Tag Archives: Words

What do you talk most about?

27 Aug

I was thinking about my tendency to ‘evangelize’ or proclaim the merits of my latest interest, usually about nutrition. I’m growing aware of the possibility idolatry. My latest ‘passion’ is all things Keto.

While reading God’s word recently, He ‘pinged my conscious’ with this thought:

  • Maria, are you more interested in talking up a Keto way of life than in talking about me?

THAT got my attention.  “YES!”, I had to admit.  I do tend to follow a pattern of doing just that.  (Last winter and spring I was on a Vegan campaign!  Yes, go ahead and laugh!)

Joking aside, here’s the sober truth:

Our God speaks. He is alive.  He really exists. And his speech created something out of nothing and continues to create ALL things, just by the power of his word.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed by God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Genesis 1:1-4 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good.

Hebrews 1:3 (Jesus) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

From just these 4 snapshots of God’s speech, the Bible confronts humanity with the FACT that words matter.  That words have power. How do we actually KNOW this?

We have God’s written words.  Our Creator has endowed mankind with the ability to speak, to write and to read.

Weighty implications follow. Consider this:

  • If God spoke the universe into existence,
  • If we are made in the image of the Creator God as written in Gen 1:26 (Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.)
  • Then our words contain creative power.

Of course, we are mere reflectors of some of the grandeur of our God.  But the Bible DOES say we share some attributes of God and one day will we be MORE like God.

So, my question to myself is this.  “Maria, do you speak most about……”:

  • Maria?  what you are doing, thinking, experiencing, suffering.
  • politics?
  • your latest passion?

“Or do you talk MOSTLY about God?”

If I take 5 seconds and think rationally, I have to conclude that most of what I talk about to others is what Solomon called, “meaningless.”

Why meaningless?  because my ‘stuff’ and circumstances as well as the world’s temporal circumstances are ephemeral.  Only God endures forever.  Only God matters.  And only God satisfies.

The people I talk to each day at school, at church, at the grocery store, even at home with my husband…they are all hungry for something to hold on to.  I AM, TOO!  My Keto experience will vanish like a vapor.  The world’s leaders as well.  And my suffering. And these momentary afflictions are only significant in that they are planned by God as his ‘Individual Holiness Plan’ FOR me, to make me more like Jesus.

Look at how Jesus viewed the words from His Father:

John 17:8 For I have given them (his disciples) the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

May we all watch over our words, by God’s grace, and speak what matters most and gives LIFE, the truth that Jesus came from the Father. For us!

 

Stating the obvious – words matter!

18 Jan

Aren’t you thankful that God created us with communicative language skills?  I often take that gift for granted.

Two recent ‘aha!’ moments brightened my day and made me grateful for the insights words can provide.

The first one:

This morning, while walking for exercise, I listened to a John Piper sermon where he mentioned God’s purpose for creating you & me.  He cited Isaiah 43:8 when describing what God says His reasons:

  • everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.

What was new to me was that the fact that God WILL be glorified by every person.  Piper framed it like this.  Are we going to glorify God like Judas or like Peter? It’s not up to US whether we glorify Him or not.  If God says He created us with the express purpose of showcasing His glory, then He will. For being God, by ontological nature, everything that He wills to be done IS/WILL BE done.  And how do WE know what His will is?  From what He says, what is written in the Bible.  Words!

The import of this fact that God will be glorified by each of the people He creates is this: Whether we die as a hardened God-hater or rather as a person whose heart burns to proclaim and point to the wonders of God, each of us WILL bring glory to Him when He rewards or punishes us.

The second one: 

Alan Shlemon from Stand to Reason wrote a letter about how Jesus modeled truth and compassion while on earth.

As I began to read, I assumed I knew what sense of ‘truth’ Alan was addressing:  the truth that Jesus, as God, had about the moral failures of everyone He met.

But the way Alan described Jesus’ use of truth was in focused study of someone.  Read this excerpt from his letter dated Thursday, 5 January 2017:

In Matthew 9:35–36, for example, Jesus is going through all the towns and villages, healing diseases and sickness, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. Matthew writes, Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” Notice the order. Jesus learns the truth and then is motivated by compassion. He sees that the people are distressed, dispirited, and like sheep without a shepherd and, because of that truth, He is driven to compassion.

