Archive for the ‘Joy of Language’ Category

You know about Water Aerobics and Step Aerobics (made easy, nonetheless, though I would beg to differ with semantics of “easy” on this video). What about Chair Aerobics? Gospel Aerobics? Swedish Dance Aerobics? And one that I might actually be able to keep up with, Senior Fitball Aerobics.

I actually have a very strong aversion to anything with the word “aerobic” in it. But this morning, my brain went down a funny path and ended up with a bizarre picture of “Rock Aerobics”.

I’ll warn you, if rabbit trails drive you nuts, this is probably not a post you should read.

Growing up, my Mom had an old painting that hung on the wall by our dining room table. It wasn’t the painting, but the words below it that impressed me:

Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”

I liked the sound of the word Hitherto. I liked the way the whole phrase sounded. This painting has come back to my mind through the years for a variety of reasons.

To this point in time, God has been faithful to me. I suppose it can sound funny, as if there is some doubt about whether or not God will continue to be faithful a moment beyond “this point in time”. But, for me, the past is the most certainly known thing there is. And there is both a comfort and a confidence in recognizing and specially acknowledging the faithfulness of God, hitherto.

The future can freak me out a little bit if I think about it too hard. But the past. That I can see clearly, and usually calmly. I’ve walked through some pretty hideous things. I’m still walking through some pretty hard things. I have questions, struggles and doubts. But up to this very point, I’m still comfortable affirming the faithfulness of God in my life. That makes the future a little less uncertain.

I don’t have to know the future or justify ahead of time how the faithfulness of God is going to look. All I know is today, I can look back on things, and I can look right up to this very point, and I can still say, “Thus far (the NIV’s version of Hitherto) the Lord has helped me.”

All of that has nothing to do with rock aerobics. It’s just that the main direction I wanted to go with this post had to do with that verse, and that verse reminds me of that painting my Mom had and makes me wish I had a nice work of art with those words on it, in my house.

This morning I was looking up all the occurrences of the Hebrew word ezer for a friend of mine who is going to be teaching a Bible study. I’m not a Hebrew scholar, so I feel a bit nervous trying to talk about something I don’t know a lot about in such a public place. But here goes, a rabbit trailer’s thoughts on ezer.

One of the Bible studies my friend is teaching is on the life of Eve. In Genesis 2, God notices that it is not good for Adam to be alone and decides to create an ezer, often translated helpmate, for Adam. So, as my friend and I talked about all the other uses of ezer in the Old Testament, we got to wondering where on earth the idea started that ezer/helpmeet meant someone who defines their life by the one they are helping. Most of the uses of the word ezer refer to God as helper.

In most contexts, when we talk of helping someone, we are thinking of someone who is disadvantaged in some way, and the one helping has an advantage–an ability to help the other where they are in need. Being a helper is not usually about defining myself and all that I do exclusively in terms of what the other person needs. God helps us, for sure. But that looks very different from how I hear people talk about a wife helping her husband. And, that’s still not the point of my post.

Looking up ezer got me to notice the meaning of a couple of other words, names, actually, that have ezer in them. Eliezer, God is my help. And Ebenezer, stone of help.

Ebenezer is what Samuel named the place where he placed a stone memorial commemorating the help of the Lord. I Samuel 7:12:

Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.

So, while I was talking to my friend and making the connection between ezer and Ebenezer, she began to sing a line from the hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”:

Here I raise mine Ebenezer…

And that line suddenly struck me as very funny. I’m thinking it is referring to “raise” as in “build” or “construct”, but when I hear “raise” my mind goes first to a picture of lifting something up. Like raising a banner or a flag. I’m guessing if I stopped to picture anything when I’ve sung that line, it must have been along the lines of the hand motions that go to: “Joy is a flag flown high from the castle of my heart…So raise it high in the sky….”

If you don’t know those motions, at the point where you sing “raise it high” everybody starts lifting their arms up and down and then waving them from side to side. Like an exercise class.

Only, now that I stop and think about what an Ebenezer is, if we’re all raising an Ebenezer, it’s going to be a big old rock that’s being lifted up and down. And that brought to mind a picture of a Rock Aerobics class, to the tune of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”.

So, there you have it. Whether you wanted it or not. A glimpse into how my brain works and jumps all around (Ha, brain aerobics are actually the only kind I, personally, can tolerate.)


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(to me, at least)

I am reading a book called The Body Remembers, which is helping me understand a bit more about how my memory works–both why I apparently (so they tell me) remember things so well, and why I have such a propensity to post-traumatic stress. Fascinating stuff, and I am enjoying the book and the things that are clicking and making sense to me as I read, though I am only on page 37, where I discovered this fun poem by a Danish poet, Piet Hein:

Rhyme and Reason

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe,
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.
But try as she would she could never detect
which was the cause and which the effect.

Piet Hein. What a fascinating guy. Not, perhaps, your ordinary poet. Fascinating enough that he wrote his poetry in several different languages. I also discovered that he:

…was a genius with many different sides. In addition to discovering the Soma cube, he created a new geometrical form, the “super-ellipse”, which is something in between the rectangle and the ellipse. The form also came in a 3D version and was then called “the super egg” or “the super-ellipsoide”. As an artist and constructor, Piet Hein in the 50’s and 60’s gave form to beautiful pieces of furniture, and he contributed to make “Scandinavian design” become an international conception. Internationally he always tried building a bridge between the “hard” technical and natural sciences and the “soft” humanistic subjects.

Here a few more of his poems, known, for some reason I haven’t looked up yet, as “Grooks”:

Problems worthy
of attack
prove their worth
by hitting back.

(I’ve got a few problems like that, which obsessively and obnoxiously seem to keep trying to prove their worth!)

