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Every Thumb's Width

Marysville Sun

In the spirit of starting somewhere, I finally followed up on this post. Instead of Standard I decided to go with Sun, because it has obvious metaphorical value AND because it seems like a playful acknowledgment that in Marysville’s geographical/meteorological condition, we really would like more sun.

I now own the digital property at marysvillesun.com but there’s no building there yet.

And actually, I decided to try Substack for a 1.0 version. A weekly newsletter seems right, and Substack makes subscribing and eventual paid subscriptions easy. There’s just a Coming soon there now, but nothing is stopping you from subscribing today. 🙂

Subscribe here!

There’s also a new Twitter account if that’s your thing.

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Every Thumb's Width

Killing Is Not a Constitutional Right

For a number of years I have talked about making Marysville a destination. I’ve thought about it in terms of being the kind of people with a gravity that could be an encouragement, and maybe even a sort of mini-haven, to Christians in an otherwise leftist (political/moral) state. In fact, ours is already one of the few sane cities on the I-5 corridor, which goes up and down the furthest left (geographical) part of WA State if you’re looking at a map.

Our legislature and governor are trying to make WA a destination for different reasons. They’ve put forward a bill to invite more abortions.

Here’s the news article, including this quote from the governor:

“We know this bill is necessary because this is a perilous time for the ability of people to have the freedom of choice that they have enjoyed for decades. To the citizens of Idaho, if Idaho will not stand up for your constitutional rights, we will.”

But killing is not a constitutional right.

If you do click through and read the article, note that immediately following the governor’s quote, our state is also abandoning words like “woman” and “mother” for “pregnant individual.”

We are lost. And while it isn’t surprising, it is sinful, depraved, evil, and worth doing something about.

If you faint in the day of adversity,
your strength is small.
Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not repay man according to his work?
(Proverbs 24:10–12, ESV)

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Every Thumb's Width

A New Standard

I’ve been thinking again about starting a newspaper (or a newsapp) for Marysville.

It’s an idea and conversation I’ve had before, but at that time there was the “Marysville Globe.” According to Wikipedia the paper was established in 1891. That was even before the internet. For the two decades I’ve lived in Marysville it was the only local paper I knew about. It’s also the local paper I rarely read due to the less than scintillating copy. It might have been bad, but at least it was ours.

Sometime in the last year or so it disappeared. The url – www.MarysvilleGlobe.com – redirects to the Everett Herald. Bleh. There’s just an archive of the Globe available now.

Which means we’ve got a real opportunity and zero current competition.

There’s a fantastic book called, Rules for Reformers. It focuses on place rather than media, but one of the principles is finding a city that is both strategic and feasible. It is a place that matters and is also a place that can be taken. A “paper,” so-called,” isn’t a city, but it is a source of information and perspective that could really start a fire.

So what if we started a paper that was Local first, State second, Nation next?

What if we loved our city in a way that brought out more of its loveliness?

What if we provided a biblical perspective on what’s happening among and around us, re-presented our Constitutional liberties to our fellow citizens, and pushed our local magistrates to remember their authority and responsibilities to protect us against so much tyrannical overreach coming from the “power” cities of our State?

What if we celebrated our local businesses – where you could enjoy coffee and beer and more – and promoted entrepreneurial opportunities?

What if we highlighted the ridiculousness of some of the official positions in our public schools, and also highlighted some of the other educational movements that are actually awake to the deadly dreams of the woke?

What if we connected churches, not to be under the same roof, but to build a better culture on behalf of the same Lord?

What if we acknowledged that Jesus is the Lord (Romans 10:9), that He is before all things and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 17), that in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), and that we will give an account for everything to Him (Hebrews 4:13)?

So what if we called this venture The Marysville Standard? A friend of mine started working with this name a couple years ago. That name might remind us that we are under a (transcendent, eternal) standard, it could urge us to set a new standard for local news and editorials, and it respectfully recalls the name of the paper Abraham Kuyper started in Holland, De Standaard, the same guy who said that Jesus claims lordship over every thumb’s-width in the domain of human existence. That includes Marysville.

Let me know what you think, if the juice would be worth the squeeze, how you could help.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Local Fruit

Maybe you’ve been waiting for the nine-weeks of word study to begin. There are nine attributes of the fruit of the Spirit, and they could all get individual attention, but I don’t plan to go one-by-one, week-by-week. Keep them all in mind: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Peeling back the fruit metaphor is constructive, and some of the contrasts are as helpful as anything. Unlike physical fruit, we look for continual harvest from Spirit. Consider, though, an ironic resemblance: like physical fruit we should look for physical Spirit-fruit. Let the fruit of the Spirit be embodied and earthy.

