I’ve had many students over the years – and I have a family filled with daughters with a delicious appetite for books and words (though none of more ancient flavors such as Hebrew or Greek) and a son equally passionate about films and filming (and Batman).
But when Abby stepped into the bookstore summer of last year asking if I would be interested in tutoring her through Hebrew during her summer “off” from seminary pursuits in Portland, she took a unique place among all students I’ve enjoyed journeying with through words, language, and the milieu of all things biblical and ancient.
After three months of tutoring in Hebrew to get her started she came back this past summer and offered to intern. In the bookstore. Just for the fun of doing it. The fun of it.
She was divine gift in the bogs of wasted chemoland through a long, long summer. There were no funds to pay her as I would have liked to (she often put in nearly full time hours, inventoried the entire store – the entire store – in the proverbial 40 days and cleaned house like Poppins), so I paid her by walking, sometimes stumbling, into the bookstore and reading Hebrew with her.
I ended up being paid more than she – which is always how it is in this business of ministry and teaching.
I’m still receiving dividends that prop me up, send some sunshine through an often bleak window, and leave me with something close to what Paul described as an “unspeakable joy.”
Here’s one of those dividends from this past week. A wee story. May we all be blessed with such vision of places and faces and times far off – and in so doing turn back to our own horizons with fresh, invigorating eyes.
Thank you Abby…I can see you sitting in that aisle, surrounded by books…and chocolate…and you knowing without question which was the greater treat…
Pastor Mike! Pastor Mike!
I heard that a fog was once again settling over you again. Boo. I hope that this random musing serves as a gentle breeze to lift the fog, or perhaps at least stir it a little.
Frequently I find myself wanting to bug you when I am reading an amazing book that has exploded my perspective on some topic or another. I know that you will always listen to my rants and crazy ideas. Not only do you listen (even my non-nerdy friends will politely do that most of the time), but you give encouraging feedback and added depth. But alas! The summer is gone and so is the opportunity to interrupt your day with my musings (in person at least).
May I tell you a short story? It all began just a few weeks ago with a fateful trip to the largest bookstore in the Pacific Northwest, “Powell’s Books”. There I met and shared designer chocolate with a gentleman who directed me to the Ancient Near Eastern section of the store. To my delight and despair the hallway was so unoccupied in that part of the store that no one minded my sprawling across it. Books covered the concrete. Books and chocolate. Yes, life is magical at times. It was in that posture that I stumbled across a masterpiece, “The Ancient Near Eastern Tradition” by Milton Covensky. Short, insightful, and brilliant. Again I must utilize the expression, “Alas!” for I had no time to read the book. Between school, the commute to work and the homework that loomed before me after curfew I could only spare a few disjointed minutes every now and again to dedicate to it. Sadness and despair.
My car started doing things. I’m sure you know the feeling (when the car works just well enough to make you feel comfortable and just poorly enough to make you worry excessively). Turns out the transmission needed a lot of repairs. Bummer. All those plans I had and places I needed to be could not longer be gratified. The size of my world shrank, and as Pastor Trevor says, “narrowing the perspective explodes the possibilities”. I found myself exploring the hazardous world of public transportation. Coincidentally I was left with a lot of time to just sit. And sit. And sit. And sit. And… read. Glorious day! I soon lost myself in a world completely unfamiliar to me and yet ever becoming more like home. Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and all the peoples of antiquity became my transit companions. Ashurbanipal and Sargon have sat next to me to tell me their stories. Instead of seeing the traffic outside the window I could now see the armies of antiquity marching against each other battling for significance. Excitement and joy!
One more thing. It is really all quite boring. No really, it is. Duller than dull. Reading about Coptic traditions and the how the artwork of the Persians differed from that of the Assyrians while still relating to it is only so interesting. Reading for the sake of reading is a waste (please forgive me). But I feel as though it has helped me to do something I have long wanted to do: listen to someone else’s music. It’s like I convinced Ashurbanipal and Sargon to take off their cultural headphones and let me listen to the rhythm that caused them to dance. Now my desire to is take the head phones away entirely and plug the music into a speaker system for all to hear.
Ah, the time has come to return to homework. The world of Mesopotamia is fading once again and the idea of deadlines has come to taunt me. Farewell for now!