Olamic eyes


I encountered the phrase ‘olamic eyes’ in a poem and had to drag out my dictionary to understand what it means. (The poem is: Digging for Now by Ruth Mowry)

Olam is a rarely used noun of Hebrew origin meaning ‘a vast period of time, an age of the universe.’ Olamic is the adjective.

A website about ancient Hebrew word meanings describes the meaning as being ‘in the far distance’ in the sense of being difficult to make out or so far away in time that it is difficult to know.

When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out. (Ecclesiastes 8:16–17 ESV)

In a sense, all Christians should look upon life with ‘olamic eyes’, searching out that which is barely discernible beyond the edge of this world and this time. Pondering this idea led me to a couple of conclusions to bear in mind when looking into the dim future or realms beyond this mortal coil:

Find a good lookout

When trying to interpret what is far off and indistinct, it helps to have a good vantage point – on the mountain tops rather than down in a valley of despair. If I am down in such a vale where my sight is even more restricted than usual, it is probably wise to be cautious in how I interpret what appears to be off in the past or future.

Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (Colossians 2:18-19 ESV)

Avoid pollution

In Antartica, where the air is too cold to hold much water vapour and the pollution of the industrial world has only a minimal impact, it is possible to see much further than most of us are accustomed to. There are reports of explorers making navigational errors not realizing that distances are further than they appear due to the clarity of the atmosphere on that continent.

I too have become accustomed to breathing, living and looking through a polluted atmosphere. My vision of God is blurred and obscured by the smog of the world, confusing me when I think I can see clearly but actually cannot.

Images: Veer, Gordon Wiltsie 


I learned a new word today: ineluctable.

According to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary it means: Unable to be resisted or avoided; inescapable.

This wonderful word was introduced to me by Seamus Heaney in his poem Album:

It’s winter at the seaside where they’ve gone
For the wedding meal. And I am at the table,
Uninvited, ineluctable.

From the anthology Human Chain (2010).


If I had to choose a word to describe my life at the moment it would be ‘crepuscular’. The Oxford English Dictionary defines crepuscular as:

1 Resembling the twilight of morning or evening; dim, indistinct; not yet fully enlightened.
2 Of or pertaining to twilight.

Working shift work and with winter closing in it feels as if I live in a perpetual twilight, not only in terms of the light levels I experience but also socially – I am out of sync with the rest of society so my weekends occur at odd times and I have to work during the real weekends.

Then there are other aspects of me that could be described as dim and indistinct, maybe I will tell you about it one day.

Photo of paper bag: iStock

A word of pain

A few years ago a hillside above the suburb where I live was ablaze with fire. We awoke at about 5am to a house full of smoke, the sounds of sirens and helicopters, and an eerie glow outside. This particular fire was caused by strong winds fanning the embers of a smaller fire seemingly extinguished several weeks previously. All it took to devastate that hillside were some sparks and a constant wind across dry scrubland. The resulting inferno was so intense that entire pine trees were suddenly exploding in flames. Such a fire destroys everything in its path.

There is another source of fire which can destroy lives – the burning words of someone who refuses to control their tongue. I have seem someone consumed with pain from the flaming tongue of another. This metaphor of the tongue as a fire comes from James 3:5-9:

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. (James 3:5-9 ESV)

James not only uses the image of fire, but also of poison. A poison gets into our lives and causes sickness within, sometimes even paralysis. Words can crush a person, breaking their spirit and leading to a cycle of sorrow (Proverbs 15:4 and Proverbs 15:13).

The words from our mouths are like bullets – once fired off they cannot be retrieved, and if spoken indiscriminately they can cause great harm. Yet our words can also bring life and healing to others, it all depends upon the heart of the one speaking.

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. (Proverbs 10:11 ESV)

What comes out of our mouths reflects what is stored up in our hearts:

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 
(Matthew 12:34b ESV)

It makes sense then that the words which will bring healing to our souls, the words of eternal life, come from the One whose heart is absolutely pure, good, righteous and holy. As we walk around in a world of sinners we will be wounded by careless, even vicious, words. Such wounds can fester and destroy us unless we are set free from their power. The way to be free is to abide in the word of Christ and know the truth (John 8:31-32). Truth will set us free from the lies spoken to us.

A warning to wordsmiths

Every word of God proves true;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Do not add to his words,
lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.

(Proverbs 30:5-6 ESV)

This is a solemn warning to people like me who think we have something to say about God’s words! We need to ask ourselves whether it is helpful to write (or speak) what we think. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but will sharing that opinion be of any help or will it confuse things further? Or will it simply be another irrelevant rant?

Using words in a godly manner is important to me on this blog, it should be a concern of us all in real life. In my conversations I generally use too few words because I am an introvert and take  Proverbs 17:28 a bit too seriously! It is not really about the individual words we say as much as what our purpose is with those words, what are we trying to achieve with the words we speak or write? Paul reminds Timothy to be careful about the discussions he get involved with:

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,
(2 Timothy 2:14-16 ESV)

It is so easy to disregard any particular conversation as being of little importance but words are powerful and once spoken, or read, cannot be retrieved. The message that has been communicated is sent, whether it was communicated well or poorly it cannot be put back into the mouth or pen. Jonathan Acuff discusses the negative aspects of ignoring the power of words in Why Christians are jerks online.

Check out this interesting blog post by Chris Banducci on the power of words, particularly spoken words. The edifying use of words is what I’d like to achieve with this blog.