Disabled But Able*

Disabled But Able*

“DBA”* is painted on the little sign that hangs on the gate. This is the only indication of the business located in the garage on the property. I entered and walked up to the open garage door. Five busy people paused mid-task when I greeted them, “Ngapi … nawa … ewa.” “Good morning. How are you? … “ There were nods, smiles and greetings returned. Though I had stopped by once before, I reintroduced myself. One young man moved a chair for me to where I could sit and observe their work. I was most welcome.

Their director, who unfortunately didn’t appear that day, had earlier indicated to me that this group could use some assistance in various areas, specifically with their cookie recipe and “they also have spiritual needs” he said. Today I was there to observe and learn.

“Kwakukanga icookie,” one lady explained as she and her colleague scooped spoonfuls of dough and placed them on the baking sheets. “We are baking cookies.” I repeat the ruKwangali phrase, the Bantu syllables rolling off my tongue and feeling oh, so familiar. This is their mother tongue and the language I might have learned had this assignment required it. Two of the young men speak English fairly well and were able to answer my questions: Do you have a printed recipe for the cookie? Might I look at it? Though one of the sighted members looked high and low, the recipe was nowhere to be found. I wonder how long they’ve been making cookies now without referring to the recipe.

I sat and just listened to their conversation. I noticed certain grammatical structures similar to the eMakhuwa I learned in Mozambique. I thought I could distinguish personal pronouns and singular nouns from their plural. I picked up on some noun classes. My heart raced as it dawned on me this could be the perfect “language immersion” environment. Rule one of language learning: listen, listen, listen. Here were five people who had been doing the same assembly line task for years and between them could turn out over 300 cookies in four hours with their eyes closed, literally— since two of them are blind! Unselfconsciously they conversed together, amicably, all morning as they scooped and flattened dough balls, put pans in and out of the oven, lifted hot cookies off the pans onto cooling racks and, finally, packaging them ten to a bag to sell in local stores. And I just listened. “If I had started coming here a year ago, I’d be fluent in this language by now,” I thought with chagrin.

My mind drifted to various language-learning environments I’ve experienced. By far, immersion is the most effective language learning recipe, if you will. Our family practiced this method in Portugal when our Spoon Lickers were very little. [Immersion = except for a few key bilingual helpers, you live and move within the local culture, avoiding contact with speakers of your mother tongue.] To get anywhere, to buy anything, to accomplish any task or errand we were forced to use Portuguese. Our children attended the local day care and went to a local school. We chose a church that didn’t have any English speakers. They have their own stories of the immersion experience — some horrific, some hilarious.

I was jerked back into the present by an automated, English voice rattling off a long number sequence followed by something like “this account owing six-hundred [Namibian] dollars, due March 9 …” then another similar message, and on it went. One of the blind gentlemen was “reading his financial statements in English” in the brilliant way technology has provided for those with his visual challenges “This guy is seriously in debt!” I realized with a start. I turned away – (“Should I be hearing this private information? Though no one else here understands, has he forgotten my presence?”) – out of courtesy, before I caught myself. I might as well look right at him, for all the difference it would make.

My eyes roved the wall. Several old posters are mounted which tell what organization has given financial support to the DBA project and the amount given. They obviously seek to receive money from donors.

Another poster declares “Our ability exceeds our disability.” For, indeed, every member has a physical disability, but you’d never know by watching them get those cookies from a state of raw ingredients to the store shelf.

