Monday, January 21, 2013

Interlude: How Can I Keep from Singing

Ok, so my next few Memory of Light posts have been delayed.  Should have at least one up by later today.  In the meantime, an interlude: one of my new favorite songs.  Uploaded from my phone, where I simply rotated the screen to get the video right-side up.  If you're watching it from a desktop...oops? What can I say, haven't done this before, and tech-savvy I am not. I'll work on it...  



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Memories of Light, part 2

In this blogpost you have a compilation of my off-the-cuff, stream-of-consciousness posts to the rereaders on Facebook during my read of A Memory of Light, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. 

After waiting 16+ years to read the end of this story, I was hugely excited to read A Memory of Light.  I was also very conflicted.  This story has been part of my life for a long time now; the characters are like old familiar friends; friends who were about to a) die, in the story, or b) if they didn't die, they might as well, since I wouldn't get to read about them anymore.

I don't know how to explain the mix of emotions I felt; driven to devour the book as soon as possible, on the one hand; driven to draw it out and linger over the last new Wheel of Time book I'd ever read. 

Thus the reread community has been a godsend.  They are in the same boat, know just how it feels, and could share the excitement and the ambivalence. 

So, during my read, when excitement or trepidation or dread threatened to overwhelm me, I would siphon off a bit of that and share it with the reread community.  What follows are those posts, from January 8 through 12, beginning just before I got the book and continuing for a day or so after I finished reading. 

Note that these posts were all, by design, spoiler-free (and are certainly influenced by Leigh Butler's brilliantly funny and profane Spoiler-Free Review, which you can find on  As such they don't actually SAY anything.  They just record my emotions, mostly for my benefit, and perhaps for other Wheel of Time fans. 

Tomorrow I'll go back and identify what I was reading when these reactions took place. 

And now, the post!

January 8

9:26 a.m.  “Oddly, I seem to have waked (from a dream of sitting in a crowded stadium of folks awaiting our books) in a non-twitchy state. Now I know it's really here, I'm sort of...stretching my morning routine, since I took the day off. Still, I'll be setting off for the store in the next half hour!!”

11:15 a.m.  “The weird non-twitchy phase has passed with a vengeance. Heading out now to claim my copy! The nearest Walmart parking lot is like a deathtrap at the best of times, and I have this horrible feeling that as soon as I put my gleeful hands on a preciousss copy the earth will crack and swallow me whole, but there's no help for it. Time to dance with Jak o' the shadows....”

5:40 p.m.  “ Hey, Linda...I just realized that I'm reading about you in AMOL!”

9:43 p.m.  “I've never read this slowly. P. 246. I keep stopping to squee. I agree...wonderful. Squeeing, occasional getting choked up...but a mounting sense of dread, too.”

9:56 p.m.  “My ‘break’ lasted ten minutes; after five I was twitching again. I'm going back in! Hang in there, bleary-eyed friends; tai'shar tor-rereaders!”

10:27 p.m.  “Wow. The scene I just I never expected *that* to go like *that*.”

10:32 p.m.  “And two pages later, I'm stunned all over again. Why did I never realize this? Completely logical, completely unexpected. Wow. Brain explodey.”

11:23 p.m.  “And now, I do a snoopy dance of joy. What a CMOA!”

January 9

1:08 a.m.  “Oh good grief, I thought the rest of you were crazy, I can't believe you were right about this! Ah hah hah, it was all a trick! Bloody marvelous! Oh, well done.

And then, That happened, closely followed by THAT. No, I don't like this at all.

Ugh, so good."

1:31 a.m.  “Ok, bed. For now.”

11:38 a.m.  “I told myself not to read before going to work this morning, but I couldn't help it. And...i got to a section where things began to suck. Not the story, but what's happening to Our Heroes! Just the beginning, I'm sure, and then it was time to leave. Now I'm going through the whole day filled with dread. Argh!”

12:54 p.m.  “Oh no. OH NO. This is a disaster. How is that even possible? And if he is, they *both* could be! Light! 

I really shouldn't have allowed myself to read a chapter at lunch...”

1:34 p.m. "Turns out it's not as bad as I thought. Or it's worse. I haven't decided yet."
10:54 p.m.  “Home from my twelve hour work day. Exhausted, headache. Logically, considering the next chapter is 180 pages long, I should just go to bed, right? RIGHT? 

Yeah, right. *sarcasm*”

11:07 p.m.  "Pg 624. Lol. But i think there's not much more laughter in the near future...."

11:10 p.m.  "Well...the next paragraph made me laugh. And the next page did again."

