into them, even when they are deeply flawed. Cashore has crafted an adventure that really just let me escape from my world for a time, and I absolutely loved my time with this book. She plans on releasing a third installment in this line that is tentatively titled "Bitterblue". I look forward to diving into that one when it comes out.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I laid seige to your fortress with flattery and fanfare. Against your better judgment, you eventually opened your gates and granted me passage. If you knew then what would occur in time, you would have ordered your archers to let fly their arrows. You would have signaled the warriors on your ramparts to unleash the cauldrons of boiling oil upon my head. If I knew then what I know now, I would have remained deep in the forests, and been satisfied only to admire you from afar.

With access came trust and touch, but you could not possibly understand the demons that were racing through my mind. One moment I was overcome with delerious joy that I was walking in that wild garden. The bird song was ever so sweet, with beauty unsurpassed in any kingdom near or far. The fog within me at times dissipated giving me purpose and vitality. Finally, I had a chance to demonstrate that the scars from past battles lost were not for naught. I thought for a moment that I had finally found my smile, that the peace that I had so longed for was just coming into my grasp.

However, in the next moment, I betrayed you with a dagger slashed across your throat. The kill was all too easy for me, all too predictable. I acted not out of maliciousness, not out of some warrior mentality wherein one is unsatisfied with today's conquest. Rather, I ran because all at once my sad little world was overwhelmed by your light. Like the nausea that ensues when trying to eat a royal feast after going so long with nary a morsel. I just never could find a moment to gain my balance, to find my feet. I was running at a pace that I couldn't sustain, poisoning myself by acting against the truths that I held most dear, killing myself trying to figure out how to gain control. When I could not, I bolted for the gate and back into the forests. I ran with my tail between my legs like recreant vermin. Forever and a day I send you my deepest, my most humble apologies. If only ...