Ponderings with Doug – December 13, 2019

I have co-authored a dozen reports with my friend Serena. Co-authored today means you send emails back and forth. Serena is a fiend for the Oxford comma. I can take them or leave them.

If you read “Bob, a DJ and a clown” on a guest list, are three people coming to the party, or only one? That depends on whether you’re for or against the Oxford comma — perhaps the most hotly contested punctuation mark of all time. The “Oxford comma” is an optional comma before the word “and” at the end of a list. The following is an example of the use of an Oxford comma.

We sing songs, hymns, and choruses.

The question for those of us who write is whether or not to use the Oxford comma. If you will read back over these tomes you will find that some days I am in the mood to use it and on other days I leave it out. Some editors send out style guidelines in which they articulate the use or non-use of the comma. Serena always catches my omission of the comma and inserts it. I have learned with her it is not a stylistic choice, it is a lifestyle.

You may need that extra comma for clarification.

This is probably an apocryphal book dedication but it shows what happens when the Oxford comma is omitted.

“This book is dedicated to my parents, Amy Rand and God.”

The omitted comma has given theological import to the sentence. Your eyes might fix it and your brain knows that Amy Rand and God are not the parents of the author. From a grammatical point of view the sentence is correct, but the meaning is muddy or heretical depending on your perspective.

Perhaps you are discovering that small things make a big difference. I always love this time of year in our town. I am reminded to be patient with those who don’t know how to navigate the East end of the Church Street bridge. I am extra careful driving on Front Street because someone might open a huge SUV door and require a quick stop. Eating downtown involves an appetizer called waiting to be seated. It is all a wonderful warm up to Christmas.

Today remember the comma.

Small acts of kindness, hospitality and patience will make a positive impression on our out of town guests. Perhaps after you show kindness you will have the opportunity to talk to someone about why Christmas has a special meaning to you. You might hear a God story coming from a stranger. Something small could open the way to a bigger event.

God is always trying to sneak that Oxford comma into the grammar of our souls. He sends little blessings and reminders of His love for us. He moves in small ways that allow our hearts to experience His grace. We want God to speak big and boldly. We want fireworks! We want certainty. The essence of faith is to believe where we can’t clearly see. Believe that in those small commas that drop into your soul God is working His plan in your life.

Finally, the comma makes you pause. Read the previous comma examples out loud and hear your brain and voice pause for each comma. We need those pauses in our lives. We need time to just sit and be.

I received a note from a dear saint whom I pastored thirty years ago. The last line of her note encouraged me to “linger in His presence long enough to let God’s blessings happen.”

What a gracious and wise comma.


2 thoughts on “Ponderings with Doug – December 13, 2019

  1. I like cooking my family and my friends.
    I like cooking my family, and my friends
    I like cooking, my family, and my friends.

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