Metaphor Maniac

I am a metaphor maniac. I love symbols, and I love searching for their hidden meaning. But symbols are not truth; they simply help explain truth.

In college I had a Bible professor who used the phrase “Don’t make the parable walk on all fours.” Due to my fetish for figurative language, I was intrigued by his statement but unclear as to its meaning. Since parables don’t really “walk”—on two feet or on four—the statement itself is a metaphor. So what was my professor trying to teach me about interpreting metaphors that I had not learned in any literature class?

Years later, a friend and I were discussing the symbol of yeast in the Bible. After hearing Bible teacher Ray VanderLaan mention “the yeast of the Pharisees,” which Jesus referred to as hypocrisy (Luke 12:1), my friend commented, “I always thought the Bible taught that yeast was good.”

“Oh, no,” I said, drawing from the archives of my Baptist background, “yeast symbolizes sin.”

Later that week my devotional reading was from Matthew 13, which states: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough” (v. 33).

“Aha,” I thought, “this explains it.” My friend grew up in a church that emphasizes the redemptive power of God’s kingdom. To her, yeast symbolizes the kingdom of God, not sin.

Then I recalled “walking” metaphors, and the mysterious meaning that had eluded me for so long became clear.

The professor had used a metaphor to explain the proper use of metaphors: Don’t make them “do” what they’re not intended to do. Don't make them carry more meaning than they are meant to hold; don't make them apply to all situations at all times, and don’t make them more important than the truth they illustrate. In the case of yeast, it is neither good nor bad, but it can be a symbol for both.

Symbols are good when used to explain truth, but not when we make them more important than truth.

For metaphor maniacs, that’s important to remember.


"Creativity is a road out of pain and misery and unhappiness." —Stephen King, The Today Show, 22 January 2008

Click here to watch Matt Lauer interview author Stephen King about his new book Duma Key.

Books and Authors

In general, I find that books are more interesting than their authors. Oscar Wilde expressed a similar opinion:

Basil, my dear boy, puts everything that is charming in him into his work. The consequence is that he has nothing left for life but his prejudices, his principles, and his common-sense. The only artists I have ever known, who are personally delightful, are bad artists. Good artists exist simply in what they make, and consequently are perfectly uninteresting in what they are. A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of all creatures. But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating. The worse their rhymes are, the more picturesque they look. The mere fact of having published a book of second-rate sonnets makes a man quite irresistible. He lives the poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realize. —Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Idiots on Ice

"Show, don't tell," writing coaches advise would-be writers. Instead of telling me that someone is an idiot, show me a person who is deficient in judgment and good sense. Here, for example, is an idiot . . .

And here are two idiots . . .

Keep in mind that just yesterday, this was open water. The lake has been "frozen" for barely 24 hours, not nearly enough time to become solid.

Wrong about Romney

Apparently elections in Michigan can be bought.

Good Writing

From Scot McKnight's blog: jesuscreed.org . . .

Good writers have an ear for what works, what sounds right, what brings both meaning and pleasure at the same time. And good writers have a personal style, and they have some wit (we don’t need boring, scientific books about important topics very often), and they make you smile but not laugh aloud. (That’s the difference between humor and comedy; the former make you smile, the latter make you laugh.)—Scot McKnight, from "What I Would Do Differently"

When is praise not a compliment?

One of the things I have noticed on researching a book through the Amazon review system before I buy it is that so often reviewers state that they were able to finish the book in two hours, three hours, four hours. Do they honestly think that is a compliment to the author? —J. Lesley, review of Persuasion by Jane Austen.

Such a compliment is like praising a meal for how quickly it can be devoured.

MLive.com is a joke!

Michigan needs better online news. Eight of the state's major newspapers use mlive.com as their online presence: Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, and Saginaw News. Citizens of these cities are being woefully served.

When I search for Huckabee using the mlive.com search feature, I get two results and a question asking me if I really meant "Hecuba." Who the heck is Hecuba?!

When I search mlive.com using Google, I get more than 300 results.

Wake up, Michigan! The news in our state is pitiful.

Money Can't Buy You Love

Dick DeVos learned last year that money still can't buy certain things—in particular, Michigan elections. Mitt Romney may be about to learn from his own experience what he apparently did not learn from Dick's.

