Saturday, April 21, 2007


Well, it looks like JC and I are buying a house. It's farther from church, but much closer to work and all of our friends. Plus, it's in the woods, near some farms, and there's a river through a corner of the property. The inspection went very well this past week, and everything seems to be coming together.

I feel a little weird about the idea of ownership, though. What right have I to buy a beautiful house on a lovely piece of dirt, when millions of people don't have fresh drinking water or so much as a lean-to? Of course, I know that everyone has to live somewhere, that in the long-term this is cheaper than renting, that this is just how we do things in America. I still feel weird about it.

The house reminds me of the places I've been happiest in my life--most notably, my friend Andy's house and Hiram's Northwoods campus. The sound of the river is soothing, and whenever I'm out there, I feel so relaxed and happy. I know I'll love living there. We'll be able to plant a garden and live a little more lightly on the earth. We'll have a place to raise our children when we have them (interesting conversation with my mother: "What if you have a baby?" "Well, then we'll have somewhere to put the baby, which is not the case in our three-room apartment." I think she meant since our company offers only unpaid maternity leave...but maybe that will change by the time we decide to have kids). It's lovely. Good biking, close to the mountains, beautiful skies.

I guess I just feel guilty about the whole thing. The house, at 1500 square feet, is not extravagant by American standards--but American standards are extravagant. If we are supposed to live in imitation of Christ, how do we reconcile that with having a very definite place to lay our heads? How do I handle having more than I in fact need to survive when others don't have the very basics?

This problem runs through a lot of things in my life--I remember feeling this way when I bought my car (which is not extravagant--a 2000 Subaru Legacy Sedan, which had about 75K miles on it when I bought it). It was exactly the car I've wanted for years, and after driving a disgustingly problematic and wimpy little Kia Rio (which my Dad picked out), the Subaru felt like freedom. It was also the first truly major purchase I had ever made on my own, with neither input nor financial help from my parents. Yet I remember, driving it back from North Carolina, where I bought it, thinking, I don't really own this. I don't want to. With the car, I've had a long struggle to be detached. I love that car. It's wonderful. I want to drive it until there's nothing left of it. So I get a little uptight when my husband is hard on the clutch. I get totally annoyed when someone dents it (badly) in the parking lot and doesn't leave a note. I was aware that I would have these feelings of ownership and entitlement from the moment I started the engine for the first time. I'm vigilant about them. Once, I confessed to Teen Girl Squad that on the way to church, JC was speeding and I got so mad at him because if he got a ticket, our insurance rates would go up, and because, if he got in an accident, we couldn't afford to fix the car. I was placing my car above this person I pledged to love and honor---but knowing that let me readjust my priorities and have some real peace about the whole thing. The most recent parking lot damage (a 3-foot long, inch-deep gash that also flipped the mirror around--so the person was pulling in) irked me, but I had practically forgotten about it within ten minutes. It's just a car. It still runs.

I hope I can be this healthy about the house.

Now to talk about class last Sunday--which will seem like a departure, but keep this house issue in mind. We're coming back to it.

On Sunday, we talked about Ecclesiastes. Let me tell you, you have not lived until you've tried to teach Ecclesiastes to nine-year-olds. We started by asking them, "Is there anything you don't have that you think, if you did have it, it would make you happy?"
This stumped a few of them, until Joshua set the example: "How about a PS3 and all the games that you can get for it?"
Lachlan: "All the clothes I want."
Josh: "Clothes! Ew, I hate clothes!"
Me: "Right, but Lachlan thinks they would make her happy. She wouldn't want all those video games that you want."

David said he couldn't think of anything--except for all of his brothers to suffer some sort of injury ("Except Logan, because he already has a broken arm.").
"What about money?" we asked them.
"Oh, yeah," said David, "I'd be happy with a hundred million dollars."
Joshua chimed in: "How about infinity dollars?" (pause to explain "infinity" to the other kids)

So then we talked about Solomon. They remembered from last week that God had promised him a long life, during which he would be popular, wise, and wealthy. We had them read the passages describing Solomon's extravagant wealth and we did a little math to put the drachmas, minas, and talents into modern currency. They read about Solomon's big fancy throne ("It doesn't sound very comfortable," said Lachlan) and his 700 wives and 300 concubines (My Bible has a footnote speculating that the Song of Solomon, which refers to fewer wives, must have been written earlier than this account).

