Friday, March 25, 2011

Field Trip Follies

Today was the last day of spring break for the public schools in my area, and I took a van-load of Boys & Girls Club kids to Mount Magazine for a photography field trip.

The weather didn't cooperate, being colder and more windy than anticipated. I tried to stick with the plan despite the less-than-ideal circumstances, but the agenda -- while still clinging to photography as its original purpose -- degenerated into fun-and-games, complaints about how cold the weather had turned, and general messing with one another's psyches and possessions.

The road up the mountain is steep and winding -- already a little exciting in a regular vehicle, and even more so in a big 12-passenger van. Despite my caution while driving, this became the phrase of the day: "Oh no, we're all gonna die!"

There were a few variations, including "We're all gonna die! Oh, look. A cow."

At one point imitating the squiggle-like signs indicating curves in the road, the kids did a silly dance. I explained -- loudly -- that when the passengers did the wiggle, the van did the wiggle, and if they all didn't stop, we were gonna wiggle down the mountainside. To which one boy replied, "And if you make me die, I'm gonna come back and kill all of you once you're dead."

Now, that's some shining logic if I ever heard it.

My fellow chaperon was trying to teach the kids some words in French, including touche (touch) / toucher (to touch).  A holler from the back of the van: "Christina, can I touche your head?"

I laughed till I cried.

Which caused more dismay with the driving.

Which caused another round of "Oh no, Oh no, we're all gonna die!"

Vicious cycle, I tell ya.

Since I had allowed some of the kids to choose walking sticks at our first stop this morning, they had makeshift swords and spears that they strove to sharpen on the rocks whenever we stopped to take more photos. Once we returned to civilization for a mid-afternoon snack at a local park, the walking sticks made another appearance as one boy challenged the chaperon carrying the bag of sandwiches, "I'll sword-fight you for my lunch."

She just looked at him, and the sword became a walking stick once more.

Ah, good times.

I am home, alive, unmaimed, and with what I hope are some good pictures chronicling our day.

The best part? Everyone had so much fun, they want to go on the same trip again, "but, next time, can we go in the summer when it's warm?"


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Resurrection by Mike Duran

The ResurrectionSo, along with several other bloggers, I've been reading The Resurrection, a new novel by Mike Duran.

Not really sure which slot to put this one in (does it need one?), though some folks have likened this story to the work of Frank Peretti, whose novels hit me at a young age with their topics of angels and demons at war, New Age teaching, abortion, the true nature of sin, lost faith restored.

Some of those themes underpin the plot of The Resurrection, too, as well as the influence of paganism and dark powers over not only people but places. Possession, obsession, totems, and even ghosts are part of the story. But I'm not going to dive into deep theological or philosophical discussion; Duran does that quite well in the book.

While attending a funeral for a teenage boy named Armando ("Mondo"), Ruby Case -- housewife, mom, devoted believer in Christ -- leans over the casket and prays. Nothing fancy. Nothing loud or showy. Just between her and God:
Thank you for the Amayas and sweet, simple Armando. Have mercy on them, O God.
No pleading. Not a word about a miracle.

But when she steps away from the casket, she unknowingly turns her back on a miracle.

Mondo sits up in his casket and looks around.

The rest of the novel reveals how Ruby's life -- and the lives of her friends, her family, her community, and her wandering soul of a pastor -- is changed and challenged as a result of the resurrection. The city's evil past is revealed, and the evil still present fights to keep the territory that may be lost if the faithless return to the fold. And what's with the ghost that haunts the pastor's office?

With an intriguing premise like that, I expected to be engrossed in the novel right away. However, it took me a while to get through the first three or four chapters. I can't point to any particular flaw in the storytelling, and I could have just been distracted with work and other obligations; but, eventually, the story did grab my attention, and then I quickly sailed through the rest of it.

One question that I kept waiting for one of the characters to talk about was never asked. Although various explanations for the resurrection were offered, no one stated what to me was obvious: What about embalming? If people just thought there was a medical error, that Mondo wasn't really dead in the first place, then what about the embalming process?

No mention is made in the story that the Amaya family or their faith prohibited it. And when the skeptics raised their doubts, no one pointed out the awesome power of a God who could raise not just the dead, but the dead whose bodies had been so chemically altered that there was no hope of reviving them.

But Duran could have purposely avoided that topic, since it might have significantly derailed the story. As a writer, sometimes you have to make the hard decisions about what adds to the core story, and what's going to distract from it.

Overall, The Resurrection is a good read. There's mystery, danger, challenges to faith and relationships, and even moments of humor, one of my favorites being this, when the no-longer-wandering minister faces an unexpected antagonist at an old grave:
The smell of fresh green grass filled his nostrils, but Clark had no time to enjoy it. He scrambled to his feet, eyes darting from the hooded dwarf to Jack, who was lying stunned, still sucking air. So much for Jack's physical prowess. Suddenly Clark's confidence in his own physical fitness withered. 
The woman watched Jack writhing and tipped her head toward the man. "This is Breyven, the local warlock. He guards the gate, and right now, you better man up."

He'd never confronted a genuine warlock, and with one standing in front of him, Clark felt rather intrigued, as if discussing the man's religious history and upbringing might shed light on this problematic lifestyle choice. But seeing Jack writhing in the mud prevented any sort of meaningful dialogue with the hooded imp.
See? Fun and philosophy.
I'm late joining the March blog tour, haven't yet had a chance to read what others are saying, and am only posting a review one day rather than three. However, there are a lot more people out there talking about this book. Check out what they have to say:
Noah Arsenault
Brandon Barr
Red Bissell
Book Reviews By Molly
Kathy Brasby
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Wanda Costinak
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Janey DeMeo
Cynthia Dyer
Tori Greene
Nikole Hahn
Katie Hart
Joleen Howell
Bruce Hennigan
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emily LaVigne
Shannon McNear
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
John W. Otte
Gavin Patchett
Sarah Sawyer
Andrea Schultz
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
  Nicole White
Dave Wilson

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Burden of Books

What if what you love is not what you need? Yeah, addicts face this dilemma, but I can't really call an addiction a love, can I?

What about obsession? That's not really love, either.

Since before I ever learned to read, I've loved stories. As soon as I discovered the joy of reading for myself, books became my drug of choice. Although I did acquire discriminating tastes as I grew older, in my earlier years I pretty much read whatever came my way; I was a literary sponge.

Now, I'm clearing my shelves, and there are many. It's an unthinkable thing to do for a bibliophile -- to let books go -- but since I'm getting rid of ballast in other areas of my life, this is a logical act.

There are books that will remain, of course, but I would like to contain them all on only half the bookcases currently overflowing their capacity. And, Saturday afternoon, it was freeing and kinda fun to help my mother go along the shelves and choose from among the treasures that I once would never have loaned, let alone given.

The same will occur with my movie collection, already shrunken since the winnowing of last summer, yet still in need of a good thinning.

I never considered myself a collector until recently. After all, I didn't have a slew of Matchbox cars or Hot Wheels in shadow boxes on the walls, nor did I plunk down money on memorabilia or things that had to be hermetically sealed or constantly dusted. I was a curator of sorts, amassing a library of fiction and history and resources.

No, in recent months I had to admit that, in truth, I have become a collector, obtaining for the mere sake of having, not necessarily using or enjoying.

So, here I go, setting myself free.