Tripping Over a Verb

Here’s the story of how I tripped over a verb and fell into the arms of a 19th century Jesuit.

Well, now my work days are filled with pouring over every word in the book of Ezra while preparing translation helps. First every word in Hebrew (or Aramaic as some of Ezra would have it), then every word in French (at least two different versions) and then, of course, every word in my heart language, American. (I say “American” because my British friends weighted down by a perplexed look cock their heads to one side when I proudly announce that I speak English. “You do?!”)

This week was off to a rocky start when I met the form of a verb at Ezra 3:10 that I wasn’t expecting and couldn’t make sense of.

When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments were stationed to praise the Lord with trumpets…

Builders, foundations, a temple (!), priests, vestments (!), praising the Lord…it all sounds amazing, doesn’t it? You’d never know by looking at Ezra in translation that behind the scenes lies a verb with big, pointy teeth.


Weighted down by this Semitic perplexity, I ran to the grammarians. First, I had a look to see what my friends Bruce and Michael had to offer. Then, it was to the ageless patriarch Wilhelm. Finally, I found refuge in the arms of magisterial monsieur Paul–whose surname is fittingly enough a homonym in French for “Let’s play!” And with Paul’s grammar guidance I did play. Thanks for the invite!

He called the form I was struggling with “strange” and “abused.” O Paul, that verb isn’t the only one feeling discomfort. But what comfort I did find in the arms of this 19th century Jesuit. Thank you, Paul. Now I know that we’re in this together.

But why allow these pedantic pebbles to get in our translation shoes and give us aches and pains as we seek to make God’s word accessible?  For exactly that reason: to make God’s word accessible.


Henry’s Third

Today our Henry celebrates his third birthday. In keeping with family tradition, Daddy has prepared a year in review video, showcasing the moments, attitudes, and dynamism of our little bruiser. Fittingly enough this third video retraces Henry’s tracks across three countries: Cameroon, England and the USA. What a year his third has been. Henry, we love you!


Finding Out

I calculated: 12 weeks. I noticed that funny little pooch that I remember getting around 16 weeks the last time. But ah, I’ve been pregnant twice already and I’ve been eating everything and anything since I arrived from living in Africa. So, I put the pooch down to too much fish and chips.

“Are you good with surprises?” Rob asked me.  He was young I found out, 27, but the senior sonographer I later learnt.  We were already looking at one on the screen and he had pointed out a good strong heart beat.  I was in the process of breathing a sigh of relief, as all new expectant mothers do after enduring that time between peeing on the stick to seeing and hearing that first heart beat. Yeh, I’m good with surprises.

Oh goodie, I thought, he can make out the gender. Now, cut me some slack. I’ve just come from living in a place where most people don’t have running water–it’s like being stuck back in time. I didn’t know what advances had been made since I was last in the country. ;-)

I gave Rob a cheery thumbs up and said, “Great! What’s your surprise?”

“There’s two!”

Those words will forever ring in my ears.


The Green Grass

Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass.

Like the author of the Gospel of Mark, I, too, have an abnormal appreciation for “the green grass” as of this week. Leaving our dry, arid region of the country we made the two-day drive to the capital. What is remarkable about this overland trek is that you have the unique opportunity to start off in near desert and then gradually watch the terrain become greener, wetter, and muddier. Our first moment of new-found excitement came when we saw a river full of water several hours south of our home. We had not seen that much water in one place for months and months. Friends told us to be on the lookout for hippos where we stopped for a picnic on the river’s edge. For us that day, running water was every bit as interesting as running hippos.

Now in the capital, the temperature is considerably cooler, the grass is considerably more existent, and rain is in the forecast. What a nice change to be cold for once. We love the region where we live but also celebrate the refreshingly green grass and the precipitation that fuels it. Not surprisingly the kids’ request to play in the rain was unhesitatingly met with approval.

Why did the Gospel writer include the little detail that Jesus had the people sit down on the green grass? I’m not entirely sure, but I certainly do appreciate it.