I had never considered that use of truth.  But because of how Alan painted Jesus’ actions toward people, I now WANT to look more carefully at those around me, to study their tone, their faces, their postures and ask the kind of questions that will give me some true insight into their burdens.  I know this:  only THAT kind of truth will soften my heart.

 

The other kind of truth can puff up, even if it’s accurate and well grounded.  (I’m not arguing against the responsibility we all have to KNOW truth and live by it.)

So here’s to WORDS and the power of eloquent and accurate communication, whether from a fellow created being or our Creator!

It depends on what ‘is’ is!

22 Jun

Bill Clinton We laughed at his disclaimer, but Bill Clinton had a point.  A naked word is clueless.  The first rule in logic is: Clarify your terms!

But what is a term? A word set in a context.  So, in one sense, Bill pointed out the obvious – ‘IS’ as a word takes on significance only in a context.

Take, for example, the unaccompanied word, ‘set’.  How can ‘set’ be employed?

  • a lamp, set upon a hill
  • a man, set out on a journey
  • my cat, set upon lapping some milk
  • a victim, set up by a Ponzi scheme
  • the book, set down on a table

Words and terms matter, dear friend. May we take time to use particular care to avoid confusion and communicate with accuracy and clarity.

 

Assumptions surrounding logic

27 Jan

While listening to Al Mohler  (Link to his discussion here) explain the backstory to a recent Supreme Court decision affecting those on death row in Florida, I was struck once again about the importance of language.

supreme court

Words matter.

Obviously eight of the 9 justices in the photo assumed that as much. The wording of the 6th amendment to the US Constitution declares that a defendant is entitled to “….a public trial, by an impartial jury of the state….”.  The majority opinion of the Supreme Court argued that the words meant what they said.  The fact that Florida judges alone had the power to impose the death sentence (based on the recommendation of the jury) violated the sense of the language of the 6th amendment.

Al Mohler then drew the connection between how one reads the written text of the US Constitution and the Bible.  Either the words mean what they say or we open the gate to anyone’s interpretation.  And chaos ensues and words lose the power of meaning.

Language-based logic is the same.  Before we even examine and analyze a syllogism to determine whether it is sound, we have made an assumption:

Words matter!

Take the following sample syllogism:

Premise 1:All wood is a substance containing carbon

Premise 2: This stick is wood

Conclusion:  Therefore, this stick is a substance containing carbon

Logical Joe’s and Jane’s have to agree on what each term means.

  • Does ‘all’ unequivocally take in every member of the category of wood?
  • Does ‘wood’ represent the set of hard, fibrous materials that form the trunk of a shrub or tree*?
  • Is carbon only the chemical element represented by atomic number 6*?

*definitions based on Apple’s Mac dictionary

We ‘assume’ that words representing terms refer to a specific concept.  If that is not our starting point in logic, then we might as well abandon all reasoning.

But as my husband pointed out when we were discussing this necessary pre-supposition, another complication exists.  We can agree on the clear sense of a term YET once set in a proposition or even a clause, meaning grows complicated.

Take just a snippet from the Pledge of Allegiance:

“…with liberty and justice for all.”

Initially one can agree on individual concepts of liberty and justice in isolation. The term ‘all’ appears messier. Distinctions must be made, so we pose some clarifying questions:

  • does ‘all’ refer to all citizens or all those residing in the US?
  • and if all residing in the US are intended, do we need to differentiate between those legally residing and those who are not?
  • are we talking about all humans only?  Are the unborn included?  Are the mentally and physically dependent included?

Once we initially sort out terms, what happens next?  Other questions arise.  For instance, if we consider just one other term, the concept of ‘liberty’, what does the GUARANTEE of ‘liberty’ protect one against? How far does it extend and do I, who am included in the ‘all ‘, get to define liberty to suit my needs?

I’d love to say, “Let’s just go with the plain reading of the text!”  But I have to concede that a careful reading of any writing requires clear and focused thinking.  That’s why there will always be a need for diligent and thoughtful lawyers, judges, theologians and logical but ordinary men and women like us.

The challenge is great, but worthwhile.

 

 

 

 

 

Logical Gal advises – ‘Say what you mean and mean what you say!’

30 Jul

No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous.

-Henry Brooks Adams, historian (1838-1918)

Clear thinking

In our warped-speed culture, do you find that ANYONE takes the time to develop a thought or inquire into someone else’s ideas?  We ping off of sound bytes before we know what WE think or THEY think!

