The Familiarity of Foreign

unnamedI regularly write for a website that posts daily devotions. There is a team of us who write each month to share the responsibility and provide a diversity of voices. While the site is written in English, it is equipped with translation capability, so people around the world can read it. After this month’s post, the site admin sent me the following message she received about it:

Bonjour à Qui de droit  !

Merci pour  ce texte qui parle de lui-même ! J”ai beaucoup aimé   Tes écrits ….Gloire à Dieu ..Il est important de s”humilier

et de faire “comme Jésus a fait pour Nous ” !  Alléluia !
Merci d”exister !!!!!!!!!!
I don’t speak French. I have just enough experience with a variety of languages to (very) loosely translate.
It’s always fun to get encouraging feedback.
There’s an added “cool” factor when that feedback is in another language.
But I hope encouragement is never foreign. If it is, we can’t relate to or receive it. We have to find some commonality to find meaning in it. And in that way, the foreign becomes the familiar.
Perhaps it’s not always as familiar or as comfortable as our native tongue. Maybe we encounter people or situations that seem to pull the comfortable rug from under us. But isn’t that part of the joy and adventure, being able to consider what is outside of ourselves?
Let’s celebrate differences, not just for differences’ sake but for the pursuit of connection and unity in the midst of it. We don’t have to be uniform. There will always be enough to divide us. May we determine to see beyond the barriers and reach out with a hand, a hug, or a simple smile.

The Benefits of a Language Barrier

©2015 PurePurpose.org
©2015 PurePurpose.org

I sat at Cafe Hillel, enjoying my hot cocoa and a good book. Most of the time, I was people-watching. It was my last day in Jerusalem, and I wanted to savor every moment. I had walked throughout many parts of the city. I watched people in their everyday routines. I noticed mannerisms. I caught parts of conversation.

I love hearing people speak in different languages. The foreign sounds have an intriguing beauty. Of course, the language barrier can be frustrating at times, too, but I have found there are many ways to bridge the gap, and the effort is always worth it. It creates a focused connection. It’s not really a benefit of the language barrier itself; the benefit is more about overcoming the language barrier.

As I sat at Cafe Hillel, I discovered a benefit of the language barrier. A man sitting nearby was speaking loudly on his phone. His tone was animated, but that’s not unusual in his native tongue. It didn’t assume anger, just passion and excitement. His voice was difficult to avoid, and I found myself lulled by the pattern of the conversation.

The moment was shattered when he broke into English. It took me a moment to readjust and realize what I was hearing. He was talking about someone, using extremely derogatory language. I often think people have mastered a language when they can accurately use humor, especially sarcasm. I don’t know how funny this man could have been, but he had certainly mastered a plethora of offensive words in English.

Thankfully, his tirade (at least, in English) lasted less than a minute. My peace was temporarily rattled. I could still hear him continue in his native tongue, but I didn’t find it nearly as soothing.

Maybe not fully understand everything and everyone around us is a blessing at times. Let’s bridge the gaps when we can but realize that sometimes understanding is not a must.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Fit Faith: Lifestyle: Foreign Familiarity

I was in Israel for two weeks, staying in three different hotels. I knew my days would be long, filled with unforeseeable wonders. I was leading a women’s group, so I wanted to be prepared for each day full of questions, needs, and personality differences. That meant spending some time allowing God to ground me, so each morning I got up earlier than most others and went for a walk. I was in the third hotel the longest, nearly a week, so it’s where I got into the most consistent routine. Every day, I’d walk from our kibbutz to the Old City.

There was part of me that still felt like a foreigner. I was definitely an observer. I loved watching people going about their daily lives, opening their shops and carrying fresh breads and fruit to set up for the day. People walked their dogs, cars lined the roads carrying people to work, and children walked to their schools. People greeted me on the street, usually in Hebrew. I had learned enough to be able to respond, but I was fairly certain they knew I was a foreigner just the same.

There was also a part of me that felt I belonged there. Some of it was because I simply felt “at home” in Israel, as if a homing device had at some point been planted inside of me, and while I had been unaware of it all my life, it clicked into place once my feet hit Israeli soil. Part of my belonging was because I had found my way around the area of Jerusalem in which I was staying. It didn’t take me long to find a regular, safe route to walk every day. As I repeated the path, I saw similar faces and places. I felt I was a part of the morning routine and traffic.

I slid into the flow of life on the streets of Jerusalem. While I likely stood out to some, I didn’t see any indication that people looked at me any differently than anyone else out and about in the mornings. Perhaps it’s because people in Israel are so diverse. I could set aside the fact I was walking on holy ground and appreciate that I was walking among diverse people: people who were struggling with finances, relationships, jobs, conflicts, and faith. Just like me or anyone else. We can look around and appreciate diversity while acknowledging similarities. No one person is exactly like another, but we can certainly find commonalities.

As I walked alongside and crossed paths with others, my heart seemed to beat a familiar heartbeat with those around me. I felt connected. I was doing life among familiar strangers. There was a connection despite my foreign citizenship.

The Jewish law had many commands and rules, but Christ ended that law. His purpose was to make the two groups of people become one new people in him and in this way make peace. It was also Christ’s purpose to end the hatred between the two groups, to make them into one body, and to bring them back to God. Christ did all this with his death on the cross. (Ephesians 2:15-16)

Be attentive today. Notice those you see as different from you. Do you draw a firm line in the sand to separate yourself – or the other person?

Erase the line and look for similarities. Even when you don’t have a long-term relationship with someone, every interaction you have can be significant. God intends for you to be intentional about life. Live it alongside him. Live it alongside the people he brings into your life. Whether you’re walking side by side or simply cross paths with someone else, you each have purpose in God. He’s passionately pursuing you…and those who are doing life around you.

This Week’s 7 – There Are No Words

Each Monday on the Pure Purpose blog, I feature This Week’s 7, a simple list about an everyday topic, giving you ideas and encouragement. This week features more of a creative challenge. I like words. I like to express myself and help others express themselves, and I enjoy digging into (very basic) Greek and Hebrew when studying God’s Word. I like the sound of foreign languages and enjoy the chatter of families and business people travelling through large international airports. I try to figure out what people are talking about based on their inflections, tone and body language. Of course, I recognize I’m imposing my own cultural norms onto others when making assumptions. I also play “sounds like” as I hear foreign words which sound like something I know in English.

This week I’m introducing you to seven words of various languages. What they have in common is no English equivalent. Apparently, we don’t need the specific word. It might take us several words to express the same concept. As you read through them, consider what words you would most miss if they didn’t exist. Be thankful for the opportunity to communicate.

  1. Slampadato (Italian) Addiction to the  UV glow of tanning salons.
  2. Luftmensch (Yiddish) A social misfit, who is an impractical dreamer with no  business sense.
  3. Pana Po’o (Hawaiian) To scratch your head in order to help you remember something you’ve forgotten.
  4. Gumusservi (Turkish) Moonlight shining on water.
  5. Vybafnout (Czech) To jump out  and say boo.
  6. Mencolek (Indonesian) To tap someone lightly on the opposite shoulder from behind to  fool them.
  7. Glas wen (Welsh) A smile that is insincere or  mocking.

For some of the words and phrases my family as “created” and used, visit Code Words.