This is a brilliant idea, I think:

Whenever you’re called on to make up your mind,
and you’re hampered by not having any,
the best way to solve the dilemma, you’ll find,
is simply by spinning a penny.
No – not so that chance shall decide the affair
while you’re passively standing there moping;
but the moment the penny is up in the air,
you suddenly know what you’re hoping.

And finally, this one, which gave me a smile for how relevant an encouragement it was to me tonight:

Put up in a place
where it’s easy to see
the cryptic admonishment
When you feel how depressingly
slowly you climb,
it’s well to remember that
Things Take Time.

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Another semantic pondering.

What do you see as the difference between these two words: disillusionment and disappointment?

Have you experienced more of one or the other?

Which do you think is harder to get over and why?

Do you prefer experiencing one to the other (not that we have much choice in life, do we? But, hypothetically, if you were given a choice, would you or could you have a preference?)

How do you walk through them differently?

How do these affect your relationships differently–interpersonal relationships as well as your relationship with God?

In relationship to God, have you struggled with either disappointment or disillusionment? With one more than the other?

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…my second language.

Praise Jesus sigh blog


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Well, that may not be the point of the poem I read today, but when I read it, and my brain did its thing of connecting the feeling I got when I read it with any similar feelings, I ended up with a hodgepodge in my head with these three things overlapping, and the word “forgiveness” holding them all together:

Matthew 18:21,22 (Peter and Jesus)
I Corinthians 13 (Paul)
“Addition” (Langston Hughes)


7 x 7 + love =
An amount
Infinitely above:
7 x 7 – love.

(from The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, p. 229)

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Once again, I am thinking about semantics and would appreciate your input. Don’t feel you have to answer all of the questions that follow in order to comment. Any response will be greatly appreciated, whether it directly answers one of the questions or comes at the topic from an angle I have not thought to ask about. Feel free to ask other questions in response.

Before I start asking, I know that this way of thinking with incessant and nit picky questioning frustrates and annoys some people. If you are one of those people, I hope you will bear with me or temporarily ignore me for this post, and then come back when I’m less annoying to you 🙂 . This is the way my brain thinks and sorts through things. It is not the only way nor necessarily the best way. But, it is how I think. And I find it helpful to be able to do so out loud and invite other people to contribute to what I am processing.

Now for some of my questions:

How do you define grief and mourning? How do you see them as similar and different?

Can a person get “stuck” in one or both of these states, and if so, how does that look? Is there a connection between grief or mourning and depression? Or is the loss of hope in depression something quite distinct from prolonged grief or mourning?

Can joy and peace coexist with one of these more easily than with the other? How about faith and hope? Do you think these “positive” emotions alleviate or relieve grief or mourning? If not, how do you see grief or mourning looking different with the presence of joy, peace, faith or hope, compared to the sadness of grief or mourning without joy, peace, faith or hope?

Are the sad genres of music more expressions of grief or mourning? Or something else?

What other similar words do you think of which fit into the same general domain? How do you see these words overlapping or contrasting?

When I read through the Psalms and the prophets, there is a frequent expression of sad emotions, which I think of as “lament”. Do you think such lamenting is expressing more grief or mourning, or does the word “lament” imply any expression of anguish, regardless of the type or degree of anguish?

Do you think people in general are more comfortable with either grief or mourning? What are some of the emotions that are stirred up in you as you see people walking through either grief or mourning? What is it about either of those emotions that is disconcerting or uncomfortable?

What do you think are some appropriate responses to either grief or mourning? Do they call for different or similar responses? (Admittedly, formulaic responses are rarely helpful, and that is not what I’m trying to establish here. I’m more thinking about generally the needs and pain being expressed by grief or mourning and whether one’s heart response would be different when listening to or sharing in grief vs. mourning).

Is either grief or mourning a more lonely place? Is one or the other more easily to enter into with another person or group of people?

What are some expressions of either grief or mourning which have moved you deeply–personal stories, memoirs, memorials, songs, poems? I’d love to hear either general categories or specific examples.

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On this first day of spring break, my children are staying an extra day with their dad. I’ve been meandering my way through work I need to do and restfulness I need to have. In the middle of doing some cleaning, there was a holler at my front door, “Mailman”. Hooray, my package from Amazon had arrived!

I had a certificate for Amazon money, and placed an order last week. Some time ago,  somebody’s blog somewhere (I’m thinking, if my memory serves me right, it might have been Musings of a Christian Psychologist), introduced me to the poetry of Langston Hughes.

I’ve never been too great at understanding poetry. But, every once in a while, I’m surprised to find how the poems of a particular artist resonate deeply around in my heart, putting beautiful words to some of my complicated thoughts and feelings and making me ponder and feel things I’d never otherwise have thought about.

Ruth Bell Graham was one of those types of poets. I realized, as I looked up more of Langston Hughes’ poetry, that he was another. So, into my Amazon shopping cart went The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, just waiting for the day I had some Amazon money sitting around. By the time that day came, the other item in my cart was the CD Long Walk to Freedom, by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, of South Africa.

617 pages of Langston Hughes’ poems and nearly a hundred more pages of notes. How nice. Some of his poems make me laugh. Some are astoundingly simple. Some of his poems make me feel like crying. Some disturb me deeply. What a nice treat to have so many different emotions stirred in little tiny bits.

It’s time for me to end my little pause, reading random poems and listening to beautifully stirring music. I’ve got work to get back to, but I leave you with one of Langston Hughes’ poems. It is impossible, I think, to find one poem that represents the variety in his work, so this one is chosen for no deep purpose other than that I just read it, and it made me smile at how simply he states a seldom admitted, but quite profound reality.

It Gives Me Pause

I would like to be a sinner
Sinning just for fun
But I always suffer so
When I get my sinning done.

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