Spread the Word

...observations and ramblings from a learner and traveler...

23 October 2016

Without Works - An attempt to offend people!

 I teach English to a bunch of Translation Studies students, and I am constantly alert for 'authentic material' for them to read or listen to. So, when I came across Martin Luther's Open Letter on Translating, I decided to see if it had anything of use. It really didn't, for my context. However, amid his excellent case for meaning-in-context-based translation instead of a word-by-word translation, he explained why he had translated a phrase in Galatians in a particular way instead of a 'less offensive' way. These comments followed, expressing clearly the distinction between Luther's theology and the Roman church's which he opposed:    

...the phrase "without the works of the law" is so ever offensive, and scandalous that no amount of revision can help it. 

Gracious, St. Paul and I want to offend like this for we preach so strongly against works, insisting on faith alone for no other reason than to offend people that they might stumble and fall and learn that they are not saved by good works but only by Christ's death and resurrection.

- Luther, Martin. An Open Letter on Translating. Kindle Edition.

15 September 2016

WWII, a little girl, and a father

  Our family has a friend who brings the kids books when he visits. He visits regularly and particularly brings books that help us educate the girls. The girls particularly love the Usbourne Flap books - we've been through large swaths of history using these books, and they make history memorable. Today, I was reading "See Inside The Second World War" to my oldest; she was impacted and I was impacted. I've read a lot about WWII over the years and heard a couple first-hand accounts, but reading through it summarized in a this way made an impression.

  Of course, she wanted to know about the 'good guys' and the 'bad guys,' and there were plenty of bad guys. Even she could understand the horror of people groups, cultures, and entire cities being wiped out, of people inventing so many ways to kill each other faster. It got overwhelming, so we quit for today. For her, things sank in when I told her that her great-great-uncle had been killed in WWII in an airplane; for me, the horror sank in as I calculated that the 60 million deaths that were cited were as if someone died from war every 3 seconds, for the six years of the war. For the equivalent of my daughter's life, every 3 seconds someone dying because of the hatred and greed and fear and ambition of humanity. When we finish reading the book, maybe we'll talk about some good guys - she had a great-grandfather who fought and quietly carried the scars for life, as well as another great-great-uncle who helped open the concentration camps.

  History is impacting, even for kids; these books are a great way to share the history of humanity good and bad.

12 September 2016

The Closing Blessing's (Benediction's) ancient purpose

Regarding Israel's worship, during the Old Testament period:

A part of every gathering of the community was the blessing with which they were dismissed. This should not be thought of as merely a solemn concluding ceremony; the entire service of worship was concerned with blessing. When the priest at the conclusion pronounces Yahweh's blessing on the community, he does it so that all those who are scattering to their own homes may take with them the blessing of God that has characterized the entire sacred service. The psalms of blessing show this clearly.

- Claus Westermann,  Blessing in the Bible and the Life of the Church, pg 37.

  As I have studied, the biblical theology of blessing, Claus Westermann and James McKeown have been the two authors who have been most helpful to me in their various writings. This excerpt seemed particularly relevant and clear beyond it's context within the book.

27 August 2016

Roaring Waters (Şile) & Robed Majesty (on High)

  I may blog some highlights from our time visiting Şile with family. However, the waves provided insight into  passages of Scripture which have never stood out to me before: the ones about the roaring of waters and the charcter of God. Then, I 'stumbled upon' the psalm below. I'll include my two observations as captions for the pictures.

The roar of the waves is constant and unfading, only our consciousness of it fades.

            The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty;
                        the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt.
            Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
            Your throne is established from of old;
                        you are from everlasting.
            The floods have lifted up, O LORD,
                        the floods have lifted up their voice;
                        the floods lift up their roaring.
            Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
                        mightier than the waves of the sea,
                        the LORD on high is mighty!
            Your decrees are very trustworthy;
                        holiness befits your house,
                        O LORD, forevermore.

                       (Psalm 93 ESV, emphasis added)

Before the roar of the waters, minor sounds fade or disappear. 

11 August 2016

Patriotism vs. Nationalism: America & the Olympics

 So, as I said before, I'm watching the Olympics.  Plus, I love America (and other peoples).

  I also love reading the stories of great athletes who either have overcome great difficulty to be at the Olympics or who have achieved greatly. A couple stories stood out to me in this cycle, and I'd strongly encourage you to read them, and then I'd encourage you to listen deeply to the meaning of those stories, especially if you are American!

 Listen to the stories of Ibtihaj Muhammad and Yoshihiro Uchida. At first glance, you may here the story of the American dream succeeding - America, Land of Opportunity! But, if you listen a little longer, you will hear a different story: you will hear a story of success through hardship, often unnecessary hardship driven by prejudice or difference. Yes, these are people who succeeded against great odds, but this is also a story of a country that has still not lived up to its own ideals of being a welcoming land of opportunity to all. Fascinatingly, both of these stories are stories of patriots, people who have lived through dark sides of America, people who know that America has not reached her ideal, but who have not abandoned that ideal in their own lives. May we learn to be better humans and better Americans, through their lives.