"So, imagine you have all the friends you could possibly want, more wisdom and money and power than anybody, and lots of beautiful wives. Do you think that would make you happy?"
All of them chorused, "Yes!" Then Lachlan rescinded her statement. "It's the Bible. Bible people are never happy." Not only was that (in my opinion) a pretty funny thing to say, it was also accurate, in this case.

Toward the end of his life, we explained, Solomon turned away from God. He ended up being really sorry about that. All of his wealth and his friends were worth nothing without God. And that's what Ecclesiastes is about. Then we read the first chapter of Ecclesiastes together. And Joshua asked a very interesting question: Why?

Why was Solomon's wealth worth nothing without God? I mean, he had practically everything, right? How does God compare to all that stuff?

The funny thing is, I had just accepted the truth of that statement--that all your stuff is nothing without God. I hadn't thought about why. To buy myself a little time, I asked the other kids if they had some thoughts on the matter. None of them did. Who wouldn't be happy with a ton of cash and popularity?

I tried to lead them along Solomon's train of thought, and maybe it worked. "What's the only thing that has existed for ever?" I asked them.
"Okay. What happens to your money, your friends, your house, everything, when you die?"
That took them a minute.
"Who has Solomon's money now?"
They didn't know. Neither do I, but my guess is that it's been redistributed so thoroughly that no one person could claim to have the actual gold of Solomon.
"So, Solomon is asking, 'What do I get for all my hard work?' He realized that he couldn't take it with him when he died. So if your money and your friends don't last, what does?"
They shrugged.
"How about the work you do in God's kingdom?"
They looked at me blankly.
I tried again. "So, JC and I are a little older than you are."
"A lot older," David corrected.
"Ok, a lot older." Funny, I never thought of myself as being a lot older than they are--but I'm more than twice their age, so I guess I am. "Unless something truly horrible happens, we'll probably die before you do, right?" Nods. "When we die, very little that we worked for will matter. But you will remember some of the things we taught you, and we hope they will help you be better, happier people and real servants in God's kingdom. We also hope that someday you will teach other people. In that way, our work will endure. Do you get it?"
Weirdly, they did. I thought I might be going a bit deep for them, that I might be presuming too much in believing that they'll remember our lessons next week, let alone in ten years. They agreed, though. They understood that they were part of our work for God, and that we expect them to carry it on, even after we're gone.

Then we listened to the Byrd's "Turn Turn Turn," and they followed along in their Bibles. They were totally excited to see my iPod come out and they really got the point of the passage. We had a truly excellent class with these kids, and I think they'll remember it.

It was awesome.

Studying Ecclesiastes helped me with my house dilemma, too. As a young person, you spend so much of your life working for the next thing. "Learn to write in cursive," says the elementary school teacher, "because you'll need to for middle school." By middle school, in fact, no one really cares how you write. "Get good grades in middle school so you can take honors classes in high school." "Get good grades in high school so you can get into a good college." "Go to a good college so you can get a good job." "Go to grad school so that you can get a really good job." (I don't think Shakespeare school was what that advice-giver had in mind) "Get married because it'll make you happy." "Have children because they're cute and people will think you are a good person." "Buy a house because it's the American dream." "Save money for retirement."

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

I think that I can reconcile home-ownership with my particular take on Christianity only by trying to use my home as a tool to do God's work. We haven't been able to host devos because, as I said, we live in a very small apartment. We can do more of that in our house-to-be. I mean even bigger things, though. The Mennonites have a program where they help refugees from various hard-hit places move to the US. The refugees live with a family for a little while, learn some English, find a job, get an apartment, and begin the path toward citizenship. I'm thinking of opening our home to some of these refugees, of being a base-camp for these people who so desperately need help. We'll see about that--maybe it's Menno-only. :)

Anyway, beautiful day, daylight's a-wastin'.

