I is Understood

This post is from a few years ago. Long enough that I forgot most of what I wrote in it, so I’m hoping you did too, and it will all be new and fresh. AND I got really frisky and used hashtags in this updated version.

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Prudes are often self-appointed grammar nannies, making sure apostrophes are tucked in the cozy correct spots and participles don’t dangle dangerously.  The Tuesday Prude, however, hated diagramming sentences in school. Maybe it looked too much like math. When it was time to explore the beautiful world of grammar with our homeschooled prudlings, we choose a curriculum that didn’t technically require diagramming.

It was a good program and they learned enough not to embarrass me. The closest they came to diagramming was the requirement to pull prepositional phrases from each sentence and label the leftovers:  subject, verb, direct object etc.
Occasionally an imperative sentence reared its imperious head:
Shut the door.
Stop strangling your brother.
Rescue that dangling participle.

Where is the subject in the above sentences? We learned that the imperative is addressed to “you.”
You” shut the door.
You” stop strangling your brother.
You”. . .
You get the picture.
Their job was to label the subject as “You is understood.”
It was sort of fun to say. Try it. “You is understood.”

The fun didn’t stop when my boys finished school. There is a new way to use this rule.

It keeps the world from knowing just how inflated an ego I (aka The Tuesday Prude) am prone to.

One of the first rules a good writer learns: avoid beginning every sentence with the word
I.
Even in a blog, even on a Facebook status, or personal communication—start too many sentences with ‘I’ and readers get the notion that the writer is self-centered.

My readers would be right.

Ever hear the phrase “She thinks the world revolves around her?” Try as I will to convince myself that the world actually revolves on a tipsy axis, my id, ego and superego all argue the opposite. In the world of the self-centered, I am firmly in the middle.

Narcissism, however, wears thin. As an author, I don’t want to alienate readers. They want to believe I am interested in them, and I am. Truly I am. But I can’t seem to evict this nasty little core of me that wants to make sure no one bumps me from Centerville. Because no matter how much evidence to the contrary, deep down in my self-fascinated self is the idea that everyone else should be captivated with ME.

So I develop strategies to hide my absorption in spellbinding me. Look back and you’ll discover the sneaky ways I wrote an entire post about ME without once starting a sentence with ‘I’.
Sometimes, unfortunately, it is almost impossible to keep the
I-word anywhere but the engine part of a sentence. Unless one wants to totally convolute the syntax till the reader has to stand on his/her head to make sense of it.

That is where my ‘You is understood’ training comes in handy, with one crucial change.

Instead of writing
I am trying to avoid starting sentences with ‘I’”,
I drop the ‘I’ at the beginning of the sentence and it becomes a friendly, informal
‘Trying to avoid…”

The ‘I’ is understood but it sits modestly out of the reader’s line of vision, understanding that I am really the subject of me but not trumpeting the fact.

It gets easier:
“Loving this organic casserole that just came out of the oven!”
“Going to buy a new pair of jeans in a smaller size!”
“Just enjoying the cutest grandbabies on earth!”

All the above are just underhanded ways of saying:
#allaboutme  #mememememe #wanttoknowmoreaboutme #sureyoudo #stilldidntstartasentencewithI