It’s ironic, right? The Spirit’s work affects our internals and our externals. The Spirit starts in the heart, but what’s in the heart always eventually comes out. In Galatians 5, the fleshly bite and devour one another. Immorality and strife and anger and envy and drunkenness are not only personal, they are relational, cultural.

So love isn’t just for me. Self-control is of self for the benefit of more than one-self. Patience, kindness, gentleness are only as good as they are not private. The fruit of the Spirit isn’t limited like a little plant in a terra-cotta pot on the kitchen window shelf.

This series of exhortations isn’t only so that you will think about being spiritual, but so that you will think about being spiritual in Marysville, and her Snohomish suburbs, being a destination for others to see a spiritual field. I get that red states have an appeal, but we are committed to a spiritual community. Such a spiritual state is embodied by families, businesses, schools. The fruit of the Spirit is local, tangible, jealousable. Let us double-down on living by the Spirit, not relocating.

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Every Thumb's Width

Why “Comeford” College?

I don’t remember the first time I thought about the possibility of starting a college in Marysville, but as the years passed and conversations happened and then a committee was formed, the question of what to name a college became more pressing. I mean, how could we have a Facebook page without a name?

We talked a lot about it at home. I didn’t doodle a bunch of names on the back of a notebook, but I do have a text file with over a dozen options. Once the committee was called to decide if we should start something, and that decision was affirmed, we spent a few months brainstorming and collecting and criticizing our ideas.

Something with “Kuyper” certainly seemed appropriate. The work of Abraham Kuyper has been especially helpful in knocking down dualism for our church and K-12 school community. Christ claims every college course just as much as every square inch in the universe. But, there’s already a Kuyper College.

The Comefords

We thought about something like the (New) Free College, since Kuyper started the Free University of Amsterdam. But in our day “free” refers to cost, not free from State control as it meant to Kuyper. How about a synonym for free, without the socialistic baggage? What about Liberty? Ah, right, I already went there.

We also love Marysville. We’re devoted to our city and want it to be a destination of sorts, which is part of the reason for starting a college. But, Marysville College or, The College of Marysville seemed like just about the least creative effort we could make. So then what about things Marysville is known for? Other than the homely fact of not having anything our own, the only historical highpoint is our water tower, and geographically we are near Mt. Pilchuck. “Water Tower College” was a dry run, and how many Pilchucks do we need? I suppose there is always “Premium Outlets College.”

Then one of our board members did some digging into Marysville’s origin story. The founder of our city arrived in 1872, established the first hotel, the first store, the first post office, and started the first school. The best accounts say that he named the city after his wife, Maria. And his name was James P. Comeford.

That was it: Comeford College. We do have a local park called Comeford, and the water tower stands next to the park. But the name connects us to the city, to the city’s start, and to a man who started a number of things in the city.

Thus far we haven’t found any reason not to name the college after him; he apparently didn’t start the first brothel, or vape store, or casino. But again, we’re loving on where we’re from, and praying that this new institution will make Marysville even more lovely, more Kuyperian, and more educated.

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Every Thumb's Width

An Open Letter to Mayor Nehring and the Marysville City Council

To our City of Marysville officials,

I am writing this open letter to you, not to confront, or even to criticize you, but to offer thanks and an exhortation. These are unprecedented days not just for our city, but obviously for the world, and you have many decisions to make on our behalf. Thank you for all the hours you have already spent, and for the many more hours of labor to come.

Due in large measure to your leadership, Marysville is not only a great place to live and work and raise our families, it has become a place of fruitfulness and an example to our neighboring communities, even up and down the West Coast. I think in particular of your work regarding homelessness, and how that was newsworthy in Spokane, in Seattle, and even in Southern California. Your willingness to explain your decisions for city projects and budget spending is notable, and appreciated. The Mayor’s patience, and nerve, on display at Coffee Klatches and other public meetings, provokes confidence and trust.

So I am asking you to show that sort of leadership again, at least for the citizens of Marysville, and perhaps even as a voice of reason to our State.

