Their words have meaning

kansas city library
The library in Kansas City has a fantastic facade. I really like the idea of books being highly visible.
Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever had a moment when you didn’t think? I may look like I have those moments most of the time, but my brain is surprisingly active. When I was riding my bike to the grocery store today you wouldn’t think I had the time to do much thinking. The rain literally whipped my face and I had to pay attention as there were a lot of cars on the road, but my mind was on language of all things. Before I came home my mind had wandered from the United States to South Korea, and I had this post pretty much figured out.

Letters have no meaning. They are just symbols that denotes speech, and if we follow the rules, we can form words and sentences. These words still don’t mean much, but after a long childhood and adolescence in school some have developed an intelligent and sometimes creative application of these letters and words. I know as a former teacher, as well as being a student with learning difficulties myself, how much work that goes into becoming a competent “word engineer”, and even after the 13 years most kids spend in the classroom, it is difficult to make any sense out of the symbols. I believe the book I’m reading at the moment can offer a clue as to why it seems to be getting harder for children. I’m reading The Jungle Books, 320 pages with a lot of text and no pictures. This is a children’s book and it didn’t used to be a problem, but it is today. Most kids ages 10-13 should be able to read a translation of this book, but many of the children I taught didn’t have the constitution for that. They looked at all the text, and the fact that there were no pictures, and gave up. When parents didn’t insist, it was hard for me as a teacher to help. There seemed to be a lot more boys than girls with these challenges.

But when we do get the right combination of letters and words we can produce magic. I was reading about Josef and his brothers in Genesis today. That was one of my favourite stories as a child and it still amazes me that the same story that captivated people 3000 years ago is doing the same job today, and it’s all thanks to something many see as mundane, something we take for granted. We hear voices and language from the moment we are born (actually before that too), and the words stay with us 24/7 for most of our lives. But the words are far from being ordinary. They are in a way really high high-tech when you think of the importance it has had an still has. It’s probably our greatest accomplishment because everything else we do need language.

Writing is clearly my favourite way of communicating, and I hope I have some moments when I manage to inform, inspire and even amuse, but today I wanted to share some texts that have inspired me in recent weeks. These people have figured out the right combination of letters and words, but of course the biggest inspiration has been granted to the authors of the Bible.

I’ve been reading a lot of Christian bloggers lately and that has influenced my writing. That may have surprised some of my readers, as I haven’t written much on the topic before. This was a wise decision because I found some splendid writers (had to read through a lot of less interesting stuff before I found the good ones, though).

  • One of them is Heather of the blog Where Grace Abounds. She has many posts I like, but as I like snowmen and Frozen (one of the activities I’m doing with my daughter in winter), I want to share her thoughts on the film.
Love conquers all
  • Stressless With Jesus is a Danish woman living in Japan. I’m not sure how I discovered this blogger, but I think it was during Christmas. I periodically read blogs about depression and anxiety, and I had one of those periods during the holidays. She has General Anxiety Disorder and writes a lot about that. This is a prayer:
I’m fine. But I’m not
  • Sarah Angleton is a writer with a special interest for history. She publishes a new post every Thursday.
Sparkly, Gluten-free Love, and other Reasons we may not get Valentine’s Day Quite Right
  • I have to limit this list, but there’s one more woman I’d like to squeeze in. I discovered Such Small Hands through WordPress’ Freshly Pressed where they pick out some of the best posts of the day. She’s an English teacher in South Korea. I’m trying to live by this resolution this year.

New Year: My one word for 2015 and why I can’t leave 2014 behind

There was a debate a couple of years ago among some of the Norwegian bloggers I’m following. There didn’t seem to be a lot of male bloggers. It has improved a little, but for some reason there is still  a large majority of women, and most of it is crap. The most popular blogs in Norway get 90 000 hits every day. These are so called “pink bloggers.” They write mostly about fashion and make up, and appear to be nothing but advertisement for the products they show. But there is also a substantial minority that write about current events.

I guess there are male bloggers too, but most of the ones I’ve come across have been on topics that don’t interest me, such as football, games, gadgets, humour etc. I’m following one Norwegian, and apart from him there is an interesting English language blog I’m reading from time to time. It’s been a while since I read his blog because I haven’t been focused on Christianity lately, but I’ll go back to reading him now.

  • Chris Martin believes that our sole purpose is to manifest the image of God, and he wants to reflect that through his life as well as in his writing. In this post he reminds us of some of the good advice the Bible offers us.
We can never forget

I may share some more blogs later.

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4 thoughts on “Their words have meaning

  1. Thank you, John, for the kind mention of my site. It is nice to discover blogs which have influenced the authors I like to read.

    Joseph is one my my personal favorites, too. Have you noticed the parallel between his life account and that of Jesus?

    Your introductory paragraph reminded me of something my son said once when I asked him why he had so much trouble getting to sleep (every. single. night). He said “I just can’t shut off my brain”. My dad’s like that, too. Always thinking about something.

  2. After revisiting your thoughts, I wanted to also thank you for taking the time to elaborate on the importance of language.

    .

    You prompted me to reflect on how important words really are, from God’s perspective. It was God’s idea to use language as a means to encourage people to spread around the globe and create the many different cultures we see today. Jesus said we will be held accountable for “every idle word” we speak. John’s gospel even identifies Jesus as “the Word” which became flesh.
    Words can be powerful agents of healing or destruction, depending how we use them.

    I can definitely relate to the preference for written communication, but don’t believe it is necessarily a handicap, if directed properly. For instance, this article was still here for me to review when many details of a spoken communication would already have been lost. And, the Bible is an enduring written record of God’s communication to the world. I admit my my opinion is a bit biased, but I see well-crafted written language as a very good thing.

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