Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hebrew Alphabet Song

I wrote this little song back in Memphis to help me and my friends Ben and Cindy learn the Hebrew alphabet. Each week we ambitiously gathered to tackle Page Kelley's grammar over strong coffee. When we hit the verbal stems, our focus began to shift more onto the coffee and enjoying each other's company. But we always had fun singing this ditty, and I still think of it when I am looking up a Hebrew word in a lexicon. Please feel free to share this post with anyone who is learning Hebrew or might appreciate it.

Click here for the MP3 file.
Click here for the PDF file if you want to follow along with the music.

In His Grip,

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Vol. 1: Getting in Touch with my Inner Jones

I officially love it here! I am underslept, overwhelmed with information, and I still have some unpacking to do (see left), but I love it here.

Thank goodness my suitemates have allowed me to put two of my bookshelves in the common room, because there certainly isn't any more room in my bedroom! The Leningrad Codex facsimile is also on display in the common room, on my music stand for the moment, and has occasioned much oohing and aahing. Someone remarked that the heavier your Bible, the better you can hit someone over the head with it. This one would be perfect for such an application, since it must weigh 30 pounts.

I can't even enumerate the ways in which God is confirming to me that I'm supposed to be here. From the way the finances are falling into place, to meeting just the right people at the right times, to the profound sense of well-being that I have, even in the face of lots of stress... well, it's quite clear to me that I made the right choice.

I have had so many stimulating conversations since Thursday, I hardly know what to do. The guy accross the hall spent last year learning Akkadian. The other three incoming archaeology students--yes, there are only four of us, and we definitely need a name, so I'm taking suggestions. I think The Fab Four is already taken--but the four of us are of incredibly diverse backgrounds. One was a high school math teacher, another has a BA in Hebrew Exegesis, and another taught horseback riding, among other things. But we all have a love of Scripture and a passion for dusting off hidden things and bringing them to light.

I did better than I expected on my Old Testament comprehensive exam, and it appears that I passed it, although I haven't got the final confirmation yet. The New Testament was much harder, because it was mostly essay, and so I am sure I will have to go ahead and take the New Testament survey course next semester. But I am incredibly excited to be in Dr. Hoffmeier's intro to archaeology course this semester, and hopefully (after I beg him tomorrow) his Middle Egyptian class (that would be hieroglyphs and the whole nine yeards!)

The student body is incredibly diverse, with Asia and Africa well represented. I had a long, wonderful conversation with a student from Nigeria today. For church I visited an Anglican congregation, the Church of the Redeemer in Highland Park. I have always loved the Anglican liturgy, and with everything else in more or less chaos around me, I needed some good strong liturgy today. I spent most of the service choking back tears, which is how I usually react when I feel God's presence. He has really met me here.

I'm going to be doing some freelance writing and editing for the ministry back in Memphis, and I hope this this arrangement won't take too much time away from my studies. It seems like a pretty good fit, with flexible hours and good money, in addition to a positive way to stay connected to a very important part of my life. They set me up with a remote network, so I can log into the office and do my work just as if I was sitting there at a computer in Memphis. Today I finished and turned in my first remotely composed newsletter, but I am having trouble logging into the network. I think the university firewall may be keeping me out, so it looks like I will be going to a coffee shop when I need to log in! Ah, IT problems. They are what life seems to be made of nowadays. Hopefully everything will get sorted out tomorrow.

I have turned into a compulsive listmaker since I applied to Trinity, and while it has helped keep me organized, I fear it has turned into an addiction. Where do I go for the Listmakers Anonymous support group? "My name is Josh, and I... I... make lists." "Hi, Josh." There are still many practical details to be taken care of before I start classes on Wednesday (such as figuring out what classes I am starting on Wednesday!) so please pray that God will just put me in the classes I am supposed to be in, help me get enough rest, help me organize my time efficiently, help me approach this whole experience with the discipline of a soldier and the wonder of a little boy in a candy store (which is what I feel like. Although for me when I was a little boy, it was a bookstore, not a candy store). Another prayer I pray often is, "Lord, please make a path for me through these mountains of information. I know I can't know everything, so please help me to learn what I need to learn and what you want me to know."

I noticed that some of the public notices here have a sort of Mosaic flavor to them:

This certainly deterred me from helping myself to a pencil. Who would risk a bolt from Sinai for a mere writing implement? :)

Here is a self-revealing narrative: when I was about five to eight years old, all I cared for was "The Wizard of Oz" and everything connected with it. The Judy Garland movie, the L. Frank Baum book, tornadoes and severe weather... I told my school friends that I was going to produce and direct my own re-make of the movie, and I promised them starring roles, spending hours on the swingset arranging and rearranging the music in my head. A friend's stuffy mother told me I wasn't going to do anything of the sort (I think she thought "The Wizard of Oz" was some sort of sin, probably demonic) but I knew she was wrong. I enrolled in the official Wizard of Oz fanclub, and diligently compared the map of Oz I received in the mail with Dorothy and her friends' progress in the book. I also became intensely interested in tornadoes, reading every book in the public library on the subject, and my excitement was uncontainable whenever the sky got the least bit dark. I saw a funnel in every whisp of cloud in the sky.

