Monday, November 2, 2009

Hey Man, Paraphrase That!

Each Wednesday I make the trek to town for a writing class I am co-teaching with my oldest daughter, Christi.  I don't pretend to be a great writer or great writing teacher, but I do have enthusiasm and a modicum of imagination.  Some years back I discovered the easiest way to teach writing is through literature. Ever since, part of each class time is dedicated to some type of book I read aloud. Generally, I try to present great writing, but not always.  A secondary goal is to gain their attention and interest, so variety is important as well. And sometimes it's good to see what bad writing looks like!
A few weeks back I presented some passages from "Letters to Street Christians, by two brothers from Berkeley.  (I was first introduced to this book when Rahn and I  went to the home of Roy and Karen Knecht to meet and discuss the courtship of "our children", Henry and Anna.) As the Knechts and Hostetters talked in the kitchen about that subject, Henry and his three adult siblings were sitting around in the living room reading excerpts out loud to each other. Occasionally, we would hear peels of laughter coming from the other room as they read this "hippy"  paraphrase of the Bible's New Testament.
Evidently, the book came into Roy's possession  during his days working with Jim Wilson at a bookstore in Moscow, Idaho called "The Dawn Treader".  The shop no longer exists but when it did, it was probably more about evangelism than just selling books.) 
 I chose the Berkeley author's paraphrase from I Corinthians 13, "The Love Chapter" to read to my students:
If God's love is controlling you, you will be patient and kind.  You won't get jealous, won't brag about yourself, you won't be thinking about impressing people, won't have to grab at places of importance or go after things for yourself.  You won't get upset by what people say and do to you or get hassled up at people who burn you. If you're being controlled by God's love, you'll be hurt to see people rip off others and you'll really be happy when things which are true and right happen.  God's love can take anything that's thrown at it; it never stops trusting and never gives up hope; it just never quits.  In fact, man, when everything else is smashed, God's love still stands.  If you have the God-given ability to know his will and purpose, it will pass away.  If you can rap in unknown languages, far-out, but someday all God's children will speak the same language.  And the things we know will someday appear stupid in the face of the real truth. What we know and experience now is so far short of the truth, and what we say shows it.  When Jesus comes back and everything is perfect, we won't need these inadequate things..."
Since we are always trying to get them writing--impromptu as well-- I asked them to produce their own version of this famous Biblical chapter.  Though a simple and  short assignment (they had about 15 minutes), I was pleased at each student's unique twist on the passage, plus it made me see an old familar piece in a fresh light. Here they are:
 Elliot Robertson
"Love isn’t in the habit of failing. But prophecies will be quieted,tongues will be shut up, and where people know things, they will forget. For we partly know and partly prophesy, but when we get to be perfect, we won’t be imperfect anymore. When I was a kid, I chattered like one, thought like one, and used childish logic. When I grew up and became a man, I gave up all those childish things. Right now we just see a warped mirror image; later we will see face to face. Right now, our knowledge is limited; in the future it will be as unlimited as the knowledge of us." 
Ashley Parker
"Love is patient and kind. It is not jealous, it does not brag, it is not snotty or stuck up. Love is not rude, or selfish, and love is not uptight; Love does not have people walking on pins and needles. Love does not keep a tally board for every time someone messes up. Love finds no pleasure in wickedness- but it is excited for truth. Love always protects, keeps trusting, keeps hoping, and always presses on."
Nathaniel Robertson
"Love never fails. Prophecies will come to pass, voices will fall silent, and knowledge will be forgotten. We know and prophecy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect version shall fall away. When I was a child, my ways were the ways of a child; childish speech, childish thought, and childish reasoning. These ways I put behind me when I became a man. Now we see the world as seeing a friend in mirror. In the future we will see the world as clearly as if we were standing face to face with all of our friends. Now I know part of things, but at that time I will know completely, just as you completely know me."
Anna Hurley
"Even if I talk special languages like the angels, but I don’t love people I’m as bad as a bunch of noisy pots and pans banging together, which is no good. Even if I could predict the future and know everything in the whole world, even if I could make mountains get up and move just by believing, but I don’t love anybody, I’m just plain worthless. Even if I gave everything I got to poor folks and get burned up in the fire, but I don’t got love, I’ve got nothing.
I think all the students did a great job.  As to "Letters to Street Christians" I'll let you, dear reader, be the judge as to whether it's good or bad literature!  I will say, however, as silly as some of the paraphrase seems, the book doesn't do a bad job of trying to keep the intent of the passages. 
Perhaps, most importantly for me, it not only served as a springboard for a writing exercise and to make them think; but it also made me reflect back to that time--my era--those crazy 60's and 70's.  So much so, that I just had to include a picture of Rahn and I then.
This picture hangs on the wall by my computer to serve as a reminder of those "good old days" when we were young.  I must thank Cindy Barley for this one!  Some years back she dug it up at my parent's home.  She made copies for all my children, as well as for us, and sent it out one Christmas.  Included in the package was a note that said we all had to open the present at the same time.  My kids loved it and for years each one hung the picture where ever they lived. 
Here's hoping you dig it!

the end!


  1. Wow - now that's the Rahn and Becky I remember from 1976-79 - our Seminary Days in Oregon! Groovy!!!

  2. Ha! I'm surprised your eyesight is so good;-) Boy, how I realize now...those really were the days!

  3. I love that picture! You both look really happy. How old were you?

  4. Haha! Will has a copy of that Bible "translation" that he carries around in his bag. :)


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