Usage Notes #1 – blond vs. blonde

I think I’m going to start making random posts about usage notes when I figure them out.

I don’t know if this happens to anybody else, but I sometimes get into a habit of thinking I know more than I do. And then one day, I realize that I don’t really know much of anything.

I like to think I have a pretty good handle on usage of words, but then along comes a specific word that throws me for a loop.

Blond and Blonde

Which is is? What’s the difference? When do you use one and not the other?

After a little bit of digging and some research, I have figured it out. And, yes, there is a difference.

The word blond without an e is a modifier that describes a color. Blond hair. Blond brownies. Blond man. Blond woman.

The word blonde is a noun used to refer to a woman with blond hair. Never a man.

I believe it’s a French thing. I read that somewhere.

So you can say, “There’s a blond man!” or “There’s a blond woman!” and that is correct.

Or you can say, “There’s a blonde!” or “She’s blonde” or “a blonde moment” and that is correct.

But you shouldn’t identify a man by the term blonde since it is a feminine noun.

Fascinating, huh?

I think therefore I am

What do you spend your time thinking about? Everybody thinks about something and it’s usually all the time. Your brain is constantly moving, constantly thinking, always working, never stopping. Granted, there are times when your brains takes over and starts thinking for you, but when you are awake and have the choice about what to think, what do you choose to think about?

For me, I’m usually trying to remember and plan my day at work. And if it’s not that, then I’m brainstorming plot lines or skits. Or, I could be thinking about a book I’ve read or a movie I’ve seen. Or I could be thinking about what I’m going to cook for dinner.

How many of you know people who think negatively all the time? They’re so sad and grouchy all the time that it seems there isn’t a positive bone in their body? All they think about is how unfair life is or how they’ve been mistreated or how people around them have been mistreated or how they don’t have any friends. Those are the people you avoid at work and at church and at family reunions, right?

Negative thinking is a vicious cycle. And it’s silly. Because what do we have to be negative about anyway? I mean, those negative thinkers can always find something to complain about, but in the grand scheme of things, how can we complain about anything?

The verse for the day made me think of all this.

Philippians 4:8

 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

 A lot of people call this the “filter verse” and say it should be used to determine what you watch on television or at the movie theatre or what you read, and I’m sure that’s a perfectly good use for this verse. But a lot of times people don’t apply it to their own personal unending mental conversation.

Fix your thoughts on what is true.

What is true? God loves you. That’s true. In the face of something like that, how can we complain about the weather?

Think about things that are exellent and worthy of praise. That doesn’t sound negative to me.

But it’s so much easier to be negative. It’s easier to focus on the downside of life. Honestly, life does have a lot of downs, but it also has a lot of ups. If you choose to focus on the ups and truly believe that God knows what He’s doing, you’ll find your outlook on life turning a bit sunnier. And as soon as you have some sun shining, it’s not long until everything else starts to brighten up too.

I remember a cartoon show when I was young called Rainbow Brite. I adored that show. I actually have the movie they made. It’s total 80’s awesomeness. Rainbow Brite is the main character and she brings light and color to the world; she’s this genuinely happy little girl who laughs a lot (I know; I think the creators were on crack). The main antagonists (read that bad guys) of the show are these two creepy guys who live in a cave; one is really stupid and the other one is a really stupid schemer. Their names are Murky and Lurky Dismal, and they don’t like color or rainbows or happiness or anything cheerful. That’s basically the show.

Not a lot of redeeming qualities other than demonstrating to kids that being grouchy and sad isn’t a good way to make friends. Well . . . maybe it had redeeming qualities after all then.

We can choose what we think about. Even in countries where we can speak our minds out loud, our minds can still work in silence. So I say it’s better to think positively. God has everything under control, so why be a Gloomy Gus (or a Murky Dismal)?

Murky Dismal

Murky Dismal

Written from Cousin Helen’s Kitchen

I am writing this morning from my cousin’s kitchen in Arkansas, listening to the coffee brew. I’m down here visiting family and buying half a cow with my mom and dad. It’s been ages since I’ve had good, fresh beef in my freezer, so this will be very nice. And the best part about it is that I got to catch up with my cousins that I haven’t seen in five years. I’m a dreadful cousin.

It’s crazy to me to see the kids I played with as a child with kids of their own. Considering how many My Little Ponies I got to hold and how many special tricks I got to bear witness to, I think I have been accepted into the category of playmate. I think everyone is going to come up and visit me soon, which will be a riot. I can’t wait to take my littlest cousins to the zoo . . . . but then, I can’t wait to go to the zoo again myself. =)

In any case, the verse today kind of made me smile. It’s one of those verses that Christians can really harp on, but a word in it really made me stop today.

Galatians 6:1

 1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer[a] is overcome by some sin, you who are godly[b] should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.