Over at my other blog – Posts about God’s Word, I mused on 27 July 2014 about how we rush around and drive ourselves nuts.   Technology was supposed to FREE us to pursue leisure, to be less crazy!

And what exactly is leisure?  Classically it has little to do with ‘fun activities’ filling our time off from work.  Instead it referred to the time set aside for contemplation of all that is TRUE, GOOD and BEAUTIFUL. Consider Josef Pieper’s observation about how we spend time and what it does to our soul!

“… the greatest menace to our capacity for contemplation is the incessant fabrication of tawdry empty stimuli which kill the receptivity of the soul.”
Josef Pieper, Happiness and Contemplation

**

Recently, one of our sons who has a baby and a small child forwarded on an essay based on a study about harm to the brain as an effect of spanking.  He asked for our thoughts.  You can access the report of the findings here:  Spanking Article

Because I was ‘rushed’, I just glanced at the on-line article in typical 21st century SCAN mode.  It ‘appeared’ to be condemning all forms of physical discipline.  When one is checking Facebook or Twitter or other social media sites that share essays, reports and articles, little attention is given to careful reading.  True to my experience, the article APPEARED to be anti-spanking.  I can see the harm I could have done by communicating verbally with another mom or grandmother what I had skimmed.

Read carefully

To my relief, when I took the time to read slowly and with consideration I found the author DID make a distinction between spanking that would be more like battery (think – striking a child with a belt) and the kind that is just a swift swat with a hand, making a clear point.

But the initial paragraph was crafted the way journalists are taught to write – stay broad and general at first, then go into more depth and details in subsequent paragraphs BECAUSE most people don’t read beyond the initial paragraph.

Here’s the rub – do any of us have time enough to read deeply and slowly, giving thought to what we are ingesting and connecting it to previously held and categorized knowledge ?

I, for one, don’t have that kind of time.  So just MAYBE the solution is to read less, but read well.  To speak less, but speak more thoughtfully.  To allocate my ‘free’ time to worthwhile learning.

Then just MAYBE my communications with others might grow more true, more sticky and less ‘thick’ or viscous as historian Henry Adams lamented (quote at beginning of blog post).  Then just MAYBE someone will say:  “That Maria – she often says what she means and means what she says!” 

Question: what about you?  What could you eliminate from your daily ‘intake’? (think: You Tube videos, newspapers, TV, blog posts, Instagram, Pinterest…..)

And as a gift to you, my way-too-busy reader, I have decided for the time-being to upload a post to this site just once a week. In the meantime, I intend to ask God how HE wants me to use the time He has allotted me.  

 

Logical Gal and the audacity of an adjective

1 Jul

Adjectives

Adjectives were boring until Saturday.

That’s when I learned about the power they employ.  I’m sure you can recite along with me the same answer…

  • to this question:   What is the function of an adjective?
  • and the answer is:  An adjective modifies a noun

So what’s the big deal? It’s that verb ‘to modify’ – so innocuous!

The speaker at the weekend conference who got me to consider adjectives was a former English professor (does anyone STOP teaching English?).  In her talk on Saturday she explained that the function of an adjective was to CHANGE a noun.

That startled me!  Switching from the familiar verb ‘modify’ to the more powerful synonym  ‘change’  set off a small explosion of  implications that coursed through my mind.

Change - Angel of death

Not all adjectives drastically alter a noun.  For example, take the phrase  ‘stay-at-home dad‘.    The man is still a ‘dad’, whether he is the primary care giver for his children or not.  Adding the adjectival ‘changer’ doesn’t detract or add from the ‘pure’ definition of the concept ‘dad’.  But what about that old term women (and men!) often used 40 years ago when they felt ashamed of being a stay-at-home mom.  Someone came up with the phrase ‘domestic engineer’ to be used by a mom/wife desiring to lend gravitas to what she did every day.  Did anyone REALLY think she was an engineer?  Only in the euphemistic sense.  I am guessing that few Engineering Schools or departments teach courses on running a household.

Domestic Engineer

 

*

Why is this important, the playing around with adjectives?

Because how we define institutions and groups figures prominently in the news these days.  Marriage, faith and politics are not neutral topics of little import.  The rhetoric is intense and emotions are high.  Words matter, especially adjectives.

Question: What striking example can you provide of an adjective changing the original or ontological sense of a noun? 

 

Scrabble - every word counts