More news from the Lord's vineyard another day.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


I know I should have written something about this a while ago. But what to write? I don't know. Living here in the Shenandoah, of course, all this tragedy is only a few hundred miles away. Practically everybody knows someone who goes to Tech. All of us at work were updating the live feeds from Google News all day on Monday, watching the numbers climb. Shock and disbelief were the overriding emotions.

And now the aftermath, right?

Tonight, my church had a special devo. A lot of people were wearing orange and maroon. We sat right behind a girl who is a freshman at Tech--not surprisingly, she came home to see her family. I don't know how close she was to where the shootings took place, but I'm sure that all of the students feel like they dodged a bullet.
Amy was there, and both her little girls were wearing Tech cheerleader dresses (I think their dad is a fan). I pointed that out to JC and he said, "You know, that's kind of disturbing."
"The babies cheering for death."
"They're cheering for a community in recovery and mourning. Not for death."
But I thought about it, and I could see his point. All around our community, orange and maroon are "the new black," and I was caught between the sadness and sweetness of their smiling faces above the VT logo--which has come to symbolize something a great deal more than a football game. The older one will be college-age in a decade and a half. Will she remember this day? I wondered. Will she remember why she got to wear her cheerleader outfit to church? I hope not.

I've been trying to figure out the first tragedy I can remember. I think it was the Challenger disaster, when I was three. I don't think that I really understood it until I was much older. When I was eleven, I saw an IMAX movie about space travel that mentioned it, focusing especially on Christa McAuliffe. Seeing the preflight interview footage with her, all the while knowing what came next, made a real impression on me--but I'm sure I didn't understand it when I was three.

What am I going to say to Teen Girl Squad, I, who have been telling them how much fun college is? April is the oldest--I think she's graduating this year--and she looked especially haunted tonight.

And what shall I say to my younger kids? I really don't know.

A lot of disturbing news has come down the wire. The shooter's plays, published on AOL (I read snippets...the blocking would have been very difficult), the speculation about what he was doing in those few hours...
Oh, and those jerks at the Westboro Baptist Church, stating that they will protest at the funerals of the victims. These people claim that the victims were being punished for not being true Christians. From the CBS story: "'The evidence is they were not Christian. God does not do that to his servants,' Phelps-Roper said. 'You don’t need to look any further for evidence those people are in hell.'"

Uhm. How about the self sacrifice committed by people in several of the classrooms who held doors shut so that others could escape. Many of them died in the process, and that heroism lends hope to the story. No greater love has man than this.

Those people make me sick. I'm just glad that I had to go looking for the story on that, when a friend told me about it. The media doesn't seem to be giving them the time of day, which is definitely a good thing.

And for now, all we can do is work and pray and reach out in love. The tragedy unfolding is almost surreal, but I have people in front of me to love and care for.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Review: Gospel Light

Review of the Network 34 curriculum from Gospel Light:

++ in-depth coverage of Biblical themes (like, a whole quarter on the life of Joshua)
- Refers to the Levant as "Bible lands." Not to be a snob, but...just sayin'.
+ Uses graphic organizers to help students understand Biblical text.
- involves songs with hand motions. These songs are not the hymns you're likely to encounter in morning worship, therefore they don't help kids prepare to become adults in our church community. Plus, my kids don't sing. They especially don't sing songs that require hand motions. Ever.
++ Uses maps.
--Pretty slim Bible time to Popsicle-stick-crafts ratio.
+ Kids' take-home activity sheets include questions that require them to open their Bibles.
- Said take-home activity sheets also include a recipe for some sort of frozen yogurt/banana snack. Which has what to do with the lesson? Or anything else, for that matter?
-- Denny's kids' menu style games--mazes and such.
+ Hand out includes a cartoon rendering of the Bible story. That's kind of cute.

Over all...well, I'm not incredibly impressed. I feel like this is the least Sunday school curriculum could do, right?

And now I have that hymn about "send the light, the blessed gospel light" etc. stuck in my head.

