There is no Frigate Like a Book from the Pen of Emily Dickinson

The more I try to learn and understand how prose and poetry works, the more I realize that I can’t recapture the the years of ignoring virtually all literature from my childhood. It’s like starting in grade school again and working your way up, only now you don’t have time to do so because of bills and life and work and school and family and so on. This part of literature now gets relegated to learning a tiny snippet then when another writer (Lenard Sweet in this case via Viral) points out how important poetry is, then picking it back up again and learning a little more. I’ve done this for almost 5 years now, and I’m not sure I’ve learned a whole lot, but I’ve learned more than if I never picked up poetry at all.

Lenard Sweet in his book Viral spends a great deal on the importance of poetry in one chapter, and then goes on to show how much the Google generation has rejected this form of literature (and mine too for that matter), to replace it with the world of images and graphics. But the more our world, culture, and societies as a whole forget how to write in cursive, the more we should continue to write in cursive ourselves, lest we forget the power of words. Same goes with poetry, and especially in our churches!

If you are a Christian, no matter how much you try, you can’t get away from the fact that God’s way of communicating with us is in words, and the greatest poetry ever written is found in Scripture. It’s no wonder. Poetry, in one form, is a way to say something that can’t be said in words, and much of Scripture is just that, too great for words. There are countless examples, but I like the this reason from the book of John… “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (3.12). The Spiritual world of God uses poetry for a good reason, it helps to explain the unexplainable, something that needs a parable to show its depth.

I love short poems that are easily digestible at this point, it will take me years to work up to appreciating Shakespeare, but here Emily Dickinson explains the power of a book.

There is no Frigate Like a Book

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll.
How frugal is the chariot
That bears the human soul!

~Emily Dickinson

It just conveys so much more meaning to compare the power of a book to a warship of immense power and beauty. Much like a product of my generation, I know my weakness in understanding literature is the image. Being a photographer for so long, the image is what I created through capturing light, not an image in my mind through capturing words read. Trying to relearn how words express their own images, without the need for a graphic is quite hard in the 21st century, I can’t imagine how hard it will be in the 22nd century, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

The Power of Words and the Wonder of God :: Review

The Power of Words and the Wonder of God Review

Up for a quick book review today is a book called The Power of Words and the Wonder of God, which I finished up a few weeks ago. This small book (176 pages) was published back in September of 2009 by John Piper, Sinclair Ferguson, and Mark Driscoll come together with worship pastor Bob Kauflin, counselor Paul Tripp, and literature professor Daniel Taylor to discuss the power that words have, and how our speak can both edify and vilify our brothers and sisters in Christ.  This book came out of the Desiring God National Conference in 2008 with the same name (2008 National Conference Messages), and each author takes a chapter in their own specialized field to discuss the impact of words on our life, specifically that of Scripture. All in all a great, quick, read for those Christians interested in words.

I will admit that from the start I didn’t expect much from this book other than a good collection of a few sermons, but I was quite surprised by its depth of content and overall usefulness in application. The book isn’t broken up like this, but below are three sections or reasons I found quite valuable, and a book I would highly recommend reading.

  • The Power of Words in History
    The Power of Words takes a great look at the history of words, spoken and written, and how people like Luther and others used their power of words to change the church, even if it was crude at times. It was needed. Look at what Luther was fighting, and we can see that mocking and crude speech like this is sometimes called for.

    Luther argued that his theological opponents avoided the Bible: “I cry: Gospel, Gospel, Gospel! Christ, Christ! Then they reply: The fathers! The fathers! Custom, Custom! Statutes, Statutes! But when I say: The fathers, custom, and the statutes have often been in error; matters of this kind must be settled by a stronger and more reliable authority; but Christ cannot be in error—then they are more speechless than fish. (location 1576)

  • The Power of Words in Application
    Along with the historical look at how we use speak The Power of Words takes a practical approach to our speech today. Scripture has so much to say about how we should speak, and when we should refrain from speaking, how devastating the tongue can be, and how we can use it to lift people up when they are down.

    We foolishly assume that our real struggles with sin are in the areas where we are “weak.” We do not well understand the depth of sin until we realize that it has made its home far more subtly where we are “strong,” and in our gifts rather than in our weaknesses and inadequacies.

  • The Power of Words in Music
    The last section was the most unexpected section, but also contains the most valuable affirmation of music and its importance in our earthly Christian walk. I really didn’t expect a section on music that talked about words and speech, but this section took the book from being a good book to being a great book. If you are at all involved in the music life of the church (and technically we all are), this section should be a must read. Three great points (of many) that were made on the power of music today were stated by Bob Kauflin saying:
  1. There’s certainly a place for expressing our subjective responses to God in song, but the greater portion of our lyrical diet should be the objective truths we’re responding to: God’s Word, his character, and his works, especially his work of sending his Son to be our atoning sacrifice.
  2. We conclude that a certain beat, volume, chord progression, instrument, or vocal style is evil in and of itself. But unless those aspects are spelled out in Scripture we should be cautious about assigning a moral value to them.
  3. An increasing number of churches have adopted the practice of offering different services for different musical tastes. While that decision can be well intentioned, I believe the long-term effect is to separate families and generations and to imply that we gather together around our musical preferences, not Jesus Christ.

Overall, The Power of Words is one of those books that is such a quick and easy read that even if you have a slight interest in how words and speech affect our walk with Christ, you should pick up this book. Each author or contributor adds to the value of this book, and even though you might not agree with everything they stand for personally they have put together a great collective word on the power God placed in the written and spoken word.

Religion Better Understood by Actions Than by Words

I have been trying for weeks to figure out what to take and what not to take with me to Uganda, and as a friend of mine said yesterday, less is more. It seems no matter how little I take I’m still doing what I perceive a typical American would do, take too much stuff. So books are my big question mark left. I have several (actually more than several) books that I have been trying to read over the last several years and I would love to take them all with me and finish them on the first plane flight but can’t decide if I will actually read them. Three of these books at top on my list, God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards with the Complete Text of The End for Which God Created the World (yes I know, the title is very long) by John Piper and Jonathan Edwards, The Life and Diary of David Brainerd by David Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards, and The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal. I have picked up and read all three, then put down, then picked up again, and so on… for years now.

I know these aren’t your traditional quick reads, and one is quite a bit beyond my comprehension. I have all of them in Kindle eBook for my iPad, paperback, and audiobook but keep going back to the paper bound books because of the depth of their words. This morning I was going through each of these three books thinking about my time in Uganda, our sponsor child, Joanita, who I hope to meet while I’m there, I came across this chapter in The Life of God in the Soul of Man, titled “Religion Better Understood by Actions than Words”. After re-reading that chapter I wanted to share Scougal’s words here today that help remind me why we go. The text is also available in Google Books here.

Religion Better Understood by Actions than by Words

When we have said all that we can, the secret mysteries of a new nature and divine life can never be sufficiently expressed; language and words cannot reach them: nor can they be truly understood but by those that are enkindled within, and awakened unto the sense and relish of spiritual things. There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding.

The power and life of religion may be better expressed in actions than in words’ because actions are more lively things, and do better represent the inward principle whence they proceed; and therefore we may take the best measure of those gracious endowments from the deportment of those in whom they reside; especially as they are perfectly exemplified in the holy life of our blessed Savior; a main part of whose business in this world, was, to teach by his practice what he did require of others, and to make his own conversation an exact resemblance of those unparalleled rules which he prescribed: so that if ever true goodness was visible to mortal eyes, it was then when his presence did beautify and illustrate this lower world.

I know that is kind of a mouth full for only two sentences, and not in the most current English, but Scougal’s words here are pretty incredible. That’s why this book has taken me so long to read. The words are incredible but I have to read each page several times. Once you do, the value is deep and lasting. Why do we go according to Scougal? Because this is what Jesus did and He is our ultimate example to follow. As Scougal says, our actions are better represented by the inward principle they represent. This is to say our actions proceed from where our heart resides, and to me, that’s very telling, and a little scary.

New Semester Of Hebrew from Alef to Taw

Today is the start of another new semester. I love the start of the fall semester when it rolls back around. Everyone getting back into the groove of a busy fall schedule (down here that means football and basketball are not far away). Hard to believe how full my schedule already is at this point but along with my second Systematic Theology class, today I start Hebrew. There were many times over the last year or so that I had completely given up on ever being able to complete a cognitive language set, but some how it worked out this time, and today is day one. Since I can barely claim to be proficient in my own native English, Hebrew is somewhat intimidating to me right now, but I hope to look back in a year and know it was worth the work, and I managed to learn something along the way.

Step one was to learn the twenty three Hebrew consonants, which gave me a perfect opportunity to practice writing an acrostic poem, Of Hebrew from Alef to Taw. Trying to memorize totally unfamiliar information has never been easy for me, but working the information into a form of study works much better at solidifying the unfamiliar. This was my first attempt at learning the Hebrew letters and my first attempt at writing an acrostic poem. Makes me look forward to a coming semester full of firsts.

Of Hebrew from Alef to Taw

א  Alef is first and foremost to complete and appeals to thus
ב  Bet is on deck but gives no solace
ג  Gimel sounds familiar with no pivot or axis
ד  Dalet as in “day”, said slow, not of quickness
ה  He corresponds to the grass that cows eat
ו  Waw is the way to follow that drumbeat
ז  Zayin reminds of that great city on the hill
ח  Het seems like some mathematical problem to distil
ט  Tet has power and might to be used many ways
י  Yod is the smallest among those twenty-three displays
כ  Kaf comes back around again to explain that of Josiah
ל  Lamed roars across the kingdom much like Hezekiah
מ  Mem says be quiet now, the little one needs some rest
נ   Nun is more than halfway, now don’t be depressed
ם  Samek brings a circle of life that sounds like the fall
ע  Ayin proceeds with silence, just like a cat’s crawl
פ  Pe will furnish a prayer that might demand our response
צ  Tsade looks just like another minus the tail of nuance
ק  Qof incurs the wrath of a king going into combat
ך  Resh provides hope this exercise ends with proper format
ש  Sin runs through our blood and must come to repentance
ש’ Shin appears to be identical just one spot out of vengeance
ת  Taw is first and foremost to complete and appeals to thus; a text as old as He, but a genesis for us

This is Quite Possibly the Longest Book Title Ever Jonathan Edwards

This is quite possibly the longest book title ever.

“The book, An Humble Attempt to Promote an Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People thro’s the World, in Extraordinary Prayer, for the Revival of Religion, and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth, Pursuant to Scripture Promise and Prophecies Concerning the Last Time, [was] completed by September 1747” by Jonathan Edwards.

Edwards was such a prolific writer and he often had very long titles.  So what’s in a title? Is it important?  The 21st century title has to be short, packed full of keywords able to be searched by Google and Amazon, which can be easily found in the digital world of media overload.  What is your favorite long title?

What's in a Wordle on The Damascus Blog?

I thought I would start off with something light hearted for the week here on The Damascus Blog, and then I came across wordle again. If you haven’t seen or used a Wordle yet, it can be very interesting and a little eye opening. I have looked at these now and then but I always try to guess what my most used word will be, and I never seem to be able to get it right, and I wrote every word. [As created on Wordle]

The Wordle Tag Cloud

The word cloud below is a comprehensive look at this blog in total by the words I use (click on the image to see it full size on Wordle). I only wish it was clickable to each word, but perhaps next time. So what stands out in my cloud?

For my faith blog, is it the word Jesus, or faith, or Christ, no, this go around, it is the word time. Also appropriate to me since I think time is so important, but I did not know it was my most used word on this blog. Others of note wedding, think, life, Christian, read, and can.

What Does Wordle Say About our Words

What wordle does that I find very interesting, is that it doesn’t lie (it a computer how can it).  The randomness of my words, put in the format I chose, and I find that the small words little and God are in order right on top of each other (lower right), and the word Jesus?

Our church did a series a while back on how we use our words. I love the Wordle, it reminds me once again how our words are used, how important they are, and also what is small or absent in our vocabulary.  Does this translate into our heart, or into our lives.  Well I am not going to make the leap from Wordle to life just yet but it does point out to me what may or may not have importance.

The word Jesus shows up on this wordle, in the very lower left hand corner in tiny little text.  Should be front and center on this tag cloud, bigger than everything else?  I have actually used the name Jesus less, and He, or Him, or Creator more in total, and some times by design for specific reasons, so I don’t think Wordle quite tells the whole story.

What does your wordle say about your blog?

Words of the Wise, The 24 Hour Challenge A Day Later

twitter convo

Here we are another 24 hours has gone by and the 24 Hours of Wise Words, Rusty’s Challenge from Rusty is over for the sake of this blog post. As far as the meaning in our lives and how we treat others, this should continue and be a part of our persona as we grow in our Christian walk.

A Reflection on How I (We) Did

I will have to say if you didn’t participate or haven’t tried doing this yet (using wise and kind words all day), it is far harder than you might think. I can’t say that I went the entire 24 hours without an unkind or unwise word, but, I can say it made me much more cognizant of what words I do use.

Doing this little exercise did make me examine the words I use, or was going to use, and how they might effect those I was speaking to or about. It showed me where I was building others up, and in the process of tearing them down. There were several others (@hspur, @mandycon, and @bslash) who followed Rusty’s suggestion and if you followed us on Twitter you could see the progress we made and didn’t make in real time. If you didn’t, I think the others would tell you it was a good 24 hours of self examination of words and heart.

24 Hours of Wise Words, Rusty's Challenge

Today we continued the series called Speak, a message about the power of words to shape our lives. This topic can really speak right to the heart of many of us since we all tend to use words.

Sometimes we use those words to hurt, and other times to build each other up, but do we even stop to recognize which words these are and what effect they have on others? A scripture reference from the message today was appropriately Proverbs 12:18, but if you do a little searching, there are so many scriptures that talk about how we use our words. I thought it was very interesting that our Tuesday Small Blogger Group studied James 3 last week, see Blogger Small Group, James 3, which devotes an entire section of the chapter on The Tongue Is a Fire.

Proverbs12:18 Reckless words pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

It doesn’t take long to find many other very appropriate scripture references to how we use our words when we interact with others.

Rusty’s Challenge, Wise Words

So, Rusty, the Senior Pastor, challenged each of us to try to go at least 24 hours without saying a harsh or otherwise unwise word about, to, concerning, anyone else. At first, I thought, ahhh, no big deal, but I quickly realized that I sometimes have quite a cynical view of things and this might be a little harder than I thought.

On the way home from church I thought, what a great idea. It only took me about 10 minutes before I realized, whoops, guess I will start over again, so, it will start with this post.

How about you? Are you up for Rusty’s challenge.

Acceptable Words in Your Sight Lord

Speak at Cornerstone We just started a new series at our church called Speak, and I am really looking forward to the upcoming weeks as this series is going to deal with ways to communicate, how we speak to one another, how we pray and so forth.

Being a blogger of sorts, how we use our words is something that is always on my mind. We may or may not choose our words carefully, but our choice of words, speech, and overall communication we choose reflects our values, principles, and basically who we are as a person. Since communication in 2008 has a lot to do with the Internet, how we talk to each other and treat each other online can be of great importance as well, especially when we don’t have the ability to see body language, mannerisms, and many times speak in a more harsh texted tone.

The scripture chosen to be the backbone of this series is Psalms 19:14 “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” In keeping with this, I thought about the different ways we communicate. Face to face, phone, text, email, blogging, and many others. One I have picked up recently is called Twitter is quite interesting since it is an ongoing record of what you have said to someone.

Something that was mentioned at the service is if you could listen to all your words in the day, what would it sound like. Well, Twitter is not a total of words spoken, but it is a snap shot of what you said to others in a day, so I am posting a digest of tweets (as they are called) on my personal journal blog each day so I can look back at the day in words. My first post is up and will be shown under the same heading each day, called Daily Twitter Updates for 2008-05-10, but the date will change of course. One thing that jumped right out at me after looking at the first post is how much I use a smile face. My son hates this, but I guess it is in my nature. Oh well, guess that is old school in me.

Hopefully I will be able to look back at the category for the twitter digests and see that I have learned something over the next series. What are your favorite ways to communicate? Have we lost the interest to communicate face to face because of the electronic communications?

Preach the Gospel and If You Must, Use Words

Phil Keaggy 220A friend over at worship journey recently introduced me to a music artists I was not to familiar with, Phil Keaggy, and I have to say, he is one unbelievable guitarist, but I guess when Jimi Hendrix says he is one of the worlds greatest guitarists, he probably knows a little about a guitar as well.

I been an avid music collector for about 20 years now, and it always amazes me that I can discover an artist that has been around so long, yet still unknown to me. Not saying I know all the music there is to know, far from it, but two recent discoveries come to mind, Keaggy and Diana Krall. Both of which I had not really listened to much before this year, and both are great. I just recently purchased Phil Keaggy’s album 220 (an instrumental album), and on the inside of the cover art is this saying by St. Francis of Assisi

Go out today and preach the Gospel
and if you must, use words.

For a music lover, probably one of the greatest quotes I have read in a long time. To be able to preach the Gospel and worship, without having to use words is an incredible gift. Our world is crammed full of words, books, of course blogs, and all forms of writings that allow us to be able to effectively preach the Gospel, but it reminds me that it is not the only way. Some of my favorite scriptures are of David in worship to the Lord through singing and clapping of symbols. Some of the times I feel the closest to the Lord is when I am listening to music. Thanks for the reminder, Phil.