“You Have the Power”

Words, we know, are powerful things. Edward Bulwer-Lytton worded it wonderfully with the phrase, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Writers and public speakers, and other assorted wordsmiths all know this, and often turn to the penned word for inspiration. The written word also provides opportunities for vocabulary building, and for experiencing alternative turns of phrase.

But the spoken word offers even more! It provides the nuances, rhythms, and modulations which enrich the linguistic art. Great speakers should read (by all means yes), but even more – they must listen.

Once this process of infilling (by pen and voice) is entered into, it becomes your turn to take the words to a new level. To give them life. Maya Angelou reflected that, “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.”

So, be a student of words, let the vocal variety of others wash over you and fill you with their wonder. Then, add your unique contribution to the chain of linguistic beauty. You, yes you, have the power.

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All the believers were one in heart and mind.

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“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” (Peter Scholte)

This was one of the first “Modern” Christian songs I learned as a teenager.  It marks an incredible truth about Christians – we are one!  So much is made of denominational differences, and petty theological concerns, that we often forget that.  In the beginning it wasn’t that way. Acts 4:32 clearly demonstrates this: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had (NIV).”  Which is a continuation of Acts 2: “44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Unity isn’t something to be “some day restored.” It is something for the here and now. Jesus sought this for us, and even prayed for it in John 17:20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one,Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

We are one with Christ.  Therefore we should be one with each other.  Hebrews 13 needs to be our maxim: “Let brotherly love continue.”

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Plain Speaking?

George Orwell was a champion of the concise. He was an advocate for what we would now call the plain English campaign. He famously said, “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.” Another of his maxims was, “Never use a long word where a short one will do.” Fair enough, be brief and to the point.

He also said, “Never use a foreign phrase a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.” Some may argue the value of such a view. It would follow that the plain, straight-forward English terminology will be more accessible to an audience. But, will it be as rich or entertaining? Is there a place for a familiar jargon term? Might a well explained foreign word add to your verbal imagery?

In the end, the choice is yours. Each speaker must find their own voice. For some it will be “The short sharp snap of clear Anglo-Saxon words.” For others it will be “A flowing repertoire of exotic verbiage which taunts and teases the intellect.”

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Justice versus Mercy

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Justice is the state of fair and equal treatment.  We often think of something as just if it achieves this standard of equality.  When it comes to justice though we are ultimately “unequal” or balanced in our views of its implementation.  If there has been a crime, we cry for justice.  Often what we mean is we want the perpetrator to suffer because the victim has.  That is retribution and may or may not be just.

When it comes to our own crimes and misdemeanors, we are not so ready to call out to the world for justice to be done.  In fact, what we seek is mercy.  God has shown that mercy to us when He sent His son to pay the fine for us.  The disciple asked Jesus, “How often shall I forgive?  Seven times?”  Jesus’ response was seventy times seven.  Forgive when forgiveness is sought! The Lord’s Prayer reminds us of this principle, “forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us (Matthew 6:12 NLT).”

Next time we find ourselves lighting the torches and gathering the pitchforks, let’s remember that justice must be tempered with mercy.

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God Knows

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There is a rabbinic story about a religious teacher who returns home from a long journey.

“When he opened the door of his house, he greeted his wife warmly and went straight to the crib of his son. The baby stretched out his pudgy little arms and gurgled: “Gooaaghhgoogoo.” “Ah, my little boy,” said the teacher’s wife, “you want some milk! Come!” And she took him on her arm and went to the kitchen.

The man was amazed. “How did you know what he wanted? Those ‘goohgahgooh’ sounds are all the same to me!” “But not to me,” said the mother of the little boy with a smile. “I am with him day and night, so I know exactly what he means with his different goohs and gaahs and what he wants . . .”

“You know,” she continued to muse aloud, “I thought about this when I was praying. G‑d knows what we, His children, want from Him, even if our speech is not perfect . . . , as long as we pray sincerely.”

How true.  Matthew 6:8b-13 sums it up well with Jesus’ words:

“. . . for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Need we say more?

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“The ‘Energetic’ Unruliness of the English Tongue.”

 

In the preface of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary of 1755, he remarks on the ‘energetic’ unruliness of the English tongue. English is a language of contradictions and puzzlements for those using it. One mouse is mouse, two “mouse” are mice; one house is house, but two “house” are not hice. One goose is goose, two “goose” are geese; one moose is moose, two moose are not meese.

These contradictions have been reflected upon by others: “It’s a strange world of language in which skating on thin ice can get you into hot water (Franklin P. Jones),”and “Our language is funny — a fat chance and slim chance are the same thing (J. Gustav White),” are just some examples.