Friday, April 13, 2007


Tonight I went to Duane & Elizabeth's wedding shower. It was a lot of fun, and I got to learn about how he proposed (rented out the movie theatre, got the manager to put on a "film" of his own making, Elizabeth cried. :)

Josh and his mom came, and he and I chatted for a little bit. He was reading Shiloh--apparently there are three Shiloh books now, and he had them all bound in one volume. That made me feel old--when I was a kid, there was just the first one, and we had to read it every year in school because the author was from WV. Now there are three? We talked about how the middle book isn't as good, and how that seems to be the case for a lot of trilogies. I love kids (and people) who read, because they always have something to talk about.

During the "opening the presents" portion of the festivities, I ended up talking to Josh's mom. Josh is going to be the first kid to hit the 25 point benchmark and win some kind of prize--we're thinking of taking him out for pizza and ice cream or maybe, if he takes a really long time to get those last two points, we'll do Green Valley Bookfair (next open--May 12), aka The Happiest Place on Earth (Disneywhat?). His mom seemed pretty happy about that--especially when I mentioned that none of the other kids are anywhere close.

Talking with Josh, I realized how much I really like him. Sometimes you get these glimpses, with kids, of the people they're going to be, barring unforeseen horrible events, and that's exciting. I sort of got that, talking with Josh tonight. He's a smart guy, and a good reader. He's good at school without trying. And he's kind. I think that the best part about all this is that his mom hasn't a clue that he's going to turn out just fine. She's so wrapped up in the minutia of his life, of making sure he eats and sleeps and plays and studies, learns proper table manners and the multiplication table, that she can't see this bigger picture human that he is. "I really like having Josh in class," I said.
"Josh is a pretty smart kid. He likes your class a lot," she told me, "and he's learning so much." It just struck me as funny, because the thing I like the most about having him in class isn't that he's a smart kid--I've known smart kids who were no fun at all to teach. I probably was a smart kid who made teaching a real chore for some people. Josh is a good person, and that is what makes him a joy to teach.

When I was a kid, I thought it was all about winning the science fair. And I did, basically every year. It wasn't until I was in college that Rick, my professor--who was also my mentor and friend--told me that he knew I had a good brain, but that what he valued was my heart. Had anyone ever said that to me before? I don't know. If they did, I don't remember it. I'm certain that my parents wanted me to be, at least, a well-behaved person. I got in trouble for being unkind. But I was praised for being smart. I can't remember being praised for being kind. My parents probably thanked me on the rare occasions when I did the dishes without being asked. It wasn't the focus, though. They were good people, and I think that they did a pretty good job raising my brother and me. This is just one little thing they forgot to tell me, and another person stepped in, and filled that hole in my education. When I was in college, I babysat two beautiful girls, Phoebe and Helen. By the time I left school, they were five and eight, respectively. I went back to visit them the next year, and I asked Helen how life was going for her. She told me that she was doing well in school. "Yes," said Phoebe, "Helen is a lot smarter than the kids in her class."
Helen blushed with feigned modesty. "Well, not all of the kids."

I looked her in the eye, and said to her what Rick had said to me, because I wish that someone had said these words to me when I was nine. "You have a great brain, and that is wonderful. You'll be able to do a lot with your brain. But you have a good heart, too, and that's just as important to me." Helen looked at me like I was from another planet. I couldn't blame her, but I hope she remembers that and thinks about it someday. Anyway, her dad is an ethics professor--what could I possibly have to teach her that he hasn't already gotten to?

I don't know how I will ever teach my own (future) children how to value goodness as highly as intelligence. You don't hand out trophies for being a nice person--in fact, that's antithetical to the point. Even the kids I know are truly good at heart--like Joshua--clearly think that people care mostly that they get good grades. That's what we tell them every day.

In my class, I wish I could teach them to value goodness, but it's awfully difficult. You can't even talk about it, really. That misses the point. They are all very good people. They aren't particularly well-behaved, but that's not necessarily a measure of goodness. Lachlan and Josh are easier to work with --not coincidentally, they have very stable home lives. Amanda and David are both living in stressful situations, and it's harder for them to focus on much of anything. It makes me wonder--was I like that, when my parents were going through their divorce? I don't remember having a hard time in school or anything, but maybe my teachers were tearing their hair out just having to talk to me.

