28 August 2006

Hogan Update

Ellie and I added another six logs to the hogan today. It is almost up to shoulder level (4 1/2 feet or 1.5 meters). I have 36 logs placed and only 18 to go!

We'll get some pictures and post them soon. My builder-in-law (Jenny's brother, Johnathan) will be here this weekend, and I'm hoping to finish up!

25 August 2006

Mary Magdalene

I have written earlier about my affection for New Testament scholar Bruce Chilton. I found his prior books, Rabbi Paul and Rabbi Jesus, to be fascinating, compelling reads. I was thrilled when my former pastor--and ongling intellectual sparring partner, Mike Potts sent word through Jenny that he was sending me a new Chilton book: Mary Magdalene, A Biography.

In the wake of the Da Vinci Code, it seems that every two-bit scholar has a book about about Mary, Opus Dei, or one of the heresies glorified by that book. I must admit that my first inclination was that Chilton was cashing in.

As it turned out, it took Chilton only one paragraph in the middle of the book to dispatch the pseudo-history of DVC. He comes up with some fascinating stuff about Mary, though.

He describes Magdala's proximity to Tiberias, a Roman city Herod Antipas had built smack in the middle of Jewish Galilee. No self-respecting Jew would set foot there--Herod even ended up giving property away to encourage settlement--and Magdala lay just a stone's throw away from that festering sore. That is why, "the Magdalene" was also an epithet that implied a person of moral compromise as well as describing the literal place where Mary grew up (just as "the Nazarene" had other implications for Jesus).

Chilton focuses on Mary's experience with healing from demons. He argues forcefully that she was probably the source for four exorcism stories found in the book of Mark, and he points out the details provided in the work and the ways they reveal Mary's insights.

Later, he goes into Mary's annointing of Jesus, placing it in the context of religious expression in the first-century church. Annointing with oil is one of the most meaningful of Christian sacraments, yet it has been long deemphasized by the church. Chilton points out the sensual aspects of smell and touch that went along with this annointing, and he figures that later Christian leaders diminished the role of annointing (and the ministry of women) for this reason.

I am happy to report that Chilton doesn't speculate upon any physical relationship between Jesus and Mary. The act of annointing is about as sensual as he gets. I didn't really buy his version of the Resurrection, however, which--aside from contradicting my personal faith, was a retelling of his Resurrection chapter from Rabbi Jesus.

Still, I recommend this book as an intellectual feast for the faith. Most of Chilton's insights are well supported, and his description of Magdala and Mary's death there in 66 AD are fascinating.

20 August 2006

School Times

Whew! I'm tired. Let me describe the sacrifice I'm making for you, dear reader.

Tomorrow I'll get up at 4:30 a.m. to grade papers in advance of my school day. I had a bunch of summer reading sheets turned in Friday, so I'll be busy before I can even start my second week of school. It's 10:20 right now, so I won't have a long, luxurious night of sleep, no way!

My classes are different this year, and it has taken some adjusting. Our school has gone to the block schedule, which means that our classes last just one semester and last for 90 minutes instead of the 55 minutes I am used to teaching. It is good for the kids, who only have to put up with me for one semester--plus they get to take up to eight classes a year instead of the six they had previously taken.

It's tough for me, however, because I have to plan three to four activities per class. It cuts down on me jabbering on, I guess, but I rely upon teacher-made activities, and it takes awhile to get those things ready. One cool thing, though, is that I have a 90-minute planning period. Once I get around to teaching the class again, it should be really, really easy, but right now it's tough and exhausting.

I teach three classes this semester: two English honors classes for seniors, and one standard-level class for freshmen. The English honors classes are going well--I have plenty of kids there whom I don't have to work hard to motivate. We're coving vikings at the moment in advance of reading Beowulf, and we're doing creative things like making our own viking helmets and scripting movie trailers for the old Saxon poem, "The Battle of Maldon."

"Standard" refers to the basic-level English classes. I have fewer previously motivated kids in my freshman class--although I have some really good ones. I kept one boy after class last Friday because he apparently hasn't developed an inner dialogue. Any thought that passes through his mind tends to come out his mouth, no matter what I'm teaching at the moment. I gave my first detention of the year to a girl who snuck out the door one minute before the bell rang to end the period. That's the kind of stuff I have to deal with at that level.

One cool thing that I've developed this year is a web site for my classes. I'll post homework assignments, and it will be a great way to post grades and keep parents informed. I also got to write a biography of myself and describe how experienced I am in the third person.

Ellie started 4th grade last week, and Owen started kindergarten, so I have two kids at the same school for the first time. I put Jonah in a daycare near my high school, and he seems to enjoy the learning and socialization opportunities that it offers.

08 August 2006

Final Summer Project

School starts in six days. I'm working on a web site to help my students and their parents keep up with homework and grades on the Web. I'm desperately trying to get lessons ready for the first three weeks of school.

...And I have one last summer project to complete: Ellie's log hogan.

When we were on the Navajo Reservation in June, we saw hogans everywhere--so much so, that I began to believe that even a person with my limited building skills might have a shot at making one. Here is how it's gone so far.

Step 1: The Site. We chose a place among the pines on our property. I wanted a place with a good view of the East (the door must face East according to Navajo custom) and where the ground was flat. (In the picture below, Ellie and a neighbor boy, Taylor, sit in what will be the doorway of the hogan.)

Step 2: The Logs. I have plenty of wood on my property in the form of thin, strong locust trees. 3/4ths of the logs, I took from fallen trees. Later I thinned out some of the trees in our wedding site to complete the task. All told, I have sixty, seven-foot logs with which to build a hogan I expect will be seven feet high.

Step 3: Build. I invited several friends over for Navajo tacos one Sunday night. Then I drafted them into my work gang. What slowed us down were the screws we used to fasten each of the log ends together. At first, I began drilling through the top log and trying to fasten the screws into the wood of the bottom log. Unfortunately, the screws kept snapping (locust wood is tough, even after it's been rotting for years). Finally, I began drilling holes and hammering these huge, galvanized nails to fasten the logs together.

Last Sunday my cousin, Stephen, came and helped me add two log layers to the project. I'm up to 3 1/2 feet high (one meter for you modern readers), which is the halfway point. I'm now hoping to have the project completed by Labor Day weekend (one month from now). We'll organize a campout for Ellie and her friends up there when all is finished.

02 August 2006

Biblical Omissions

This morning I was studying in Mark 11 when my studies hit a little bump.

I read verse 25, "If you hold anything against anyeone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

The next thing I saw was the number 27. I looked everywhere, but I could not find Mark 11:26. Where is it? What is being withheld from me!

The version of the Bible that I study is the NIV. What do you think? Tell me what I'm missing.