Archive | October 2014

THINK about the Gift of Language

Do you hate the political ads on TV as much as I do? Which ad do you hate the most? Is there any ad, from either political party, that you really like?

I’ll be so glad when the election has come and gone and TV can get back to its usual commercials that we can simply ignore, rather than being manipulated into getting angry about the “factual” distortions that are being shouted at us.

political ad cartoonSomething that makes me even angrier than the political ads on TV is some of the political diatribes posted on Facebook. I have FB friends on both political extremes as well as all along the continuum from left to right. The tone of some of their posts is extremely condescending toward their “friends” who hold differing opinions. I’m tempted to unfriend some of them, but then I reconsider, hoping that posts will get friendlier once the election is over. Unfortunately, I’m afraid I may be proven wrong, but I’ll wait and see.

I really don’t believe that God gave us the gift of language so that we could create political ads and Facebook rants.

T-H-I-N-KOur pastor said something in church (MessiahChurch.com) a couple weeks ago that I’m trying really hard to remember. Pastor Jeff said that he and his wife Melissa are trying to teach their kids to THINK before they speak, especially when they are responding to something that irritates them. They need to THINK before speaking – to ask themselves the following questions about what they are going to say:

  • Is it TRUE?
  • Is it HELPFUL?
  • Is it INSPIRING?
  • Is it NECESSARY?
  • Is it KIND?

Those key words form the acronym THINK. (You can watch a 12-minute video of his sermon here – and click on the arrow for the October 19, 2014 Sermon, “Pick the Correct Song!”)

Can you imagine what political ads on TV would be like if the creators of the ads had asked themselves those questions – if they had taken the time to THINK – before creating the ads?

Can you imagine how much kinder your friends’ Facebook posts might seem if your friends would take the time to THINK before they post their comments?

I’m trying to imagine how I might respond differently to friends, acquaintances, and strangers if I would take the time to THINK before communicating my responses to them. Is my comment TRUE? Is my comment HELPFUL? Is my comment INSPIRING? Is my comment NECESSARY? Is my comment KIND?

Thanks, Pastor Jeff, for telling us about the THINK approach to communicating – to THINK before we speak. Your comments were HELPFUL and INSPIRING.

One more thought. To all those questions: TRUE? HELPFUL? INSPIRING? NECESSARY? KIND? I’d like to add the comment, “and the greatest of these is KIND.” That brings me back to my favorite Bible verse of all time. Here it is as I memorized it 60 years ago from the King James Version:

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. [Ephesians 4:32]

kindness kittenThe most important question for me to ask myself before speaking (or messaging, or posting on Facebook, or blogging, or communicating in any other way) – “Is the comment I am about to make kind to the person who will be receiving it?” If not, let me re-phrase the comment, or maybe even keep quiet.

Language is a precious gift. I guess it’s prudent to THINK before using it.

Kindness - Mother Teresa quote 2

 

 

The 3 Heroes in my Life

Roy Rogers record coverThe earliest hero in my life was Roy Rogers. I wanted to be just like him – ride a horse like Trigger, have a dog like Bullet, and wear a white cowboy hat on my head and two six-guns in a holster at my waist. I wanted to always stand up for what was right, and always win.

The best day of my childhood was the day Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Trigger, and Bullet came to the Wisconsin State Fair. It was a rare day that my dad got someone else to do the evening milking so the whole family could go to Milwaukee (60 miles away) and spend all day at the fair – including the evening show featuring Roy Rogers and his cohorts in person.

Nancy, Danny, and me dressed up to go to church.

Nancy, Danny, and me dressed up to go to church.

My big sister Nancy was my second hero. She was 11 years older than me and was just about perfect. She was smart (salutatorian of her high school class); she played the piano, organ, and trombone well; and she liked having a little sister. (She probably liked having a little brother, too, although I don’t know for sure. I didn’t notice.)

I missed Nancy so much when she went away to college, I could hardly wait for her to come home during school holidays. I wrote her lots of letters, and sometimes I even enclosed a dollar bill that I’d saved up from my allowance so she could buy herself a special treat.

I loved Nancy so much, I wanted to grow up to be just like her.

As I got older and older and older I gradually realized that my real hero was my mom. She was the kindest and most generous person I’ve ever known. Mom was always doing something thoughtful for someone – like driving an elderly person to Madison for a doctor appointment, or planning a party for her Sunday School class of first graders, or freezing vegetables from her garden for Mim and me.

