Selah Bamberger Ranch Preserve: A Cool Conservation Story with Theological Resonances

In a recent newsletter, Texas Parks & Wildlife shared this short film about David Bamberger and the Selah Bamberger Ranch Preserve, located on 5,500 acres in the Texas hill country. Bamberger acquired the property with money he made from the sale of Church’s Fried Chicken. NPR did an All Things Considered segment on Bamberger’s conservation efforts in 2010. Texas Country Reporter also did a report on Bamberger around that time, featuring his chiroptorium, or bat-cave.

Two things caught my ear in the video above. First, Bamberger’s explantion of the meaning of the term “selah.” Second that the voice asking Bamberger to define the word belonged to a child.

Bamberger says that “selah” means “to stop, to pause, to look around you and reflect on everything you see.” He mentions he learned the word from the Psalms. It is a Hebrew term. It occurs over seventy times in the Bible, mostly in Psalms. Some have interpreted this term to signify a musical rest, a call for silence, a division, or a notation for “end,” i.e. the close of section or stanza. During my seminary studies, I was taught that the precise meaning of the term had been lost, though it was thought to be Hebrew musical nomenclature. My best guess was and still is “pause” or “rest.” When I come across this term in the Psalms, I slow down.

Bamberger’s definition goes one step beyond the term itself. But it does not go beyond the Psalms. Psalm 8 and Psalm 19 are reflections on what is seen in the created order. Psalm 24:1-2 declares that all of creation is God’s making and possession. Psalm 65 contains beautiful poetic language telling of the Lord’s nurturing of plants and livestock. Psalm 95:3-5 describes the world as having been fashioned by and now held in God’s hand.

Psalm 96 describes the creation’s rejoicing at the Lord’s coming to rule, reign over, and judge the earth. While most have a negative connotation when thinking of God’s judgement, here it is anything but. Rather, with God in charge, the creation rejoices because everything will once again be right.

Beyond the Psalms, the Bible tells a story connecting stewardship and sustainability to piety and pursuing justice. When the people of Israel are in right, faithful covenant relationship to God, it is not only the nation that flourishes, but the land. The people prosper, but crops and livestock also thrive. And God is glorified, because there is life, an abundance of life. The world teems with it, as it did when God spoke the world into being, and as the earth was intended to do under the diligent care of God’s image-bearers, God’s representatives.

Bamberger’s life appears to give witness to this link, testified to in Scripture. His conservation efforts seem to have led to a kind of priestly service as a healer of the land, as well as a person who works toward reconciliation in the relationship between people and the world God has made.

Brandon Sanderson’s Underground Lair

Photo by Stefan Steinbauer on Unsplash

The novelist Brandon Sanderson constructed a lair beneath the lot next to his suburban home. Head over to Cal Newport’s website to see a few pictures. It’s awesome.

Austin Kleon’s been sharing progress pictures of his new studio in his email newsletter. I like seeing the spaces where writers and other artists do what they do. This New Yorker profile has a picture and brief description of the small, private cabin Wendell Berry constructed for writing in 1963. He has since published over fifty books. Berry’s Port William stories are among my favorites, especially Jayber Crow [affiliate link].

I find idea of the writer’s cabin–or underground lair–romantic. Maybe one day I’ll build my own, but my work would need to lead me there.

The Common Law of Texas

A Colt Single Action Army Revolver, via Revivaler

Colt was also increasingly showing himself to be a gifted merchant, combining his natural flair for persuasion with a prescient grasp of mass marketing. He branded his guns not only with his name, but with engravings that were pressure-rolled onto the cylinders. The scenes he chose for these engravings–one showed a stagecoach holdup, men facing off with pistols, several on the ground wounded or dead–indicate how well he understood his gun’s appeal by 1840. Not only did the engravings associate his revolvers with self-defense and derring-do, they verified them as authentic Colts amid the onslaught of imitation revolvers he correctly assumed were coming. Nor did he neglect the presentation of the guns. Each came in a handsome mahogany box, lined in velvet, with a beveled lid and nameplate. An even better idea, which Colt arrived as later, would be putting some of the guns inside false books, a gimmick, but one that hinted knowingly at the future of these guns. Laws for Self Defense was the title on the spine of one of these books. Other titles included The Tourist’s Companion and The Common Law of Texas.

