Ryan & Jordan

with Pioneer Bible Translators

Tag: language

The Author and His Story

by Jordee

Ryan and I study diversity in the world’s languages. Language is rich and complex, and lots of scholarly energy is poured into finding what some call “language universals” so we can make sense of it. One of these universals is something we might have guessed. Stories. We learn from stories. Stories are what make up our histories, what define us and what we use to identify ourselves, what we read to and tell our children, what our children tell us, what we pass on through generations.

Of course, the structure of stories differs greatly from language to language. “Once upon a time” and “happily ever after” aren’t language universals. The scholar Robert Longacre, however, has suggested several story elements that are shared among a lot of the world’s languages. One of these elements he calls the “inciting moment.” The predictable is disrupted, plans take a sudden twist, the story isn’t what we had previously thought. The inciting moment gets the story going.

Sometimes we are happy trudging along in a comfortable and safe episode of our story, and we’d rather not be disrupted. About two weeks ago, we were on a pleasant run in a sunny park, when our car was vandalized. An unwelcome inciting moment happened. Plans were changed, our routine was disrupted, and the story of the next several days was not how we would have written it.

But it helps us to look at our stories as a part of a much Bigger Story.

We can remember the bigger inciting moments–
when God spoke the earth into being and called it good,
when He took on human form as Jesus,
when the tomb was found empty,
and when by His grace, He rescued us and made us His children.

These are the inciting moments of the Bigger Story, and the Author is using us to form it into a narrative for His glory. Every moment of our lives is a part of His story, and Ryan and I remain His dearly loved children in every beginning, every conflict, every climax, every resolution.

So if you have just experienced a discouraging inciting moment, or if you are just trudging along, we invite you to remember Jesus, the Author, who endured the cross and ignored the shame because He focused on the joy that was set before him.

 

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Words

by ryan

Consider the miracle of communication: that fascinating borderland between persons, where people are brought together in peace (yes and sadly, not peace), where a plural colors a singular and a singular colors a plural, where there are a great many happenings; now eyes meet and the whole body engages; the whole body speaks; now breathing lungs, filling lungs expel air shaping it more skillfully than any potter with clay, crafting strings (do I dare say music?), sound waves of meaning; now these waves vibrating the most elaborate percussion translated into neural . . . what have we even understood of this miracle?  This mystery is beautiful.

Communication might be a noun, but it is surely not just a thing.  Speaking and listening are grand events changing our universe as ripples resound among human relationships and expand throughout the cosmos.  We are, after all, made in the image of God.  In the beginning God said let there be and there was.  And God is still speaking.

But what about words?  To literate society, ‘word’ might bring with it the image of a written word.  But words are speech primarily.  It was only much later that visual symbols were invented to represent oral ones.  We would much rather have you over for tea to discuss this, but we only have that privilege with some of you.  Instead, here we are pressing buttons with symbols on them so the symbols appear on your screen, pale glimmers of speech.  So please listen to a person today.  We mean really listen.  Hug.  Love.  And use the power of your voice for good.  “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, / but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” – Solomon son of David

So Dear People, as students of language we wanted to begin our weblog with a brief reflection on the gift that is language.  “For every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James son of Joseph

Warmly Spoken, albeit Keyed to You,

Ryan & Jordan