How many times does this happen? Where a believer sees another believer struggling with some sin and they take it on themselves to set that person straight? In my experience, people usually screw this up totally. They either ignore the problem entireliy or they throw themselves at it so violently, desperate to correct it, that they make the situation worse. The other possibility is that you who are trying to correct the others’ problem will end up falling into the same sin you’re trying to erase.

The big problem with all of these is us. We think that we can do something to convince somebody else to stop sinning. Well, guess what, folks? You can’t. The only person who can decide to stop sinning is the person who is sinning. They have to realize in themselves that what they’re doing is wrong and that it’s not helping them; then, they will be ready to stop.

The only thing you can do in the mean time is love them and pray for them and be there for them when they need you.

You also need to be careful that you don’t rationalize away your situation and say that you need to get on the other persons’ level to relate to them better. Now, there is a certain amount of relational positioning you need to do. Like if you’re ministering to a homeless person, you shouldn’t wear your best clothing and fancy jewelry. What would that say to them? Or if you’re ministering among people in Africa, you shouldn’t cling to your own culture and ignore theirs. However, you shouldn’t bend the truth of Scripture to serve “your ministry.”

I’m going to give an example and maybe some of you will disagree with me on this, but I want to share my thoughts about this. Again, I’m not saying I’ve got this figured out, but I’m pretty sure that I understand at least a little of it.

I’m writing a book. I know that’s no surprise to some of you since I write every day all day. But this book has taken up most of the last ten years of my life. I could have gotten it done sooner if little things like school and work hadn’t gotten in the way, but it very rapidly is approaching completion. This book isn’t for Christians; it’s a book about a Christian living among people who have made other choices. And personally I was tired of Christian fluff. I wanted bad guys who were really bad. I wanted good guys who weren’t perfect. I wanted a story that demonstrated how a Christian’s life isn’t perfect and how they make the same mistakes nonbelievers do. So the language in this book is rough. And the situations in this book are very far beyond what a Christian should be involved with in their lives. But I didn’t write this book for Christians. This book is directed to people outside the church — outside the faith; it’s purpose is to shed some light on what it’s like to be a Christian — and what it’s like to be a religious Christian who realizes how wrong she’s been.

Now, because I’m writing this book with bad language in it, does that give me the excuse to use bad language all the time? Does that give me the excuse to jump into situations that would compromise my witness. No. Absolutely not. I follow Christ so my life must never compromise what I believe, even if the people I minister to don’t live by the truth.

Granted, this example is for ministering to nonbelievers. Ministering to Christians is much much harder. Because Christians always think they’re right.

What we have to remember, though, is “there but for the grace of God go I.” There is no sin a Christian can fall into that can’t tempt another Christian so approaching a situation like what is mentioned in Galatians 6:1 with pride, saying to yourself that you’d never do something so foolish or you can’t be tempted by that, is stupid. But does that mean we shouldn’t help each other? Or does that mean we shouldn’t accept help from other believers?

No.

We’re here to help each other, to keep each other accountable, to offer a hand up back onto the path where God can bless us both. Refusing help when you need it is foolish, just like refusing to help someone who needs it is selfish. We are all a part of the Body of Christ, and — forgive me a silly analogy — but if the foot gets a splinter in it, don’t the fingers need to pull it out?

This got published without a name . . . So I’m naming it now . . . Will it work?

Have you ever tried to tell someone who knows more than you do how to do something? And I’m not talking about a situation where the difference in intelligence/knowledge is only perceived and not actual; I’m talking about a situation where you got full of yourself and decided to tell so-and-so what to go do with himself (and exactly how to do it).

I don’t think I’ve ever done it out loud. Usually I just bottle it all up inside and lit it simmer, but it’s the same thing. If you think it, you might as well have done it.

Isn’t that kind of silly? Don’t you think it’s silly to lecture someone or get upset at someone for doing something you don’t like when they know better what they’re doing than you? (That sentence was structured terribly; forgive me, I’m having trouble waking up this morning.) I know a little bit of javascript code and I’m pretty good with computers, but does that mean I can march up to Bill Gates and tell him how computers are supposed to be? I’m an okay writer, not published yet (yet being the operative word), but does that mean I know enough that I can march up to somebody like Ted Dekker or Stephen King and tell them how to write? And I can certainly hold my own in the kitchen, whether baking or cooking, but I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but does that mean I can do Rachael Ray’s job better than she can?

You get what I’m saying. We think we’re so good at what we do that so many times we start beliving that we know everything about it. And we don’t. Let’s be real here, folks. We don’t know anything. I think about what my Pastor said at church this past weekend about how Solomon asked God for wisdom because he didn’t know how to go into a room or come out of a room. He didn’t know anything, and neither do we. So where do we get the idea that we do?

