A Good Thing about That Emoji Bible

One of my favorite questions as a Bible-scholar-lady is “So, what’s the best translation?” I love this question not only because it opens the door to substantive discussion that can last for the better part of a class period… no matter how long the meeting. But I also love it because we get to talk about paradox: The best translation is precisely not the one. Rather, the best translation is a whole mess of ’em, side by side, allowing a reader to see the varieties of ways this ancient text can mean (and sometimes revealing the biases of whoever’s behind said translation). So even when I disagree with some version’s particular word choice, turn of phrase, or punctuation, finally I say bring it on. Give us a new translation, and keep them coming. Come they do.Bible Emoji cover225x225

Neighborly Courtesies in a Wild World

What if we were to extend our notions of neighborhood to the nonhuman natural world? We’re familiar with the courtesies and manners appropriate for our human neighbors (whether or not we accept them). But what about the heron, the salamander, the fox, the speckled trout?

I had a wonderful opportunity to meet and hear Wendell Berry — front row, center, why not? — as this year’s recipient of the Martin Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion. There he posed this question, which resonates like a cello in my soul. Add countless other earth-wise moments of earthy wisdom in that lovely interview with Norman Wirzba, and I had a full-blown orchestra humming.

Water, the Gods, and Us

Water. Out of the great rivers long ago, mermen of a kind — the Seven Sages — emerged. It was they, ancient Mesopotamians told, who brought the gifts of civilization to humankind. But water was also the amniotic soup of chaos. Only after a god-hero split the sea monster Tiamat in two was life on earth possible at all. With Hurricane Sandy churning up the coast, a steady rain muddles the surface of our central Virginia pond. A heron stands on the water’s edge perfectly still.

Creation’s Cacophonous Chorus

Biblical imagery draws richly from the world of the ancient Middle East, including its hills, waters, arid stretches, and wildly diverse animals — domestic and not. Trees “clap their hands” and the beloved is likened to a swift, graceful gazelle. These days, as I wander out to examine my new garden, trying to diagnose yellowing leaves and how best to eco-kindly loosen Virginia’s hard clay, I am serenaded by the buzzing of different kinds of bees, too many to count. If my squash blossoms drop or the cheery yellow cucumber flowers come to nothing, it’s not a loss. The humming of that pollen-gathering band is delight. 

bee and cucumber flower

Crop Mob and God

I participated in my first “crop mob” yesterday at Bellair Farms (CSA). If you’re already lost — what’s a “crop mob” and what is “CSA”? — you’re not alone. Both are pretty new ideas out of the old world of agri-culture, sustainable and sweet. First, CSA: It stands for “community supported agriculture” and is a way to connect farmers directly with consumers who buy a share in future produce. These “members” pay a sum up-front, before the growing season commences to the farmer, who agrees to do her best to grow good stuff that members enjoy throughout the season. It’s a wonderful way to share in both the risks and rewards of good farming. It’s also a cool, organic (dare I say) community-builder. A “crop mob” is a group of people who occasionally descend upon a farm to offer a helping hand, gratis. They may or may not be CSA members — just people who enjoy the labor of sun and field and are happy to help farmers doing good work.

Cedars of Lebanon

cedrus libani.jpgAh, the stately cedars of Lebanon. They are celebrated in the Bible as the tree of choice for the great Jerusalem temple built by Solomon with the help of his Phoenician friend Hiram, the king of Tyre. Solomon’s own palace complex included “The House of the Forest of Lebanon” (1 Kings 7:2-5). So grand, these trees were the metaphor of choice to describe an indomitable king of Israel compared to his “thornbush” rival (2 Kings 14:9), the illustrious fate of a righteous person (Psalm 92:12), and the haughty might of Assyria at the peak of its power (Ezekiel 31:3). A generation after the great Babylonian war machine had razed Solomon’s glorious temple, and the people could rebuild, it was to the cedars of Lebanon that they looked for the strength and grandeur that would grace their second temple (Ezra 3:7).  

Too big to fail? An article recently published in my hometown newspaper noted that global warming is jeopardizing these storied trees.