H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS ON WHEELS

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When I get in my vehicle I adjust my mirrors, buckle my seat belt, close the overhead garage door, and shift to reverse. Then I wad all my Christian grace into a ball and throw it in the back seat.
What weird force field is activated when a silver-haired, Jesus-loving granny turns the key in the ignition? How do I get sucked into the Dark Side so fully that my perspective changes from “Live and let live” to “Out of my way, jerks?”
Names come out of my mouth that, when I’m not on four wheels, I didn’t even know I knew. “Jerk” is an example. Do you think I use that term in my non-motorized life? It was one of the 2000+ naughty words my sons were forbidden to use.
But set me on the road and life becomes me-vs.-them. Because along with the latent anger, my eyes are open and I see the world with utmost clarity. The truth of “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you” is revealed in all its “Get that granny!” vendetta. I don’t see it from the passenger seat. But once that steering wheel is in my hands I regard every vehicle and construction site and pedestrian in my orbit with new understanding. Yes, their goal is truly to hinder my progress.
Is this a new phenomenon? Did this particularly dreadful manifestation of fallen nature erupt with the advent of motorized vehicles? If I didn’t have all that power flinging me down the road, insulated from the world by steel, aluminum and plastic, would I spend almost every mile on asphalt scolding and slandering that world?
Truthfully, I can’t see myself flicking a whip at a horse to get it to speed up. If I had been born in previous centuries, I’m convinced I would have been a most compassionate chariot/wagon/carriage driver.
And when I locomote on my own two feet? I am the most delightful of pedestrians. I hold doors for strangers, I scoot out of the way of on-comers even if it means promenading through a puddle or slogging in the gutter.
So why, when I am ensconced in the driver’s seat and all power is mine, am I (as some have hinted) a paranoid delusional curmudgeon with a salty vocabulary? Why (as some have hinted) could my unassuming silver SUV be named “Something Wicked This Way Comes?”
After pondering, I think I have the answer. It is depravity. Total and comprehensive and eerily supernatural.
No. I am not talking about MY depravity. I’m the one who waits for a dole (which means “a whole bunch”) of turtles to cross the road even if it means being late. I’m the one who holds the doors of a dollar store open for a swarm (meaning a whole bunch) of pierced and tattooed and black-clad youths. While wishing them a nice day and handing out Jujubes.
No, the depravity is contained in the VEHICLE ITSELF. Or more specifically, the STEERING WHEEL! How could I not see this before? A woman who is the essence of civility everywhere, including the passenger seat, but turns into Helen Wheels in the driver’s side has to be subject to potent forces outside herself.
Until I can work out an antidote to the evil currents emanating from that steering wheel, I’ll try to avoid contact with it. But I have to get out on the road sometime. You’ll recognize me. The one with flames shooting from her eyes muttering what—unfortunately—looks like the word “jerk.”

The Non-Elastic Clause

Non Elastic Clause

Here’s how it works:
We are, at birth, issued heart sections to fill with emotions.
Most sections are fairly elastic—the Puppy Love area, for example.
At age 13 it expands so far that it actually moves beyond the heart wall and into areas such as the voice box, (rendering it speechless when speaking to the Object of Affection), and the stomach, (startling dormant butterflies into violent action at the sight of the same Object of Affection).

But the Object of Affection eventually loses his/her luster and the Puppy Love section shrinks down to almost nothing till inflated by True Love.
The same is true of the ‘Need for Speed’ area predominant in teen boys-—it oozes past the heart and squeezes shut Common Sense and Self-Preservation areas of the brain, but by daddyhood has assumed manageable proportions.

Unfortunately the elastic clause isn’t binding on the Emotions for Parents Area (EPA).
A certain amount of heart space is delegated and we’re required to keep it filled at all times.
It has a non-elastic clause.
When we were infants, every nook and cranny of the Emotions for Parent Area is filled with Need. A bit older and we don’t Need parents for minute-to-minute survival, so some Need is replaced with Love.
Love ebbs and flows as Resentment, Desire for Approval, and Utter Humiliation jockey for position in the space allotted.
But the EPA retains its original volume requirements.

For many sad reasons, Hate, Blame, or Regret sometimes wriggle in. These make it difficult for Love to survive in the Emotions for Parents Area. (A sobering note: Whatever fills this area will  seep into and affect  Friend Love, True Love, Offspring Love, etc.)

In the normal course of events, by adulthood most of us find our EPA filled almost completely with Love, Respect and Concern, and as our parents age, Compassion and Anxiety find space.
What happens to those of us who had to say goodbye to parents? We think “If only I could have had them for a few more years, I’d be able to handle the loss better.”