I'm looking forward to watching them all grow up into whatever kind of people they are going to be. I hope they remember when I thank them for a great class, with lots of eager questions and kindness to one another. I hope they understand.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Review: DiscipleLand

Review of DiscipleLand

First the "Core Bible Curriculum"

+++ Kid colorful handout sheets actually involve USING BIBLES to answer questions rather than, you know, word searches or something.
++ Handout also includes encouragement to memorize books of the Bible
++++ Handout has a full page WRITING ASSIGNMENT.
++ Suggests singing songs that are, if I'm not mistaken actual hymns!
++ Teaches historical context (in a lesson on Stephen's martyrdom, it actually recommends bringing in a basket of fist-sized stones to give the kids some idea of the persecution members of the early church faced).

Overall: I like. I might even consider recommending this curriculum to our Education committee. At least it focuses on the Bible, which is something you want in a Sunday school curriculum. I'm curious as to whether there is an denominational affiliation going on here. Said committee can be kind of fussy about that, and I can be awfully oblivious.

OK, let's check out their other product: The Adventure series.

Wow, was this even written by the same PEOPLE?
- campy cartoon children
-- using a "decoder" to solve a puzzle, rather than the Bible.
-- a word search!!! My eyes!!!
----- Class consists of...doing a worksheet together? Wait, seriously?

Overall: Huh? I wouldn't teach from this curriculum if you paid me. And you can't afford to anyway. How is this even from the same publisher as the other one?

Completely bizarre.

Writing these reviews makes me feel like the lady from the (now defunct) Ugly Wedding Dress of the Day website. Does anyone remember that site? I only wish that my copy were as good as hers...and my visual aids so hi-larious.

Review: Walk With Me

Here's a review of the "Walk With Me" Sunday school curriculum from Faith Alive Christian Resources (anyone heard of them?). As usual, I'm reviewing the materials for the age I teach. Since they don't have a 3rd & 4th grade bundle, I'm looking at 4th & 5th. Let's do this guy with plus and minus scoring

+ Based on multiple intelligences learning
+ non-dated curriculum allows reuse of materials from year to year.
- one year repetition cycle (our classes go in two-year cycles)
-- "retelling" of the story rather than asking the kids to read the scripture for themselves.
- singing along with a CD
-- Said sing-a-long involves hand motions
--- Completely absurd Bible-time to play-time ratio. Seriously. Bible time--and I'm including time directly talking about the story, rather than playing Go Fish--for these classes averages only about 10-15 minutes.

Thumbs down!
And it looked so promising in the beginning, with all the talk about multiple intelligences and such. Have the people who wrote this ever met a ten-year-old? Yeah, they'll crawl around and do songs with hand motions... right. Several of these lessons would be really great for the 1st and 2nd graders, I think. Not for my kids, though.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Getting it in Gear



I spend a lot of time wondering if I'm making a difference in the world, in people's lives. I was raised really believing that my gifts would ever matter. My parents taught me that the point of my life should be to help other people. And then I think about my friend Rachael, who is in the Peace Corps, serving people on an island so small, you can't even find it with Google Earth. Alex, serving in the worst part of LA with Teach for America. And me? Safe little nine to five desk job.

Sometimes I really kick myself over that. JC and I are in the process of buying a house and I keep thinking about the people who don't have any shelter at all. The sea levels are rising, and I remember the people who live on tiny islands--the poorest people in the world, lacking resources to cope with the planet's changes. And what am I doing?

Really, I don't know.

I teach Sunday school, and I try to tell myself that that matters. Maybe it does. I miss Rob--he would talk me out of this funk in about thirty seconds, and make me feel (rightfully) embarrassed for being in it in the first place.

The more I teach, the more I realize how education is a moral issue. I don't just mean whether or not children will be taught evolutionary biology--in fact, I mean everything but that. Without teaching our children the humanities, can we expect them to understand the Bible? The Bible is a social document--it does not exist in isolation from culture and history.

