How Keeping the Sabbath Holy Is Like Being a Jedi

YodalukedagobahOne of Luke Skywalker’s frustrations in The Empire Strikes Back is that he is stuck on Dagobah while a war rages around the galaxy. His friends are racing away from the Empire while he’s standing on his head and lifting rocks in a lonely swamp. Giant ships play hide and seek among asteroids and face off against weird monsters, and he has to listen to proverbs from a little green preacher.

This is the life of a Christian on Sunday.

While the rest of the world continues to run around having adventures, those who would be spiritual warriors are quietly pondering ancient scriptures at home, listening to sermons in meetings, singing resolute and reverent hymns with a small community, and otherwise holding back from the normal fray in order to develop inner spiritual strength.

It’s often boring. It seems like a waste of time, just as Luke thought he was wasting his time. But such periodic training is necessary to really be ready for that fight of life during the rest of the week.

Standing on his head and lifting rocks was the best thing Luke could have been doing at that time–he needed it so he’d be able to resist the dark side and help his friends.

Ditto for us. We need the Sabbath and its observance. It may seem odd, but such time apart from the public battles is part of our life as disciples.

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Student Notes, pt. 3

A few months ago a class took notes on a documentary about Moby Dick. One student turned in her notes with a message to me on the back. Part lament about her peers, part motivation directly to me, part celebration of the material we were studying, it’s that last part especially that makes me love this little letter.

Here it is, if you can’t read the text in the picture.

Looking around at students in this classroom, this regular, non-honors or AP classroom…I see some of the smartest people I have ever met, people who are witty and are charmed by life, but are not paying attention. They are either entrigued [sic] or completely indifferent, either way it’s because they are not encouraged. They see this book and they see a story about a whale, not a journey or the fight for truth; they have the potential, it’s all there, but no one asks them to care, they ask for completion, for quantity, to get things done. They are exhausted by the idea of looking deeper.

I see these students, full of wonder overshadowed by lack of will, then I see straight up uninterested, boring students who do the absolute minimum, sometimes less, and they are dumb. They don’t think about anything. They don’t think about any of this stuff. It doesn’t interest them. Instead, they are laughing loudly on purpose (for attention of course, to distract everyone else from the philosophy unfolding in front of them because it’s about them, and they like it that way).

Mr. Huston, don’t sell this stuff short, it’s exciting, it’s not uninteresting just because few people believe it is, this is important and wonderful.

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Favorites From the NPR 100

I just found some notes I made from a bucket list item I checked off a few years ago–listening to NPR’s 100 essential American recordings of the 20th century. I thought I’d blogged about this before, but apparently not.

Some of the items were familiar, but many were new to me. Here are my favorites from the ones I was hearing for the first time.

“Adagio for Strings” This beautifully ethereal piece is just magical. It’s heart rending and haunting.

 

“Ain’t That a Shame” Fun, early rock track.

 

“Blue Moon of Kentucky” An early bluegrass track with a legacy in folk and country music. Feeling connected to roots here.

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Vote For the Best Book in the Bible, Round 2 of 6

Round One is finished, and half the books in the Bible have survived. But only half of those survivors will make it to the third round. Vote here, until next Sunday. Please comment below with your thoughts! :)

Results from the first round are below, with my comments.

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Genesis is the obvious winner. Exodus is great, but the second half is mostly dry instructions about the tabernacle and its use, while Genesis is one of the oldest and most epic records of the human race. My fantasy bracket last week has Genesis making it to the final four.

Leviticus is underrated. It’s controversial, but thoroughly infused with Atonement imagery, and it demands careful reflection in a way that Numbers just doesn’t.

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The Only Two Things I’ll Say About Trump’s Firing Of Comey

It’s like Michael Jackson having little boys stay at his ranch: it may be completely innocent, but only a fool opens himself to that much liability and credible scrutiny.

Also, the completely predictable dog and pony show on both sides of the aisle this week reminds me of Dave Barry’s summary of Comey’s adventures last year, ending with, “This forces Republicans and Democrats to again swap positions on whether Comey is a courageous patriot or total scum.” Still relevant!

My Great-Great-Grandparents In Bohemian National Cemetery

My mother’s father’s father’s parents are the biggest mystery in my genealogical research. Apparently minority immigrants with hardly any records, I know almost nothing about them. They’re the big dead end in my family tree.

Last week saw a bit of a breakthrough, though.

Scrutinizing the husband’s death certificate yet again, I noticed that it listed the place of burial–Bohemian National Cemetery. I searched findagrave.com, but nothing was there. I found a web site for the cemetery itself, but it didn’t have anything useful.

However, it’s an important ethnic landmark from the 19th century, still much beloved by the community. There’s a volunteer society that cares for it, and their web site had contact information. I emailed and asked if they had any pictures of graves, or records of what’s on the markers.

A very kind person replied and said no, but that they would go out and visit the graves personally and see what’s there. A few days later, I got another email with the photos below, including the notes that translate the Czech text on the tombstones.

Now I know their birthdays, and because of where they’re buried, I know more about where exactly they came from. And I can see their beautiful resting place. That’s a lot of progress, and I’m grateful to the wonderful stranger who made it possible.

