Friday, May 28, 2010

some thoughts on translations

Good morning! The last few days I’ve been working backwards through Proverbs. I started with chapter 10 and read backwards because that’s not something I usually do, and I wanted to see what it was like. I spent an evening in the section about staying away from the adulteress, trying to soak up the wisdom of “can a man put coals in his lap and not be burned?” (6:27).

I’m bad about placing differentiations on sin. I’m a pro at rationalizing what’s right and what’s okay, and what’s not okay but probably isn’t too bad. But reading these chapters, and really, this whole book, is a solid reminder that the way of wisdom turns away from all unrighteousness. Not in a holier-than-thou elitism, but in a pure, humble heart that honestly desires to please God. If I’m honest, more often than not i’m more concerned with pleasing myself than pleasing God, and my actions, words, and thoughts reflect this.

So Proverbs is turning out to be a wonderful dose of medicine to my heart. I’ve been reading it in the NLT, because I enjoy the beautiful translation that they employ. It is so difficult to balance beauty with precision and accuracy in translating. I know this from the last year of Greek. Sometimes you want to force a word here or there but the context just won’t let you do it. But the thing I like to keep in mind when I’m translating is this: as a translator, i’m trying to make the text as clear and as beautiful as it is in the original. I’m not spinning my own narrative. I’m not pushing my own theological opinions. I’m trying to do the best I can with my knowledge of english and greek/hebrew to bridge the gap between the two.

Peterson’s Message is a little bit too much on the side of subjectivity. When you stray as far as he does from original meaning you begin to make leaps that you just can’t sustain. But texts like the NIV, the NLT, which are closer to the original while still being readable, are a better blend of the beauty/clarity/precision triangle. If I’m honest, after learning Greek I have a hard time reading a looser translation of the New Testament and would rather have a more literal translation. But the Greek language, just like English, deserves to be unchained from the strict shackles of literality if we’re going to let the Spirit speak in various ways.

Achieving a good balance is the goal, at least it seems that way to me. I need the hard-nosed literal translations (NASB) as well as the looser, freer translations (NLT, Good News). And in between, the NIV and ESV emerge. All of these translations are worthy of our time and attention, because they bring us closer to the Word, and that’s the whole point of it all. Not to develop some uber particular way of interpretation, but rather to just spend time with God through his revealed Word. As I’m reminded in Proverbs 4, “My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart.” That’s the whole point. When the words penetrate our heart, our actions can't help but be changed.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

beautiful reminder

Wisdom has built her house;
she has carved its seven columns.
She has prepared a great banquet,
mixed the wines, and set the table.
She has sent her servants to invite everyone to come.
She calls out from the heights overlooking the city.
"Come in with me," she urges the simple.
To those who lack good judgment, she says,
"Come, eat my food,
and drink the wine I have mixed.
Leave your simple ways behind, and begin to live;
learn to use good judgment."

Proverbs 9:1-6 (NLT)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Learning from Lebron

I’m not going to spend an entire post exclusively talking about sports, even though that would be so much fun (i’ve always wished I could blog for ESPN, ha). But something kind of hit me as I was watching the collapse of the cleveland cavaliers in their playoff series against the Boston Celtics. A collapse few saw coming, but when you really begin to think about it, it’s easy to see why it happened.

In case you’re lost, here’s a quick rundown. So the Cavs were favorites to win the NBA title going into the playoffs this year. They have the best player on the planet in Lebron, and, did I mention, they have the best player in the planet? They don’t really have many other marquee guys but that didn’t seem necessary. They had Lebron. Lebron would carry them to the title.

They cruised through the first round, but then the collapse started. They met the Boston Celtics, a tough, veteran, talented team who absolutely crushed them into the ground. I was watching the game at the Farmer’s house, and Andy and I both marveled at the way Boston was simply beating the Cavs at all the fundamentals of the game: desire, teamwork, focus, hustle, leadership. You name it, the Celtics were outshining the Cavs.

Lebron mostly had amazing statistical games during the series (except for one game), including the final game where he had a triple-double. But the problem wasn’t so much with Lebron as it was with the rest of the Cavs team. They looked scared, tentative, even disinterested at times, as if they expected Lebron to make every big-time shot while they spectated.

Shortly after the game I was left trying to figure out how something like this happened. The best team in the NBA loses embarrassingly without even putting up much of a fight. And then I realized, it’s the Lebron effect. The Cavs employed a “we can win it all without really working as a team or being interested in each other because we have Lebron”. And, you could see a little bit of that ego surfacing in Lebron. He didn’t need help. He could carry the Cavs on his own.

