Tag Archives: language


I am often struck by how unique each of one of us is, and the miracle of this truth occurring again and again and again…. into infinity. 

It is like the prism of color we find in light, the colors that aren’t actually colors, but merging into those on either side. Where is green? Where is red? Where is blue? And yet every shade is there, to an infinite degree. It is like the perfect note soaring into a blend with other perfect notes in a string quartet, notes creating melody creating song, a song that echoes in your minutes and hours and days. It is like beauty, this unique person in a unique body. 

And so when I gaze at my friends, ordinary folks chatting around tables and milling in our undercroft after church I am often stunned by the glory of God’s creative power. I heard in a sermon once that each person is like a universe with its own planets and suns and moons revolving around one another. And yet the universes come together at times to form society, to gather in gatherings, to befriend in friendship. 

Friendship, our preacher said today, is something one works on. It is also a key and valued component of a good marriage. In friendship we look after one another, we sacrifice for one another, we celebrate and mourn with one another. We are not alone when we have friends, and to have friends one must be a friend, one must be-friend.

In our Gospel reading today Christ heals the man with palsy, who is dropped through the roof on a pallet into the crowd. His friends organized this operation, having faith that the Galilean prophet would heal their sick friend. Somehow, they open up the roof of the house and lower him in. They have faith. 

They have faith that the Prophet will respect their friend’s presence, lying on the pallet. They know that Christ will see this man as beloved and unique. They know that Christ will, in effect, see him. They are right.

Christ does see him. He sees inside of him, all of him, every shadowy corner. He says, Your sins are forgiven. He sees the man fully for who he is, good and bad. He loves him. He redeems him.

I have a number of friends who are crippled, or palsied, or maimed in some way. For that matter, everyone I know is maimed in some way, be it spiritual or physical, including myself. Yet the love of God sees us and holds us close, each of us. For we are created in his image, unique and miraculous beings placed in our moment in time. And we are given the power to love as he loves, respecting and cherishing all human life, from the womb to the grave.

I have been watching the video, War and Remembrance, a TV drama which reenacts the horrible holocaust of World War II. Here we see individuals who did not respect human life, who did not cherish each and every person created by God. It is a chilling reminder of a slippery slope.

To say we are part of the human race is not enough. We are much more than that. We are brothers and sisters, befriended and cherished by God Almighty, and we go through our time on earth breathing his breath, the power of his Holy Spirit.

My sister, the poet Barbara Budrovich, sent me one of her delightful poems, which, while this one is about punctuation, it is also about friendship, for our language reflects our deepest desires:

Who Am I?
Barbara Budrovich
I’m Comma’s identical twin.
With s by my side
I make others multiply.
Like our Ellipses
I stand for the missing.
I dwell in the sky
And bring–to the lonely–companions
Worth holding.

Rare Books

I visited an intriguing bookshop in Walnut Creek this last week.  It is owned and operated by a friend who loves old books – those printed before World War II. After creating a significant inventory in her home and setting up an online business, she took a leap of faith and established a “bricks-and-mortar” store in a charming old-town area of Walnut Creek. 

Walnut Creek is a suburb of San Francisco, and while once a quiet crossroads with horses and cattle grazing the surrounding hills, today it is a bustling town. But Main Street has retained its small town feel, not too different from my childhood memories with quaint shops, cafes, and shade trees. Parallel with Main runs Locust Street and the two streets form a quaint village center, perfect for strolling after a movie (around the corner) or a bite to eat or a coffee. 

Bookstores have had challenges here just as they have everywhere. A Barnes & Noble is farther away in a larger shopping area. There used to be a used bookstore in the Main Street neighborhood, but it closed its doors a number of years ago. So it is pleasing to see another store appear in the mix of shops that is book-related. 

Swan’s Fine Books is just that – run by Laurelle Swan and full of rare books. Set back from shady Locust Avenue and across the street from the Lark Creek Inn café, her store is immaculate. There was little musty smell that accompanies old books; the ambience was more of a genteel library with good lighting, attractive shelving, cozy corners to sit and browse. Only a few of the titles are behind glass – the rarest of the rare – so the visitor may enjoy holding and peeking into titles of all kinds. A Winnie-the-Pooh first edition caught my eye, but there were many other temptations. A few folks came in to look around, and I liked the fact that Laurelle allowed them to meander about on their own. “Book lovers like to to that,” she said, smiling, and I nodded. How true, I thought. 

Laurelle tells us on her website: 

Our desire is to allow you to both find that treasured book you’ve longed for, as well as to experience the wonder and delight of finding a new author or book you never knew was out there: to fall in love all over again and experience the reader’s wonder and delight.

Yes, wonder and delight is what I felt as I traveled through time in this shop. She showed me her different sections, by country and era and subject. Each book – it’s binding, its contents, it’s generation – was like a visitor from the past pulling me in. Some volumes had etchings that made them valuable; others the edition made them rare; others were simply unique, never to be duplicated, found treasures. The children’s books, especially, opened a window on another time, a simpler time, a time not far from my own childhood.

I thought about reading and my courtship with words as I travel into them, hearing them echo other words and meanings, my finger on the corner of the page, ready to turn, not wanting to lose the flow. I thought about those writers who were gone from us but their words occupied these shelves and here I was looking at them, reading them, in downtown Walnut Creek in 2013. I thought about the miracle of our brains, how our minds work to link us with one another through language, spoken and written, link our time with other times, the present with the past and future.