Not true. The Emotions for Parents Area of your heart has a non-elastic clause, remember?
Parents could live to be 100 and there would be exactly the same amount of emotion to be lavished on them.
Those who have lost parents have a big heart part filled at first with Ache.
Then Affectionate Memories begin to replace some (but never all) of Ache, allowing room for Gratitude and Honor, all of which are highlighted by Love.
And the non-elastic clause means you will carry those emotions in full measure all of your days.

Simple Simon’s Rows

 

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My dear Garden of Grammar. I’ve neglected it since we examined  Apples to Apple’s.  I’m back now, and yanked out the ain’t weeds, cuz crabgrass and sprayed for I seen no-see-ums. It’s finally ready for us to continue our visit.

Moving to Plot Two, we first check on the to seedlings. If they have sprouted an extra o they no longer mean to-as-in-toward but too-as-in-also. Keep your two, to and too seeds separate. If they give you grief, remember what we tell fledgling gardeners—the too meaning also or in addition to has an ADDITIONAL o.

Not so serious as apostrophe aphids and a missing/spare o, but still pesky, the roaming n bears watching. It leeches onto the others skipping behind whole. “A whole nother problem?” Not if you are on the alert. Grab “n” and snip it right off the other.

Let’s stop a moment and admire the neat, straight rows of simple sentences. You know the ones. Tidy, easy to grow, these independent little basic clauses seldom give any headaches.

“This garden is lovely.”
“Aren’t action verbs fun?’
“Your prepositions are looking quite vigorous.”
Orderly rows of sentences with no meandering, they express just one idea and do it without any help. Not a comma, colon, semicolon or em-dash in sight.

Simple sentences are easy to grow and till and understand, but sometimes we long for complexity. That is why grammar gardens always include a trellis for sentence hybrids.

Come back sometime soon to admire our  Sentencus Compound-Complex
trellis

In the Garden of Grammar

young grammar gardener

Where would we be without words? They are inseparable from the rest of created things— everything that came into being simply because He Said. God used His creative words, words that were fruitful and multiplied, and then kindly gave them to us. All we had to do with words was tend them, subdue them, have dominion over them and use them wisely. Like everything else, we blew it, and now we are having one doozy of a job getting them under control.

Words, no longer exclusively lovely, orderly and life-giving expressions, have run rampant. Some are barbed, some false, some twisted and too many are poisonous. Grammar gardeners have no illusions about mastering all these wild words. Our task is a singular one. We keep words and everything they generate in functional order.

Examine a word carefully and you will see it is composed of small organisms called letters. A bunch of words in a certain order along a stem of almost any length is called a sentence. Wherever these organisms thrive and grow as they were meant to, you will find cultivators of syntax, spelling and phraseology.

Welcome to the Garden of Grammar, where a weed is never a we’d and we don’t use fewer manure because less will do. Be warned. The labors are ceaseless and under-appreciated. The personal satisfaction, however, is enormous. If you aspire to grammar gardening greatness, if you find yourself longing for additive-free words, pure punctuation, and irony-balanced soil, pull on your gardening gloves. We are heading to the plots of punctuation, paragraphs, parlance and linguistics, where tense isn’t a feeling, subject and verb always agree, and you can use your active voice.

Next in our garden tour: Apples to Apple’s

The Devastation of Light

God created light and it was good.
Until it shines on my dining room chairs and shows the dust I didn’t notice when the room was dim.

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Some might argue that this just demonstrates the essential goodness of light. It exposes uncleanness.
Have pity. I am much too busy to dust my chairs.
A little dust never hurt anyone.
The dust cloth makes my hands feel funny.
And in a few hours the sun will move away and leave me and my dust in happy ignorance of each other. Till tomorrow.

Another complaint about light.
These lovely spring lights. See how they glow in the dark?

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But that attention-grabbing sun with its ‘I can shine brighter than you’ beams all but
obliterates my pretty little pastels. You can’t even tell the bulbs are lit where the light hits them.

Light claims all glory for itself. Shine in the darkness, I’m told. Oh, sure. But the greater light, the I Am light, gets the glory while my tiny glow is virtually unnoticed.