My teen girls were shocked to learn that George W's dad was president too. That we were fighting in Iraq fifteen years ago, give or take. That the Romans who were living in Israel during Jesus' day weren't exactly welcome. One of them enjoyed class last week because she learned a new word: "Pacifism."

The kids in my Sunday school don't know words like "anxious" or "cease." They're in the third grade. Did I know those words then? I honestly don't remember, but I'm guessing I did, when we were in Iraq the last time.

I had to explain to my teen girls how taxes work, because great big chunks of Jesus' teachings don't make much sense without the basic principals of taxation.

We have to teach math so that parables about stewardship make sense, so the enormity of the temple can be comprehended (David said in class on Sunday: "Is it as big as two Super WalMarts?" :) Pretty close, I think).

If we don't teach geography, how can we talk about the Israelites wandering in the desert (and how can we wonder how they could possibly have wandered for forty years in a desert so small???), Paul's missionary journeys, the spread of Christianity through Europe and Africa?

Without science, do the gazillion metaphors and parables about farming make any sense?

Without critical thinking skills, can one ever make a true case for one's faith when confronted?

Religious education in America is failing; secular education in America is failing. Christians have long been upset about the whole mess because it meant that their own individual kids weren't learning the skills they needed to get into decent colleges and get good jobs. They should be upset that education makes deeper faith, and children--in the church and out-- are losing.

Enough whining from me.
Seriously, enough.


  • By the end of May, I will have put together my list of materials from the library of congress and made at least one research day there.
  • I'm going to resume interviewing people about their own religious education--it doesn't have to be Sunday school. It doesn't have to stem from childhood. I just want to know what you had to learn and how you had to learn it. If I haven't interviewed you yet, leave a comment or shoot me an email and we can have a discussion.
  • I'm also going to get a little crazy and email famous Christians. Who knows, I might get an interview with someone.
  • I'm going to dig through the piles of curricula I've got around and review them--maybe I'll find something that doesn't make me want to scream.
  • I'm going to consider this my mission, for the time being, and take it seriously as such. I will teach children to think, to ask tough questions, and to search for their own answers. I will do this, not just with the four to six children in my class, but with as many as I can reach. Maybe Rob is right, and I'm writing a book. Or maybe I'm just nuts. At the very least, I hope this blog sparks some discussion about what religious education is and what it should be.

The Wisdom of Solomon

Well, we tried to talk with the kids about Solomon on Sunday. Parts of the story, I think they found very interesting. They liked the idea that Solomon got what he asked for--and also all the things he might have been expected to ask for. They were quite thoroughly appalled that he had three hundred wives and seven hundred concubines. "At the same time?" asked Lachlan.

"How did he remember all of their names?" David wanted to know. Good question.

We proposed the problem of the women with the infant. "How would you figure out who the true mother was?"

"Roll dice," said Amanda.
"Have them pick a number between one and ten!" said David.
"Flip a coin," said Lachlan.
"So, you'd let chance decide?" I asked. They all agreed that it was the fairest way. When we revealed Solomon's solution, I don't think any of them got it. Everyone thought it was gross (even though he didn't actually cut the baby in half!). None of them were interested in the value of positive proof that one woman was the true mother (or, if not, at least the better mother).

Amanda said something interesting: "It's like the lady who nailed the guy in the head." JC and I took a few minutes to figure out that she was talking about Jael. This story had basically nothing to do with Jael (except that they're both pretty gruesome), but I felt gratified that she remembered something we had talked about so long ago. Certain stories have really stuck with her--she mentions Rahab a lot (and kind of out of context) too.

We tried talking about Proverbs. That went well in that they had a lot of questions. We had them take turns selecting a proverb for the class to talk about, but they were so impatient that they would only wait until the other student's proverb had been read before shouting out their own. "Wait," I would say, "I want to talk about Amanda's proverb first. Then we'll read yours and discuss it." It was in the discussion that the whole thing fell apart. I always make the mistake of forgetting how literal kids this age can be. "Why does it say that a wise son is the joy of his father, but a fool is the sadness of his mother? Wouldn't a fool make his father sad too?"
I asked David what he thought the proverb he chose meant. "I don't know," he said. "That's why I chose it."

