Friday, April 21, 2017

Revelation

That deep’ning black expanse of night
Looked deep into the soul of light
The two sides formed for bitter row
Cast time and age aside to fight

As quick an archer drew his bow
The ray that pierced from foe to foe
Reflection streamed across the eye
As men and beast fell both below

All hordes then marched away to die
While wond’ring whether, how, and why
A class unknown in souls of men
Spread down the fingers of the sky

Spread down to try our hearts again
To end those who had wondered when
Lives foredetermined by the pen
Their fates defended by his pen

Monday, June 20, 2016

Eternity in Their Hearts

Eternity in Their Hearts:  Startling Evidence of Belief in the One True God in Hundreds of Cultures Throughout the WorldEternity in Their Hearts:  Startling Evidence of Belief in the One True God in Hundreds of Cultures Throughout the World by Don Richardson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The book offered fascinating accounts of the awareness that nations who have never heard of Jesus Christ have of the gospel. It was, to me, an encouragement for three reasons. First, it connected what is sometimes a distant, ancient, and admittedly sometimes repetitive message to the contemporary experiences of people-groups with whom I've shared this earth. This has brought the gospel to life in ways I did not expect, making it far more real to me than I have felt in a long time. Second, I have seen God more clearly, as one who loves all people wholeheartedly and pursues them--and me-- driven by that love. Third, as a result of these renewed understandings of the gospel and God, I have felt an increased sense of purpose for my own life, specifically that God wants me to be apart of his effort to express his love for the world. I know that I can and do fail at this, but I also know that the grace of God is right there with me to remind me of God's ever-present concern for me and others.



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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Grace

Mother Theresa once said that we should never let others come to us without us leaving them better. This is easier said than done. People can catch us in inopportune times, in times of busyness, when we’re least likely to forgive them for a misstep and most likely to snap because of some interruption. They find us in poor moods, when the circumstances of our days have clouded our better judgment and encouraged us to respond curtly, and even in anger. If we’re not careful, we even begin to see others as obstacles rather than allies, as burdens instead of potential friends. Still, there is a profound wisdom in the practice of mercy. The simple act of ignoring a slight-- or, even better, of responding with warmth to the awkward moments in others’ lives when their faults are laid bare before us—teaches us more about grace than any treatise, sermon, or exposition ever could; and when we pay close enough attention to it in others, it forces us also to stop and begin to consider those around us with greater care. In short, the act of grace causes us to treat people as people.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Age

Of all the things I did not say
I screamed aloud the most
That fear of seeming amity
Toward my unfriendly host

While each excuse did guard that lie
The wall that guarded still
Looked aged from sheer neglect at length
‘Til eyes beheld its will

I tore it down, and tear it down
For each revealed truth
To summon more from memory
Than years of rosy youth

Though words that speak simplicity
Take first the mourner’s tongue
In end they free one’s heart to glean
The candor of the young

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Clouds

Clouds are a common symbol in our language. We hear phrases like “clouded judgment” and we quip that all clouds have a silver lining. We communicate a man’s condition by saying that he is “on cloud nine,” that he “has his head in the clouds,” or that he has a “cloud hanging over him.” We predict danger by claiming that there are “dark clouds on the horizon” and find someone “under a cloud of suspicion,” all while using our Apple iCloud and watching Cloud Atlas or A Walk in the Clouds. Clouds are used to express sadness, joy, suspicion, anger, distraction, and—often negatively—confusion.

Yet, it is within this "cloud of confusion" where learning can begin to take place; for in addition to curiosity, confusion is a beginning point where people are motivated to learn, to break through the fog to gain understanding. Just as important, I am convinced that those who succeed, who have labored and waded through the fog to gain knowledge, find that knowledge more valuable than those who did not need to. It is this quality, in fact, this determination to overcome-- to learn in the face of difficulty-- that can lift one from the cloud of uncertainty and confusion into the sun of confidence and knowledge.*

*Of course, it is worth noting that sometimes one finds higher, denser clouds there when one searches more deeply into a matter, given the complexity of some issues. Still, that person, though lacking complete certainty, can still speak with some certainty on those things he or she does know.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Las Vegas

It was the lights. These are what drew me to the idea of taking a trip to Las Vegas. I pictured neon casino signs lighting the night sky, painting the streets below varied and changing colors. To be honest, that's about as much as I knew of Las Vegas, never having been there and seeing only images on television or online. As I experienced Las Vegas over the past four days, however, the most glaring omission from my mental picture became especially clear on Friday evening: the people. Throngs of people walked the "strip"--the name for Las Vegas Boulevard, where the major hotels and other attractions reside--alongside my friend and me as we explored the area. The only other places I had seen so many people in such a widespread space were other major cities: New York and Boston, in particular.