11:19 p.m.  "Crap. Didn't see that coming, he's totally insane."
11:57 p.m.  "Bwah hah hah, that is hilarious! In general, though, everything is so tense and dire I can hardly stand it."
January 10

12:05 a.m. "Yeah, it...gets worse"
12:38 a.m.  "Oh. Oh, god, no."
12:54 a.m.  “Aw, man, that SUCKS. Makes sense, though.”
12:56 a.m.  “Oh...tears now.”
1:13 a.m. “No. No, i think I'm going to give...what happened...the weight it deserves. I will rest here. See you all in the morning.”

7:10 a.m.  “And we wake, and within 5 pages, we have more sucking.  I have to admit, despite everything, I always had a soft spot for him.  Man. This is gonna get brutal, isn't it?”

7:24 a.m.  “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!? Bloody Seanchan.

7:35 a.m. “ YES!! Awesome! (please don't turn this into sucking when I turn the page)”

7:43 a.m. “Well, that was a good bit of fan service, but this next, *expletive*. This book keeps making me want to curse, something I usually avoid. (How can something so horrible be so good?!)”

7:50 a.m. “Awesome! (oh nos)”

7:51 a.m. “Hah! Pg 726 'if any of those...' "

7:56 a.m.  “I have never hearted Mat Cauthon quite like the rest of you, until this book.”

8:02 a.m. “Aww. Together again.” 

8:08 a.m. “OH! OH NOS!  And now I have go to work.”

8:14 a.m. “Hahaha that is hilarious that man is a tool and you are awesome! Ok...NOW I can go to work.”

9:26 a.m.  “Pg 780.”

9:32 a.m.  “Ohnononononononono”

9:45 a.m.  “oh

i don't want to read this anymore”

10:25 a.m.  “Tai'shar Manetheren. Tai'shar Malkier.”

10:44 a.m.  “Where is she? Where are they?”

10:51 a.m.  “Hahaha haha hahaha bloody genius.”

12:17 p.m. “sads”

12:32 p.m.  “I finished reading the last book of the Wheel of Time on Thursday, January 10, at 12:26 p.m. EST. 

I...don't know. It was great. I...don't know.”

2:07 p.m.  “Yeah, it's a little odd, after thinking of "Dragonsworn" as people like Masema's bunch, but once I decided to see us as Dragonsworn, it made things even more engrossing.”

5:00 p.m. “ Any good post-apocalyptic snacks in the bunker? What do you fix for supper on the day the world/pattern/series ends?”

7: 59 p.m.  “It's a good thing I live alone, is all I'm saying. As it is, the walls of the apartment aren't *that* thick. And I may have lost it a time or twelve at 2 a.m...two nights in a row....”

11:16 p.m.  “The White Tower's got, like, 1500+ novices now? Including the likes of Sharina Melloy? And Egwene made great use of them in the Seanchan attack on the Tower, and then we're told they're...just off Healing? MAYBE that's a good enough use, or maybe every Aes Sedai ought to have been in a circle of 13 the whole time, with 12 novices hidden in the camps...”
January 11
9:43 p.m.  “A friend who likes to post 'Question(s) of the Day' just asked "What is the last book you read that made you cry?" Hmm, let me think....”

 January 12
 10:34 p.m.  “Finally managed to put some thoughts down in the Spoiler thread. Already up to 250+ comments.”


Memories of Light, part 1

I began reading Robert Jordan's epic fantasy series, "The Wheel of Time", in May of 1996.

 The series began in 1990, and by 1996 there were already 6 books out with a seventh on the way. I borrowed the books from a friend. She was excited to loan me the first one - then was shocked at how quickly I devoured it and was ready for the next one. She became increasingly concerned as I burned through all 6 currently existing books within a week - 5000+ pages - during a time when I really should have been studying for finals. It was, after all, the last few weeks of my last semester in college!


Avid reader that I was, the Wheel of Time pulled me in like no fantasy series had since I read the Lord of the Rings in 5th grade. (Still the best and most powerful read of my life!) After devouring the first six books, I had a torturous wait for almost a week before book 7 came out in Hardcover. I snapped it up immediately! I had to know what was going to happen!

Little did I know then that I'd be waiting another 16 1/2 years for the series to finish.

Or that the author would tragically die after a hard struggle to live long enough to finish, passing away in 2007.

Or that he would nobly and bravely leave notes and outlines with his wife and editor, Harriet, and entrust her with the task of finding someone to take those pieces and finish the story.

Or that Brandon Sanderson, the man Harriet chose, would do such a magnificent job.

Or that in the midst of our long mutual wait for the next book, complete with much *twitching* and impatience, I would find an online community (The Wheel of Time Reread at who loves the books as much as I do and would, with much laughter and teasing and brilliant analysis, make the wait for the next book a fun and unforgettable experience, rather than just torture. To clarify - the wait was always torture! But it didn't have to be fun, and thanks to those folks, it was!

Because of the Rereaders, I've been able to share these books that I love with others. Because of that commuity, though the Wheel of Time has circled to a close, it's only *an* ending to the experience, not *the* end.