The poster that intrigued me the most, though, was the paper scroll that extends from ceiling to floor entitled “Our Wish List”. It is full from top to bottom. The items higher on the list, the things absolutely necessary to their business of cookie making, all have a check next to them. Item acquired! I’m not sure how the other items fit into the business of turning out a great cookie, however: a lounge set, dishes, silverware, an espresso machine, a car …

I watch the cookies pile up. They are flat as a sheet of paper. They offer me a sample. The texture reminds me of fruit roll-ups. The flavor is pleasant. It has promise. Maybe they could be marketed as “Cookie Roll-Ups”. Their director is right, though. At some point they strayed from the procedures or ingredients indicated in the original recipe and, though there might be other reasons for diminishing sales, this betrayal of the recipe is obvious. I look back up at the Wish List, and the subtle invitations to contribute, publicizing what they believe they need to succeed in business. But, in truth, they have few orders for the cookies and only need to work two mornings a week to fill them. It isn’t a booming business. It is built on a failing cookie. These cheerful, industrious members have great ability. Unfortunately, their cookie is off the mark…

… like our souls: off the mark, sin-sick and disabled. We present a busy, industrious front, too. We have plans and dreams. Then, in the quiet stillness that catches us unaware, is there an unease? Do we sense all is not well and our soul will not be up to carrying us into a bright future? And are we hoping in the remedies our culture offers us to relieve the dis-ease? A stronger self-image maybe? Or let’s try giving the ache a politically or socially correct label in order to feel better without changing anything inside. I know some pay the witchdoctor to perform a ritual promising peace of soul. But when we awake in the wee hours, and silence surprises us, that ache is still stirring. The soul’s dis-ease is not healed by medication or the affirmation of our culture any more than the cookie will be improved by acquiring a lounge chair. There is only one way to improve that cookie: find the recipe and return to following it. There is only one source of hope for our soul.

My soul, wait silently for God alone,
for my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;

Just as the psalmist ‘preached’ to his own soul, I would remind myself, and you, to do the same. Emphasize the words that denote exclusivity. “God alone… from Him … He only … He is … in God is my … is in God.” The salvation of our soul and the healing of its dis-ease, is God’s territory alone. All that your soul requires for health is found in God through His Word; by knowing Him and obeying His instruction. The Creator of your soul offers absolutely everything your soul needs for its vital health. He is exclusive, though. It’s His way only, His Remedy only, His Provision only, or the soul is tormented for eternity. He means for us to place all our souls expectation in Him exclusively.

DBA’s business is that cookie. Our life is the soul. The soul is all we have, really. It is all there is of us that, sooner or later, slips into Eternity. Shouldn’t we, then, attend to it God’s way with no List of Alternative Hopes?

Psalm 62; 130:5; Proverbs 30:5; II Peter 1:3-4

*Not the real name.

Let Them Eat Meat!

Let Them Eat Meat!

While on our home assignment some dear friends took us out for dinner. This was no small expense for them, we being a family of 7 with four growing boys. What’s more, this brave couple chose a steak house and said, “Order whatever you want.” Naturally, one of our young carnivores chose the largest, most expensive steak on the menu. Like many families on limited income, I didn’t cook much red meat so when the boys had a chance for some real man-food, they took it, much to my embarrassment.

But nothing compares to the Namibian meat eaters! Game (think kudu, oryx, eland) biltong (like jerky only better) is a routine snack. Game, as well as beef, are main staples of the diet here. Whereas in other African countries you can buy peanuts, roasted corn, coconut fudge, sugar cane or samosas from curb-side vendors, in Namibia you buy Russians (I don’t refer to people trafficking but to the local version of our Polish sausage), or bits of grilled beef. Recently an acquaintance returned from a hunting trip. My husband was invited to the ritual in which all real men participate: dressing the game and butchering, mixing the marinade and putting the biltong meat to soak. My man came home with pounds of game filet and a tub full of marinating strips, which he hung to dry according to instructions. What will last us for months, would disappear after a few weeks in the more carnivorous households around us. These folks know how to chew meat. To say they desire it is an understatement!

I am looking for people who crave God’s word like that. People who chew on the meat of His truth revealed with an insatiable appetite. If you have tasted that the Lord is gracious, desire the pure milk of the word, just like a newborn desires milk, so that you can grow. The apostle Peter so pleads with the first century church-goers. (I Peter 2:1-3) We live among a people who have tasted that the Lord is gracious. The good news of salvation has come to them. They have said “It is good!” They share in the benefits of grace in belonging to a local church: they are baptised, partake of the Lord’s supper, they are comforted by prayers and visits when they’re sick, are helped in trouble and, seemingly most important, they are guaranteed a well attended funeral service officiated by an ordained minister when they die. Yes, they taste of the good gifts God bestows on His covenant family.

