Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Camping

Camping
by Asahel D. Church
2nd Place- 2017 Yorkfest Adult Literary Awards


I checked off each item on Dad’s “Ultimate Camping List” as he arranged our gear in the back of the Suburban. Matches, check. Sleeping bags, check. Bug spray, check. Hotdogs for dinner, check… Waving goodbye to Mom, I had the strangest feeling as the sound of silence engulfed me. With my father, it’s slim pickings when it comes to conversation.  Maybe that’s partly because I am hardly sure of what to say. I’ve got a million thoughts running around in my head, but I can’t seem to sort them out.
By the time we reached the campground, dusk was coming on, so we hurriedly unpacked the car and set up. “Where should we put the tent?” asked Dad. “This spot looks good. What do you think?”  I really couldn’t tell if one spot was any better than the other. But the grass did look a bit softer off to the left. I liked the way it seemed untouched. We put the tent down right where Dad suggested. I looked for extra tent stakes, left by careless campers before us. Dad had a rule; never leave a campground without an extra stake or two.
It was too late to make a campfire dinner, so we ate burgers at a small restaurant just outside the state park. Eating out is a luxury in my family. I wondered where Dad was getting the money. “Eh, we’ll put it on the plastic. I’ll just have to explain to your mother later,” Dad said with a grin. I guiltily ordered the Double Cheeseburger Deluxe and Dad didn’t seem to mind. On those rare occasions at home when Mom couldn’t bring herself to do any cooking we go to Taco Bell. 89 cent tacos and one large drink. Mom brings small cups from home for the kids. It’s embarrassing.
Back at the site, Dad got the lantern started and began to read his Bible aloud. I felt the nip of night air on my nose and watched as the moths gathered, burning themselves on the hot glass while the Scripture filtered down through my consciousness. Tomorrow night we would build a great big fire, and cook hotdogs and roast marshmallows. I don’t like marshmallows actually, but the real fun is in cooking them. Too far from the flame and they stay cold; too close and they burst into flames. Kind of like moths, I thought.
We walked in darkness to the washhouse. The air was now cold and the stars were gaining strength. Once my eyes adjusted, I could see everything: the stirring in the woods, the Milky Way glowing across the sky, the uneven rocks beneath our feet.
            The next morning I woke up alone, my face sweaty against the sleeping bag. The campsite was deathly still except for the occasional drone of a cicada. The dew was already burning off under the sun. Dad wasn’t in sight. Maybe he’d gone for a walk, or to read, or to hunt mushrooms, or take a shower.
My father is the pastor of the “little white church on the corner.”  That’s what the neighbors call it at least. But it’s not really small at all. Every summer, there’s a VBS (that’s Vacation Bible School) during the week before the fourth of July. Last year a neighborhood kid’s father accused me of ripping his son’s shirt during a relay race. That was the only time I remember Dad raising his voice at me. “I know my son and I know he can have a temper,” Dad huffed. That hurt. Maybe that’s why it sticks out so much in my mind. Dad was stuck in one of those father-but-pastor moments, and I was right there in the middle.
 Dad isn’t always the pastor; sometimes he does other normal things. One time he let me play soccer with the big kids. Dad was the coach—he wore white shorts and oil-stained hand-me-down golf shirts. During the scrimmage I got the ball in a breakaway. I sprinted towards the goal and poked the ball with my toe. It rolled in slow motion past Joel Johnson, the tallest kid on the team. I was so happy when everyone cheered. Actually, now that I think about it, they might have let me score. I was really young then.
Dad suddenly appeared in front of me, whistling. His face was bright and covered with a healthy dose of white scruff. He had been at the washhouse, but of course he didn’t shave. We cooked breakfast on the camp stove. “What do you want to do?” Dad asked, as if it really was a question. We went on a hike, hunting for mushrooms.
There’s always mushrooms on these trips. “Ah-ah!” Dad exclaims when he identifies one, pronouncing the scientific name loudly. There’s the Amanita, the Agaricus, the Cortinarius…. I try hard to help with the hunting, but mostly find what Dad called LBM’s -little brown mushrooms. “Ooo- yeahhh,” Dad says, poking at the fungi with his shoe, “Some sort of Conocybe…” By lunch there was half a dozen mushroom caps, face down on white paper lining the picnic bench. The spores drop overnight leaving a pattern on the paper. Each mushroom has a unique mark.
The afternoon was hot and Dad suggested that we go swimming at the pool on the other side of the park. I felt bad because I knew how expensive it was but Dad insisted. I got into the water slowly, and then let myself drift down to the bottom. You have to let the air out of your lungs or you won’t sink. It’s sort of odd. The simple act of breathing suddenly becomes all you can think about. I had to keep coming up for air.
In the shallow end, kids were playing catch with a foam ball. Dad swam out ahead. He likes the water when it is very cold. I feel like going to the pool with friends makes the cold water feel ok because you run around. The pool was full of people that day but nobody I knew of course. Dad wasn’t really other people.

