Monday, June 23, 2014

Which is Better?


In the city of Philippi some 2,000 years ago, Paul, Silas, Timothy, Luke and others were walking the busy streets spreading the Gospel. They had established headquarters at Lydia’s house. She was a new convert, a successful business woman, and so she wanted to take care of these bold missionaries with the astonishing message. Actually, a church was established in her home.

Well, as Paul and his colleagues were preaching and teaching in the street, a servant girl who brought in a lot of money by fortune-telling, latched onto their ministry. To make herself look good and to tap into the large crowds, she cried out repeatedly, “These are servants of God who can tell you how to be saved.” Paul was irritated but let the woman go on like this for a while—after all, she was speaking the truth. But, when he and the others had enough of this constant diatribe, Paul turned to her and cast out the demon motivating her, thereby losing a lot of money for her handlers.

So, they told the city magistrates Paul and Silas were stirring up people with talk not legal for Romans to hear. Without a trial, the officials had them publically whipped and thrown into the innermost part of jail, shackling their legs. The stalwart pair was undaunted. About midnight, they were praying aloud and singing hymns (in harmony, no doubt) and an earthquake came, knocking down the prison gates and making the leg chains of no effect. The Roman guard was so alarmed he would have fallen on his sword if Paul had not stopped him. “We are all here. Do not harm yourself,” he said. Seeing the power, the jailer said, “What do I have to do to be saved?” So Paul witnessed to him, he accepted the message, took the twosome home with him, washed their wounds and gave them an early breakfast. The jail birds ended up baptizing everyone in the house and scripture tells us the jailer was filled with joy.

The magistrates realized they had made a mistake and sent word to release them. But Paul said, let them come personally escort us away. “We are Roman citizens and we were mistreated without a trial.” Well, the officials came running and apologetically escorted them out, telling them to leave town. They did not leave town right away, but went to Lydia’s house and strengthened the brothers there.

A lot of points could be drawn out of the story from Acts 16, but what stands out to me today is the fact that Paul and Silas went by a Higher Law than provincial rules and regulations. They did not fear what man could do to them. It reminded me of Peter and John after they were told by authorities not to teach in the name of Jesus. They kept on doing so and remarked, “Which should we do, obey man or God?” How do we answer that one?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Angle-ish


Tribal people who spoke an early variety of German left northern Europe in search of a better climate and settled on the British Isles. They were the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes. The Jutes faded out or were assimilated, but the Angles and the Saxons dominated the islands for a long time, speaking their guttural Germanic language we call Anglo-Saxon. Then, in 1066, William the Conqueror, a French-speaker from Normandy, invaded, won and proclaimed that important business of the government and court in Angle-land (England) must be carried on in French, but that the Anglo-Saxon peasants (mainly women, since the men had been killed in battle) were not worthy of the lofty language called French.

Professor Elliot Engle of North Carolina State University further simplifies this condensed view of history by saying something like the following. The victorious French soldiers saw that land was cheap in the newly-conquered country so they asked the courts if they might buy some land and live in England. Yes, of course, was the answer. Then, seeing that the Anglo-Saxon widows were very pretty, they asked if they could marry one of the peasant women. Again, the answer from the French authorities was affirmative. Then the question came. Well, if I marry an Anglo-Saxon peasant woman, I will have to teach her French. Would that be permissible? The answer was emphatic: absolutely not. We do not want our wonderful language in the mouths of those women. So, the soldiers asked the next question. Well, then, if I cannot teach her French, I will have to learn that awful Anglo-Saxon language. And the magistrates said, no, we will not have our Frenchmen speaking that guttural garbage. Just marry the woman and soon the most important words in both languages will emerge and you will be able to conduct household business that way.

And, oversimplified as it may be, that is exactly what happened. The English language is not Latin at its base at all. It is Germanic. We get our Latin from the French, which, like Italian, Spanish and Romanian, is a variety of the Latin tongue, because Julius Caesar required most conquered countries to speak his native tongue. England is a glaring exception to that rule. I guess Caesar thought those islands would ever amount to anything.

Anyway, the result of the marriage of French and Anglo-Saxon was that the entire vocabularies of those languages were thrown into a pot and stirred. Because of that, English has more vocabulary than any other language on earth, more than a half-million words. No other language even comes close. That is why we can say things in such a variety of ways. The French look for the perfect words for the thought. English just flops something out there and reiterates it until understanding comes.

Chinese is the most spoken language on earth, but English is still number one because it is the language of business, commerce and travel. I am told that all pilots and ship captains speak English in communicating with each other and with control entities. I have also heard that English teachers are in demand in China.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sundays in Choudrant


My father’s sister Lucille died and her husband, Uncle Curt, was left to support her half-sister, Leona and his own sister, Sarah. Leona was quite elderly but her mind was crisp and alert. Sarah was a precise and dedicated housekeeper and gardener. These three lived as pioneers out in the country near Choudrant, La. Uncle Curt tried to stay abreast of the modern world. He was one of the first in the community to get electricity and he had a Kaiser automobile and a Ford truck. He still kept his horse for plowing, though, feeling that he could not afford a tractor. This is not to mention his deep friendship with the old draft horse he called Hewey.

Several years after Aunt Lucille died, Uncle Curt got a girlfriend named Zepher, and he would go see her in the Kaiser on Saturday nights. When we would visit, usually on Sunday afternoons, Zepher was the main topic of conversation, much to Curt’s chagrin. I know he must have been sorry Sarah and Leona had told Mother and Pop about his trysts that had become so public. Back in those days, especially in small communities, it was hard to keep a secret.

The conversation went something like the following: Mother would say, “Well, Curt, have you been to Ruston lately?”

“Yes, Miss Pearl, I was there yesterday evening.”

“Were you buying groceries or were you there on business or entertainment.”

“Fine, Miss Pearl, fine. I took a lady to Farmerville for supper.”

“And how is Miss Zepher?”

“Loy, do you think the Cardinals will come out on top?” In other words, Curt played his cards pretty close to his chest. I was a little young to understand such things at the time, but, upon reflection, I think Mother enjoyed teasing the old widower.

Now, Leona was what we used to call an old maid. She was a hard-working pioneer type of woman who had resigned from hard labor and spent her days in a noisy rocking chair with the Shreveport Times and a wad of snuff. She liked to talk with Pop about current events. Interestingly, she was a liberal-minded person and Pop was as conservative as they come. Leona might say, “Well, Loy, I see that President Truman has published a book. I have read a review of it. Apparently he is quite the man of letters.”

Pop would reply with characteristic sour wit, “Yes, he is a man of letters. I agree. His letters are P. U.”

“Oh now, Loy, you know Harry has his heart in the right place. He is a strong leader when we needed a strong leader. I hate to think of where we would be if Dewey had won.”

“My pocket book would be better off, I am sure.” And so the Sunday afternoon conversations went. I usually sat in the corner pretending to read their one children’s book, an illustrated bunch of nonsense about a soldier who could not count to ten because he kept on forgetting to count himself.