In that spirit, over the next day or two I'll do another couple of posts on AMoL, sharing some of my thoughts and experiences as I read the final, 903 page volume of the Wheel of Time - one of my all-time favorite books!

In the next post, I'll consolidate and repost the stream-of-consciousness non-spoiler reactions I shared with the Reread community as I read the book. Following that, I'll attempt to interpret my own comments, and figure out what I was reacting to at the time! That post will have spoilers, and will be labeled appropriately. For now, if you've not read Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, I order you to do so at once.

You can thank me later.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Meditation on Anger

I've always had some anger issues. By which I mean, I've always had issues expressing anger.  I try, really hard, not to overreact.  I don't scream or yell or call people names.  As a rule.  (Hey, family, any reaction to this?  Is that true?  Was it true when I was a kid?) 

The truth is, I probably didn't think it was ok to be angry.  I didn't like to be yelled at, and I was drilled to be polite and respectful.  More to the point, I wanted to be liked.  I wanted to be seen as easygoing, kind, nice.  So I tried, not quite consciously, to suppress that anger. In fact, much of the time I didn't realize I was angry.  I'd hide it even from myself, so that I could be...nice. 

Over a lot of time and reflection, especially in my chaplaincy training, I learned that suppressing anger is a really, really bad idea.  Any behavior that drives you to deny who you are, instead of dealing with it, is destructive. 

When Jesus got angry, he didn't suppress it.  He overturned tables in the temple, shouted at the money-changers, he braided a whip and drove them out of the building.  (This is awesome, by the way.) 

Anger can tempt us to sin, but anger can be a gift of God, too.  It can be empowering.  It can give you the strength and energy needed to address a difficult situation.  Circumstances that might be embarrassing, difficult, or daunting sometimes need the strength of rage to push us into action.  Anger and compassion are the two sides of justice. 

In a relationship, anger is a sign of caring.  Someone who makes you angry is someone who matters.

Anger can give you the courage to confront injustice, and to seek truth and healing in relationships. 

So it's important to act on anger.  Not to be controlled by it, but not to suppress it.  All that energy and rage seeking a solution, if suppressed, becomes a problem.  That energy has to go somewhere in the system of our lives. In my life, in my past, I wasn't confident (or mean) enough to express it outwardly (despite the occasional anti-fundamentalist rant in seminary).  I wasn't brave enough to express it openly in a healthy way, by honestly stating my grievances. So I turned it inward.

If you want a good handy shorthand for anger turned inward, "depression" covers it.  Isolating, overeating, retreating into morose despair. That's what I did in seminary.  I was depressed and almost paralyzed for close to two years.  Even now, ten years later, those ingrained habits - suppress, turn inward, isolate, retreat, overeat - those impulses are still instinctive responses that I have to monitor, sometimes more successfully than others. 

In recent months, I've had a lot of reason to be angry.  And I have been.  Sometimes it's taken me a day or two or three to realize just how angry I've been about...well, about things.  Long story.  Another time, maybe. 

But I've been angry.  I've been filled with energy and rage seeking a solution.  I've been faced with the challenge of acknowledging my anger and channeling it in healthy ways - a difficult task requiring a lot of energy, in a profession where I'm not supposed to get mad at the people I'm with, during a time when I've been incredibly busy and incredibly tired, and not a little sad.  A task not
helped by the fact that anger and sleep don't mix well. 

Ten years ago, I wasn't up for that kind of challenge.  It was only by grace that I made it through. 

Have I learned anything since? Have time, reflection, Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), and another ten years of life as a child of God taught me anything?


I'm pleased. 


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Meditation on Friendship

I think Wednesday nights and Sunday afternoons have always been hard times for me; down times. I understand people who don’t like church; during a period of depression in my life, I found church an actively painful place for me to be. But usually, I really enjoy church. (Well…except when it’s infuriating, but that’s another post.)
I love Bible study (when it happens); I love greeting everybody (when I’m not busy and distracted); I love seeing (and teasing) the kids and youth; most of all, I love being in worship. In high school, once I started driving, my family made fun of the fact that I was always one of the last people to leave the building. Church is a high for me.

Wednesday night late, and Sunday afternoon late, I have the letdown. Coming back to Earth. Returning to the everyday grind.

Since I went on church staff full time, this has been far truer than ever before. It used to be that I went to church to worship and to see my friends. That was true at FBC Mauldin (and certainly with BSU), at Brookwood, and at EBF. I suppose churches have the reputation, unfortunately richly deserved, of being judgmental places. But for me – whether with the youth at FBCM, or in BSU, or my div school friends at Brookwood, with the fellow pilgrims at EBF – church was a place of acceptance. I was at home. I was known and valued. I was active, I did stuff, I worked – but first and foremost it was a place of friendship. So the letdown was that I’d been with my friends and then had to leave them.

