Borrowing Words

I thought it was a book only nerds would ever use.  I’m not certain I have ever bought a copy of my own to this day.

Lamar Junior High School.  That’s where I first saw a copy of this mysterious book.  Usually, it was a small paperback, stacked on top of whatever miscellaneous textbooks the brainiacs were carrying, clamped tightly under the arm and against the body as they scooted down the drafty hallways.

I wasn’t a brainiac.

Roget’s Thesaurus.  

Oh.  A foreign language book.  I was already enrolled in a Spanish class and had no interest in taking up an additional language.

Except it wasn’t.  A foreign language book.  Still, it would take an awfully long time for me to care about what it really was.

And then, it would be years before I felt the need to consult such a volume.  Years before I actually understood the importance of what lay in the pages of the little publication.

It was all I could do to learn the English language.  Why would I need a book which gave me alternatives to perfectly good words?

My native language was quite difficult enough, thank you.  But then I think back.  I did learn another language.  Many of my friends were fluent in it long before I began to pick it up. 

It wasn’t spoken in my home.  How would I have come by it naturally?

I call the language crudish.  Today, I do.  Back then, I called it cool.  I do also seem to remember a friend who called it cursive, a term that some might think cute, but mostly, it’s just sad.

I know many who practice the language today.  Its usage is on the rise, even among the very young.  When I operated a music store, we would frequently have folks come in who spoke little else.  It’s popular nowadays on the street and in the department stores.

Some languages give you an air of mystery; some are romantic.  Some can make us sound more intelligent than we are; others seem almost comedic.

Crudish is one of those languages which seems to deduct points from the speaker’s intelligence quotient right in front of our eyes.  Or ears—whichever.

Regardless, during the years when I spoke that demeaning language, I found one very curious thing.

There were no words in that vocabulary with which I could describe my faith—my Savior—my God.

No words.

Some things are simply too high, too precious, for gutter language to even make a start in describing them.

Growing in my faith, the realization took root that crudish would never be a language I could use on my journey to becoming the man God needed me to be.

There are scriptures which could be quoted in support of my assumption.  Somehow though, we know without being told that some language is inappropriate to use as we come before the King of all that is.

I know many who are followers of Christ, as I am, yet still retain much of that language.  They respond differently when the words slip into conversation, from embarrassment to defiance.  I have no judgment to offer, simply my perspective.

I want to communicate clearly to the world around me.  I want there to be no uncertainty about what drives me and Who I follow.

That crude language has no words to explain those things.  None.

But, there is more.  Again and again, I find the words I have in my limited vocabulary to be inadequate to the task, as well.  

So, I use a thesaurus.  Really, I do. Nearly every day. 

I constantly seek new ways to express ancient truths.

If all of life is not a chasing after God, attempting to know Him better, we’ve squandered the days.

If each day is not spent in learning how to give a clear reason to those not yet in the chase, we’ve wasted the hours and minutes. (1 Peter 3:15)

There’s a quotation attributed (erroneously) to Francis of Assisi that tells us to preach the Gospel and if necessary, to use words.  It’s not a bad thing to make the point that we should live out our faith.  Not a bad thing at all.

However, words are how we communicate truth.  King David, a man never at loss for innovative ways to communicate the truth of God’s love and power—and glory—was clear in his prayer: I want the words coming out of my mouth, and even the feelings in my heart to be acceptable to You, God. (Psalm 19:14)

It’s not enough to feel it; the words must be said.

It's not enough to feel it; the words must be said. Click To Tweet

Yes, I use that nerd book.  Well, it’s not actually Mr. Roget’s thesaurus I use.  There are tools at our disposal today that junior high school kid I used to be never could have dreamed of.  But, just because I never dreamed of them back then doesn’t mean I can’t avail myself of them now.

I want to use whatever language communicates in no uncertain terms the hope, the anticipation, the joy that lie ahead.  Like young Timothy, I want to study, so I can gain my Creator’s approval.

In the process, I can’t help but become more like him.  The process is slow, painfully so, but certain.

Daily, He shows us in new and varied ways His love for us.  

How could we do any less, as we reflect His light to a world desperate for its brilliance?


What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.
(from O Sacred Head, Now Wounded ~ Bernard of Clairvaux ~ French monk/theologian ~ 1090-1153)


Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
(2 Timothy 2:15 ~ KJV)




© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.


The girl-woman is becoming.

She is sure—but not all that sure—of what she knows.  A teenager, she sees a world that is too horrible to be lived in, but knows unequivocably that she will live in it (and wouldn’t miss it for anything).

And so, she is becoming.

Becoming is hard work.  Confidence and confusion coexist side by side.  Brilliant inspiration and murky misunderstanding vie constantly for the upper hand.

The child is giving way to the woman as choices are made, options are considered, and future pathways determined.

I used to think this was the norm.  Children become adults and the process of becoming is complete.  We make our choices and live with them.  And, die with them.

It’s not the way becoming works.

You see, this old man is becoming, as well. 

Sixty years have passed and the choices I have made and the roads I’ve taken are challenged nearly every day of my walk through this world—the world too horrible to live in, yet too precious to miss.

I was moved—even sad—as we talked, the girl-woman and I.  She made a statement to which I objected completely.

I’m pretty sure God is mad at me.

It seemed to me the words were largely a response to the horrible world in which she finds herself growing up.  I wanted to hug her tight and assure her it wasn’t true.