Mom sending flowers from her garden home with me to Chicago

Mom sending flowers from her garden home with me to Chicago

Mom knew what she believed to be right and she wasn’t afraid to express herself. She told me about several conversations she’d had with her boss, the senior pastor at the Presbyterian Student Center at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. (Mom was financial secretary of Pres House.) Dr. Jondrow just didn’t understand and believe enough of the Bible, and she wasn’t afraid to tell him so.

Mom was my lifetime hero. I still strive to be just like her in many ways.

So, why am I talking about my heroes today?

I must give credit to Edward Hays and his book, A BOOK OF WONDERS, again. In talking about heroes, Hays quoted a Yiddish proverb, “If I try to be like him [my hero], who will be like me?” Hays continues,

Read that proverb again slowly. Let it be a bugle sounding the call for you to be as fully as possible who you are, a one-and-only person, unique in all of human history… A learned and holy rabbi once told his disciples, “When I get to heaven God isn’t going to ask me, ‘Rabbi Yosef, why weren’t you more like Moses?’ No, God will ask me, ‘Rabbi Yosef, why weren’t you more like the Yosef whom I created?’”

Well, I guess I really don’t want to be exactly like my mom, or my sister, or Roy Rogers. I still want to develop some of the qualities I’ve admired so much in all three of my heroes. And then I want to combine those qualities with the unique characteristics and opportunities God has given me. Maybe I really can grow into the person God intends for me to be.

Thank goodness God is patient and has provided me with good coaches – both in the form of good people in my life and of good books to read.

Marian w curls and cowboy hat

As a child, I was always happiest with a cowboy hat on my head – even during those few years when my mom tried to curl my hair.

 

My Mom and Me and Bibles

Mom and me praying c1954

Mom and me praying at a church program. We were “on stage” while someone sang a song about praying. I was wearing brand new red pajamas.

My mom got me hooked on exploring new translations and paraphrases of the Bible when I was a kid. Although I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s knowing that the King James Version was the real Bible – the one we used in Sunday School and church and the one to memorize Bible verses from – Mom was always searching for new ways to gain a deeper understanding of what the Bible means.

I remember one year she convinced my Uncle Helmer and Uncle Fletcher to chip in so that together they could give my grandma a Schofield Reference Bible for her birthday. It was still the King James Version, but it had lots of study aids. I knew Mom really wanted that Bible for herself, but she couldn’t afford it. Several years later when my grandma died, Mom inherited that Bible. I have it now.

When I was still in grade school I remember my mom beginning to get newer translations of the Bible to read along with the King James. The first two I remember were the J. B. Phillips paraphrase of the New Testament and the Amplified New Testament. They were about as different as could be in terms of everyday language versus precise word-for-word translation. Mom loved reading them both.

Amplified Bible - Phillips NTWhen I was in high school, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusades were periodically showing up on TV, and with them came offers to get a free book of the Bible that had just been paraphrased into easy-to-understand English – a series of books that would eventually become The Living Bible (LB). Mom received most of the Living New Testament this way – book by book. She just loved reading the books in the Living Version. She usually was smiling when she read it because the meaning of each paragraph was so easy to understand. In the mid-’70s when I was living in Chicago I remember walking to a religious book store in the Loop during one of my lunch hours to buy Mom a leather-bound Living Bible for Christmas to replace all her separate paperbacks of each book. I inherited that Bible from her.

Moms Living Bible

New English Bible 2In 1961 the New English Version of the Bible was published in England. My mom didn’t get that version, but Dagmar Vasby, a retired missionary nurse originally from Denmark who had become a member of our Methodist Church in Cambridge, frequently read from that version whenever she spoke in church. During my freshman year in college, one day when I was browsing the campus bookstore I came across the cutest little 3” by 5” leather-bound New Testament in the New English Version. I couldn’t resist it. I spent $12 on the first installment of my own library of Bibles. Its tiny size made it easy to fit into my suitcase over the years, and it traveled with me on most of my business trips throughout the ’80s.

After my college years I followed Mom’s preference for The Living Bible. I liked how easy it was to read and understand – just like Mom said. But then some well-meaning friends in a Bible study informed me that The Living Bible wasn’t as accurate as “real” translations. It was just a paraphrase and couldn’t be trusted for accuracy when doing any in-depth study. That embarrassed me enough to make me switch to the New International Version (NIV) – the gold standard for Evangelicals. Unfortunately, that conversation also cooled my enthusiasm for exploring different translations and paraphrases as Mom and I had been doing for years.

