Saturday, April 16, 2016

A week

Weeks have ups and downs. This week started out great! On Monday we had our Dead Sea Field Trip. Phil was sick, so David and Andy took his class on the field trip, and I was alone with my class. That was excellent! The field trips are so much more fun that way, and I can control the themes, timing and tempo in a way that allows my students to have a better experience. Some people that work with me on the field trips are easier to work with in that way, and don’t take away too much. Others are very difficult to work with in a way that allows the field trip to be what it should be. But I had fun by myself on this day!

We first went to Qumran. Andy did most of the teaching for both classes there, and did a great job. It would have been nice to let them go to the scriptorium, etc. and get more of an appreciation for that, but overall I think it was very well done. On the bus I added just a bit, especially to teach them about the gratitude we should have to the Jews for preserving scripture that is so important to us.
Students listening to Andy Skinner teach at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found

The area around Qumran. You can see the areas where some of the caves that yielded Dead Sea Scrolls are

A mikvah, for ritual immersion, at Qumran

Students looking out at the ruins of Qumran
Then we went to Ein Gedi. There I taught them about how, in that very canyon, Saul was hunting David and slept in a cave where David was able to cut off part of his cloak. We spoke of how David then used that opportunity to try to get Saul to realize that they were not enemies, and to get Saul to change. Despite all Saul had done to him, David still seems to have loved Saul and wanted to get him to change. There is a valuable lesson therein.

My class listening to me at Ein Gedi
We looked at the stream flowing from a spring down to the Dead Sea. We read about how, near the Red Sea, Lehi taught his children about the importance of being like a spring continually flowing. Laman and Lemuel were more like the canyons that sometimes have huge spurts of water when it rains, but are mostly dry. They sometimes do well, but it is fleeting. Lehi wanted them to be consistently tied to the Lord, to consistently do well. We also talked about how yesterday the flash floods had created such a mess and so many rivers of filthy, muddy water. This is like the river of filthiness that Nephi spoke of in his dream, and hopefully can help us picture it better.

flowing water at Ein Gedi
Flowing water at Ein Gedi
Then we went to Masada. It is a huge site, and they can get tired of it pretty quickly. I tried to mix it up with a few fun ways of teaching, and to keep us moving along pretty well. I think it went okay. I do not glamorize the wicked Sicarri who were at that place, but there were many innocent refugees there as well. We did read scriptures about how Christ had warned his followers that destruction was coming, and that those who listened to the Apostles avoided that destruction. I also read from Amos 8, where the Lord says that you can try to hide in the ground or on the highest mountain, but you can’t escape his justice. Then we spoke of how his justice is really all about trying to bring us back to him, that he never stops trying to get us to repent. I think it was a nice moment. Then they had free time, and they did what they wanted.

The Dead Sea from Masada

Finally we went to the Dead Sea. They floated, I visited with the Skinners, and everyone had a good time. On the way home, which was a long drive, I just went along the bus asking students what they had learned from over their time here, and asking what questions they had. In a few places I stopped for a long time and visited. It was enjoyable to see how much they have learned, and to have such good teaching opportunities. 

Students floating in the Dead Sea
Students floating in the Dead Sea

Students with Dead Sea Mud on
That evening we spent time together as a family. Tashara, Kaleb and Alexia had done a sports day at school. Tashara won the 60 m race, but injured her foot along the way. They all seem to have had fun.

I am disappointed with how much our kids dislike the school. I know that, because school is such a big part of their life, and because they hate it so much, they are not having a great experience here. There are times that they are, and I think they will look back on it and be glad we did it, but I have many moments of regret when I see how sad my children are. They are happy in many ways, but in many ways they are so unhappy because of the school and because of the oppressive environment here. They know there are things around the Center they could have done in the past but because of some personalities currently here they are unable to do. It gets them down a bit. Still, I think that on the whole they are having experiences that will make them better and that will be largely good memories.

The next day was my last class. It went well. I had some emotional moments as I spoke about the Savior on the cross. I think we all felt the Spirit quite a bit in this lesson, and were deeply touched. The reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is so important, and so central to our lives and who we are, and of such deep import to the Spirit, that I think the Lord blessed us richly as we talked about it together. It was nice.

