Monday, June 26, 2017

Deaf Mutes speak

The Greek Word Peran

The Greekj word peran can be translated “other side” and “crossing over.” The word only appears five times in the Gospel of Mark, appearing first in chapter 4:35 after Jesus has a teaching session from a boat to protect himself and keep the crowd on the shore.

The word peran, an adverb, is an orientation metaphor signifying a change, and most of the time the word comes as an invitation from Jesus. Included is a storm on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus becomes directly involved in calming the storm, causing the disciples to ask, “Who can this be?” (Mark 4:41).

Historically the word has a history in Greek poetry involving water. The word origin relates to piercing, a break through. Here the water connection is with the sea. Homer uses the word in his poetry. And for emphasis the word sea is repeated three times in the first verse of chapter 4, New King James Version, to get us ready for what is about to happen. Water has a change connection in both our mythological and Faith history. (unfortunately some translations lose this repetition emphasis.) 

The 2nd chapter of the book of Jonah would be a parallel in the Hebrew Scripture. Jonah’s change of direction involves the sea and a drowning scene.””

Transformation stories

Following the word and the crossing over a number of transition and transformation stories appear until the whole Gospel is transformed by the resurrection of Jesus. The place of illness and healing are not an unusual event for transformation. I have experienced the same myself as a hospital chaplain relating to patients, families, staff, and directing a grief recovery group for 17 years.

Preparation for this journey is in the first verse, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God.” (Mark 1:1, KJV) The Good News story is about to be told in the 16 chapters of Mark. Then in chapter 4:3 we have a powerful orientation verb in the present imperative tense, the word "Listen." The verb tense not found in English means continuous in the now. Listen continuously for the rest of the story, be attentive, and keep your ears open.

Deaf mutes

In fact your ears may need to be opened. In chapter 7 we have the healing of a deaf mute. We have all been there at one time or another. The Greek word for understanding is sunesis and here it used in to describe the disciples grasp of what Jesus is doing and teaching. There response is one of not understanding. Their hearts are hardened. They are stuck in their prior container as the religious authorities are stuck in theirs. We have the contrast between the healing of the deaf mute at this point with those who remain deaf mutes, the disciples and the authorities.

I would not be able to say what I am saying about peran five years ago. I was mute on the subject. I was stuck. The repetition in reading and listening, or as a prayer says, "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest," in the continuous now I have come to the point of being able to talk about the significance of peran in Mark and the other Gospels in a new and different way.  

Deaf mute can be our container keeping us from moving to a new place of insight, meaning, purpose, service, add your string of metronomes: different words that have a similar meaning.

The healing of our deaf mute condition can move us from the physical to the emotional and a multitude of ways that describe our new condition.

I was a deaf mute about metaphors for many years. In 1976 I tape recorded a conversation with a patient. As I listened to the tape I began to hear how the patient was moving different words to a new place to tell his story, Here is an example. He was from the farm area where I grew up. He knew my father as a fiddle player for barn dances I said I have the violin but strings in the bow are worn out. He took the words worn out and move them to, "Yes, we all wear out."  And then to talk about his surgery.

Somehow I remembered a philosophy book I read my senior year in college majoring in philosophy. Philosophy in a New Key by Susan Langer. She had a chapter on language and there I had underlines a number of places where she talked about metaphor. I was about the hear in a new way and discovery the art of story metaphor listening. I am no longer mute about metaphors and how they function in language and healing. You change the metaphor and you change the story.

I am asking all of us to reflect back over our lives to those events where you found your voice after being deaf to what was happening. You will have experienced peran at the same time when you moved to a new place of understanding. The break through can lead to a number of Ahas! in our emerging future.

To be continued,
Marlin Whimter, BCC
Founder of the Befrienders at Genesis Hospital and the art of story metaphor listening

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Greek Word

A Greek word 

     My oldest son sent me a BBC World News article on the word philotimo.  It is a fun story about language with serious implications.  Any story like this is foundational in this blog. I promote ongoing conversation with others who like the study of language, words, conversation, and who use listening skills to further dialogue.

From the article, “The exact meaning of philotimo is hotly debated, given that the word belongs to the pantheon of Greek lexical items that defy easy explanation.”