For three weeks in a row our Governor has enacted new and tightening restrictions. After closing all public schools, he then announced that no groups larger than 250 could meet, then lowered that to 50, and then this past week said not to leave our houses except for essential business. But, and this is significant, these are the only specifics he’s providing. If there is data about an exponential increase of COVID-19 cases among us, where is it? If there is data about the decreasing availability of hospital beds, where is it? Why are the restrictions getting more specific, and the explanations for why getting more foggy?

Over the last few weeks new laws have been written based on data modeling, not on data reported. And even those models are now admitted, by the scientists themselves, to be drastically wrong. From the beginning certain “experts” have been inflaming panic with “point of no return” terminology, burying the “known limitations” of their estimates below the “flatten the curve” graphics. Your messages to the community have been calm, but if the message itself is incorrect, that introduces other risks.

Because we all live together, certainly you know, at least anecdotally, that our community had a serious flu season in the later part of 2019. A Seattle flu study was testing for, and finding, coronavirus in January. It matters when the coronavirus came to the US, because that changes, and lowers, the death rate percentage along with the percentage of how many cases require hospitalization.

Marysville is filled with hard working men and women. We do not want the government, Federal or State, to bail us out. We want to go to work, taking reasonable precautions, earn our paychecks, and then pay our own bills. Please do not help the Governor redistribute responsibilities, and then make us more dependent on him.

There are ways to fight COVID-19 that do not require “killing” our local economy and businesses. You have worked hard to invite more businesses into our area and have been promoting their companies (as with the Cascade Industrial Center). Sharing a map of Marysville-area restaurants providing takeout is great, and posting pictures of your lunches is fun, but the costs are much bigger. You can do more. Again, as you demonstrated in your approach to the homeless, you did not deny that it was a problem, but you did avoid multiplying the problem for others.

Here is one plan to get America back to work, with a pivot from “horizontal interdiction” where everyone is restricted, to a “surgical” or “vertical interdiction” where those most likely to be affected are cared for. This would protect those of us who are not as susceptible to coronavirus from other consequences, such as financial or social or emotional.

The “Stay home, save lives” motto is succinct, and who doesn’t want to save lives? But can you please provide more information along with the well-being sentiments? Acting fast in a genuine crisis is good, but not if it is running off a cliff.

So as a pastor who loves Marysville, as a private school board member and teacher who encourages students and their families to love Marysville, as a parent who wants my kids to love Marysville, and as a citizen who believes in his local officials, I am asking you to use your influence for our good, physical and financial and cultural. Continue to demonstrate that you do not need the Governor’s office to provide your talking points. Do not be pressured by silliness coming out of King County. Do not allow the goal posts of restrictions to continue to be narrowed. Do not keep us in the dark. If it is bad, tell us. If you see that it is not as bad as Olympia is trying to make it sound, tell them.

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Every Thumb's Width

A College

My wife and I moved to Marysville, WA, in the summer of 2001 as I took a job as a youth pastor. I loved almost everything about that job: the church body, the elders, the youth staff, and the junior high and high schoolers themselves. In the youth ministry I had freedom to study and teach whatever book of the Bible or theological subject that interested me. I got to lead, and to grow alongside, the other leaders as well as plan and lead events with them. Most of the parents were very supportive, and most of the students were very responsive. I thank God for His grace to me during those years.

The one thing that became a growing frustration was the expectation that students who could, should get out of Marysville. If they had enough academic or financial ability, or just the gumption, they should find somewhere to go that wasn’t here. Maybe it would be temporary, or maybe we would just see them when they visited for the holidays. This expectation was sometimes spoken and always felt.

Marysville is a small-ish city, and, I’m not sure that it’s ever had a stellar reputation. Even our outlet mall is named “Seattle Premium Outlets,” though Seattle is 35 miles south. Before we moved from the Los Angeles area, Mo was talking to someone familiar with Marysville who called it “the hell of Washington.” I still recall being driven down the main drag in Marysville for the first time and wondering how there could possibly be the need for so many auto parts stores.

But God puts us, He plants us, in the place He wants. If that place is lovely, He wants us to give thanks and be good stewards. If that place is less lovely, He still wants us to give thanks and then love the unlovely to greater loveliness.

In the 18+ years that we’ve lived in Marysville a lot has happened, to our family, our people, and our city. By His grace we are even more tied to them than ever.

