Category Archives: Words

Books You Read To God

I like prayer books. I have at least a dozen of them, probably more. I have Anglican, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Jewish and even a Billy Graham, Evangelical prayer-book. Yes, there is an Evangelical prayer-book, though it’s not a standardized one intended for corporate worship.

My wife and I attend an Anglican church that uses the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. It is designed for both liturgical and personal use, as are the Roman Catholic, Jewish and Lutheran ones. Not all prayer books are meant for liturgical use. I have several that are designed for personal devotion and meditation, and some that are simply collections of prayers through the ages.

Of course, I have many books that are ABOUT prayer, including Richard J. Foster’s “Prayer.” I’ve lost count of how many of those I own.

I’ve always felt that prayers were a type of poetry. Some of the most beautiful words I’ve read were arranged in prayer to God. Offerings, if you will. In reading these various prayers, I often find myself actually praying, which is a good thing!

There are some, I know, who are skeptical of using prayers that are written out and arranged for corporate or personal use. These prayers may seem to be mechanical or “canned.” However, if read with a real awareness of the words, these prayers are actually teachers which can lead us into deeper communication with God. They can widen the areas we speak to God about and help us to become better pray-ers.

I will share some of these prayer-books with you in future posts.

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Posted by on August 17, 2012 in Prayer, Reading, Words


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Cool Words From Robin Hood

An illustration of the first meeting between R...

An illustration of the first meeting between Robin Hood and Little John, from Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First of all, let me apologize for not posting in a few days. The wonderful monsoon storms this time of year in central Arizona mess with the electronics around here. Sure enough, the internet service has been pretty sketchy the past two days. Sorry.


Fortunately, storms have no effect on my books. I can read them rain or shine. As I promised a few posts ago, I’ve started reading the Paul Creswick version of “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” originally published in 1902. My copy is from the Reader’s Digest Association and includes some amazing illustrations by N.C. Wyeth. Believe me, I could just stare at these pictures for hours.


I’m only 10 chapters in at this point, but I wanted to share one of the best things about this book so far; the words. Of course, Creswick conveys a strong sense of Robin’s era with his use of words, particularly the idioms of the day. For someone like me who loves words, this book is a treasure. Here’s a small sample.


One of the supporting characters so far is a monk, called an anchorite in the book. Anchorite comes from a Greek word, anachorein, which means to withdraw or to make room. So our anchorite lives in self-imposed seclusion for religious reasons.


A little later in the tale, young Robin drops his bodkin in the forest. Before you jump to any conclusions, a bodkin is the Middle English word for a dagger or a stiletto. It can also be an ornamental hairpin shaped like a stiletto, but I doubt Robin would have threatened a robber with a hair accessory.


Just one more, I promise. While exploring his room at his uncle’s estate, Robin comes across a “bench in the nook, curiously carven and filled with stuffs and naperies.” Napery means household linen, especially dealing with the table. It comes from the French nappe or nape meaning tablecloth. Our modern word napkin comes from this. Whether Robin and his Merry Men ever used them is another question.


There you are, some wonderful old words from the Middle Ages. A special thanks to my Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary for the great information on the word roots. A good dictionary, used well, is a joy.



Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Grazing, History, What I'm Reading, Words


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Of Virility and Virtue


Virtue (Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews)

I recently began reading N.T. Wright‘s book “After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters” (HarperOne, 2010). I’m not far enough in for a review at this point, but Wright has made the point that virtues – courage, self-discipline, etc. – are the building blocks of Christian character and need to be developed. No argument from me on that one.

Out of curiosity, I went to my Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary and looked up “virtue.” One of the things I love about this dictionary is the way it gives the language roots of various words. In the case of “virtue” I learned something very interesting. It seems that both “virtue” and “virile” come from the same Latin root, vir. That is the Latin word for man or male or hero.

The first definition for “virtue” given is “conformity to a standard of right.” These days, one would have to be very heroic to pull that off! Yet it seems the ancients considered it to be very masculine to adhere to a code of moral conduct.

Something to ponder.

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Posted by on June 19, 2012 in What I'm Reading, Words


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If one loves books, one must also have an affection for words. Without words there would be no books, after all. Actually, without words, there wouldn’t much of anything if you stop to think about it.

Yes, I love words too. I have several volumes on word origins, meanings, usage and so on. One of my favorites is a small volume I found years ago at – you guessed it – a thrift store. What can I say?

“Weigh the Word” was published in 1957 by Harper & Brothers. It’s an anthology of essays about words put together by Charles Jennings, Nancy King and Marjorie Stevenson of East Los Angeles Junior College. I suspect it was created to be a textbook for some classes they taught. Some excellent writers are represented here, such as Mortimer J. Adler, Clifton Fadiman, Ogden Nash and George Orwell, to mention a few.

Perhaps my favorite essay is the very first one in the book. It was excerpted from an article in the July,1948 issue of Science Illustrated and it’s titled “On the Origin of Speeches.” Written by the associate editor of the magazine, Morton Hunt, it examines some of the theories current at that time as to how language came into being. While some of these theories were pretty funny, something else stuck in my mind

At the beginning of his piece, Hunt points out something very important and, if one thinks about it, very obvious. He writes that “language has an even more basic value than that of communication: it is an essential to real thinking, without which there is little to be communicated.” Let that sink in for a moment.

Here’s something else to think about. We will probably never know with certainty how words and language began. As Hunt writes, “the history of language is not marked out by fossils and preserved objects. Nothing exists in the world to capture for us the sounds, the words, and the first verbal inventions of man’s early language.” Here’s one mystery that science probably won’t be able to solve.

A quote comes to mind, however. Even if you’re not religious, it still rings true:

“In the beginning was the Word . . . all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”   John 1:1,3

Think about that.

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Posted by on May 3, 2012 in Ideas, Old Books, Words


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