Pastoral Ponderings…Oct/Nov 2015

Dear God,

I’m staring at this page.  It’s a blank canvass.

Actually, it’s not completely blank.  By the time I’ve gotten this far there are 122 symbols typed upon this blank canvass…symbols which we have come to know as members of the alphabet; the alphabet itself being made up of 26 symbols which we call letters.

It’s ironic to note that these letters are not, by one definition, really letters.  A letter is a collection of these 26 symbols/letters arranged in a manner which makes sense to a group of people.  Therefore, a letter is not a letter, no matter how many letters of the alphabet there may be on a page of the letter, unless the letters are arranged in the letter in a manner which makes sense to a specific group of people.  So you see, Lord…even something as simple as the word/s “letter” and “letters” can be confusing.

As far as I know every language has the same interesting confusion on words.  You know my wife, Carm, and I have four children.  Our oldest son, Ben, is in Vietnam teaching English.  In June our oldest daughter, Lexi, went to visit and came back with a fun story which she shared with me…

“Hi Daddy.  On our trip to Ha Long in Vietnam we had the nicest guide whose name was Mi (pronounced, “me”).  At the end of the week he was talking about the complexity of the Vietnamese language.  He told us that an interesting example was his own name, “Mi”.  Depending on the intonation of the speaker, “Mi” could mean “Beautiful”, “America”, or “Porridge”.  He also noted that the word for “thank you”, Kam Un, can mean “thank you”, or “shut up!”  .

Katie and I paused for a moment and then I said, “Well, let me get this right.  Do you mean that all week long when we’ve been speaking in Vietnamese and saying, “Kam Un, Mi”, we were actually saying, “Shut up, Porridge”?  He told us that, yes, because of our intonation we had, in fact, said that several times to him…but he so much appreciated our effort!

It’s no surprise to you that communication is nothing short of miraculous when it comes off without a hitch.  I do lots of marriage counseling where the foundation of the problems is oftentimes a matter of communication.  The intent is there…it’s just that something gets mixed up in the communication.  Of course, that’s not the case in my marriage…but others, you know, likely struggle.  Carm and I always find ourselves on the same page in terms of communication.  (Don’t fact-check me on that.)

So, what’s this all about, you’re asking?

Well, for one thing, I think it’s important for us to be able to appreciate the complexities of communication: something which (on the surface) should be an easy task.  It’s also important for us to be able to muse or laugh at the mistakes made in communication.  Remember the story of when Carm and I carried on a conversation…she talking about a Kuerig (coffeemaker) while I thought she was talking about a carrot?  That’s become a classic in our home!

I also see times when your communication to me has gotten a bit cloudy.  For instance, you could ask me the question, “Which part of love your enemies didn’t you understand?”  Or you could ask, “Did I mince words when I was giving you the Commandments?”  Or you might say, “Are the words Forgive, Humble, or Repent that complex?”  When you put things that way I guess there’s not much room for me to try to wiggle out of my responsibilities to listen and do what you’ve told me to do.  I guess it would be fair to say that you generally communicate pretty clearly with me, but I’m not sure I always try to understand or act on the things you always tell me.

So, here’s my prayer of the day: it’s quite simple.  In my heart of hearts I know what you’ve told me to do and how to live.  You’ve clearly communicated that to me.  Now, I pray, help me to do it.

As always, Kam Un, God!  Thanks for listening.                                                Dan