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Three Reactions To The LDS Church Dropping Boy Scouts For Older Teens

This is a very good thing. Besides the great insights in today’s Deseret News article, I think the following:

1. Yes, Scouting has been ineffective for older boys. The last time I was a Scout leader, it was with Venturing, and the program could have been better. Boys that age are either Eagles (or close), or have checked out completely. I was taught at multiple trainings that unless a boy was almost done, to stop hounding him on it and move on to whatever their actual needs and interests were–I spent most of my time in that calling focusing on other things, personalized for the boys we had. This advice now seems to be spreading institutionally.

2. I’ve long been concerned that Scouting has become something of a cult in part of the Church–some people are so obsessed with it that the rituals, uniforms, emblems, etc. of Scouting have become a false priesthood. Really. That alienates a lot of boys, and distracts others. A focus on actual saving ordinances, growth, and service is good. The activities of Scouting–camping, fishing, hiking, etc.–are awesome and will stay, but the activity arm of the auxiliary needs to be in better perspective. I once served with a bishop who said that Duty to God was more important than Scouting, and he was widely ignored. He was ahead of his time.

3. Let’s be honest, a lot of this is Robert Conquest’s second law in action–“Any organization not explicitly right-wing, sooner or later becomes left-wing.” Scouting is trying to kill itself and our efforts to intervene have been unsuccessful. Today’s announcement is not the end of this for the Church or for Scouting. They will keep getting worse, and we will have to keep pulling further away.

Vote For the Best Book in the Bible, Round 1 of 6

There are 66 books in the King James Version of the Bible, and in most English-language editions. But if we had to choose just one as the best, most important part, which one would it be?

Vote here.

This contest is set up like any single elimination tournament, with 64 initial competitors: the books of Ezra and Nehemiah have been combined for this purpose here, as the 2nd and 3rd epistles of John have been. This also means that all books with a “First” and a “Second” part have those parts set against each other

The standard order of books has been used instead of any attempt at seeding. This has the appeal of order and simplicity, but it will make for some hard choices in round 1: you must choose between Job and the Psalms, and between Hebrews and James. Half the gospels will disappear.

A purely popular vote will determine the winners in each round; voting will remain open for a week at a time, from Sunday to Sunday.

Comments and discussion are appreciated here. The goal is to promote reading and thinking about the Bible, Western Civilization’s ultimate classic and God’s gift to us.

For what it’s worth, here is a completed bracket: my own personal choices for how I would ideally see this all go. Not a prediction, just my own favorites.

Bible Brackets

My 3 Time Management Questions

Time management is tricky, but when the daily decisions about my time are grounded in values, I get the most out of each day. I’ve learned to ask myself three questions about life’s decisions, big or small, and when I act on the answers, I never regret it.

1. Does it pass the Bus Test?

When I have options to choose from and I’m flummoxed as to which way to go, I ask myself, “If I were to get hit by a bus tomorrow, which option would I regret NOT doing as my life flashes before my eyes?” Then I go for the one that I’d want to remember in that final moment.

I suppose it would also work by asking what memory you want to have when you’re 100 years old.

2. Is this the very best thing I could be doing right now?

Sometimes life has clear-cut times and places that are set aside and better than any alternative. Any Sunday morning at 11:00 AM, for example, the very best place I could be is in church. Rarely could anything outrank that. (I did make my family miss church seven years ago, for example, to attend my brother’s wedding, an even high priority.)

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Comparing Three Translations of Les Miserables

I recently started reading Les Miserables. I’m up to Part III and–no surprise–it’s amazing so far.

It had a rocky start, though. I researched translations and couldn’t find one that stood out, so I figured I’d just try the old original standard translation from the 19th century, the Wilbour translation.

I only got a few pages in before getting tired of the pretentious contortion of it all. I decided to find a copy of Denny’s translation from the 70’s. My local library district actually didn’t have that one, but do you know who did? The library at the school where I work! How great is that?

And from page one I loved it. I don’t know how well it reflects the French, but this English version hums and sings for me with pitch-perfect tone.

Here are two passages I really like so far, compared between three popular versions: Wilbour’s, Denny’s, and the recent Julie Rose translation.

This is the end of Part II, chapter 8:

Denny 1

Denny

Wilbour 1

Wilbour

Rose 1

Rose

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New Listenings

Here’s some great stuff that I’ve heard recently:

This piece just reminded me that no matter how much classical music I listen to, there will always be more to discover that will simply dazzle me. It’s a great big wonderful world out there, and this lusciously moving track carries a feeling that doesn’t soon fade. I need to get more into Dvorak.

 

A student recommended this one, and it’s great, isn’t it? Lots to pick apart in here.

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Conversation With a Man Who Hates the Bible

A couple of weeks ago, a public Facebook group for teachers that I belong to posted about a local protest by the Westboro Baptist Church. Another teacher commented: “Ya, the bible is just a book written by men who wanted to control people. It is a phony document professing that a being lives in the sky and watches over us yada, yada. Really! I hope we as teachers teach our students to study science and to look at facts and research for their answers to their questions about the universe and our existence. These people are crazy!”

I private messaged him, and the following exchanged ensued:

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