The soil of these loyalties has been worked up by the tiller of Kuyperianism, which has also weeded out a lot of dualism. I’ve posted about Kuyper numerous times here, and have also been working on a site promoting the odd (for now), theological mutt of Kuyperian Dispensationalism. All that applies here because in our growing love for our people and our place, including our desire to see our children’s children be faithful disciples until Christ returns, we are trying to educate them to do all that they do in His name.

We started a K-12 school in 2012, and even before those doors were opened (in the basement of a farmhouse) I’ve had questions about what we would expect (and provide) for those students next. Were we really going to pour ourselves into sacrificial labors for 13 years to hand them a diploma and say, “Good job. That’s all we’ve got for you. Buh-bye!”?

There are some colleges that we like, but none that meet all our criteria. A precious few are Kuyperian, but I know of none that are Kuyperian (and understand it) and Premillenial. The higher education institutions that lean Dispy also lean dualist, lauding theology over the work of one’s hands instead of having theology about the work of one’s hands. To the degree that they educate about history and literature and math and econmics, it is inconsistent with the undergirding belief that it’s all just going to burn. Plus, even if there was a KuyperDispy college somewhere in the world, we live in (and love) Marysville. We at least want to provide an option for our students to stay and learn more and serve the church and possibly plant their families here. We want to make Marysville a destination, a place people love to be.

To that end we aim to start a college in the fall of 2020. It’s a nice round number, easy to remember in years to come. It also happens to be the year my oldest graduates from high school, as part of the largest class of seniors (a whopping seven) in our school’s existence.

The name is Comeford College, which I’ll need to explain more about another time. We’ve established a Board and a President, we’re investigating the long path toward possible accreditation, and we’ve started working through the scope and sequence of our courses.

A Christian college with a liberal arts flavor driven by Kuyperian weltanschauung is only one piece of loving our families and our city. We also need more local business owners/employers and vocational opportunities for our young people to be able to raise their own KuyperDispies. For today we’ve got no less work to do than we can imagine, and we’re trusting the Lord to take our small offering and bless the socks off our city.

If you want to know more, get in touch.

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Bring Them Up

Not Another Humanistic Empathy Theater

I sent an email yesterday that represented a lot of thoughts and prayers. I actually began the email on that note, while clarifying that the prayers have been made in the name of the LORD who made heaven and earth, not in the name of humanistic empathy theater.

Anyway, the email was an invite for sake of forming a committee to consider starting a Christian liberal arts college in Marysville in the fall of 2020.

It’s exciting. And exhausting. And even more exciting than I said just a moment ago.

The first order of business for said committee is to decide if we have enough good reasons to even try to do this. Of course, if I didn’t already have some reasons of some sort then nobody needs another meeting. If we agree that such an institution of higher ed is called for, and I think we will, and if we agree that the call includes an opening day somewhere around fifteen months from now, then we have even more thoughts and prayers to go.

There aren’t as many written records from those who first came to America because they were busy accomplishing the things that needed to be done. Yet sometimes the writing about things is part of what needs to be done, and hopefully there will be progress to share along the way. Also, we’re not trying to form a(nother) more perfect union, but we are thinking about an alternative to those humanistic empathy theaters called college campuses.

In the meantime, there are a number of articles that lament the current state of college/university education, especially in the government schools, such as this one about poo emoji, I mean, educational BS. The pony in the poop, as my father-in-law might frame it, is that the time is ripe for some “visionary traditionalism and organizational radicalism,” you know, like a new college.

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Every Thumb's Width

The Evolution Is Worse Than He Knows

Thank you to Mr. Powell for his recent article exposing the evolution of confusion about gender identity on Marysville School District campuses. I’m afraid the evolution is much worse than he knows.

Down the hall from the 6th Grade Health class the Shop teacher has been dealing with a similar but more serious confusion. It is a growing problem throughout the nation and parents have been grilling school boards because the nuts and bolts are going through an identification meltdown. 

In Marysville there has been little to no opposition to encouraging the nuts to bolt and the bolts to be nuts. School leaders say that the lack of opposition is primarily due to the fact that many of the parents who’ve been notified about the gender identity confusion have simply been too busy searching for the largest black permanent marker they can find with which to vote NO on the next Levy proposal leaving little time to worry about the nuts and bolts.

Flynn Miscall, director of putting things together, said that the district has adopted the free curriculum endorsed by the Official Office of Preposterous Superintendent Ideas (OOPSI) because, “I mean, it was free.” 