James Rasenberger, Revolver: Sam Colt and the Six-Shooter That Changed America

Here is an 1851 Colt Navy where you can zoom in on the cylinder and this link shows an 1849 model in the box.

You can learn a little more about Colt revolvers and Texas history here.

The Big Apple

Image by teetasse from Pixabay

From Maria Popova:

On May 3, 1921, John J. Fitz Gerald — a sports journalist for the New York Morning Telegraph reporting on the horse-racing circuit — suddenly began referring to results from New York City as news from “the big apple.” He soon titled his entire column “Around the Big Apple,” extolling the Big Apple as “the dream of every lad that had ever thrown a leg over a thoroughbred and the goal of all horsemen.” Eventually, people began wondering why he had so nicknamed their city.

Five years after he first began using the term, Fitz Gerald half-answered.

Several years earlier, traveling to New Orleans for a race, he had overheard two African American stable hands discussing the horses in their respective care and where they were headed next. One of the young men told the other, in a “bright and snappy” quip, that the horse was going to “the big apple.” Fitz Gerald, knowing that the horse was in fact headed to New York City, seized on the term without asking where it came from — something about it just felt like the right poetic image for the grandeur and lushness of life in his hometown.

He died without ever saying anything else about it, having seeded into the urban dictionary the single most powerful and recognizable botanical metaphor in popular culture.

Popova goes further, tracing out the origins and meaning of the phrase “big apple.”

I’ve heard New York described as “The Big Apple” a billion times. Only in passing have I wondered where this phrase came from and how it became associated with New York City. Much of our vernacular we inherited or picked up, and the meaning and origin becomes lost to time.

“The Big Apple” is just one example. If you want another fun dive, check out this list of phrases that came from Shakespeare.

What is ASMR?

According to Cal Newport:

Around 2010, a curious new term arose in obscure but energetic internet chatrooms: autonomous sensory meridian response. ASMR, as it was soon abbreviated, described a peculiar form of paresthesia experienced as a tingling that starts in the scalp and then moves down the back. It’s often triggered by specific sounds, like soft whispering or a paintbrush scraping canvas. Not surprisingly, those sensitive to ASMR sometimes found Bob Ross reruns to be a reliable source of the effect.

Examples include Charles Dickens’ writing room (above), Newt Scamander’s study (Harry Potter universe), and this strange collection of sights and sounds:

This Plyo Box is a Work of Art

plyo box
Bears, Royals, and Chiefs

One of the projects I’ve tackled during COVID-19 was building a 3-in-1 plyometric box. Here is the blueprint I used.

I bought a sheet of plywood at The Home Depot. I brought my supplies home, and my next door neighbor, Lance Lowe, used his table saw to make the cuts.

Cowboys, Rangers, and Jayhawks

Due to distancing measures, I dropped the board outside Lance’s garage, and he returned the pieces soon thereafter.

Because of what Baylor has meant to you in the past, because of what she will mean to you in the future, oh, my students, have a care for her. Build upon the foundations here the great school of which I have dreamed, so that she may touch and mold the lives of future generations and help to fit them for life here and hereafter. To you seniors of the past, of the present, of the future I entrust the care of Baylor University. To you I hand the torch. My love be unto you and my blessing be upon you.
– Samuel Palmer Brooks

Molly helped me assemble the box.

“We did it our way, baby!” – Barry Switzer
“I didn’t spend the night with the trophy. I spent it with my trophy wife.” – Andy Reid

After I put it together, Lance told me he’d be happy to brand the box with logo art from six of my favorite teams. I dropped the box on his driveway, and this is how it came back.

“Maybe when we get home, I can go to the third-base tree and pick another third baseman.” – Ned Yost
“It’s time.” – Nelson Cruz

Lance does all kinds of cool stuff like this. Check out his business, and put in an order for a cornhole set.