Small book is a vital resource for nurturing newborn believers
A new Christian grows through observable, developmental stages as he matures…
I love words. I’ve always loved words. In first grade my school hosted a poetry contest. We all wrote poems and made artwork to go with them. My poem won first place. My art was woefully lacking. I didn’t care.
In “Reframing the Soul: How Words Transform Our Faith,” Gregory Spencer lays out the way words work. We don’t just remember the past, he writes; we frame it with words. We use words to frame our entire world — and our souls.
Jesus calls us to reframe our lives with words of grace instead of law, words of love instead of retaliation.
Spencer, professor of communication at Westmont College, a Christian liberal arts school in California, writes with rare and refreshing genuineness and approachability, allowing his own flaws to shine alongside his many moments of greatness. He creates an aura of heartfelt conversation in a living room over a cup of good, strong coffee.
Words, he suggests, provide windows for our world. Through them we look upon the landscape of our lives and gain understanding of what we feel, hear, touch, taste, experience. Words are the means of describing all that we perceive — and the basis for how we relate, or fail to relate, to our neighbors and communities.
The words we choose for our window frames affect the landscaping of our lives — whether we fill our frames with words of grief and despair or gratitude and hope, whether we have peace with ourselves and love for others or see relationships as zero-sum games. Our landscapes change as our window frames change.
Our souls will follow suit.
“The words we choose for our window frames affect the landscaping of our lives…”
Make no mistake — this is not a slap-a-smile-on-your-face, namby-pamby book about making your life great again after a divorce, a terrible illness or a shocking revelation about the past.
“Reframing the Soul” dives deep and shows all of us who yearn to live the calling to “be holy because I, Yahweh your God, am holy” how the words we use are far more powerful than any sticks and stones tossed our way.
Spencer suggests four essential areas in which the words we choose frame and form our souls:
• remembering the past
• anticipating the future
• dwelling with ourselves
• engaging with others
The words we choose do not change what happened in the past or preempt the future, but they do frame our perceptions and, therefore, emotions and responses and the ways in which we walk with ourselves and others.
If I look back on a life of loss and sorrow — with words of hatred and blame for those who took and hurt — I will likely anticipate more of the same. I will act protectively and engage others with words that question motives and criticize mistakes.
If, however, I am able to see a larger landscape, I might learn to see that those who wounded me have stories — stories that don’t necessarily excuse their behavior, but perhaps explain how they knew no other way.
Reframing the past does not necessarily lead to changes in relationships with the wounders in the present, Spencer writers. But it can lead to new ways of anticipating the future, dwelling with ourselves and engaging others.
As a therapist, mentor, friend and minister, “Reframing the Soul” offers me fresh, new language to go deeper into the narratives of those I walk with, whether they speak the language of God or not.
As I finished the conversation of words, I had a renewed view of the landscape of my life, a refreshed sense of peace in myself and a vibrant vision of my future.
Life, as it were, is all together more God-sighted and resonating.
I do so love words.
Christene Fox Parker is a marriage and family therapist, speaker and co-editor and contributor to “Surrendering to Hope: Guidance for the Broken.” She worships with the Grand Central Church of Christ in Vienna, W.Va. See more of her writing at www.christinefoxparker.com.
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