The verse for this morning is Galatians 6:7-8.

 7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

 This is one of those verses that is quoted a lot — so much that part of it has become part of popular culture. You reap what you sow. It’s one of the natural laws that God set up from the very beginning. When you plant something, it will grow (and that even stands true if you live in Kansas and a hailstorm pounds the fool out of it; it still grows; it just doesn’t grow straight). And not only will it grow, it will grow the same thing that was planted. You can’t plant a wheat seed and get corn. It doesn’t work that way (sorry to disappoint all you Hopeful Monster Theorists out there, but it works the same with biological reproduction and always has). Additionally, what you grow will always produce more than what you planted.

So if you plant wheat, you’ll grow a lot of wheat (again, unless you live in Kansas, and then it’s more likely you’ll grow a lot of wheat that you end up using as insulation in the barn because it’s been beaten to a pulp–but it will still be wheat and a lot of it).

It works the same way with life, folks. If you plant seeds of bitterness in your life by allowing yourself to resent other people, you’ll harvest bitterness. If you plant seeds of anger, you’ll harvest rage. Whatever you plant, you’ll get more of the same in abundance later on in your life. And you can’t escape it. Fortunately, it works the other way around too. If you plant kindness, that’s what you’ll get in abundance. Same with faith and joy and love and mercy. But those are harder to invest in other people because you have to look at somebody other than yourself.

I remember a quote from the show House, M.D. (which is one of my favorites but I never get time to watch it). It was in one of the earlier seasons, and I don’t remember which episode it was. But Dr. Wilson is on the roof talking to Dr. House, and this is what he says: “You don’t like yourself. But you do admire yourself. It’s all you’ve got so you cling to it. You’re so afraid if you change, you’ll lose what makes you special. Being miserable doesn’t make you better than anybody else, House. It just makes you miserable.”

It’s common sense.

And what’s even more common sense is that fact that you can’t hide it from God. If you think you can just slip your thoughts or your actions or your behavior under a rug and God won’t noticed, you’re wrong. God’s God. He knows everything, sees everything. Everything. He knows more about computers than Bill Gates. He knows more about writing than the most prolific authors in the world. And, yes, He even knows more about cooking than any cook on the Food Network. He knows more than anybody anywhere anytime.  So where do we get the idea we can tell Him how to live our lives?

My Pastor has another saying which I love: You can’t flip God off and win.

And you can’t. Sooner or later, what you’ve planted will catch up with you; it’s only a matter of time. And when it does, it isn’t God’s fault because He isn’t the one who did the planting. We start the process by putting the seeds in the ground, and then we’re surprised when it produces a harvest? Humans are funny people.

I don’t know about you guys, but I think I’m going to go plant some good seeds today.

High marks in the school of hard knocks

Wow, it’s treacherous out there, boys and girls. Please be careful on these icy roads! I’m still going in this morning but not until later when the sun comes up and I can see some of the ice I’m driving on. I’m very thankful for my job that allows me to be flexible with my schedule.

Ice driving is one of those skills you either have or you don’t, and I can tell you that most people in Wichita and the surrounding area don’t have it. I mean, you can probably learn how to drive on ice, but around Kansas it’s not around long enough to really learn on it. It’s kind of a spontaneous thing. One day it’s 70 degrees. The next day it’s 12 and all the world’s a solid sheet of ice you have to drive on to get to work. But then the next day it’s 50 so everything melts.

Now people who drive in North Dakota or Wisconsin? Yikes. Those are the pros. During their winter, they have to drive on ice all the time, so it’s commonplace for them. So maybe it’s all in what you get used to.

The verse today, James 1:2-3, doesn’t talk about driving on icy roads, but that’s kind of what it made me think of, oddly enough.

 2 Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.

I love this verse, mainly because I think it’s one of the best examples of the difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is fleeting. You can be happy one day and unhappy the next. Happiness usually depends on your circumstances. But not Joy. Joy is completely different. Joy is a constant. If you know Christ, you have Joy no matter whether you’re happy or not. It’s the only way you can be sad at the death of a friend and excited for them getting to go to heaven at the same time. Joy is a paradox that allows you to rejoice even in the blackest times in your life.

But what caught my eye this morning was the last part of the verse, about how when your faith is tested, your endurance increases. I guess I hadn’t thought about that part much, but it’s very true.

Why do we take tests? (Other than the fact that we have to pass them to get a good grade to pass the class to get a degree to get a job with benefits and retirement so we can afford to buy stuff.) Tests examine what we have learned. And I don’t know about you, but when I would take a test, I always wanted to get all the answers right; but when I didn’t, I rarely missed those answers again. We don’t just take one test in school. We take a lot of them because we’re always learning, and tests are a good way to confirm how deep and wide our knowledge is.