Pitiless Light doesn’t let me sit at the foot of the cross in darkness, wallowing in tears and  ‘I knew this was too good to be true’ wailings.
It bursts out of an empty tomb and beckons me gleefully. “Arise! Shine! Your light has come! God’s face is shining on you! The day is at hand so cast off the deeds of darkness!”

I loiter in the shadowlands, weeping.
No, I know that sin has won. Might as well remain clinging to it.
Reluctant to move, because I also know the Light is merciless.
Oh, the dust I have accumulated! It will all be seen!
My feeble attempts at luminescence? Swallowed up in the devastation of the totality of Light.

Who knew Light had knowledge, and tenderness, and mercy? Who knew Light first shines on my dusty, dried-up frame, then outshines my feeble attempts to light my own way, and finally burns away the sin and separation and love of all that is dim and despairing? It grabs hold of my hand and drags me into its searing warmth and cleansing fire. What can I do? Light wins, and I learn, to my shock, that so do I.
“Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the LORD’s wrath, until he pleads my case and establishes my right. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness.”
Micah said it first but I am right there with him—half a syllable behind but heartfelt and grateful for lessons in spring lights and sermons in dusty dining room chairs.

Already. Not Yet.

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My pastor is fond of the phrase ‘already, not yet.’
We’re new creations in Christ already, but bits of the old man’s skin  cling to us. Sometimes entire swatches haven’t yet shed. Oh wretched people we are. Just when we think we have this Christian life figured out we get slapped upside the head with God’s requirements and see how short we fall. Not perfect yet.

Christ already came, bringing His Kingdom. But not every citizen of the Kingdom has been gathered in. Not yet.

Heaven is already ours. But we’re not there yet. We’re still in the messy, contentious, polluted, violent world that, unlike the one to come, is filled with war and death and tears. Lots and lots of tears.

Speaking of not yet: ever notice how warty the body of Christ is? Sure, the church is already the bride, already hands and feet etc. But does it look lovely and pure and fully functional?
Not yet.

Since the ‘already’ doesn’t look nearly as good as the ‘not yet,’ hope can by mighty hard to come by.
Another day hearing about hatred and its Pandora’s Box of evil deeds, another season seeing the earth we’re supposed to steward laid waste,
another Sunday wondering why we didn’t get to choose who would be our siblings in Christ because this bunch ain’t cutting it.
Another nightfall of self-examination and muttering over the ugliness in our hearts that refuses to heed the eviction notice.

Seems like hope for the ‘not yet’ is too much to hope for.

I live in the land of four seasons. Six months of winter coming, staying, and leaving, almost-three months of mosquito-spawning humidity, and the four remaining months divided haphazardly between autumn and spring.

March is an odd month in Four Seasons Land. Technically spring begins toward its end. March displays flashes of fine-weather promise interspersed with dour skies and spiteful snowfalls. After beguiling us with a glimpse of bare earth and its awakening aroma, songs of birds returned to the hearty climate, the feel of balm on one’s skin instead of ice, March retreats to do what it does best. It disappoints.

We get discouraged. We think we cannot hang on one. More. Day. Spring has to come or we will go absolutely, spectacularly mad. Underneath the gnawing need for spring to appear right this minute though, is the realization that it is closer than it was last month, last December, yesterday.

With no definitive glimpse into the mind of God, I still speculate if March is one way He chooses to help us comprehend the not-yet-edness of our existence. The landfill a few miles from my house grows by the day. Birds still see fit to nest along the top. My siblings in the body of Christ squabble one minute, rally round each other in deeds and prayer the next. We are family you know. Against all earthly odds Christ has sustained and nourished this body for two thousand years.

I went to bed last night more aware than ever of the hopelessness of my sin nature.
I woke up this morning more aware of, more humbled by, and more exhilarated because of grace. The Kingdom is nearer at hand now than it was yesterday.

It may not be spring yet, but the robins are already singing outside my window.