The kids really like the times when we allow them to chose text--even if it's at random, as with the Psalms. I think they like having some kind of ownership. I think they like being able to say, "In my Psalm, the rocks rejoice."

So, I guess it went pretty well. They were a bit on the hyper side, but that's forgivable--at least they were excited about what we were working on. So...good!

I tried talking with Amanda's mother about figuring out some way to reward Amanda's good behavior (rather than bad) with "mom time." She said, "Well, Amanda knows that the reason I'm in there on Wednesday nights is because of her behavior."
So, the logic is...if the kid knows that it's supposed to be a punishment, then she won't like it? I remember being a kid--time with a parent, without one's siblings, is the most valuable thing a kid can get. Who cares if it's "supposed" to be a punishment? I give up--but I hope I remember this when I have kids of my own.

One other thing--kind of disturbing. JC and I tried to talk to the kids about Ali's father's death. I was shocked to discover that they talked about it like something they had heard on the news--completely unconnected with this man they all knew, with his daughter who was their friend. When I was in middle school, a girl in the youth orchestra lost her dad to a brain tumor, and I hardly knew him, but I was affected by it. I remember fearing that my own parents would die young, and trying to imagine what it would be like to go through my life without one of them. I expected some kind of emotional response from my students...but got none at all. One of them--and I shall leave out which--said, with almost a smile and the most placid tone of voice imaginable, "That must be heartbreaking!" (JC later commented: "At least they know how they're supposed to feel...")

I shouldn't judge them for just being young things. At that age, can you really understand death? They probably had a completely natural response. I don't know how I handled death at that age--I was a few years older when the girl from orchestra lost her dad, and a few years makes a big difference at that age. I don't think anyone close to me died until I was in high school, so maybe I just lack any basis of comparison.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Teen girl squad, Wednesday night pinch hitting, etc

Well, Teen Girl Squad was pretty good on Wednesday. We talked about pacifism, which is something that we don't talk about a whole lot in our church (unfortunate! Churches of Christ were among the "peace churches" up until the 1950s..and then I guess we forgot about that). I totally cribbed a sermon from Rob Bell at Mars Hill Bible Church (I love their podcast). The girls really liked it--it gave some historical context to the whole "turn the other cheek, go the extra mile" thing. They seeemed deeply interested in the number of things that are hidden in the Biblical text, simply because our historical perspective blinds us. Amanda, in particular, seemed fascinated by the idea that she had heard that text a thousand times, always thinking it meant one thing when it meant another.

The real victory of Wednesday night came in the 3rd and 4th grade class, which JC had to teach on his own, because Ginny was out of town and I was teaching the older girls. He had had a really long day at work and was really not feeling up to teaching. I saw Lachlan before classes, and I mentioned that JC was teaching by himself--could she please be extra good for him? She said she would try. "Can you help Amanda be good?" I asked. She rolled her eyes.

Here's what JC told me about class: When Amanda's mom came in, she saw JC and said, "Oh, you're here. Do you need me to stay?" JC told her that she should go to her own class, he could handle Amanda.
Once her mother had left, Amanda said, "If my mom isn't going to stay, I'm going to be extra bad so that she'll have to come back."
JC looked her straight in the eye and said, "I don't care how much you act up, I'm not going to reward you for being bad with mom time." Her jaw dropped--he had figured out her game.

While Amanda was not terribly well-behaved during class, she at least paid attention to the story and played the games related to the class and things.

If only we could figure out a way to reward her with mom time for being good. I think I'll talk to her mom about that this week.

Ali's dad is still missing, and they've called off the search. I don't know what we're going to say to the other kids tomorrow, or to Ali if she's there. Poor child.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Prayers needed

Ali's dad was in a boating accident and is presumed drowned.

We haven't seen the family in a while--they've been "church shopping"--but I still think of her as one of my kids.

It's still possible that her dad will be found and is actually ok--but I don't think the odds are very good.