My interest in words is grounded in Scripture. The first words of God in Genesis, ““Let there be light,” and there was light.” Words call our realities into existence.

Some of us are fascinated with words and language and the whole symbolic nature of our being. I am called into being as one created in the image of God, and by the “Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Besides, although many in our present world don’t seem to follow this, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”(Matthew 4:2-4)
I chuckle since my early education was in a one room country school house, White Pigeon School, in Sugar Creek Township, Cedar County, Iowa, USA. Six grades together with one teacher in a seating arrangement with a teacher’s desk in the front, a recitation bench, and rows of desks.

Maybe it was the words White Pigeon and Sugar Creek that started the journey. Maybe it says something about farm boys. At the Fitness Center is a man who farms with a GPS tractor, who after reading one of my blogs said, "I see you like language." So does he. Kindred farm boys.

I know a lady at Church who comes from the Greek community in Chicago. She and I have talked frequently about the Greek language. I sent her the article on philotimo. Later at Trinity Cathedral, Davenport, she said the article and the Greek word made her day. “So true,” she said about that word. Now she is on a journey to learn more. 

The big sentence in the article for me is the one I already referenced, and there are other Greek words defying translation. This must be true for all languages. I remember entering the Emergency Room office where the staff doctor was reading Persian poetry during a quiet time. He said the Persian language was full of nuances. There you have it.

The Hebrew language is the same I am told, and I have found this true in a few instances. The word yad can mean hand, near, or destiny depending on the context. 

The BBC article did not talk about context although the stories told provide the context. Context is a huge part of meaning. This is where metaphor comes in, when the context changes, previous words are moved to the new situation. This is how metaphors work!

My reflection continues the introduction for this blog. Words and language will be the major focus for meaning, compassion, and service.

“Philotimo (Love of honour), its official translation, is a utilitarian yet insufficient attempt to convey the constellation of virtues squeezed into the word’s four syllables.

Disclaimer: The BBC is not responsible for the content of this email, and anything written in this email does not necessarily reflect the BBC's views or opinions. Please note that neither the email address nor name of the sender have been verified.”

To be continued,
Marlin Whitmer

Developing the art of story metaphor listening and helping people find and explore the metaphors in our conversations for a deeper understanding of feelings and meanings.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Peran: Comment on Comment


Annie wrote: "I used to ask my nursing students to write a story about a time they will never forget, when they came to a totally new understanding of something they felt they understood before. This to me is peran. 

 Jesus invited his disciples to come to a totally new understanding of the life they thought they understood. I see him saying "Ah!, there is much more. Follow me. Come and see. "

Annie's comments update the invite of Jesus to journey with him to the "other side" before encountering a Storm on the Sea of Galilee. Entering into a relationship with Christ involves a Storm experience, a descent, a wounding, where the old self will never be the same.

Later in the Gospel of Mark we find the word understanding appearing in the Greek. Susnesis. (Mark 6:52)  It appears as not understanding. Even though they ask the question, Who is this?, they are not understanding the clues being given. They are continuing a journey to the "other side" with resistance. Mark names the resistance as “hardness of heart, NKJV/minds were closed, REB.” (Mark 6:52)

The invite "Come and see" (John 1:39) are the exact words in the Gospel of John. Here the main word will be (forms of the Greek word lambano) receive instead of understand in answer to the question "Who is this?" John uses receive (a gift) instead of understand (which can be seen as our accomplishment in connecting the dots). Receive implies it is not our doing except to receive. The two words are both nuances in the same unfolding journey.


Aha! With this comment and my response I see the blog as an emerging possibility. I was a distance learning facilitator with the Wayne Oates Institution from 2003 through 2009 with a seminar entitled "The Healing Power of Stories." The listening model was the art of story metaphor listening. The blog may offer an emerging possibility to exercise the same skills in a new format, conveying insights about everyday conversation for health care.

To be continued,

Marlin Whitmer,
Retired Hospital Chaplain.

Founder of the Befrienders in 1966, story listeners in a hospital setting, with potential for health care out in the community.  

Monday, June 5, 2017

Peran is a Greek Word


I was in my early 80's when I began to really notice the word peran in the Gospels of the New Testament. For years I have been following the Daily Office way of organizing my daily reading of the Scriptures. I do not claim to have made every day but most days. 