Now, I go to church to work. And I don’t have pure friendships at church anymore; everyone has some expectation of you or from you. And you’re there with people who (whether correctly or not) see it as their right and function to judge you, your performance, whether you’re good enough. They decide your salary, and your day off, and they talk about you to each other without any sense of shame or discretion. That’s just how it is. There are many people at my church that I feel great affection for, and trust that they do for me (as well as others that I know do not, but that’s also another post). Like it or not, church since I went on staff full time is a place where I am judged. I’m on display among a crowd.

For an introvert like me, this is a big deal. Being an introvert doesn’t mean I don’t love being around people; as I said above, that’s one of the reasons I love coming to church. But it’s draining. On some low level, just being with a crowd draws my energy away. And knowing that the crowd is watching you, weighing you, judging you…that amplifies the drain enormously. I work hard to stay authentic, to be as real and transparent as I can…but working hard is hard work. It’s tough, as an introvert, to be open and transparent with a group that’s judging you. And there are some (many) that I just can’t be fully authentic with. So some portion of my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs has to stay hidden. And that, too, is draining. Generally speaking, by Wednesday night or Sunday afternoon, I’m exhausted completely, physically and emotionally.

Now, interestingly, when real worship breaks out, when I feel my focus and the room’s on God, that gives me energy. During those moments, I don’t have to be hidden. We’re in God’s presence and I can be free to be me.

So anyway, part of the letdown of church ending is that worship is over, and the sense of being judged returns, sometimes intensified by people telling you what was wrong with worship.

But I’ve found that, introvert though I am, not everyone drains me energy. There are some folks who (generally) give me energy.

Friends. Pure friends. People who don't want see me first for what they expect of me. People who purely enjoy my presence.

Not just people I'm friendly with. You know, friends.

I’ve been thinking, off and on, lately more on than off, about the nature of friendship. For a single person, friendship assumes a significance and importance that you married folks lose, I think. Your family, rightfully, becomes top priority - under God, hopefully. For me, under God, friends make the world go round.

For me, some things are non-negotiable for friendship. Two biggies are mutual respect and trust. I need to know that I’m valued by the people that I value; few things are more unpleasant (hurtful) than finding out that you’re less important to someone than they are to you. So that mutual sense of respecting/liking/valuing each other is important. And trust. I have to know that I can trust you. That you’re not judging me, that you can see my flaws and weaknesses as well as my strengths, and still value me. And I have to know that you’re honest with me, that you have that same trust in me. Without that, there’s no basis for friendship.

But with that mutual trust and respect…ah. There’s magic in that. I’m an introvert, even people I like drain me. But if you’re a real friend? If I respect and trust you and believe in your trust and respect for me? 

Well then, I don’t have to work to stay hidden. I can trust you and relax. And I don’t have to work to be authentic. I can let go and let it flow. I can be sarcastic or sentimental, obnoxious or compassionate, supportive or mocking, say what I think and mean what I say and not worry that what I said is going to come back to bite me, that someone’s going to judge me for it and try to take me out with it. 

There are people whose simple presence relaxes me. If I sent you an invitation to see this post (not an exhaustive list, by the way), you are one of those people, at least sometimes. We’re all human and far from Heaven. Sometimes family can annoy me, sometimes friends become distant. But for the most part, your proximity gives me rest and renews my strength. In that way, you are the presence of Christ to me; Christ, who said “come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Simply being you, being someone that I trust to trust and respect me, just that. Not anything you say or do. Just…the fact of you. 

This is why, in college, I could spend a full day in class and a full night at church, and still stay up til midnight talking with Tom Smith, my mentor and friend. This is why, after the enormous energy drain of being among church people and being friendly to church people and teaching SS and leading worship, going out to lunch with some of our college students refreshes rather than exhausts me. 

You give me rest. You show me Christ. 

So friendship…it’s big. Jesus said to his disciples that he saw them as friends, not servants. Friendship is a picture of Christ and the church, just as much as the more often repeated picture of marriage. 

Friends, I admit that sometimes I may be tempted to cling to you, rather than to the Christ you help me see. I value you greatly; sometimes, I overvalue. Moreover, I fear that for some of you, rather than giving you rest, I drain you. 

You see, I value that mutual trust and respect. So if I ever feel some barrier to that? I will fight for it. I will confront the barrier and try to get past it. That, of course, takes energy, and strength, and courage (far more, I think, than the silent “grin and bear it” path that our culture encourages us, especially men, to take). I fear for many of you it stretches you outside your comfort zone. I’m sorry. I’ll probably do it anyway, trusting in friendship to get us through it, trusting in your respect/trust in me to make you speak up if I push too far. 

Yes, friends, you give me energy when you’re near. So lately…I’m tired. Things aren’t going poorly or anything. I’m just…not near. Christ be with you, friends.