Miscall also said, “It’s confusing for nuts, and people referring to them as nuts, especially if they don’t feel nuts, even if they are actually nuts.”

Cindi Wileslip, vice principal of fasteners and building stuff, said, “Knowledge is a priority” for students and parents. “But we’re just teachers. Who are we to share knowledge about the identity of nuts and bolts?” She also added, “We’d like parents to take the lead in these conversations, except when they want to identify nuts as nuts. That is right out.”

Wileslip added that the Washington State Legislature is looking to amend their pioneering Tape-Everything Act of 2012. Lawmakers and education professionals have been requiring the use of washi tape, whether single colored or patterned, as a replacement for bolting things. None of the State’s policy makers were available for comment due to a recent Consistency Mandate which prohibits all employees from plugging in their cell phones to charge.

In an unanticipated twist, the problem of nut-bolt identity has spread to many of Marysville’s school parking lots where the wheels are actually falling off the educational system, as well as the cars. 

OOPSI Standards

  • Beginning in Kindergarten, students will be taught about the many ways to use glue. There are many. 
  • Third-graders will be introduced to nut-bolt identity. These children will be taught that they can choose whatever attachment system they prefer, as long as whatever they prefer is not using nuts and bolts. Don’t even try to confuse them with washers. 
  • Fourth-graders will be expected to “define threaded fasteners and external male threads.” They will be told that this is all very screwy.
  • High school students will critically “evaluate how culture, media, society, and other people such as hardware store employees have abandoned the harmful expectations of sense and logic.” 

In case the above seems alarmist, it’s okay, because all classes will be canceled going forward. No one can get into the classrooms because identity confusion has also developed among the door locks and keys.

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Bring Them Up

Me First: The Deaths We Should Die for Our Students

More than a month ago I got to address a group of teachers at the first ACCS Regional Schools Training Day held at Providence Classical Christian School. Here are the notes for my talk.

TL;DR or Abstract: The gospel is good news that Jesus died so that we might live. As Christians the gospel is not only something we must believe and proclaim, it is also something we must embody. Like Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, teachers have many and various opportunities to bring life to their students (and the students’ families) by dying. Such dying to bring life sets the course of the classroom and also shows the students how to live like Christ.


Introduction

Wow! What a privilege it is to be here, to be a part of this first evar ACCS Regional Teacher In-Service Day, to have the opportunity to address you all and hopefully to give you some gospel encouragement for your labor in the Lord this morning. I love classical and Christian education. I love the ACCS, I love PCCS (where our oldest two kids got to attend for a year), and I love our toddler school. I am thankful to God for all that He is obviously and abundantly doing among us.

As for why I get to talk, well, my headmaster volunteered me, and none of the other headmasters/principles knew better. I definitely have a curriculum vitae to talk to teachers about teachering, and that resume is full of_incompetencies_ rather than masteries. I suppose if all the books could be written of the ways I could be a better teacher, all the school libraries in the world could not contain them.

But I do care. I care as an image-bearer of the God who mandated that we take dominion of all this stuff He’s created for and given to us. I care as a Christian because Jesus is Lord over every thumb’s width in the world that man can grab. I care as a parent of four students, as a pastor of parents, as a board member at our school, and as a teacher. I do not think I’m particularly gifted for the classroom, yet in some ways maybe that makes me a great person to talk about it because I have to make premeditated decisions.

The first decision requires me to determine: what do I want to accomplish? There are a number of excellent ways to answer to that question, but I’ve been answering it the last few years in an outlandish way. I want to turn Marysville into a destination.1 Have you been to Marysville? I bet we have more auto parts stores than your city, at least per capita, and certainly more on the main drag. We do have a spectacular whale fountain in front of our casino and an outlet mall that draws international customers, though those are technically not Marysville, but they are at the Marysville exits. There are also three Walmarts we can count as ours, so it’s a start. But I would love to be a part of making our city a place that Christians love to live, work, and grow.

That starts with working to make my home a destination that my kids want to be in, and then by extension to make my classroom a destination that my students want to be in. I want them wanting to be there. There are a lot of ways to accomplish this, but rather than dimming the lights and unfolding blankets and burning some sweet smelling candles with plenty of therapy puppies to pet, I want my classroom to be filled with the aroma of my many deaths.

That might sound like an odd ambition, but it is a gospel objective, just applied in the context of a school.