Lights and people aside, my friend and I enjoyed some of the attractions of the city. The most memorable, for me, was the Titanic exhibit, where a huge section of the ship's hull was displayed along with tools, utensils, and many objects from the passengers' personal belongings. At the beginning of the tour, you receive a ticket with the name of one of the passengers who took the journey, and learn at the end whether you--in his or her role--survived.* You are also acquainted with personal aspects of the tragedy, including the personalities of individuals who boarded the ship only because a coal strike prevented their passage on another vessel.

Witnessing the various themes across the hotels on the strip was an experience itself. The MGM-- in terms of number of rooms, the largest in the city and second largest in the world--bore the iconic lion statue, which we learned was the largest bronze statue in the U.S. Originally, guests entered the hotel through the mouth or a lion's head, but when it was discovered that one or more cultures believe entering a lion's head was bad luck, the hotel removed the entrance and erected the lion statue instead. Other hotels included the Luxor, a large pyramid with a sphinx in front to express an ancient Egyptian theme; the Excalibur, with a medieval theme, including a dinner theater with a jousting tournament whose combatants represent one of the other half of the audience; and Caesar's Palace, a Roman-themed hotel whose mall bore a ceiling that resembled the sky, an aquarium, fountain, and numerous Roman statues.

The city was like New York City in a number of ways--the number of people walking here and there, the lights, the anonymity; but whereas people in the streets of New York seemed ever determined to reach their destinations, those in Las Vegas--many of whom were doubtless tourists like myself--appeared more upbeat and festive. No one was in a hurry because they were all looking to enjoy the gambling, parties, and attractions. While we saw only a fraction of what there is to see, this was a trip that I will long remember.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Language as Power, Revisited

 Language and the way it is communicated are expressions of power. When we hear someone speaking differently than what we are accustomed to, we see it as an error that needs to be addressed. In an education class, I remember learning about "BICS" (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) and "CALP" (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency"), the former being language used during informal conversation--such as when talking to a friend--and the latter being academic language that someone would use in a formal educational setting. Someone who speaks using BICS can also be perceived as uneducated, while someone using the academic CALP can appear intelligent.

With that said, it does not seem far-fetched to argue that there can also be a BICS and CALP in the way we speak (intonation, etc.), and not just in the words we use. Upspeak (the tonal lift at the end of a sentence that makes a statement sound like a question) and vocal fry (the closest analogy is a frying or sizzling sound in the voice; see the video for a demonstration: http://mentalfloss.com/article/61552/what-vocal-fry), for example, might be considered an informal BICS method of speaking, with friends, for example. However, I learned from the above cited mentalfloss article (citing a study, found in the video) that women who use vocal fry are seen as "educated, urban-oriented, and upwardly mobile."

Perhaps one explanation for this is that people who speak using upspeak and vocal fry have been taught the CALP language of the academic world, and use the words of that world to communicate a message, but use an informal tone to express it. In short, they have married BICS and CALP, and therefore are perceived as educated because of the content of their speech (and, it would seem, socially aware, since those who use upspeak have been viewed as looking for acceptance of what they are saying, as argued here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RjPOUZkLfU).

Quebec is a salient example of language as an expression of power. Alex Montreuil, who suffers from a tomato-related food allergy, requested in English that a food server at the Jewish General Hospital take care when working with tomatoes. When he was challenged for using English, he responded by saying he could speak in whatever language he chose, another person threw a tomato and tuna sandwich at him. This person told him before she threw the sandwich that those in Quebec should speak French. (more examples of violence against English speakers in Quebec are found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/tom-kott/anglophone-quebec_b_2053199.html). While this is an example of power expressed through language, it does not seem incredible to argue that the way we express a language can also be an expression of power.