Back when former Trump campaign manager and current prison resident Paul Manafort was still an interesting person, I recall watching the news the day of his sentencing as journalists and television cameras waited for him to appear at the court house.
Positioned close to the main doors, a purple-headed individual stood holding a sign that said, ‘This Is a Sign’. I have to admit I have no idea if it was a joke, a prank, clever marketing or something much more sinister but on the surface at least, the simple words spoke pure fun.
I love words and the endless potential of how they can flow together to create colourful ideas and paint invisible pictures.
Back when I was in grade one we learned about words with the help of various readers themed around the simple lives of two children named Dick and Jane. Perhaps the same was true for some of you.
‘Look Jane, see Spot run!’
(Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you – Spot didn’t really get loose, I was just quoting from the reader.)
My first memories of words are from those books and I can remember early fascination with the physical lines, curvatures, dots and black markings assembled on the white pages. Oh sure, the pictures were okay, but the words gripped me visually even before I learned their power to communicate stories and ideas.
I’m guessing there were other children who loved the artwork or perhaps some were fascinated with how the book was bound. No doubt there were some who preferred to skip words altogether and find interest in the other things being taught like numbers, music, science or history.
Words have always been important in the life of our family. Some families scrapbook or play board games or compare fishing reels or barbecue pigs when they get together but nothing is quite as much fun to us as sharing stories of our every-day experiences and creating something descriptive and entertaining. Prepare the setting, bring colour to the characters, add irony and humour, hit them with the punchline, now cleverly resolve the event and reward the audience. Artistry.
Words have pushed me to be an avid reader most of my life. Now, at this stage, preparing blogs each week is pure fun for me and I’m just beginning to put some of my writing energy into the early stages of a book.
Words say things; words matter.
The deepest attitudes of our hearts usually end up coming out in words, regardless of how guarded we think we are. Even James, the New Testament writer, lamented how difficult it is to tame the tongue.
They do more than express specific ideas. They carry both our thoughts and feelings to those around us: they excite, embarrass, encourage, love, hurt. Words can build people, ideas, nations, hope and faith and words can also destroy each of them.
There are some words that have been changing in my vocabulary in recent years. They have changed in their importance and meaning as the years have passed
Conservative: If you are one of these, everything is better when you’re pleasant and restrained but when you’re narrow and opinionated everything is worse.
Liberal: See Conservative above.
Church descriptors: A mega-church is no better or worse than a little country church which is no better or worse than an inner-city church which is no better or worse than a house church and so on. We, God’s people, are The Church. Now shut up.
Evangelical: Someone I know very well admitted awhile ago that they do not consider themselves evangelical any more. It has to do with politics, ideologies and practices that are far removed from how many of us understand our faith. She’s not alone and for many of us the word has become an embarrassing description of all that is wrong with religion.
Socialist: Predictably we’re hearing some politicians throwing that word-grenade at progressives, assuming the public will believe it’s the worst thing ever. So let’s just tear this bandaid off really fast:
- socialistic democracies (like good ole Canada) combine freedom, capitalism and social responsibility in a way that produces the happiest, healthiest people on the planet;
- the teachings of Jesus were socialistic. I’m not saying he was an actual socialist because he didn’t advocate politically but certainly the idea of wealth sharing and caring for the least was central to Jesus and the early church. Look it up.
Church growth: An article has been making the rounds on Twitter recently (and probably elsewhere) with the declaration that at least two generations have been lost from the church.
Yes but hey, everybody – God’s got this. It’s called purifying.
Let’s just say we don’t need any more books, experts, strategies, budgets or guilt. Let’s stop marketing and pretending that what we’re doing is working. Church isn’t what we do, it’s who we are. It’s not systems, goals, visions or targets – it’s the people of God loving each other and the world around them.
Sound simplistic? Yes it is. Feels good, huh?
Community: Back in the 80s the word ‘paradigm’ was a catchy word that we would use to explain or defend … well, anything. I should know. These days the word is ‘community’ and its use arose because some other words (like the one above) stopped working.
Churches are finding they have to explain why they are relevant so they have come up with: the church is community, people need community, God wants community, your community is community, we have to keep church because community. Way too self-serving the way we use it.
I agree that community is important, by the way, so let’s just focus on making it a reality instead of an excuse and let the word fly free. (Warning: may require more patience, kindness, time and effort than previously thought.)
Barf: I don’t know … I just don’t like that word, okay?
Hero: We throw this word around too easily. Heroes are not big, strong, clever, powerful, famous or wearing tights. Rather they are nice people, good people, generous people, humble people, thoughtful people, quiet people, story-telling people, godly people. They live quietly behind the scenes and reproduce more heroes.
Preacher: Some still think it’s a compliment to refer to me as a preacher: sorry, but it’s not and I’m not. It might be a warm, fuzzy notion for some of you but the idea of preaching raises uneasy thoughts of loud voices, railing methodology, simplistic beliefs and here-today-gone-tomorrow strategies.
I’m also not fond of being called a %&$@#?!! but that happens less frequently than you might think.
On the other hand, teacher is good, pastor is good. Calling me Brian is great and so is friend. But mostly I like dad, papa, grandpa, sweetie. Oh, and the lady at Home Depot called me ‘hun’ which I’m totally fine with.
Goodbye: Ever notice that lots of characters in television dramas don’t say goodbye when they finish talking on the phone? I have and it’s weird. How are civilized phone-talkers supposed to know when a conversation is finished? When it comes to texting there are no rules; it’s an electronic wild west out there and people treat you like dirt. Get used to it. But we should have mastered phone etiquette by now.
That said, I’ve never liked saying goodbye – not sure why. For one thing, it is a bit of a production for some people. There are some who seem to value goodbyes even more than hellos. The highlight of their visit must involve an extended goodbye: some final words, hugs, some more final words, pregnant silence while we wait for the next goodbye, another round of hugs, waving goodbye, some more last minute words and waving, then closing the door slowly.
Me, I say let’s skip the word goodbye totally and keep our hugs limited to just one. ‘I love you’ is good – either spoken or assumed – then everyone can just go their own way without guilt.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got so goodbye for now.
Oops … I mean, I love you.