My class how they normally are
My last day in class with the students
My New Testament Class
In the afternoon I went to Sabrina’s class and taught them about Egypt. It went well, I think they had fun, and I know I did. I think Sabrina liked it. I tried to involve a girl who has been a bit mean to Sabrina in the hopes that being nice to her would help heal things a bit. Sabrina thought it helped a little. I feel badly that kids in school have to go through such silly stuff. There are bullies everywhere.

I got lots of little things done today. I made some real progress in things I needed to, but still can’t get to some other things I need to get to. That afternoon a student asked for a blessing because she was so stressed about finals. As she made her way down to get a blessing, I got an email telling me I needed to come talk about something. All I could think was “here we go again, the culture of suspicion and mistrust strikes again.” Still, I have a clean conscience so I wasn't worried. I was able to give a blessing, and I think the student was okay, and then I went up to talk.

To make a long story short, while I am 100% convinced we have acted completely, wholly, and fully correctly, my wife and I have yet again been unjustly accused of something. Sometimes there is no winning. Clearly God has something he wants me to learn about dealing with unjust accusations. It helps me appreciate the unjust accusations of the scriptures more. Ironic timing after reading about David at Ein Gedi.

As I left, I decided I needed to ask President Fellows for a blessing. So, after a very nice and helpful Branch Presidency meeting, he and I spoke. Then he gave me a blessing. It helped me a lot. I am in a pretty good place, and I have not lost any sleep over it at all. 

That night as I put Sabrina to bed, I gave her advice about how to deal with this bully and about how sometimes these things are just a part of life. As I talked with her I could hear how much this all applied to my life. I will be kind to my bully just as I asked her to be kind to hers.

The next day I just worked all day, and got a lot done. I still haven’t gotten to some things I really wanted to, but I got a lot done. I also helped Julianne with a number of things around the house as we tried to get more ready for company. I also arranged things with a number of people for our guests. We have a lot to do, but we are so close to being able to see them!

The next day I got a lot more stuff done. Julianne and I both worked out, and it was enjoyable. 

Julianne went shopping to prepare for our guests. Then we went with David, Andy and Janet, and Phil, to get ready for the upcoming field trip. Once again we were told we needed to hurry, and then we sat in a room for a long, long time talking about things rather than talking while we went. Once again we were so slow everywhere we went. But still we had a great time. 

The Struthian Pool, underneath current Jerusalem
The Pool of Bethesda. Most of what you can see are ruins from long after the Savior's day

The steps of the Pool of Bethesda. Somewhere along these steps is probably where Christ healed a crippled man
The gang figuring out the archaeology of the Pool of Bethesda
Flowers growing at the Pool of Bethesda
Flowers Growing at the Pool of Bethesda
We went to Saint Anne’s and we used the articles and diagrams I obtained from Shimon Gibson to try to figure out what we were seeing at the Pools of Bethesda. It was super, super helpful for me. We all worked together to piece together what we saw there, and I think it turned out well. I feel like I understand the place and the story better now than ever. We also went to see some other pools and arches, and that came together for me in a new way. We did a few other things, took twice as long as we needed, but had good results. We got back home and I spent some time working with the kids on cleaning, we had dinner with the students, and then Julianne and I had a nice evening at home.

All day I kept thinking about how BJ’s call was probably being issued. I suspect we were thinking about it at about the right time. I texted him tonight and we talked about him getting his call. We are excited!

The next day we worked together to do a lot of cleaning. Then I went up and administered my exam. While students were taking the exam I should have worked on an article, but instead I felt like I needed to put in writing the situation surrounding the seminary trip. Again, time and energy wasted over such silliness. Then I graded my exams, Julianne and I worked together on things again, our kids got home and we spent time with them. We also cleaned and worked more on getting ready for family to come visit. I skyped with my archaeology team back home about this next season, and I think we are looking pretty good for that. I visited with the Skinners for a while, and they are so delightful. I also visited with Phil for a while, he is also so delightful. I did a workout, and we cleaned more and visited more.

The next day was wonderful. Sabbath was truly a delight. Meetings were great. Family time was great. We finished listening to conference. And then we began waiting for our guests to come! We are so excited to share the bounties of our rich life here with those whom we love so much!

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