(Words change to be more inclusive. Some people make fun of ‘pc,’
but polite compassion has never been a joke to me.)

I used to teach ESL –
English as a Second Language.

So on Pentecost every year
I prayed for SSL
for myself and the church I love —
Spirit as a Second Language.

Times changed and I taught
the same class with a new name —
English for Speakers of Other Languages,
ESOL, for people often come
to the United States
already with many tongues.

Pentecost –
Spirit for Speakers of Other Languages —
the day when everyone heard
the words they knew.

Now I teach ELL –
English Language Learning —
for it is still the language
of good jobs,
easier school days for children,
less chance of being cheated
by the landlord,
questioned by the police.

So Pentecost us now, God,
let us learn
to conjugate the Spirit,
shed the comfortable accents
of churchy insider talk,
fit our mouths to something strange —

mostly verbs,
present tense, active voice
not many possessive pronouns.

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9 Responses to Pneuma-lingual

  1. Great parsing of our speech problems. What I love about Pentecost is the detail confusion, whether the gift of understanding came as new ability in other languages or whether it came as increased understanding in your own. What I’m certain it wasn’t was glossolalia, that showing off to others that you can speak something they can’t, that you are closer to God. The Spirit falling over all of them is my prayer, everyone’s SL.

  2. Maren says:

    Thanks, Nancy, though I would never dis the gift of glossolalia, especially when folks use it in private devotion. It is a gift I’ve had since seminary days — God’s joke on me, the nit-picky word-shaper — that sometime’s I pray without a clue what I am saying. Always thought it had to do with poetry and now I wonder whether it is a preparation for dementia.

  3. Barbara VanAusdall says:

    I continue to be amazed by you and our connections that continue to be revealed through email – I also taught ESL, ESOL, and began when it was called EFB – English for the Foreign Born. I had no training back in the early ’70s when asked to do this, so had to trust in the SPIRIT in a public school setting. That experience was indeed a Pentecost, as well as Transformation and Resurrection, for me and for many in the program. I must write about that sometime soon. God’s work continues to amaze and humble me. In fact, my daily prayer is, “Get me out of the way, O God, and use me for YOU!” God is certainly using you.

  4. Maren says:

    Thank you Barbara and I hope the “must write about that sometime soon” is something that God nudges you toward any day now … well, after you do the piece for my book! I will be clear I teach four week reading enrichment programs in maybe twelve different ELL courses a year for the Humanities Council. So I am not responsible for the whole curriculum — which would be beyond me. Some days I sit back and celebrate the beauty of being bivocational — able to serve a church but also able to do all these non-church related “holy” things.

    • Barbara VanAusdall says:

      Amen to that! Advice from my home pastor Wells Grogan back in the 50’s to pursue a liberal arts education first and then go to seminary if I wanted to be a Christian Educator (all that seemed allowed back in those pre-women’s movement days) led me to be a teacher. I still felt called to ministry, yet my immediate love for teaching won over continue studies. In the years that followed, it was clear that God’s call was to LAY ministry, and I love where that has led me.

      What an amazing ride in the non-church related “holy” things!!! I hope we meet someday and share stories face-to-face. You are such an inspiration for me and continue to challenge me to put my pen where my heart is!

  5. Maren says:

    Amen to your doing that and amen to meeting!

  6. Pingback: Religious celebrations in May 2016 | From guestwriters

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