Please keep that family in your prayers. This must be unbelievably terrible for Ali and her sister and her mom. I can't even imagine.

Sunday, April 1, 2007


This morning, during the sermon, David read Revalations 3:19: "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline." I should get that printed on a shirt or something, just for teaching Sunday school.

This morning, Ginny (kids' Wednesday night teacher) asked me to take over for her this week. She commented how lucky I was to have JC there with me, and how she got frustrated with maintaining order all alone. JC and I really don't use an overly harsh hand with them, I think--but we do require them to behave properly. Having him in there doesn't make them behave any better--usually if any discipline has to happen, I'm as likely to be enforcing it as he is. "I want them to like class and to want to be there," Ginny said, "but it's really hard--they get way out of hand." I wish I knew what to tell her. All I said was that the kids were in Bible class for a reason, and while we hope they have fun, it's equally important that they learn. I feel so bad for her--her son is just a little guy who probably doesn't require much more in the way of discipline than five minutes in the Time Out chair. She's a good bit older than JC and I, so I don't know that she really remembers what it was like to be ten, either--what kinds of things you might do to distract or harass a teacher just because you knew you could.

Class today was interesting. JoEtta had mentioned that she hadn't really gotten too far with them on the repentence aspect of the David and Bathsheba story, and it showed. "So, you guys talked with Mrs. D. about David and Bathsheba, right?"
"Yes," said Josh. "He was a baaaad boy!"
So, we went over that repentence bit again. And then we added Solomon, Absalom, and Nathan to the family tree--adding all 19 of David's sons and all their mothers seemed like a bit too much. We told them briefly about how Absalom had betrayed David, and how Solomon became the next king. We'll talk more about Solomon next week, we told them. We spent some time talking about the various ways in which God punished David--the death of the baby, Absalom's betrayal, forbiding him to build the temple. "So David did not just get off totally free," I said. "He was punished. But God also loved him a great deal, and David was very sorry for what he did."

We asked each of the kids to pick a number between one and 150. "The only number you can't pick is 119," JC said--so of course, all of them wanted that one! Once everyone had picked a number, we each read the Psalm that corresponded to the number we chose. Then, we asked the children to draw their psalms. They had to include every thing that was in the psalm, whether it was someone using another person as his footstool or rivers clapping their hands. Lachlan seemed to like the activity, and JC and I had fun drawing our psalms, but the boys...

David was there, which he hasn't been--we haven't seen him over a month. He told us that his mom tended to oversleep lately, since she's been working the night shift. David's a bit of a wild card as our students go. He's older than Joshua, and sometimes he can really influence the younger kids. David doesn't care much for drawing. He's one who will just scribble something and declare that he's done. Actually, that's sort of his MO for everything--just write a word or two, just toss on some glitter, just lose a round or two, and he's done. Then we tell him that he must sit quietly while the others finish, and he whines that he's bored. Today, at least, JC was able to "check" his picture. "You're not done," he would say. "Where are the piles of dead bodies?" The trouble, really, was that Joshua, who ordinarily likes to draw, decided that drawing was not a fun activity today--I suspect because David didn't want to draw. He started doing the same thing as David: "I'm done!" Unfortunately, he had a short psalm and his (kid's) Bible left out a lot of imagery (Psalm 120--lying tongues, etc) that makes for better art, but greater confusion to a young reader, I guess.

Actually, Josh was just kind of cranky today over all. When we asked them to put the books of the Bible that we had covered to date in order, he really pouted about it and insisted he didn't want to--but he did it anyway. That was before David got there. Maybe he was just in a bad mood, which happens to the best of us.

Josh is also the only kid who is any where near the goal to get some kind of prize with his "class points." These points are supposed to be an incentive for them to take notes in the sermon, memorize scripture, think about Bible stories between classes, etc. We thought they would earn the points a whole lot faster than they have-- I guess they haven't been much of an incentive at all. Anyway, we're trying to think of what exactly we could give him as his prize--it has to be both something that he would like and something that the other kids would see and would think, "WOW, I should get to work." I'm sort of stumped. But, I'm sure we will come up with something.