What happens when your faith is tested? Well, that depends on the person. In some cases, it can be a financial test–that you have to rely on God to provide for you. Or it could be a relationship test–that God is wanting you to demonstrate that You love Him more than the person you’re with. It could be anything, although most of the tests God gives us are all about trusting Him. And it’s funny, looking back now. The tests He gave me when I was a child seem pretty small now.

Trusting Him to help me do well in school. Trusting Him to help me make friends. Trusting Him to help me find something I’d misplaced. All of those are pretty small in the grand scheme of things–but I went through them a lot. I had to trust Him a lot. And in trusting Him in the little things, when it came time to trust Him with “something big” it wasn’t any big deal because He had already proved Himself faithful to me in the small things.

When your faith is tested, your endurance increases.

If you start trusting Him with little things, pretty soon it won’t be hard to trust Him with big things. But just like anything else you want to get better at, you have to do it a lot. It’s a process you have to repeat over and over again, giving up control and sovereignty in your own life. And you don’t always see immediate results. Actually, immediate results are rare. But bodybuilders don’t see immediate results either. They have to work out. Just like them, you have to continually trust God with the things in your life that you don’t understand.

It’s not easy, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Reciprocity

My brain was like mush last night. I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it was work, which seems to be getting busier and crazier every day, or maybe it was the weather, since I seem to get clouds in my brain when there’s an abundance of them in the sky. In either case, I had planned to get a lot of writing done last night, but with my brain feeling foggy I knew it wasn’t going to happen. So I decided to watch a movie. I wanted something that was fast paced but still full of plot detail to keep me thinking about the story; so I knew I only had one option — a Jack Ryan movie. It had been ages since I watched Clear and Present Danger, so that was the winner.

It’s a really great movie, if you haven’t seen it. Patriot Games, the prequel, is also excellent. So is The Hunt for Red October. And The Sum of All Fears is okay. Clear and Present Danger has a lot of explosions and a lot of action (which is my kind of movie), but the story is also really intense and the characters are great (which is my defnition of a spectacular film).

I laughed this morning when I read the verse of the day in Matthew 7:12.

12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

It’s the Golden Rule. Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. I laughed because it made me think of Reciprocity, which is the code name for the covert operations the U.S. government runs in Columbia in Clear and Present Danger. In the movie, the government sent them down there to disrupt the drug trade; that’s what they said, but the true motivation for it was revenge. Well, if you’ve seen the movie, you know what happens. When the soldiers attack something, the drug lords reciprocate, which means the soliders have to reciprocate for their reciprocation. And it continues into a huge vicious cycle until everything blows up in the end and Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) has to save the day.

Think about that in real life, though? How much of life is the exact same way? How many fights could we avoid by simply allowing someone else to win? And, please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not a pacifist by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t stand for something. Everyone has to stand for something, but we all should think about how we stand for it.

What goes around comes around. You reap what you sew.Yada yada yada. You’ve heard all the cliches, including the Golden Rule. But no matter how cliched they are, they’re true.

How many times would you have liked for your boss to be nice to you? How many times would you have liked for your friends to listen to you? How many times would you have liked for your coworkers to respect you? Well . . . he’s a thought. How do you treat them? Are you mean and subversive to your boss? Do you ever listen to your friends? Do you respect the people you work with? Isn’t it possible that some of the frustrations you feel in life are brought on by your own reaction to people and situations?

Granted, there are times when you can be as nice and thoughtful to people as humanly possible and they are still jerks to you. But is that any reason to be cruel back to them?

Honestly, what good does being mean to people do you? Yes, it might satisfy that dark part in your heart that wants to lash out at people and make them feel as hurt as you are. And it might make your friends laugh at your boldness. And it might make you look stronger to everyone around you, but are you really stronger for trying to hurt someone? Isn’t it more difficult to take the high road and be the person God made you to be? The only thing being mean does is make you mean.

I think it’s funny that Jesus was into summarizing. In a single sentence here he summarized most of the Old Testament. Elsewhere in the New Testament, he did it again summarizing the Ten Commandments. Basically He said to love God and love people. That’s the secret to a fulfilling life. That’s the kind of reciprocity that will get you something nice in return, because even if you love the people who refuse to love you back, you’ll be glad you did in the next life.

And the bonus is that you’ll just be a generally nicer person while you’re still alive in this life.

So, if you don’t want drug lords to blow you up, don’t blow them up first. And if you want IT to fix your computer, make them cookies (my favorite boss in the whole wide world taught me that). And if you want your friends to listen to what’s going on in your life, you start listening first. And if you want people to be nice to you, be nice to them even when they’re not nice to you. Trust me. You’ll feel a lot better than if you give in and scream back at them, even if they’re being complete buttheads.

You never know what you’ll get in return, but chances are if you started with kindness, that’ll be what you get back.