Midwives of Truth

My friend handed me a book that changed my life just a few months before I graduated from college. I had a plan for graduate study, for a career. I had an answer to the “what’s next” questions that barrage us at every life transition. The book was Michael Card’s Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity, and the words on the page and the conversations with my friend about them revolutionized my understanding of the creative life as worship and faithfully walking in the calling with which I’d been called. My plans went out the window, and I’ve spent my life since living out the imago dei through my creative pursuits, worshiping God in all things, but particularly as a subcreator.

Five years after we graduated from college, that friend turned his back on his faith and his family and walked away from it all. And I was left to wrestle with what I’d learned arm in arm with him during those years, the insights he’d brought out in our many conversations that shaped how I followed Christ.

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The Mysteries of Language

“The Tower of Babel by P Bruegel the Elder 051a” by Andras Fulop is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

I can’t understand a word. I like the sound of it, but Turkish is a language far beyond my linguistic acumen. The marks and accents on the vowels and consonants feel familiar, though. I’m visiting North American friends who recently moved to southern Turkey and are currently studying the language, so I ask my friends what languages it’s related to.

A quick Google search gets us our answer. It’s part of the Turkic language family that shows up across Central Asia. Hungarian also carries a significant number of Turkic words. Ah, Hungarian. That’s what it looks like, though it’s missing the identifying “gy” construction I see in so many words there.

As the days go by I start to navigate the words slightly—I learn that the squiggle mark under a “c” turns it to a “ch” sound and that one under an “s” turns it to an “sh.” That there are two versions of the letter “i,” one with a dot and one without. The dot is a long “eee” sound, without is a short “ih” sound. I proudly order a “piliç şiş” a few days later, impressing our waiter and getting myself a chicken shish kabob out of it. My friend had to tell me that “piliç” meant “chick” but I knew how to pronounce it.

I still don’t understand though. I hear over and over in conversation, “Evet, evet,” and I gather that it means, “I see,” or “I understand,” or “I agree,” but I couldn’t tell you the actual translation of the word without using Google—and my phone has no data in this country. So I walk through town in with a strange sort of deafness, hearing sounds, but lacking meaning.

I wonder if this is how it felt when God confused the languages of the builders of the tower of Babel. Suddenly, instead of understanding they simply heard sounds. I remember standing on a train when I visited Poland and thinking the whole language seemed to be made up of the sound “sh,” “ch,” “cz,” and “sz.” I felt like every other word was “checzesheszik.” That’s not a word, by the way.

I can imagine standing there on the tower, my chisel striking off excess stone from the block before me, chatting with my neighbor who’s doing the same work one block over, and then suddenly hearing just, “checzesheszik.”

“Seni anlamıyorum,” I’d reply.

And my neighbor would say, “Nie rozumiem cię.”

And we’d drop our chisels in shock and look around, crying out for just one person to understand us.

There’s something strangely comforting about understanding words when you’ve been surrounded by sounds you can’t understand for days. Hearing your language cut through the cloud of noise and settle on your eardrums with sounds that travel to your brain and translate into meaning. You look about, lock eyes with the other speaker of your language across the train  car, and smile. You’ve found an ally in the wilderness.

I can think of no more effective way of pushing humankind to spread out across the land than confusing their languages. The allies would find each other and then find their way away from the tower, seeking a place where they could hear meaning, not just sound.

My dad likes to say that some people think in the New Creation we’ll all speak one language, but what if instead of that, everyone will speak their own language, but we’ll all understand. I love that picture. I think it echoes Paul’s words to the Corinthian church, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).

Now I hear in a noise chamber confusedly, but then I’ll hear meaning. Now I understand in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.

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Pieces Go Missing

Screenshot from the video for “Snow” by Sleeping at Last

The day before December began, my grandma slipped into eternity. She’d spent 100 years here on this globe, and was ready to see her Jesus face to face—and for that we are filled with joy. But we will feel the lack of her. We will miss her guidance, her prayers for us, her love.

The next day marked the anniversary of an accident seven years ago that took a beloved friend and mentor from this earth. It was the start of a hard Christmas season. One where tears held their own against joy and laughter.

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Son of Laughter: No Story is Over

An Interview with Son of Laughter

Carrie Givens: One of the things I love about your music as Son of Laughter is what I would call its density. There is a lot happening in every song, both lyrically and melodically (not to mention the complexity of the recorded music). Can you share a little about your writing process?

Son of Laughter: Sure. In terms of my process, I don’t aim for complexity. Instead, I would say I am inspired by synergy. I have trouble developing an idea unless I am connecting it with a lot of other ideas in a way that interests me. I discovered that about my songwriting when I was writing the title track for The Mantis and the Moon. As I was trying to write about the stepsister from the German Cinderella story I realized the line “I don’t want to be someone who does not want to be who they are” reminded me of a lot of other stories, particularly an African folktale about why a praying mantis prays, a story a friend told me about his advice to follow dreams influencing someone leave their family, and my own discontent with who I am and the dangerous ways I deal with it. That last part is key. No matter how many ideas I have simmering in the pot, I have trouble tying it all together without deep personal conviction. “The Fiddler” combined a lot of stories and images, but I couldn’t finish it until I connected it with my own distracted prayer life. On the new record that was a missing ingredient for the longest time with “The Hurricanes.” I wanted the narrator to wrestle with his own destructive internal hurricane and I couldn’t finish it until I informed it with my own.

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Me and Rich and Jesus

I was in my parents’ kitchen when I heard the news. It was twenty years ago, but I still remember standing in the tight space between the fridge and the stove, surrounded by the warm browns of the tiny floor tiles and cupboards, thinking that a light was gone. Rich Mullins had died.

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