Then there is the problem of which witch is which? Their cat was there, so they’re staying. English allows you to have read (past tense) a red book.

English is a living language and as such has growing pains. You might well feel sick (ill), while your new car might be sick (really good) at the same time. Of course you might have made a misstake which of course would be [sic].

We also have the great divide of British and American usage. Is it a flat or an apartment? Or is the thing that is flat a tire or a tyre?

Johnson’s 40,000 word dictionary was indeed unruly, but today our language is measured at about 171,476 words (Oxford English Dictionary). English speakers borrow words, mutate words, and sometime just invent words (does George W. Bush come to mind)? We have pajamas from Urdu, and zeitgeist from German. We can have pandemonium (coined by Milton) or eat things described rather than named like orange fruit (now shortened to just orange) or pineapple (a fruit “apple” that looks like a pine cone). We range from “a” and “I” as words to “antidisestablishmentarianism.” Now that is “energetic!”

Communication is an adventure. It doesn’t matter if it is one on one, or as a public address. Have fun with it. Let this “energetic unruliness” be your playground.

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To Know

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There is a problem when it comes to faith.  You can’t prove it.  Hebrews 11:1 sums it up thus, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Brother Rich remarked on this in Sunday’s message.  He noted that Abraham followed through by faith to be “a pioneer,” rather than “a settler” like Terah.

Faith is a belief in which you have complete confidence.  It has all the hallmarks of truth, though you may never be able to “prove” it to another.  Faith is in a sense, “to know.” I may believe a certain team may win a championship.  I doubt most people would “bet the farm” on it, much less wager their very existence. But faith does call for such commitments.  It transforms lives.  It takes risks.  It is beyond mere belief.

Christianity calls on people to daily take up a cross and follow.  While the injunction is (at least these days) seldom literal, it does require living in certain ways. These ways may not make sense to the secular world around you, but they are consistent with the call of God.

Lord, help us to step out on faith today.

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Off the Cuff

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Mark Twain is said to have remarked, “It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” The ability to formulate your ideas quickly and accurately is a useful skill.  Whether  as part of “the world of work” or in religious evangelism, the ability to assess the situation and give a response “in and out of season” is essential for success.

Formal presentations, sales pitches, and job interviews are all forms of interpersonal communication. Each has its own set of challenges, and expectations. Speaking “off the cuff” is not always the most effective approach to making the big sale, or getting your ideas noticed by the boss. Even job interviews require a little preparation in anticipating key questions, rehearsing and polishing your own verbal resume, and knowing something about the company and position you are applying for. Preparation is a key feature of speaking. Having at least an outline of your main points and ideas helps you “think on your feet.” And, of course, some addresses really need the polish of practice. So remember – frame, practice, refine, and present.

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Inflect for Effect

Tips: Using Inflection

The way you modulate your voice sends clear messages to your audience. Lowering your tone at the end of a sentence makes it more powerful. It also gives the sense of sincerity to your statement.

An upward inflection at the end of a sentence, gives the impression of questioning. Using upward tones in the middle of a sentence, on the other hand, makes the sentence more interesting. It also calls attention to the points you intend to highlight.

The words we use are only part of the messages we send. Inflection adds to the power and emphasis of our statements. Let’s examine the sentence, “I didn’t kiss your wife.” The stress that is placed on each word can transform its meaning.

“[I] didn’t kiss your wife.” Not I, but whom?

“I [didn’t] kiss your wife.” I would never betray you like that.

“I didn’t [kiss] your wife.” I will never tell what we actually got up to.
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“I didn’t kiss [your] wife.” Someone else’s wife is a totally different story.

“I didn’t kiss your [wife].” How is your sister doing these days, by the way?

Modulation gives added meaning and power to your words. Be sure to inflect for effect.

 

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True Leadership

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True leadership is not coercion. It should not function as a “might makes right” affair. True leaders demonstrate, motivate, and inspire their followers. A word of praise or encouragement, and a sparkling example of what is expected make for great outcomes. The UK Ambassador, Ian Whitting summed it up perfectly, ” To lead is to inspire.”

The Bible makes this principle clear.  In Matthew 20:26, Jesus told His disciples not to lord over one another: “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.”  He later went on to put this teaching into practice with a powerful example,  He washed their feet.  Afterwards He said, ‘“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet” (John 13).’ 

Jesus inspired.  He led from the front with His examples. He was clear with His expectations and humble in His execution of His plans.   So friends let’s remember friends and leaders that “followerhip” is not owed to you.  It is not your role or title (Pastor, Rabbi, Teacher, or Father) that makes you a leader.  It is your words and examples. True leadership inspires!

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