Sojourning and Journaling, part 1: Unsuspecting

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At lower right in the image above, you see a spiral-bound journal I bought because it was too cute to resist. The cover has a drawing of a cup of coffee and some writing in that “Courier” type of font that makes your words appear to have been rendered by an actual typewriter – reminiscent of a glorified era now gone. If you become sentimental for reminders of vintage office machinery and technology, just watch a few episodes of classic Columbo or especially Hawaii Five-0. Those dictaphones, telephones, adding machines, and punchcard-spitting computer monstrosities are simply fascinating!

“Coffee doesn’t ask silly questions,” my irresistibly-cute journal’s cover reads. Below that: “COFFEE UNDERSTANDS.”

Yeah, that’s kind of a weird message. However, because I enjoy coffee every morning, during the pure solitude to be found only by being up and about earlier than anybody else in the household, I’m fine with having a weird coffee message on the cover of the journal I am currently using to record my responses to the Bible. In fact, I recently admitted to someone that “making coffee a positive association” of this morning routine is helping me to sustain a renewed commitment to daily Bible reading. While that admission makes me wonder if I should apologize or be embarrassed that the Bible without coffee apparently isn’t sufficient enticement, I am not apologizing. Not today, anyhow. After all, on the third day when God created grass, herb, and tree, that included coffee, didn’t it?

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I brewed the coffee…but God created it!

Since early April of this year, when another writer’s devotional message deeply convicted me that regular Bible reading is an absolute must, I have poured the coffee first, then pored over the assigned pages in a One-Year Bible. Every day. Haven’t missed a single day yet. I desire not to give up this daily time reading the Word “for any consideration” – to borrow what Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice says about the delight he finds in the absurd letters written him by Mr. Collins, a cousin who is silly, pompous, hypocritical, and socially awkward.

“Sojourning and journaling”

“Sojourning and Journaling” is the title of this three-part blog post. You are reading Part 1. The other two installments are set to publish immediately on the heels of this one. In Part 2 you’ll learn when and why the word “sojourning” became such a focus. When that happened, I took my pen to the facing blank page of that weird “coffee” journal and wrote:
Sojourning and Journaling
A title that may well describe the process of navigating life and spirituality in my pre-senior-adult years, and the record thereof

Isn’t “sojourning” quite nice in adjective form?
“A sojourning Levite happens upon Micah’s house”

I also like the word as a gerund noun. The title “Sojourning and Journaling” definitely feels descriptive of my ongoing learning and meditative process, an introspective and contemplative journey not just about what I am reading daily in the Bible in the year 2020, but also about semi-retirement and upcoming mother-of-the-bride duties and COVID-19 adjustments and constantly feeling as if my prayer life – nay, my total discipleship – is woefully stunted, and so much more.

Lately, this sojourn has been chronicled not only in the “coffee understands” journal dedicated to Bible reading sessions, but also in a series of “regular” journals – mostly, the classic, stitch-bound composition “theme” books I have been using ever since the happy acquisition of a beautiful cover made locally by Leldon’s Wooden Art:

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These theme books and their predecessors have content that runs the gamut from highly-mundane goings-on to serious reflections, from travelogues to baking, knitting, and yardwork endeavors.

“From everlasting to everlasting”: one gem OF MANY in the Psalms

Before we get to the subtitle topic of this post, “Unsuspecting,” look with me at one poetic phrase in the assigned readings from May 2, within verse 17 of Psalm 103: “from everlasting to everlasting.” It employs as a noun what more naturally sounds like an adjective in English (as in “everlasting life”). Naturally, I ran straight to any website that might tell me what the Hebrew word translated “everlasting” looks like:
‘ō-w-lām H5956
Not being a scholar or even a student of Hebrew, I don’t find those notations very meaningful. But they look impressive, don’t they?

And this is really cool: the Hebrew rendered “everlasting” is explained by a list of words that includes both nouns and adjectives: 😄 #WordJoy

Long duration (noun)
Antiquity (noun)
Perpetual (adjective)
Eternity (noun)
Old (adjective)
Futurity (noun)
Always (adverb… just to keep this still more interesting)
Wouldn’t you like to be the writer who first employed the phrase “from everlasting to everlasting”? I sure would.