My intellect knows it’s not true.  My heart does also. And yet, since that evening, each time my mind goes to the words, my eyes fill with tears. 

The tears are for her.  No, not only for her.  

The tears are also for me.

I said I know it’s not true.  I do.

That doesn’t stop the questions.  It doesn’t keep me from wondering why life isn’t going the way I thought it would.  It doesn’t quiet the voice inside that wants to scream in frustration at every delay and inferred no from God.

I’m pretty sure God is mad at me.

But He’s not.

He’s not.

Without us making a move to please Him, He declared openly His great love for us by giving His only Son to die in our place. (Romans 5:8)

Does that seem like the act of someone who is enraged?  It’s not the way I treat folks when I’m angry at them.

His perfect love leaves no room for fear. (1 John 4:18)

My fears for the future, my fears for my family, my fears for the physical needs that are still waiting to be provided for—all of these fears and more—simply prove that I’ve not yet fully experienced the love of a Creator who can’t bear for His creation to be separated from Him and wants nothing but good for us.

And so, I am becoming.  

We are becoming.

God, who began this good work in our hearts, has promised to continue the work until the day we reach the finish line. (Philippians 1:6)

For all the starts and stops, the detours and the delays, the becoming has never stopped.

As we come, we become.  The meaning is essentially the same.  We are moving from one state of being into another.  Coming to His grace and becoming the men and women He is making us into.

The God who invites us to come, is causing us to become.

The God who invites us to come, is causing us to become. Click To Tweet

The God who is not mad at us gives us grace and mercy for the journey.  He gives us companions, both young and old, to walk beside us.

Becoming together.

As we walk hand in hand.



‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’
(from The Velveteen Rabbit ~ Margery Williams ~ Author ~ 1881-1994)


The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.
(Revelation 22:17 ~ NLTHoly Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. All rights reserved.)





© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.


I think I first heard the insult from one of my brothers.  He didn’t make it up himself.

Maybe you’ve heard it, too.

“Well, I. . .”

“That’s a deep subject—for such a shallow mind.”

It was funny the first twenty times. Eventually, I learned to start my sentences without the mention of the water source.

I thought about it again today when my young friend interrupted my monologue about some things I’ve been pondering recently.

“Those are some big thoughts you’ve been having, Paul.”

In my head, I immediately finished the idea for him.  

. . .for such a tiny brain.

He didn’t say the words and probably didn’t even think them, but still—I couldn’t help but wonder.  The red headed lady who raised me used to say it differently.

“You’re getting a little too big for your britches, Bub.”

It’s a funny thing, though.  I remember her buying me bigger pants when I outgrew the ones I was wearing.  Same thing with shoes, and shirts.

She didn’t want me to stay a small person.  From her diminutive height of five feet and four inches she looked up to her taller sons, two of us eventually reaching six feet, with pride.

She never wanted anything else but for us to grow.  She never wanted anything less than for us to reach further.

Parents are like that, you know.

Somehow, much of society wants nothing more than to pull us back into the teeming mass of the everyday.

Don’t get above your roots!

Remember where you came from!

Time and time again, the crowd pulls us down and reminds us that we need to fit in—to conform.

Ah, but I remember being in crowds with my Dad.  When you’re a kid, crowds are a pain.  You can’t see anything—can’t get anywhere.

stack-1230254_640But, with Dad, all I had to do was ask and, within seconds I was sitting on his shoulders, above the crowd.  No more looking through legs and around fat torsos.  No more stumbling and being shoved.

Parents are like that, you know.

But the day comes when the child is too big to sit on shoulders, too heavy to be carried through the crowd.  By then, they’ve learned to stand on their own feet and to see far ahead of the crowd.  One would hope anyway.

I encouraged and aided my own son to adulthood and then, stood aside and bragged.  Well, not exactly bragged.  But, I still remember the first time a co-worker of his praised his abilities and his work ethic.  

Ha!  The first time?  I remember the last time it happened, just a day past.

Parents are like that, you know.

And a voice came from heaven, telling them, “This is my only Son.  I am exceedingly pleased with Him.”  (Matthew 1:5)  

Evidently, there is another Father who wants His children to excel.

He gives us the tools to do just that—lifting us when we can’t see, carrying us when we can’t walk, encouraging us as we gain strength and wisdom.

Parents are like that, you know.

One has to wonder:  Why is it we seem to be satisfied, all too often, with the norm?  

Why do we stay a part of the crowd, when we have the advantages we’ve been given?

Why are we afraid to grow?  Why are we afraid to excel?  Why are we afraid to stand tall?

I wonder.  Surely I’m not the only one with big ideas (rattling around in a tiny brain).

Perhaps, it’s time we started acting on the big ideas.

It seems likely that we’ve stood on the edge of the dream for too long.  I think I hear a voice, almost like that of Aslan the Lion in the Chronicles of Narnia, calling us further up and further in.

Still encouraging.  Still calling.

Parents are like that, you know.



He turned swiftly round, crouched lower, lashed himself with his tail and shot away like a golden arrow.
“Come further in!  Come further up!” he shouted over his shoulder.

(from The Last Battle ~ C.S. Lewis ~ English theologian/author ~ 1898-1963)


Now look here, gal, you’d better be yourself
And leave that other stuff on the shelf
You’re country, baby
That’s plain to see

Don’t get above your raisin’
Stay down to earth with me
(Don’t Get Above Your Raising ~ Flatt/Scruggs ~ American Songwriters)





© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.