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That night we made a great big campfire. The light from the flames made a cozy circle. When we got too hot, we could run off into the cool darkness. Dad showed me how to draw words and pictures in the air with a stick that had a coal on its end. He stood far away from the fire, out by the edge of the campsite. I tried to guess what Dad was writing, but I had no idea. “My turn, my turn!” I insisted. I made figure eights over and over again. Later, we stopped putting wood on the fire and let it die down. It was getting late. We walked to the washhouse to brush our teeth. My feet were heavy on the gravel path. I don’t remember falling asleep.
Suddenly I was awake. Dad was whispering for me to look out the front of the tent. “Psss! Look! We have a visitor!” he whispered. A set of beady eyes shot back at us, caught in the beam of Dad’s flashlight. There were other eyes in the woods too. “What’s that noise?” I asked nervously. There was a thump, and then the occasional sound of crinkled plastic and another thump as the cooler lid opened and shut. I thought it was best that we just stay in the tent, and Dad didn’t get up. He knew there wasn’t much of a point—it was pretty much over.
The raccoons had eaten most of our breakfast. A trail of half eaten hotdogs disappeared into the woods. It was alright, since we were headed home anyway, but Mom would be annoyed with the waste. I helped pack up the campsite. In the process we found four extra tent stakes which was more than a little bit lucky. So we had done pretty well this time.
As we finished packing up, I thought about having to start school again. Being homeschooled, there isn’t even the anticipation of a new teacher or seeing friends. I would daydream over my math lesson all morning, and Mom would yell and threaten to send me to public school. That was a completely idle threat.
I was looking forward to getting home. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the camping trip. I just wondered why I felt so familiar but strange at the same time.
“How did you sleep last night?” Dad asked cheerfully.
“Pretty good,” I mumbled.
“After the raccoons went away I heard a much larger animal moving around in the
bushes.”
“Really? Well, maybe it was a bear,” I said. I was hopeful that I might have a
good story to boast to my brothers about.
“I’ve heard that there are some small black bears around this area.”
I wondered about bears in the woods. I wondered what I would be when I grow up. Most of all I felt this undying need to thank Dad for taking me camping but I just didn’t know how. In my family, love is always understated. 
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The ride home was long and silent. The white stripes flashing and the drone of the old Silverado. It was just me and my dad. Everything felt fine.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What is Restorative Justice? A helpful, short summary


I'm not familiar with this summer camp, but I found their short video to be very helpful in explaining Restorative Justice in a non-sensationalist way and without getting bogged down into the many RJ practices that you may associate with RJ.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Teaching the EO



Relevant to the legal challenge to the EO....
14th Amendment
U.S. Code 1182 (Federal statute passed by Congress)

So that you can be informed as you debate this EO, read it!
Text of the Executive Order

The ACLU's argument regarding the "establishment clause," which relies heavily on intent
We'll See You in Court

How controlling is intent?
Turley debates Katyal
"the justice Department attorneys are in a fetal position every time anyone like this talks about the purpose of a law"

Some sharp and helpful commentary...
How to Read and How Not to Read Today's 9th Circuit Opinion, Lawfare
"...the grounds on which this order was fought are not the grounds on which the merits fight will happen. Eventually, the court has to confront the clash between a broad delegation of power to the President—a delegation which gives him a lot of authority to do a lot of not-nice stuff to refugees and visa holders—in a context in which judges normally defer to the president, and the incompetent malevolence with which this order was promulgated."

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Expressive Individualism and a Christian Counterfeit

The following is excerpted from this article by Trevin Wax for the Gospel Coalition.