Peran (crossing over/other side) has now become a continuous mode as an orientation in Scripture. In Christ and in daily life, we encounter a host of storms, transitions, discoveries, Aha's that lead to the other side. I am about to demonstrate.  

Having observed the Hebrew and Greek use of repetition, I've found it to be a tool, a reflective way for continuous learning. I think it was in the Gospel of Mark where the word peran most often appears, and then sparingly, that I wanted to know and connect with more. The word first appears when Jesus invites the disciples to cross over the Sea of Galilee to the other side. Mark 4:35. "Let us cross over to the other side." "Other side" is peran.

The word in Greek has ancient origins in Greek poetry. The word is used by Homer and in connection with water. How this background would then appear in the New Testament with a decidedly Hebrew background is a question I can not answer presently.

To get us ready for crossing over, the word sea is introduced more than once. The word appears three times in one verse in Mark 4:1. Repetition in Hebrew, as I understand it, is a way to get your attention for something important. Water has a historical connection to transformation, change, Jonah, baptism, etc. Fire and water are two major metaphors relating to change.

Jesus is teaching by the Sea and in a boat in the Sea to protect himself, crowd control. We could do an addition. The students are by the Sea. We are now students by the Sea. By the Sea will be the beginning of our learning and our transformation. 

His teaching begins with the word listen. That gives us pause since it is in the present imperfect, a Greek verb form meaning continuously in the present. Listen, students then and students now, be ready to listen continuously in the present.

A number of parables follow concluding with "Let us cross over to the other side." 

Jesus and the disciples are crossing over the Sea of Galilee and a frightening storm occurs. The storms of life are now front and center, a major part of life and transformation, big time. The rest of the Gospel can be lived from this way of hearing and seeing. Chapters 7 and 8 of Mark will reinforce this. 

Jesus calms the storm and they ask the question who is this that even the wind and sea obey him? The question will remain to the end of the Gospel and beyond. Proceeding we will find three Gospels with this question, Mark, Matthew, and Luke. The question of all of us at one time or other. 

Staying with Mark, we now "cross over to the other side" literally and at the same time at deeper levels. Jesus will begin a conscious transition as the Son of Man. His relationship with God is being revealed in various ways with transformation at the heart of the matter.   

Saturday, June 3, 2017

From the ground up


We have the Naaman story from 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c. The story documents how God works from the ground up and heals from the bottom up. Early in the story we learn the great Naaman has leprosy. He is also an Aramean. His slave girl initiates the healing and later the servants of Naaman keep their cool when he loses his. Take the bottom up people from the ground up out of the story and you don't have a healing story.

As I review the stories of people at the Cathedral who have ministries outside the walls of the Cathedral the more I see a common feature: they are grounded in everyday life. Their stories make a difference from the ground up as wounds heal from the bottom up.

Here is another story with the same story pattern. The other day I recalled meeting Terese Lasser in the late 60‘s. She started the Reach for Recovery for women with breast cancer surgery. As a hospital chaplain the lady in charge of the program in Davenport invited me to her presentation. Lasser’s story was one of first being rejected by doctors when she wanted to give patients the benefit of talking plus exercises for their arm. She pestered the doctors until one sent her to a very depressed patient curled in a fetal position with window shades down to darken the room. She was unable to get a response from the patient until out of her own frustration an inspiration. She tripped the old fashion window shade, which went up and rattled at the top. Then she grabbed a chair, got on it, and pulled down the shade. The patient in the bed said,, "you can do that?" Reach for Recovery was born and today it is part of the Cancer program. From the ground up continues to be a "live option" pattern. The lady was the outsider as much as the slave girl and the servants of Naaman.

The ministries outside the walls of the Cathedral have much to teach “from the ground up” approach. They connect us with Scripture and provide concrete places where God is already in our midst. May God continue to bless all that we do both within and outside the walls of the Cathedral. May we become more aware of what is going on outside the walls (containers of our various institutions) where ministry is exercised “from the ground up.” 

Marlin Whitmer, BCC
Founder of the Befrienders, 1966, story listeners for hospital patients and families
Presenter in the DVD on the Healing Power of Stories