Listen, and you will hear

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I grew up with an insatiable appetite for words. In an effort to satisfy that hunger, I read everything, and I mean absolutely everything I could get my hands on, including items I had no business reading during my tender years, or adult years for that matter.

It is an eclectic collection of material, including every side of every cereal box ever consumed, every side of every box of detergent used, and the entire 24 volume set of encyclopedias Mom and Dad purchased in the early 1960s. (OK, I didn't read every word, or even every page, but every volume was carefully perused until something of interest was discovered. I wish I still had the set. It had an excellent section on human anatomy, including layered transparencies detailing the human body, skin to bone.)

I love words and there are always more words to learn to love. A case in point:

Our long, hot summer saw many records broken, including one from the 1930s that we tied in 2002 when we endured 34 days of temperatures of at least 100 degrees, many hotter than that. This year, we tied that record on Aug. 28. On Aug. 29, we surpassed that record. On Aug. 30, we retired that record. And on Sept. 1, we demolished that record. I'm waiting even now to see if we obliterated the record as I write this on Sept. 4. (Update: Record obliterated, there have now been 38 days of temperatures of 100 degrees or higher recorded at McCook's weather station in 2012.)

See? Words are fun and you can't have too many of them.

I can't remember a time when I haven't had a book at the ready, whether for long trips, while waiting in the doctor's office, or just to curl up with on a summer afternoon in the shade or in a cozy corner while winter winds blow. And for the last 20 years or so, it has been the same for Danny.

His appetite for words, especially the Word of God, was whetted in 2005 and many was the day I would meet him at home for lunch, to find him poring over the Bible. He started at page one and didn't stop until page done, astonished by the length and breadth of it and awestruck by the actions of Jesus and the words he had to say. Danny felt an unusual sense of urgency to finish the book and pressed on toward that goal, only to start all over again when he finished the first read-through.

An impulse buy at a yard sale resulted in our first audio Bible. Up to that point in time we were both "book snobs" and scoffed self-righteously (me more often than Danny), that audio books were a lazy man's way out. We couldn't have been more wrong.

As Danny's vision continues to deteriorate, as words on the printed page fade into a blank, white fog, audio books are becoming a part of every day life at our house.

And, after a day of computer screens flashing, bad news washing over me like rain (there is no drought of bad news), I'm more than ready to settle in and listen to some light fiction at day's end. However, I was unprepared for how quickly my mind was able to paint the desired scenes when I didn't have to take the time to decipher the words.

A single voice expresses the emotions and intent of several characters, melodious when the scene is light and lovely, the same voice now ominous as danger approaches. Wonderful.

For most of man's history, most men were illiterate. Even the most basic skills of reading and writing simply weren't possible for the common man. And, until the advent of the printing press, it wasn't that big of a deal. After all, there weren't that many books to read, each one having to be transcribed by hand, a long and laborious process. That isn't to say that the people of those generations were less intelligent than we are now. (In fact, the opposite may well be true.) Those so-called illiterate generations kept man's story alive with storytelling, painting word pictures to teach successive generations how today had come to pass, built as it was on man's yesterdays. Once books and other reading materials could be mass-produced, everything changed, and the ability to read and to write was no longer limited to the wealthy and the information age entered its infancy.

As the old commercial says, "we've come a long way, baby." and during the last 100 years or so, with the advent of radio, TV, cell phones and home computers, we traded face-to-face conversation for the convenience and company of the electronic age. Now we share everything while saying virtually nothing. With everything reduced to 30 second sound bytes, we seem to have lost the ability listen.

A fiction writer chooses his words with great care, moving the reader, or listener, to that state of suspended disbelief so necessary to his craft. A biographer immerses himself into the life of his subject, so that he can better introduce the reader, or listener, to that subject.

When Moses said to the people, "Hear, O Israel" the people listened. When the voice of God came from the clouds saying, "This is my son, whom I love. Listen to him," the people listened. And we're listening still.

Thanks to the Gutenberg press, we have the Word of God easily available and translated into nearly every known language.

But that isn't the only place the Lord speaks to those he loves. And we know that he loves everyone because that truth is recorded in the written record of his dealings with his created man.

How else might he be speaking to you?

Is he there, in a cancer ward?

Does he speak in an evacuation center, filled with those who have fled fire, flood or famine?

Perhaps his voice is heard in a wedding chapel, a birthing room, or as he paints the morning sunrise.

The whole earth is full of his glory and there is nowhere we can go to escape his presence if he desires to have a word, or two, with any one of us.

He is trustworthy and true. He calls out, sometimes in the flood, sometimes in the fire; standing at the door, he knocks. Listen. His every word is truth.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1

I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him; together.


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