The 2010 Cleveland Cavaliers teach us that you can be successful with a one-man show, but you can’t make it through adversity as a team with one guy. Every player on the court is important and needs to do their part. And when one player sees another player who’s disinterested or frustrated, it’s their job to encourage their teammate and get them back on the same page. You can’t do it alone. You’ve got to stick together. These are the kinds of lessons that, while they come from a game, transcend sport and touch the very center of our lives as human beings as well.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Do I believe this?

I really like the image of God as shepherd, walking with us, his sheep. I like the image because I find myself so often like a sheep that has wandered away from the shepherd, following my own nose and ending up in peril because of it. I like to do my own thing, create opportunities, make things happen. None of those things are bad traits, in fact they’re all wonderful if they are the natural outflow of life connected to God. The problem is when they are the result of me thinking I can do it all on my own.

Walking in faith is no passive activity. It’s not like closing your eyes blindly to the world around you and acting like you don’t have a care in the world. No, faith is confronting those fears and anxieties face to face, which takes quite a bit of courage. And because faith is a daily journey, it’s new every day. When I wake up in the morning, and I’m reading some particular passage of Scripture, I have to come face to face with faith and ask myself, “do i really believe THIS?”

1 John 3:16 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” So this is the verse I read this morning, and as I read it I thought, my goodness, do I really believe this? Do I really believe that we don’t know what love is until we’ve sacrificed something for it? This verse could either be a really nice spiritual thought for the day, or it could end up being a radical, transformative message for how I live my life THIS day.

And really, isn’t our interaction with God, and with Scripture, supposed to be like that every day? What am I going to do with what this says? How does this change me? What does this require of me? Faith! Is that what faith looks like? Scanning even the most mundane parts of our lives and finding out that God is there too, wanting to make us more like him?

Do I believe this? It’s such a disrupting question. Faith is disruptive. It’s unpredictable. It requires much of me. Thank goodness my Shepherd is right there with me.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Three Things

Three Things I'm Thankful for Today

1. Cross Canadian Ragweed's song "Burn Like the Sun" because it has an awesome electric guitar solo. The whole cd (Happiness and All the Other Things) has helped me recover my air guitar skills.

2. being healthy enough to run. i'm not thankful for this precious gift of health enough.

3. meals. not heart-attacks-in-a-sack like i ate all during finals, but real, genuine meals!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

driving white-knuckled through a Texas thunderstorm

I could see the clouds looming in the distance. They were like a dark wall in the sky, and i was heading right towards them. Just a few weeks ago we had a series of storms pass through birmingham, and I remember looking out the window trying to figure out which direction they were coming from. I had to resort to looking at an online radar to figure out where and when the rain was coming. There was an element of surprise in this, because with all the trees, hills, and valleys, most of the horizon was invisible to me.

Fast-forward to yesterday. I’m on my way back to Dallas, and I’m about 20 miles into east Texas. That’s the first time I saw the clouds. For the next couple hours they were my backdrop. And with each mile I drove, I was inching my way closer and closer to this line of thunderstorms.

It got me thinking about how we react to stuff that happens to us in life. There are times when something comes right out of the blue and surprises you, leaving you spinning with either joy or confusion (and sometimes both). Then there are the times when you can see something coming for miles and miles. There is a sense of foreboding as you wait for the inevitable to happen. All you can do is brace yourself.

My path eventually collided with the oncoming storm. I found myself in the middle of a good ole Texas thunderstorm, wind whipping up patches of dust and trees shaking with the raucous gusts. Rain fell on my windshield like bullets from a gun, with those big splatters that leave crater-like impressions on the glass. The cloudline was so low and dark it seemed to brush against the tops of the trees. I turned my wipers on full blast, put both hands on the wheel, and just drove right on through it.

Sometimes you can brace yourself for things that happen in life, and sometimes you get blindsided. Either way, you’re never fully in control, and thunderstorms have a great way of reminding you of that fact. When the good times, and the bad, roll in, we’re called to keep our eyes fixed on the Author and Perfecter of our faith, not getting consumed by the current around us. There is something reassuring about that call. It reminds us that our attitudes and our reactions are choices. You can either ride the roller-coaster of daily emotions or choose to let joy and hope light up your life regardless of the circumstances.