by Joanie Butman
Today marks the launch of our updated website and the new title of this blog. The Cawfee Talk idea was born a year ago during the study of the book of Acts in Bible study. For those who are not students of the Bible, the book of Acts concentrates on the work of the Holy Spirit, beginning with Pentecost, when the disciples are given the gift of tongues, enabling them to speak in many languages. The purpose of this miracle was to allow them to spread the gospel to “Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.” The importance of knowing different languages, and even different dialects, was brought home to me at one of the closing lectures.
During the teaching time, my mind wandered off as it is known to do frequently, and the next thing I knew I heard our teaching director asking what sounded like the question: “Are you sure?” I’m a New Yorker and phonetically, the way a native Brooklynite pronounces that question is, “Ya shaw-a?” There are some rules available to sound like a Noo Yawka. For example, many of the words that have the "o" sound (like in coffee) are pronounced with an "aw" sound, so the word dog would sound like "dawg", as well as "coffee", which is "cawfee". 1
Anyway, I was trying to follow the teaching director’s point and finally leaned over to my friend and asked, “What is she asking if we’re sure about?” My Texas friend turned to me and by the look on her face was most definitely thinking, “Bless Her Heart” which is Texan for “I can’t believe you just asked that.” Or “She’s so stupid I feel sorry for her.” Apparently, the speaker was not asking anything. She was saying “Yeshua.” The word has a number of different meanings: help, salvation, victory, but is most commonly known as the original form of the name Jesus.
Well, that certainly changed things. No wonder being multilingual was crucial to spreading the gospel. Spreading the good news must have been equivalent to a spiritual game of telephone. Do you remember that childhood game, where you whisper something to your neighbor who then passes it along, often becoming garbled in the process? God didn’t want His message distorted in any way, so He needed to equip his disciples with the ability to speak to others in their own language. As Nelson Mandela wisely stated, "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."
Now, I’m not suggesting that my readers learn Brooklynese because thankfully I can write without an accent. Even so, whatever I say may not always speak to your heart, but it comes straight from mine, which I then have an editor translate. One of the best things of growing up in Brooklyn was the acquisition of a sort of earthy wisdom, otherwise known as street smarts, because that is where we learned the rules of life. Children today don’t have the opportunity to acquire those types of life skills anymore, as their every move is orchestrated and monitored. There are just some things you can’t learn in a classroom. We enjoyed a freedom that no longer exists – probably for good reason. We live in a different time.
Anyway, my aim in writing has always been to share some of the experiential wisdom I’ve acquired – mostly the hard way. Given the freedom to make my own choices, I rarely made the wise one. It is my hope that some of my stories will encourage others by illustrating that regardless of the number and/or magnitude of misguided choices we've made in the past, they need not dictate our future. God is bigger than anything we’ve ever done and is only waiting for us to make one wise choice – HIM.
God speaks to everyone in a unique love language only they can understand because He knows exactly what will reach their heart. However, we do need to choose to be still and listen. In an effort to do just that, many years ago I developed an early morning habit of beginning each day having ‘cawfee talk’ with God. This blog is the result of those conversations. It is my way of choosing to honor Him.
An amusing youtube about a Brooklyn spelling bee: