Monthly Archives: October 2013

Don’t Blankety-blank Say That Word!

Ooh, swearing. That’s quite the interesting topic to bring up for discussion, because people have such varying opinions about it. Some people avoid swearing like the plague, and others do it all the time. Others have mental lists of which ones are ‘too bad to say’ and which are fine, and still others merely save them all up for the big occasions as if they were scared that they’d use up their ‘swearing allowance’ before they really needed it.

A lot of people use verses like these to argue against swearing:

2 Timothy 2:16 – “But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.”

Ephesians 4:29 – “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but only what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”

And while those are good arguments against swearing, I don’t think that’s the whole picture. What about the ‘idle’ part of ‘profane and idle babblings’, or the ‘only’ in ‘only what is good for necessary edification’? The problem I have with just quoting verses like the two above is it seems like people seem to just take and obey the letter of the law, and not the spirit of the law. (Which also means that people can try and justify coarse language in spite of the above verses because they don’t think their favorite coarse words ‘fit into any of the categories mentioned’ and so they must be okay.)

What I mean is, these verses aren’t just talking about swear words. It’s talking more about the attitude behind them. Let’s look a little closer at some definitions, shall we?

Profane – to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt: desecrate; to debase by a wrong, unworthy, or vulgar use.

Idle – lacking worth or basis: vain.

Corrupt – having or showing lowered moral character or standards; rotten – putrid or decomposing.

None of these definitions directly indicate swearing. (Although granted, ‘profane’ comes pretty close…) They really just paint a picture for us, both of speech patterns, and the attitudes behind them. And both are important. It’s not just about swearing. It’s about your heart. Because “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”. (Matthew 12:34)

Oh, and by the way, I said those definitions painted a picture of speech patterns – not swearing – for a reason. Why? Because swearing isn’t the only kind of speech that fits those definitions. What about complaining? Or criticism? (Well, certain kinds of criticism. There is good criticism. It’s called ‘constructive’ criticism.) In fact, negativity in general seems to fit in. Something to chew on. If you really think about it, unless your words are good for necessary edification and impart grace to the hearers, they fit the ‘don’t-say’ list. (Incidentally, right after I typed that my little brother started hollering for me and interrupted my train of thought, and I had to seriously rethink how I responded to him. Talk about practicing what I preach! [And right after I typed that, my computer froze and then restarted itself on me before I could save the document. Thank God for autosave! Still, it gave me another attitude test, that’s for sure!])

So I guess it really all boils down to this:

1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.”

We are meant to glorify our Creator, and if our speech patterns are not doing so, they need to go. And that applies to all our speech, not just swearing. But, OUCH is that hard! The tongue is one of the easiest things to be careless with. And I for one am very bad about watching what I say and how I  say it. Ugh. That’s why I need this verse:

Psalm 141:3 – “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”

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A Break for Me and a Treat for You

Okay, so I’m taking a break from writing up ponderizations this week. So you get an excerpt instead! This is an excerpt from a science fiction novel of mine (The Rebel) that is currently in the beginning stages of construction. Enjoy!

 

~~~~~

The sun grudgingly peeked its head over the horizon, gingerly fingering the barbed wire coils that crowned the brooding black walls. Its rays winked and blinked as if the sunlight had pricked itself on the uninviting barbs. I shivered in the chill November breeze. If only I had just one sweater with me… But there had been no time to pack.

“Whatever you do, stay in line.” Dad whispered out of the corner of his mouth. I managed a stiff nod, glancing sideways at the stony-faced guards posted at twenty-foot intervals against the walls. Their guns were ready, I knew that.

“Stand straight.” Dad muttered, as Commander Jetties and a train of officers filed down the ranks, eying us, the prisoners. Every few steps, Commander Jetties would find someone not to his liking. Too old, or too young, and he would motion to an officer, who would yank that unfortunate individual out of the line and clamp cuffs on him. My heart smacked against my ribs as Jetties and his men came nearer. After all, Mother and Dad weren’t so very young themselves.

“Dad, where are they taking the—“ I shut my mouth quick as the commander pulled up short in front of me. My palms and forehead began to sweat, and my stomach felt like I had swallowed an explosive fireball. Jetties’ cold, gray eyes bored into me, and I cringed. He turned his gaze to Mother and Dad, and motioned to an officer, silently moving on. Mother’s face turned pale as the officer pulled her forward, but Dad kept beside her, quietly holding her hand. His face was gray and haggard.

“No!” I couldn’t stop myself, but the stranger who stood on my right clamped a hand over my mouth before I could say anything else.

“Don’t be stupid! Do you want killed too?” he hissed in my ear. Commander Jetties gave me a scornful look, but otherwise ignored me.

‘Oh God, please! Please don’t take them away from me!’ I begged silently. I couldn’t see, couldn’t think. The fireball in my stomach lurched and rolled about, and hot tears coursed down my dirty cheeks.

* * * *

Suddenly I awoke, shivering yet drenched in sweat. ‘It was just a dream, Ally. Calm down.’ I tried to reassure myself, but the dark brought back all sorts of terrifying thoughts to me. And then memories. And they didn’t march quietly in, either. They burst into my consciousness like a mob, each clamoring for my attention. Our arrest late Christmas Eve. The screams of the children as we were herded out on the street. The concentration camp. The death, the sickness, the dirt. The huge deportment ships.

Suddenly one memory exploded on me, drowning out the cries of the others as it splashed vivid details everywhere. I could almost have sworn that I was there all over again. The guards were prodding me into a freezing unit, just one in row upon row upon row of many identical devices. I could hear the exclamations of my fellow deportees as they too were being locked inside. The interior smelled horrible, like new rubber covered in toxic chemicals. My heart hammered against my ribcage, threatening to burst out at any moment, and as usual, tears of fear marked my cheeks. Not that I wasn’t used to them. Terror gripped me as I felt both my body and mind slowly succumbing to the freezing. Half numb, I prayed one last desperate prayer before I went completely under, “Oh God, save us somehow!”

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Who You Are

“Why did God have to make me like this?” Is it just me, or does anybody else ever have days where you wonder that? Why did He make me so clumsy, so fearful, so conversationally awkward, so easily stressed-out?

But wait just a duckle-headed minute!

What defines a person? Is it their faults, or their qualities? Or…here’s an idea… What if we are defined by Christ? What if, instead of being labeled by all the dumb things we’ve done, or the sins we struggle with, we’re defined by Christ’s opinion of us? What if instead of being known as clumsy, fearful, stupid, or awkward, or whatever, we thought of ourselves as (sinful, yes, but) beautiful, loved, precious children of God? Like a song I’ve been listening to lately:

You are more than the choices that you’ve made. You are more than the sum of your past mistakes. You are more than the problems you create – you’ve been remade.”

~ You are More, Tenth Avenue North

Our faults don’t define us. Christ does. But our faults are there to turn us to Him, and to remind us that as long as we are on this earth, we will never reach perfection. God made us the way He did to teach us, and to use our struggles to draw us closer to Him. So who you are should not be cause for despair, but hope. You are who you are because God uses your struggles to refine you and make you more like Christ. Who you are is a work in progress. It’s a work of art, a beautiful masterpiece.

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One of the 26

I once heard a story about an inmate who received Christ after a pastor visited him. The pastor was very pleased, but the inmate told him, “Don’t be so proud of yourself and think you did it all. Looking back, I can count twenty-six people who got me to the point that I could receive what you had to say.”

In this day and age, the church puts a lot of emphasis on making converts. We like numbers. It seems to me that some people think that they’ve failed their faith if they don’t win at least one person to Christ. But what if we’re not supposed to worry about someone “praying the prayer” with us? What if some of us will never see the direct fruit of our labors? What if some of us are called to be the Twenty-Six?

I’m not saying we should be lazy. Far from it! But neither should we be discouraged when someone doesn’t respond. Whether we can see it or not, our words and actions may be planting seeds that others will see sprout and grow. Reminds me of 1 Corinthians 3:6-8…

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.

Some of us are called to plant the seeds, others to water them, and still others to watch as they grow and bloom. But it is God that works through us. And even if we don’t get to watch the seed sprout, it doesn’t mean we’ve failed. No matter how clumsy our efforts for Him are, He can use them. And He does. The stuttering words, the awkward attempt to encourage someone, even these can be seeds.

Let me tell you a little story, something that happened just this summer. A lady from our church was in the process of adopting a 14-(I think)-year-old girl, and she asked several of us almost-adult-girls to help her adjust, and to basically be her friend. We knew she was not a Christian, but it was our hope that in time we would be able to lead her in that direction.

I have to be honest, I did a horrible job of befriending her. I get very awkward around people I don’t know well, and when we’re both introverts it’s even worse. Long story short, I made several blunders and so many awkward silences I don’t even want to try to count them. I felt like a pretty awful witness for Christ.

Well, one evening we were having our Wednesday Bible study as usual, and she came to it with us. I don’t think she understood everything, but I think she enjoyed being there. It is our custom to split up into twos and threes after Bible study to pray for each other before we all go home, and on this particular night this girl and I and another friend ended up together. I was busy feeling awkward and trying to share my prayer request, and suddenly my other friend asked this girl if there was anything we could pray for her about. Surely the adoption was difficult – would she like us to pray about that? She gave a half shrug, and mumbled something to the effect that it didn’t matter. And suddenly I realized just how very much she was hurting. And for the first time I felt like I understood her. Even more so as, during our prayers for her, she cried a little.

Is it possible that it made an impact on her? I don’t know for certain. Not very long after that, some things happened and the adoption fell through. And I was painfully conscious of the fact that I had not been as good a friend as I ought to have been, and now she was gone. I probably won’t ever see her again. It might look like our efforts were wasted. But what if we were just part of the Twenty-Six? What if God’s plan was for us to plant the seeds that would someday grow to fruition? No, I don’t think the time was wasted.

Whew. All that to say don’t be afraid of rejection when you try to reach people. We can’t know just how much we’re impacting them. And who knows – maybe God is using you as one of the Twenty-Six.

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