Saturday, February 22, 2014

Retold for the Modern Reader

In a world where (aggressively shifting) vocabularies rule our comprehension and communication is often compressed into a “tweet” or a “text”, the elegant structure of grammar as an aid in clearly passing thoughts and information from one person to another may be a lost art.  How can we withstand it?  Maybe language ought to be more poetic, about the images it gives us, the feelings with which we respond, the ways we wish to interpret what we hear.  In which case, all those little in-between words aren’t so necessary anymore…

I once had an experience with a young woman who believed God wished all people to be vegetarians.  We read together from Genesis 9: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, [that is], its blood.”  She picked out a few words on which to base her application: “not eat flesh” and she said this was because of the “blood” and respect for “life”. 

This girl had a subjective interpretation that served her preconceptions.  The last words had more impact on her, too, I believe, because she remembered them better than the first sentence.  She seemed unable to grasp the relationship between one thought and the next, though she used cause and effect words (not rationale, only the vocabulary) in defense of her own position.  People like her know what words sound persuasive, what words make people feel good.  I wonder how often more intelligent speakers are condemned for being judgmental simply because our vocabulary made people feel bad, made them feel that we were dealing in stark absolutes. 

And I am encountering this phenomenon in lesser degrees more and more.  A word in a sentence might just as easily suggest its opposite as its traditional meaning.  A word may or may not be modified by other words in context.  My interpretation of what you say or write is just as valid, just as likely to guide my decisions, as the interpretation you intended.  Ideas cannot be comprehended if they take more than three sentences to build and capstone. 

What is our obligation to combat these trends?  How much are we the communicators responsible to mind our audience and deliver our messages in ways that will have the effect we desire? 


These are the questions I wish to explore with my new blog, “Retold for the Modern Reader” at www.LanguageDeconstruction.blogspot.com

To God be all glory. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"You wore blue."

"I remember every detail. The Germans wore grey. You wore blue."

"Yes. I put that dress away. When the Germans march out, I'll wear it again."


~ Casablanca

One of the things I love about Ilsa is that she is a character.  We see only these few glimpses, and it seems like she is always dependent and following, but what kind of woman captures Rick’s heart and inspires Laszlo?  It’s the woman who wears blue the day the Germans march into Paris.  She isn’t mourning, isn’t hiding.  We know she was afraid.  But she is celebrating hope, I think – a confidence that the city-conquering Nazis will not be victorious in the end – not if brave, faithful men and women stand against them. 

But.  She has put that dress away.  She will wear it again when the Germans leave.  That will be a day also for celebrating hope – hope fulfilled, hope overcoming. 

It would not be right for her to get the dress out early, before the Nazis are defeated.  Doing so would turn the original defiant hope into an image of how na├»ve she had been – despairing retrospection. 

It would not be right for her to get rid of the dress.  That would be like throwing hope away, or like saying hope has nothing to do with the outcome. 

Do you have anything you have “put away”?  Do you laugh when you promise that you will wear it again? 


To God be all glory.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Asking

Several of my friends are learning about asking for help.  And when such dear friends are learning something, so am I.  They pose challenging questions, and as I meditate on my experience, my personality, I see where I also need to grow.  I’m on the watch, as are they, for opportunities to humble myself and ask for what I need. 

I practice gratitude, like a tight fist on the last rope holding me from slipping from trust.  I choose to see the ways that God provides and blesses.  I struggle to understand how grace is abundant and need still stands, inviting God, inviting His people, to invest.  I have been gifted many friends, time to hold children, nearness of God as I read Scripture, job to earn money, good food, moments to pray with God’s Church. 

But I am thirsty, needy.  I feel this restlessness for days.  When I take time finally to examine, I find that being with people is not enough.  That though giving is a blessing, sometimes receiving is all I can do; sometimes I am on my knees too weak to even hold myself up.  I need attention.  I need a hug, given to me.  I need some other to be strong.  And though God is the supplier of all, and though even without nourishment I would still have life eternal because of Jesus, there are some things that I need in this life that are not God.  I need food and water and air.  I need people to speak truth specifically relevant to the problems I face and the doubts that assail.  I need to be heard.  I need to not just be known, like the perfect God knows His children, but discovered, like a daughter, like a friend.  Discovered and not rejected.  Vulnerable and embraced and even delighted in. 

I ask my brother, confidante, “How do you ask for [attention]?  And then someone says ‘yes’ and what – stares at you awkwardly?”  So how do I confess my need?  What exactly do I expect from whomever I ask?  And when it is my turn, how do I meet needs that are this profound, this tender?   


To God be all glory.