This morning in Sunday School as we sat in our circle and prayed the Our Father together, I was struck by the enormity of prayer and praying and offering our words of praise and petition to God, for in offering our words we offered ourselves. We folded our hands. We knelt. Our several voices became one, as we gave voice to this best-of-all prayers. Our words rose to heaven. I was stunned by language and its power to silence us to listen to its voice. 

The journey of words is captivating. They form in my mind, drift to my tongue to become speech, travel into the air to become conversation with God or with one another. Or they slip into my fingers and onto this keyboard, suddenly appearing on this white screen. Or they live in a book waiting in time and space. A miracle. 

So it was fun to travel through time and space in Laurelle’s unique shop, a truly rare bookstore, one-of-a-kind. Swan’s hosts free events from time to time (last Friday there was live jazz and wine) so her shop is swiftly becoming part of the neighborhood. She also features a shelf of local authors (yes, my books are there…) even if they aren’t rare (authors or books). With validated parking, it’s a pleasant visit to a unique setting, with some nice eateries close by. She’s always adding to her collection and she welcomes browsers. 

To see photos of the store and some of her treasures online, visit www.swansfinebooks.com. Or stop by and say hi for me: Swan’s Fine Books, 1381 Locust Street, Walnut Creek.





The Miracle of Words

Words are miraculous. Formed from letters, they grow into sentences and paragraphs. While usually letters alone do not represent thoughts, a single word does. So it is a big jump, a stupendous growth spurt, from letters to words.

Letters make sounds when spoken, spurted into the air, breathing upon the hearer. Letters don’t have to be heard, however, they may be merely seen on a page or screen, but even then they are heard silently in the mind and sometimes even in the heart and memory.

You could say all expression begins in the mind. I have a thought and I desire to share it with you. So I look for words, not letters – the letters are assumed, whole language is so automatic – to string together so that I may express my thought. “Pass the box of chocolates.” In addition to my simple expression of desire, I have learned to soften statements with please and thank you. I have been encouraged, through the social mores that have raised me, to couch arguments in pleasing phrases, perhaps even more cogent phrases. “Please pass the box of chocolates.” or “Could you possibly pass the box of chocolates? Please have one first… I would be ever so grateful… many many thanks…”

Language grows, is supplemented with leaves and tendrils and flowery shoots. Sometimes it is pruned back to brutal stalks. Language changes with social desire. And then, there are many language gardens in our world, each with its own landscape plan, varying beds of flowers and herbs, each with its own history of planting and fertilizing and harvesting.

Today we celebrated Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples:

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind and if filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language…the wonderful works of God. (Acts 2)

I love this passage in Acts, written by St. Luke. The rushing wind. The cloven tongues that looked like flames of fire. The sudden speaking in other languages. The devout in Jerusalem understanding them, learning of the love of God in the ultimate Word made flesh, their Messiah come.

The Holy Spirit, promised by Christ when he ascended to Heaven, gave them the power of miraculous words, of expressing the news of God’s coming among men to those who spoke in other languages. This was a practical gift. As a reversal of the dispersion in Babel centuries earlier, here in Jerusalem, the people are brought together.

How does God bring us together? How do we share, console, encourage, love? Through words. Through action and touch, to be sure, but through words, a divine and miraculous form of action and touch.

It is interesting that it is the devout in Jerusalem who come together and understand the disciples when they speak. It is those men and women who listen for God’s voice who hear and understand. It is those men and women faithful in prayer and synagogue, who have tried to keep the law as given to Moses, who hear God. True today as well.

Words. From the mind and through the lips, ideas birthed to breathe the air, breezing if not rushing into the ears of the listener, into the heart and mind. I have read that there is a listening component in the effort to hear. There must be a degree of attention paid, of mental effort. Growing deaf and not trying to hear causes a person to slip in the mind as well as hearing. The deaf often retreat into their own worlds. So words, like the seeds in the parable of the sower, must fall on listening ears, ears hearing, minds minding. Those devout men and women in Jerusalem were listening. They were mindful.

The Spirit descends and rushes upon us like a mighty wind. It reforms our minds with new words, new expressions, new ways of seeing the world and God the Father. And yet they are the old words, the old expressions, the old ways, rebirthed uniquely in each of us in the Church where this Spirit lives. Rebirthed in those who listen, who have ears to hear, who pay attention to words on a page.

After Mass we gathered to share coffee and snacks and words. A new family from Nigeria has joined our parish and I asked them how they pronounced their names, hoping beyond hope that the g in Igbonagwam was silent. And, praise God, it was! But still the sounds were foreign to my American ear. The sounds were foreign but so  beautiful, like the deep blue of the sea and the rich green of grass. Like a coral sunset. Like a melody in a major key, lilting, dancing. I asked about another name, Ikeme. My new friends explained how the e sounded like an a, and the i sounded like an e. From their culture into their minds through their lips to my listening ears, into my mind. Then, miraculously, I exhaled the names through my lips into the air, not creating a mighty rushing wind, but definitely a sweet breeze.

A miracle indeed. Come, Holy Spirit, come.