Expressive Individualism

The foundational issue, as Jen Pollock Michel points out, is the “gospel of self-fulfillment,” which is also described as “expressive individualism.” That’s a term given to us by Robert Bellah and explored by other philosophers such as Charles Taylor.
According to this way of thinking, the goal of life is to discover and express your unique sense of self, no matter what others may say or do to challenge your freedom of personality. The narrative arc of your life is finding your personal route to happiness by following your heart, expressing your true self, and then fighting whoever would oppose you—your society, your family, your past, or your church.
This is one of the dominant narratives of our time. It shows up in movies and music, and increasingly, on the platforms of popular preachers and teachers—both male and female.

Christian Counterfeit 

The religious form of expressive individualism imagines the believer wrestling against the bondage of their past, or the expectations of their parents, or the legalistic regulations of their church. God’s rescue frees us from all these chains, and sets us on a journey to discover our true essence, which we then offer up as a gift to God and the world. Our goal is to become all that God has created us to be. Anything that gets in the way of this journey must be an evil barrier, overcome only through personal faith and reliance on Jesus.
Now, there are certainly some elements of Christian truth here. Like any good counterfeit gospel, it mimics the truth at key points.
Yes, God wants to free us from the sin and shame of our past, to rescue us from paralyzing guilt, to overcome the barriers that keep us from pursuing radical obedience to his command as we come to know him and his Word with increasing fervor. And yes, God wants us to lean into becoming all that he has created to be—conformed to the image of his Son. And yes, God wants us to be happynot just joyful or blessed or holy. (See Randy Alcorn’s exhaustive work on Happiness in case you need biblical evidence or voices from church history.)
But note how this gospel of freedom redefines Christian teaching at key points.
  • Sin is failing to reach your potential.
  • Shame is a subjective feeling you bring upon yourself and must set aside, not a state that results from objective sin against a holy God.
  • Guilt is what happens when you fail to accept yourself, to love yourself, or to sense your own worthiness of happiness.
  • The barriers that stand in your way of pursuing your dreams must all come down, no matter where they are.
This is not Christianity. It’s a Christianized form of expressive individualism that you can find in just about any self-help book—an inspirational, feel-good message that makes perfect sense in Western cultures, but leaves traditional societies, many of them Eastern, aghast at its sanction of selfishness.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Power of Stories



"In 2016 and beyond, those who wish to create a better world
 will have to make storytelling the center of their efforts, not an
 afterthought. It’s clear that economic and military might will
always be the key levers of statecraft. But more than ever before,
 swift and dramatic change is being driven by powerful
narratives that crisscross the world at the speed of a click or a
swipe."

Read the full essay here...

Monday, June 13, 2016

The hero Gotham needs...



...Not the one it deserves.

"Jeremiah's refusal to accept any of the available roles and his eccentric insistence on living out the identity of his name [God exalts\hurls] put him in conspicuous contrast to the eroded smoothness of those who were shaped by the expectations of the popular opinion and gathered content for their message not by asking 'What is there to eat?' but 'What will Jones swallow?' His angular integrity exposed the shallow complacencies in which they lived."

-Eugene Peterson, Run With the Horses (emphasis mine)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

"The Wrong Side of the Only History That Finally Matters"

"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history."
The rest of the essay is worthwhile reading (read it here), and the final two paragraphs are spot on. 
"God sustains the world, in good times and in bad. Catholics, along with many others, believe that only one person has overcome and rescued history: Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of the Virgin Mary, savior of the world and head of his body, the church. Those who gather at his cross and by his empty tomb, no matter their nationality, are on the right side of history. Those who lie about him and persecute or harass his followers in any age might imagine they are bringing something new to history, but they inevitably end up ringing the changes on the old human story of sin and oppression. There is nothing “progressive” about sin, even when it is promoted as “enlightened.”
The world divorced from the God who created and redeemed it inevitably comes to a bad end. It’s on the wrong side of the only history that finally matters. The Synod on the New Evangelization is taking place in Rome this month because entire societies, especially in the West, have placed themselves on the wrong side of history. This October, let’s pray the rosary so that the Holy Spirit will guide and strengthen the bishops and others at the synod as they deliberate about the challenges to preaching and living the Gospel at this moment in human history."

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Visual Literacy: Part 3

A final set (for now) of doodle notes or visual notes from my students. These are 8th grade History students and I would say that overall, they've greatly improved. I've been encouraged and continue to feel like visual literacy is a skill that can be learned.

If you're interested in learning more, check out http://sunnibrown.com/doodlerevolution/
I also found several videos that have been helpful to students:






And this poster is fantastic to help students who don't know how to get started:




            
    

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