Mike Huckabee, on the other hand, understands what money can't buy. At his appearance this morning at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, he told the story of a Michigan woman who offered him a family heirloom to help support his campaign. "I can't tell you how much that meant to me," Huckabee said. "You can raise all the money in America, but you can't buy spirit like that."

Like I said earlier, I really wanted to like Mitt Romney—I tried to like him—but his inability to relate to ordinary Americans leaves me cold.

Advice for Mitt Romney

Dear Mitt,

I'm trying to like you. I really want to like you. I grew up when your father was governor here in Michigan, and I liked him. But every day you are giving me new reasons not to like you. Today your machine called me. I was polite enough to answer the questions asked by your machine. Your machine was not polite enough to say thank you after getting the information it wanted. This is rude. Your advertisements about Mike Huckabee are rude. Rudeness is not a value I get excited about voting for. I think you might need someone with a warmer heart to run your campaign. I think you'd better hurry up and find someone.

The Power of Words

"I believe in rhetoric. I love the history of American political rhetoric, but one lesson I brought out of government is that sometimes there is a limit to the power of words. Americans eventually respond to the situation on the ground. The media pounce on you when you're down. They go after the weak." —Michael Gerson, Washington Post columnist and former Bush speech writer, speaking at a question-and-answer session at The King's College in New York City, reported in World Magazine (January 12, 2008, Vol. 23, No. 1)

Thinking & Writing

"I don't know what I think until I read what I write," said Flannery O'Connor.

This is generally true for me as well. But sometimes I find out what I think when I read what someone else has written. This blog by Kevin Walker is a case in point. After reading it, I have a new way of thinking about the presidential primary season: Change, Change, Change.

January Thaw

Today's view from Blue Water Ink.

Yes, you did indeed hear thunder. Today's afternoon temperature reached 64 degrees. The average high temperature for this date is 29 degrees, and the previous high was 52.

But what does weather have to do with writing? Today's weather reminded me of mediocre writing.

As the temperature rose and the snow receded, fog settled in. This resulted in low visibility and dangerous driving conditions.

Mediocre writing does the same thing. It warms hearts—it may even cause an emotional meltdown. But it clouds thinking and makes mental navigation difficult and dangerous. Mediocre writing also does the opposite. Careless attempts to clear up foggy thinking can freeze people's hearts.

Good writing softens hearts without creating foggy thinking; it clears thinking without hardening hearts.

The same might be said of good theology.

January "unthawed."


On Monday, 7 January, Christian musicians will begin collaborating on a project to raise money for charity. Participating artists include Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Chris Tomlin, Darlene Zschech, and Matt and Beth Redman. Martin Smith, lead singer for Delirius, is organizing the five-day retreat in Perthshire, Scotland.

According to Smith (Martin, I assume), the charities will own the copyright. "That way, we can bypass the publishers, the managers, the agents, ASCAP, BMI," the Associated Press quoted Smith as saying. "One hundred percent of the money comes directly to the copyright holder." <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22201600/>

Help me understand. How will copyright owners make money on a song by bypassing all the people who sell it and collect money for it?

A good writer . . .

Good writers define reality; bad ones merely restate it. A good writer turns fact into truth; a bad writer will, more often than not, accomplish the opposite. —Edward Albee

How would you finish this sentence: "A good writer . . . "?

A good editor . . .

“He never tells you what to do . . . He suggests to you, in an extraordinarily inarticulate fashion, what you want to do yourself.”
—an author speaking of editor Maxwell Perkins

Color of the Year

Good news for Blue Water Ink. The color of the year chosen by pigment professionals at Pantone is (drum roll) BLUE. Blue iris, to be exact—not exactly a watery blue, but blue nonetheless. According to Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, “Blue Iris brings together the dependable aspects of blue, underscored by a strong, soul-searching purple cast. Emotionally, it is anchoring and meditative with a touch of magic” (Cathy Horyn, New York Times, 20 December 2007). What more could a person expect from a color?!

A Good Example of Bad Grammar

Thanks to TruTV.com for an amusing example of bad grammar. Apparently Betty Gore had more lives than a cat!

Housewife and church-member Betty Gore is found murdered in her own home. She has been axed to death 41 times.