Is “unsuspecting” a good way to be? No. And yes.

As we now arrive at the primary topic of this installment, “Unsuspecting,” I need to point something out about the NIV (New International Version). There is a current NIV translation you get in the “audio” tab on Bible Gateway, and there is an earlier NIV in my One-Year Bible published in 1986. As a result, frequent differences in wording occur. For example, “unsuspecting” is interchanged with “at peace” in Judges 18:7 and 18:10.

Note also that the format of this Bible resource is a pretty big chunk from the Old Testament, every day, in sequence from Genesis starting on January 1 to Revelation concluding on December 31; plus, each day, a shorter passage from the New Testament; some verses from one or more Psalms chapters; and, almost as a postscript (but not), a mere one or two verses from Proverbs. You could almost do the math here if you were so inclined (and I am so inclined; oh, yes, I am!):
365 days times some 28 words on average per day should equal about 10,220 words in the book of Proverbs. Guess what: I was less than 3% off. That’s pretty close! One website reports that Proverbs has 9,921 words. #BibleTrivia
Math… English… Argghhh! Which discipline do I enjoy more?

Synonyms and Antonyms
How interesting it is to examine words and the apparent nuances of difference in their meanings! Let’s look at the use of “unsuspecting” versus “at peace.” In context, the term so translated seems to mean “politically at peace, unworried about possible attack by other peoples.” See Judges 18:7-10.

Would you agree that “unsuspecting“ often hints that the person so described is misled into feeling at peace? In fiction, the word nearly always applies to someone about to become a victim: an unsuspecting pedestrian suddenly hears screeching tires and a roaring car engine. Will that pedestrian react in time? In nonfiction, the unsuspecting (and slower) gazelle may not be very happy to glance up and discover a cheetah charging. YIKES!

It’s not only synonyms that deserve scrutiny; opposite concepts do, too. Therefore, look with me at Assurance/Peacefulness/Unsuspecting versus Warning/Unease/Alertness:

“Always be on the alert,” we are warned in the New Testament. “Unsuspecting” suggests a parallel to the saying “ignorance is bliss” (bliss meaning peace). To feel safe and secure, like a cared-for infant or a cuddled household pet, is blissful, because sure-to-return discomforts and worries are temporarily forgotten.

In the Bible we find profound assurances such as “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” always in tension with warnings like the one mentioned at the start of the above paragraph. The New Testament must have scores of verses in each category. Here is just one more of each:
Assurance
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Romans 8:38-39
Warning
“The world will hate you as it has hated me.” John 15:18

And, so, that tension between assurance and warning, between peace and unease, between unsuspecting and alertness, will be a part of our Christ-follower journey until THE DAY of God’s appointing, when there shall be no more tears. I do not know whether my sojourn between now and that day will always find me journaling as avidly as at present. I do know it will take “from everlasting to everlasting” for me to exhaust the store of ideas, reflections, and word combinations that occur to me in response to such a wise and infinite Creator, in whose image I am wonderfully made.

And isn’t it exciting to realize that God’s children one day will actually understand what “from everlasting to everlasting” looks like and feels like? Then, the unfathomable depths of your mind and of mine, will find full expression. Complexity is a facet of God’s nature, and we are made in His image. In His eternal home, all of our complexities, presently too great for us to understand no matter how hard we try, will be employed perfectly and to their ultimate extent. Mental complexities, yes, but physical, too! At least, this is what I imagine.

In other words, we each may find ourselves able to be gymnasts, soloists, scientists, philosophers, orators, quarterbacks, weavers, composers, goldsmiths, pianists, horticulturists, teachers, masons, swimmers, and so forth, and so forth, and so forth! I won’t have to ponder ever again whether I like math more than English, or vice versa. #NoLimits #Perfection

And, forevermore, we will know the sweet privilege of staying unsuspecting.


Part 1, “Unsuspecting”
Coming up next: Part 2, “Everybody serves somebody”
Part 3, “The prayables”

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