Death Is at Work

You may or may not remember a pseudo-evangelical movement that was popularish a decade ago called the Emergent Church. It was easy to tell who was part of the movement because they hated being stereotyped. They also were really keen on relationships and life, so lots of the churches scrapped the name “church” (too constricting) for something like “community” (more authentic). Many threw out their pulpits and pews and sat in couches drinking coffee and had conversations. Okay. But one of their core propositions, ironic since they were suspicious of propositions, was that Christians needed to incarnate the gospel.

That way of talking made me nervous for a couple reasons. Jesus is the incarnate Word, God in flesh, yes. But God taking on flesh is not something for us to repeat. We are already fleshy/fleshly, and more critically, we’re not God. The incarnation of Jesus is totally other than our experience. Incarnating the gospel also seemed wrong because the gospel is a message for us to preach, not a model for us to practice. I argued emphatically, definitively, that we should not use this language.

And I was wrong, because this is how the apostle Paul spoke about his ministry in a couple places, including Colossians 1:24 and 2 Corinthians 4:7-12.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

The “jars of clay” are “our bodies,” “our mortal flesh,” so the treasure of the gospel is contained not just in our brains or mouths. And what’s happening in the flesh? “Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus” can’t mean that we’re being martyred, like a sledgehammer to a ceramic pot, once and done. The ones who are “being given over to death for Jesus’ sake,” they are also the ”we who live,” and it’s happening “always.” You can’t do it “always” if the dying here is body-buried-death. Somehow “death is at work” and, based on the first part of the paragraph, dying is related to being brought to our breaking points in the four “but nots.”

And what is the result of the exercise of dying? Two related things: 1) The life of Jesus is manifested and 2) life works in those for whom we’re dying. This is the gospel: death brings life. We announce the gospel, for sure. We are Christian schools. We’ve got to, and we get to, point our students to Christ as the only name under heaven by which we can be saved. But those of us who proclaim Jesus as Lord (1 Corinthians 4:5) are also practicing servants of the Lord (same verse), and we show God’s surpassing power as we are “being given over to death for Jesus’ sake.” This is incarnating the gospel, it is embodying the good news that death brings life.

This isn’t referring to a teacher taking a bullet for a student. That could be done as a final act of love, but it is a one-time death. The dying, the being given over to death, the always carrying the death of Jesus, refers, ironically, to a way of living that brings life to others. So here’s a stipulative definition of dying: giving up something considered vital, often causing pain, for the joy of another.

Death by a Thousand Papers to Grade

What does dying look like then? How does the abstract get concrete? This is the glory of it, I don’t even know all the ways. But here are some dying assumptions and some scenarios.

My Dying Teacher Assumptions

Three of these should be good enough to give you the idea.

First, I assume that students will not remember the homework assignment and that parents will not read the assignment either. Homework, assigning how much and the grading thereof, is its own thing, which I’ll bring up again under the scenarios. This also matters whether you have parrot, pert, or poetic students; the older they are, the more they should be responsible and the younger they are the more their parents will need to pay attention. But unless the assignment itself is to see if they can follow your Rube Goldberg assignment, then die to your expectation that all you need to do is say it once and you’re done. If you always respond to your headmaster’s first email requesting your response, then you can have a scratch-n-sniff sticker on your inbox in the teachers’ lounge, but you might be the only one.

Second, and related to the first, I assume that parents have other things to do than what I am now requiring of them, especially when it comes to grammar students. Some of your schools meet five days a week, some, like our school, have a day or more when teachers give work that should be done during “school at home.” But the assumption works for plain old “homework” too. We only get so many minutes a day in class, and there are a lot of Indispensable Lessons, but it’s not always apparent that teachers realize other things happen after school, or that parents are not sitting at home clicking the refresh button in their browser to check for new homework.

Yes, we are serving parents, and parents should know what is happening with their students. Yes, parents are ultimately responsible to God for their student’s education. Yes, sometimes you need for the student to do some extra work outside of class. But how many classes do they have, and how many teachers had extra work for outside of class that same day, and how much help is that student going to need for that assignment?

Third, I assume that, even if parents read the assignment, and even if parents sacrifice their other work for sake of helping their student, they still probably don’t know what I’m talking about. Ha! So I use complete sentences, albeit as short as possible. I also RTUA = refuse to use abbreviations. It could be the third quarter, and you’re using the same abbreviation you’ve used for the Saxon Time Fact Sheets all year long without a problem, but for some reason mom is out of town and dad needs to help and the fourth grader doesn’t know what “TFS” means. If you’re using an online homework application, put your Keystroke Saving Program to death. Maybe you’ll get RSI (repetitive stress injury), but it will be life to your people. If you’re a printer of assignments to paper, pluck up, there are plenty of trees.