Many years later, in 2009 when I was starting to assemble a small library for guests to use at our retreat house, Whispering Winds Retreat Haven, I included three Bibles – The King James Version (KJV), The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), and the New International Version (NIV). The only criticism I received about our book collection was that we should include more translations of the Bible. I guess that’s just what I wanted to hear. Mim and I made several trips to resale shops and used book stores. Our book case quickly reached the point of overflowing. The top shelf was filled with nothing but Bibles – more than a dozen different translations. The rest of the shelves were filled with inspirational books by our favorite authors.

Bible Stack 3Most importantly, I finally resumed my old habit of exploring different translations and paraphrases. Probably the paraphrase I enjoy reading most, just for fun, is The Message (MSG). It provides fresh images for my mind that help me gain new insights into what a particular passage might mean. Another version I’m enjoying is The New King James Version (NKJV). It tries to retain the poetic language of the original King James Version as closely as it can without sacrificing readability for today’s readers.

The most recent version I picked up and am currently exploring is The New Living Translation (NLT). This version is actually a revision of The Living Bible. Like its predecessor, it’s a very readable Bible.

There are a lot more versions out there. But just as my mom didn’t have the money to buy herself a Scofield Reference Bible, I don’t think I can go and buy every translation I’d like to explore. However, I always scan the religious books section in every resale store I enter. I’ve also learned about websites like www.BibleStudyTools.com where you can look up any verse in almost any version you want to read.

I guess I could be hooked on worse things than exploring different translations of the Bible. After all, the Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:15:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (KJV)

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (NKJV)

Work hard so God can say to you, “Well done.” Be a good workman, one who does not need to be ashamed when God examines your work. Know what his Word says and means. (LB)

Work hard so God can approve you. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. (NLT)

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (NIV)

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. (NRSV)

Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple. (MSG)

Mom was right. The Living Bible says it best, especially the last part, “Know what his Word says and means.”

Bible-candle-praying hands

 

Thank God I’m Sick! Really?

cough syrupFor the past three weeks I’ve been coaxing my immune system to get busy and fix me.  I think it’s been ignoring its job. The day I came home from our mini-vacation at Christmas Mountain I felt like I might be getting a cold. The next day I had a high fever and was mad I’d gotten sick. I rested as much as I could, and by the third day, I was better, but not well.  I was down to a low-grade fever and an annoying, non-productive cough. Despite lots of orange juice, lots of rest, and three bottles of cough syrup in three weeks, I can’t seem to get back to normal. Mim finally bought me a big bottle of cough syrup instead of another little one. The cough is what’s most annoying.

I think I finally figured out why my immune system is ignoring its job. It wants to encourage me to learn something about illness instead of just pouting and complaining about it.

Last Friday, Edward Hays gave me a clue about this in the daily reading from A Book of Wonders.

Edward Hays picIllness in Islam is viewed as a blessing and so should always be borne without complaint. When a Muslim inquires about another’s health, the customary reply is, “All praise belongs to God,” even if that person is sick. A devout Muslim believes that a sickness is a blessing as it is an occasion to cleanse oneself of past sins and because purification is the purpose of existence. Sickness as a blessing is balanced by seeing good health as an equal blessing, because it is a cause of joy and gratitude. We non-Muslims can adopt their response of praising God in sickness or health, in good times or bad, as a healthy habit.

In case I wasn’t paying attention on Friday, Hays’ reflection for Saturday was on the same theme.

In Budhism as in Islam, suffering is generally not seen as a failure of health or as a punishment, but as purification. The followers of Buddha compare suffering with a mystical broom that sweeps away past mistakes and failings. Yet how does being sick with the flu (or worse, afflicted with cancer) act like a broom? One possibility is that illness can sweep away our favorite illusion of being invulnerable and in control. Health, being a precarious gift, should call forth mini-prayers of gratitude every day.

hot spiced wine 3Now, do I really believe that?

One of the blessings of being sick is feeling free to take all the time I want to sit back and read a favorite book. Or play some fun music on the piano. Or watch an old movie on TV. Or drink another cup of hot spiced wine. And daydream. I guess that’s part of the purification process – kind of like pressing the reset button. Thank God for the blessing of being sick for a little while – providing the opportunity for the 3 Rs – Rest, Relaxation, and Reflection. I guess that’s what I really needed.

I don’t know how long I’ll be coughing. So far, today is better than yesterday. But regardless, I think I’m learning “All praise belongs to God.”