May she be a  great bridge, not a blip!

96 years old, still mentoring!

Henry Van Dyke summarized my personal view of a proper patriotism in a line from his poem, "America for Me":

We love our land for what she is and what she is to be.

This is a view that does not deny the broken places but does not deny the good places either. May we be honest patriots and not blind nationalists! May we pursue both justice and peace, truth and grace!

TCK Olympics

 I am a TCK; for those of you who might not know what that means, it means that I spent a significant part of my formative childhood years in a country (Suriname) other than my passport country (the USA). However, TCK stands for Third-Culture-Kid... in other words, kids like me grow up odd: we don't quite fit either country or culture, but are a mix of both. There's all sorts of stuff that I 'should know' from high school, as an American, that I simply missed. Anyways, all that's important because otherwise it becomes odd to say, 'I love America' in the next, related post.  I, also, love Suriname, as well as my country of adoption, Turkey. They have taught me much that I'd never have known if I'd only been American.

 I'm watching the Olympics, for example, and my past gives me a variety of countries to root for; and mostly their areas of competition don't overlap too much, so I can root for all my countries. While I love watching Americans win medals (especially swimming), probably my favorite experience in the Olympics is watching someone earn a gold medal for the first time ever for their country! Most of my life in Suriname was lived with the banknote below as part of the national currency.  Who's that? ANTHONY NESTY: first ever Surinamese Olympic medalist and, four years later, first ever gold medalist! Hero!

This year, at least four countries have won their first medal, and I got to watch Hoang Xuan Vinh win a gold medal as the first medalist for Vietnam! Great experience! What could be more fun to watch than this?

Is it any wonder he's emotional?

23 July 2016

The Honor Competition

  Have you ever considered this command? 'Outdo one another in showing honor.' (10) It is one of a series of commands in Romans 12; and a bit later in the chapter comes this, 'Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.' (17) And, in the next chapter, concerning the governing authorities, it is written that Christ's followers are to give 'honor to whom honor is owed.' (13:7) Finally, Romans 16:1-2 gives the receivers of this letter of Paul's to put this into practice: 'welcome [Phoebe] in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints.'

  How can we put this command into action in our own lives? How do we excel in honoring those around us? This is Gospel inversion, competition turned on its head: compete to make someone else the honored one; try to be the best at putting everyone else's advancement ahead of your own.

(cf: 2 Cor 8:21; Ps 15:4)
An example of giving a teammate honor:

Or, another example that I couldn't embed.

20 July 2016

Trouble: the source of literature and song

Why and when are the beauties of culture and land preserved in writing  and legend?

"But of bliss and glad life there is little to be said, before it ends; as works fair and wonderful, while they endure for eyes to see, are their own record, and only when they are in peril or broken for ever do they pass into song."

- The Silmarillion, "Of the Sindar." Tolkien

27 June 2016

The Courage to Teach

  Parker Palmer's The Courage to Teach has been a very insightful and strengthening book as I have been reading it, seeking to learn more about teaching. If we imagine teaching as both a science and an art, the author speaks more to the art side, the heart side. Certainly there are other perspectives that might balance his, but what he presents is quite beautiful.

  So much of what Palmer says rings true to the greater human experience, not simply to the vocation of teaching. He speaks of what it means to have a vocation, what it means to change, and what it means to interact deeply with those who see or have experienced the world in ways different from how you have. I hope these extracts interest you in his book.

... Frederick Buechner offers a more generous and humane image of vocation as “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” In a culture that sometimes equates work with suffering, it is revolutionary to suggest that the best inward sign of vocation is deep gladness— revolutionary but true. If a work is mine to do, it will make me glad over the long haul, despite the difficult days. Even the difficult days will ultimately gladden me, because they pose the kinds of problems that can help me grow in a work if it is truly mine.

In classical understanding, education is the attempt to “lead out” from within the self a core of wisdom that has the power to resist falsehood and live in the light of truth, not by external norms but by reasoned and reflective self-determination. The inward teacher is the living core of our lives that is addressed and evoked by any education worthy of the name.

...the self is not a scrap of turf to be defended but a capacity to be enlarged.

Otherness, taken seriously, always invites transformation, calling us not only to new facts and theories and values but also to new ways of living our lives— and that is the most daunting threat of all.

(Palmer, Parker J. . The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life (p. 31, 32, 39). Emphases mine.

01 June 2016

what is 'a progress'? or, 'a royal progress'?

  As I read a chapter in a book this evening in preparation for a class I am to teach tomorrow, I came across the idea that Queen Elizabeth I would make a 'progress' from time to time.  The first time I read this, I glanced at the explanation in parentheses which commented '(entry).' But as I kept reading it became clear that 'a progress' was something more than that - it was, in fact, some sort of official trip apparently.  Indeed, once I started looking, Merriam-Webster provided the clarity I needed.  It says that a progress can be both a royal and a non-royal journey.

  With a nudge from the book, I made the connection to Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress and thus made sense of a title that has never made a ton of sense to me. (When I checked to see if my wife knew this tidbit, she promptly guessed it; maybe that's why I am sharing it here.) :)