My Dying Teacher Scenarios

It’s Monday morning, or Thursday evening, or whenever, and you get a text message from a parent asking if there’s Latin homework because there is nothing in Renweb, Sycamore, etc. You realize that you were interrupted right when you were going to post it, and you forgot, but you had told the students in class what you wanted them to do. Do you:

  • A) Do nothing because you gave a verbal assignment?
  • B) Quickly post the assignment and expect that all the families will look at it and complete it?
  • C) Post it and notify the parents via a special group email or text?
  • D) Take the curricular bullet and have the students complete the assignment the next day in class?

Of course there are other variables, including whatever agreements and expectations there are between the school and parents about how and when homework is to be communicated. But if your immediate reaction is, “They should have remembered the assignment.” Then if it’s so easy, why didn’t you remember to put it online?

There are other options than panic. Email or text the families and say that due to your error, the assignment will be graded for extra credit for those who remembered to do it, or it will be finished in class and won’t be graded. Die to your pride, and sometimes it’s okay to die to your plan.

Here’s another scenario. You only have so many classroom minutes, and you really want to talk about Augustine, and you really need to give a memory verse quiz and a test. Do you:

  • A) Scrap waxing eloquent about Augustine and just do the boring quiz and test?
  • B) Punt the tests to the parents to administer at home so you can talk about Augustine?
  • C) Something else?

You are the teacher! Teach! Augustine is educational, even if you (wrongly) call him Augustine. The bishop of Hippo is probably applicable somehow to your curriculum. So ask yourself some questions. Is sending the test home instead of other homework better? Or is sending the test home something you’ve never done in that class and would likely cause confusion? Could you hold off talking about Augustine until next week, and plan to tweak the lesson plans to include it? Or could you move the test to next week instead?

There are other common scenarios too. Do you have a fussy student? Die (to your impatience) for him. Do you have fussy parents? Die (to your irritation) for them. Are you overwhelmed, not sure how to do the next day? Die.

You have so many ways to die to give life:

  • Give everyone all the points, or make that assignment extra credit.
  • Use someone who takes a perfect quiz as a grade for all (like justification).
  • Scrap the assignment all together, or assign just the odd problems, or only one page instead of the two, etc.

Teachers are especially tempted to pass the pressure off to others when:

  • When they are unprepared.
  • When they are upset with someone else, their spouse, their own kid, another student from another class.
  • When they made a mistake.
  • When they failed to communicate (as expected).
  • When they mismanage and run out of time (in class).

What do you tolerate in you that you wouldn’t tolerate in a student?

Conclusion

Dying to bring life is simple, not simplistic. There are qualifications, sure. I’m not arguing for a Montessori pedagogy, or that teachers never hold their students responsible. But we ought to be holding them to the standard when it is more, or at least equally, costly for us.

The gospel affects more than our content, it affects our methods. The gods of men demand sacrifices from men, and the system is rigged. The God of men sacrificed Himself, in Christ, for men, and the salvation is by grace. In most cases you are bigger, stronger, and smarter than your students. That means you could bully them, but it also means that you are equipped to sacrifice for them in powerful ways, not that you are equipped to lord it over them. That is the way of the Gentiles. When it comes to dying, it should be me first. That is some lesson.

Death isn’t just okay, it is the way of authority and glory. If sacrifice is glory, which it was for Jesus, then we reflect glory in the timely sacrificing of our lesson plans, our homework plans, etc.

As Julius Campbell told Gerry Bertier in “Remember the Titans”:

Campbell: You been doing your job?

Bertier: I’ve been doing my job.

Campbell: Then why don’t you tell your white buddies to block for Rev better? Because they have not blocked for him worth a plug nickel, and you know it! Nobody plays. Yourself included. I’m supposed to wear myself out for the team? What team? Nah, nah what I’m gonna do is look out for myself and I’ma get mine.
Bertier: See man, that’s the worst attitude I ever heard.

Campbell: Attitude reflects leadership, captain.


  1. I really hoped for a particular audience response at this point, and I totally got it. A lady in the front row let out a snort loud enough for the whole room to hear. I couldn’t have scripted it better.