For millennia, from Kentucky to Jerusalem, dry-stone fences have been made without mortar. The artisan places the stones so that their own weight and peculiar shapes hold them together from within. At first sight the stones can seem ill-fitted. Small stones occupy odd spots, loose fill can be seen spilling out. But the stones are placed to shift over time. Weather, oddly shaped stones, shifting ground, incidental damage, rather than undermining the fence, actually compact it together through the years, so that the fence grows even stronger and more beautiful. Kentucky’s fences have stood for over 150 years; fieldstone structures around Israel have endured thousands of years. Though today, when we see them, they are mortared as part of their restoration. Yet when I see that mortar, I wonder…will the “restoration” last as long as the unmortared original?Sometimes I feel my own thoughts and the elements of my life to be ill-fitted, uncemented, and loose, but I trust under the pressure of the years and the forces of life, they will fit together as well…
I should warn you that I tend to post longish articles. I’m not a fan of sound-bites and quick, easy answers. I tend to wrestle with things that need 1000-1500 words, so you won’t find here a freeze-dried, quick and easy approach. I find life and the Bible to be rich, multi-layered and incapable of reduction to sound-bites. So to those who don’t like substantial posts… well…‘bye!
I spent the fall semester of 2012 in Jerusalem, on sabbatical for Asbury Theological Seminary. I launched work on a commentary on the book of Joshua for the New International Commentary on the Old Testament Series (Eerdmans) and served as Visiting Professor for my hosts at Jerusalem University College, located up on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. I taught a course on (conveniently!) the book of Joshua. The students in this class lived every day in the very land that the book of Joshua describes. They and I, together, felt firsthand the history and spirit, and also the tensions and conflicts that we can see in that book. We inhabited the porous membrane between the text and the world, the past and the present, the vision of God’s best and the reality of our only dim grasp of it.
And yes, I missed my wife, Angie, the other half of my heart-beat! She joined me for three weeks, but I just don’t feel normal with her half a world away! My son Zach also visited for a week of high-adventure and even higher companionship.
So read, comment and, I hope, share in in the conversation I hope to inspire here. Who knows where we will go, what place will end up our promised land?