When I was ten, "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" came out, and it was the first "grown up movie" that I saw in a theater. My dad took me with my two uncles, and I was so excited. I felt like one of the guys, especially since we went to the late show. Two mesmerizing hours later, I told my dad, "That's the best movie I've ever seen." He said, "Better than 'The Wizard of Oz?'" And I said emphatically, "Yes."

From then on "The Wizard of Oz" was all but history. I decided I wanted to be an archaeologist. I would put on the fedora my parents bought me, grab my whip and shovel, and spend hours tramping through the woods with our Irish setter mix (somewhat unoriginally named Big Red) digging here and there, although I never found anything but rocks. Mom and dad bought me a subscription to Archaeology and Biblical Archaeology Review, which I devoured during Sunday afternoon nap time. Eventually I saw the other two Indiana Jones movies, and I was captivated by the search for the Ark of the Covenant in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." What grabbed me was that the plot was based in something I could recognize from the Bible. When Indy explains in the first scene (when he also mispronounces Mt. Horeb as Mt. Herob. Oops!) how king Shishak of Egypt invaded Jerusalem and plundered the temple, well, there the story is in 1 Kings 14 and 2 Chronicles 12. I decided then and there I was going to find the Ark for myself, and I was going to be rich and famous (of course, not understanding how international antiquities laws work, and how there aren't very many rich and famous archaeologists. But that was immaterial to me.) I wrote a longish short story (with a lavish cover illustration) about a nice Christian girl who becomes embroiled in the breathless adventures that always attend archaeologists, while visiting a dig in Egypt. She and her archaeologist youth pastor (if I remember correctly) have to race to find the Ark ahead of Shishak the 32nd, who is of course directly descended from Shishak II of the OT, and has to have the Ark in order to reclaim the pharaonic throne. I forget how it ends. I think it winds up in that museum in Pennsylvania where Adam and Eve are riding on dinosaurs. (Just kidding!) I went to the library week after week with the goal of carrying on my Ark research (although I hadn't the slightest idea how to use a research library) and although I didn't find much, I did find a reference to the Ark in the apocryphal book of Esdras, which claims the Ark is hidden on Mt. Nebo. I decided that if Indiana Jones's dad had his Grail diary, I needed an Ark diary, and with deadly solemnity I inscribed the frontispiece of a blank book (the cover of which was adorned with colorful comic book words like "Blam!" and "Zowie!") with words to the affect that compiling a complete record of Ark's history, and one day discovering it, was my only goal in life. I developed my own theories about the Ark's whereabouts, of course. I decided based on scriptural evidence that it must have been taken by Nebuchadnezzar back to Babylon after the great siege of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. I convinced my best friend in fifth grade (and I think he really believed me) that we were going to go to Iraq, get the government to let us dig, and find the Ark in some secret chamber. (Of course this was some years before archaeology in Iraq became somewhat... problematic.) I took it all very seriously, but I was terribly self-conscious about it. When a friend of the family asked me in front of other people how my search for the Ark was coming, I was so embarrassed I left the room without saying anying. I felt the silliness of it, the idea that a child would accomplish something like that. But at the same time I knew that something in my heart was stirred by the quest. It is, as I look back on it, a very genuine sense of awe and wonder about hidden things, and about being the first person to look on something that no one else has seen for thousands of years. It was connected to the most intense excitement I had ever felt, it was connected to my concept of God, it was connected to my emergent desire to know that, like the Apostle Paul wrote, "we do not follow cunningly devised fables," but rather we follow a reasonable faith that is as intellectually defensible as any other system on earth, and far more defensible than most.

The childlike awe and wonder of bringing to light the hidden things of God was squashed and suppressed over the years as life intervened, as I began to take on the world for myself, and found that by running from the fear, guilt, anger, hurt, and confusion in my heart, I actually allowed them to take control of my life. Thanks to God's mercy he has helped me to face those things, and he has freed me up to be able to enjoy things in a whole new way. The numinous awe of contemplating the Ark is back in force, and I hope it will never be extinguished again. I am getting back in touch with my "inner Jones," and I am having a wonderful time!

In His Grip,
P.S. Please pray that Walmart will take back my stupid refrigerator, which worked for one day, and now doesn't.