Sunday, October 9, 2011

Road Closed

A beautiful fall day is a treasure. It combines a pleasant relief from the hot and humid days of summer, with a welcome reprieve from the coming frigid conditions of winter. This one beckoned to me and my camera, and we were happy to oblige.

I had been waiting for a day like this. It was the perfect opportunity to go exploring. At that time, I lived just far enough out of town to be able to say I lived in the country. One benefit of country living is that you are surrounded by the beauty of nature, but though I had been there for a couple of years, I had never really taken the opportunity to look around. Today would finally be that day.

I came across many interesting sights, but one had a clear message. It was easy to see. In fact, who could miss it? A huge sign proclaiming, “Road Closed”. This was on a little used dirt road, and yet, the county had gone to a lot of trouble and expense to erect this elaborate blockade. Looking at the photo, you have to wonder “why?” It is such a short span of road, and nothing is visible that might be of concern. In spite of my doubts, though, there was no way my car was going to continue down that road. The county had seen to that by putting up a barrier so complete, no vehicle would find a way through.

I’m not the kind of person who ignores barriers, so I didn’t even consider breaching that roadblock. I do happen to be acquainted with a local resident, however, so the next time we crossed paths I asked her what was going on. She said that span of the road is actually a little bridge that had been condemned. This has been a major inconvenience to her family, making their commute to anywhere 10 miles longer than normal. Even worse, it had already been closed for a couple of years, and would be a couple more before the work got done.

Wow! That is inconvenient. Linda’s family adjusted easily enough, but I wonder how I would fare. While I felt sympathy for her, I was glad my little bit of country still had open roadways. I got to wondering, though, about the other kinds of obstacles I am confronted with. We all have them. Every area of life has its insurmountable complications. How’s your health been lately? What about your relationships? Or your job? Have you ever planned and worked for something, maybe sacrificed for it, only to find it was not available to you? How have you reacted?

It is easy to become overcome with frustration, anger or even depression, when we face hardships. Typically, emotions refuse to be confined to the area they belong in, so other parts of our lives eventually suffer. Very often, things continue to go downhill. Instead of blindly stomping down this destructive path, we can find encouragement from God’s Word.

Over and over, we read that God knows everything about us, and nothing is allowed into our lives without his permission. To me, that means there is a reason for whatever I am going through. I may not be able to see what it is. It may never make sense to me, but if God wants it this way, I will accept it. That doesn’t mean I won’t suffer in some way. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, or quickly resolved. It means that God is in control. My life has already taught me that is a far better strategy than for me to be in that position.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

According To The Dictionary...

I recently came across a little booklet that made me want to stand up and shout. It is a “Special Abridged Edition” of the book The Road to Serfdom, by Friedrich A. Hayek. I don’t know what it says and have no idea if I agree with the message, because I haven’t read it yet. Nevertheless, I am glad I picked it up.

Since this book was originally printed 67 years ago, the editor felt a clarification was necessary for the modern reader. At the beginning of the book is “a note to the reader”. It is summed up in the final paragraph, which I quote below:
Please understand that when Hayek mentions “liberals” and “liberalism”, he is generally referring to your conservative principles and mine, not those of today’s American liberals or self-described progressives.
Liberal? I’m a liberal? Who knew? Apparently, years ago I would have been considered one. What a drastic difference 67 years can make.

And that’s my point. How can the meaning of a word change so much? I believe a word should always mean the same thing it started out meaning. Instead, I am told that language is static; ever evolving. It’s just a natural occurrence that can’t be prevented.

I sometimes have a vague idea of the meaning of a word, but on occasion, I need to know the exact definition. During my college years, we were expected to have up-to-date dictionaries so I replaced my ragged one with a new edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. After looking up a few words in this new dictionary, though, I felt I had wasted my money. When compared to my previous notion of what the words meant, and to the definitions from my old dictionary, the new ones were slightly off. Disappointed, I put the new book up on the shelf, and for many years, reverted to using the old one.

As a writer, I realize I must accept this evolution of language. I have even acquiesced to using the newest edition of Merriam-Webster. There is no way to prevent society from assigning a new meaning to a word, and so, dictionaries are edited and updated every ten years. But what about the millions of previously published books? In 50 years, or a hundred, will the author’s words say what they were meant to say? Legal documents, classic literature and historical accounts may not be understood properly. What repercussions does that have?

What about the Bible? I have always loved the King James Version, but I have to admit, if there was ever a reason to accept the need for newer translations, this would be it. It is, and always will be true that God never changes, nor do his promises. However, if the message we receive from the Bible is different from the original meaning of the words, then we haven’t really heard from Him.

People like to say that the Bible is full of contradictions. Maybe this is part of the reason for that impression. If it seems that way to you, maybe you should not be so quick to discredit the whole book. Instead, do some deeper study. It may be that all you need to do is sit in on some sermons at a Bible-believing-and-teaching church. It is not uncommon for preachers to refer to the original Greek and Hebrew words as they address different passages in the Bible. Their intent is not to flaunt their education. It is to impart to the congregation a true understanding and relevance of passages that were written hundreds of years ago. That’s almost like hearing it first hand.

Surely, that is better than resorting to the newest dictionaries to define the oldest of words.