Peter, as well as the other apostles, urge the people in all the places they preach to go on from tasting to desiring. He longs for them to crave God’s word the way a baby desires to nurse. He thrives on this milk until he grows up and wants to chew. Peter says that this should be the church’s response to the tasty morsels of grace they sample. The gracious gifts of God’s presence among His people should stir up a yearning, a hunger and longing after Him and His strong words, like it did for David (Psalm 119:9-16). He exhorts them to grow up and chew on the meat! They should be returning continually to the word and meditating on it, storing it up in their memory, pressing it into their heart and bringing it to bear in their lives. They should be filled richly with Christ’s word in order to teach and correct one another; to comfort and encourage one another. (Colossians 3:16-17) Their counsel should come from Scripture (Ps. 119:25). Husbands should be showering their wives with God’s word (Ephesians 5:25-28) and building their marriage and homes according to God’s ordinances.

But instead, these converts to the faith, these tasters, were absorbing themselves in comparisons, divisions and criticisms. They were full of malice, envy and hypocrisy because they contented themselves with tasting, just lounging on the fringes of grace. They stopped short of actually feeding on God’s word— they had no craving or desire for it. Those noble people of Berea, however, loved God’s word and fed on it, instead of preying on each other. And so they discovered the truth and believed that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.

This past Sunday in Rundu, a local minister declared to his congregation that their denomination is unwell. This dear man of God has recognised that neither the laity nor the ministers yearn for God. Most disregard His word, rarely read it (or hear it read) and meditate on it even less. They, too, like those early Christians dispersed throughout Asia and the Mediterranean, are absorbed in controversies, rumors, fear of the spirits and idolatries of their past. Most, it seems, do not hunger to know Christ, and so they lack wisdom, godliness and the graces that abound in one who nourishes his soul on the word. They are unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ, shortsighted, blind, and have forgotten that they were cleansed from their old sins. They attend church, but they are unwell. Their souls, in fact, are in great danger. (See Hebrews chapter 6.)

Our soul’s meat is the everlasting, unchanging word of God. “Father, as a dear pants for the water; as a newborn cries for milk; as a hunter craves meat, may we hunger for you. May we nourish our soul on the solid food of your word. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who makes your word alive and active to convict us of sin, bring us to repentance, comfort us, teach us, guide and nourish us, to make us healthy in spirit. The kudu filets in my freezer will run out one day. But your word, your truth and satisfying nourishment, will last forever! Amen and amen.”

A soul that thirsts for God, is a soul that hungers for His word. Don’t ever apologise for eating The Meat. Choose It. Rejoice over It. Savor It. Desire It. Over and over again.

II Peter chapter 1; Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 24:35; Psalm 119:57

Everything is Enough

A warm hello to all of you who share my same faith in God our Savior Jesus Christ. There is a feast set before us; a feast of grace and peace for our soul, heaped up, overflowing and never running out! The bowl is never empty! Let’s savor a lick from the spoon scooped out from the bowl of II Peter.

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”…His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us…”  [The … means that you really need to dig into all that comes before and after this small lick.]

All things.   Life.    And godliness. That about covers it.  Sweeping. Broad. It leaves out nothing that is of enduring significance either for this life, or the next.

Life. My circumstances, situation, the conditions in which I live, move and function. Life. The way my mind thinks about my situation; my soul’s response to circumstances.

Godliness. A particular response of the soul wherein God makes me to be at peace with Him, with others and with my own conscience. Godliness. Understanding and interpreting life from the vantage point of faith in Christ and all He has promised me here, and forever.

Dear reader, let this truth settle into your mind and heart. God’s divine power has [already] provided for you everything that you need to live in your present situation. He has already given you all that your soul requires to be at peace, to act wisely and to escape being wounded in spirit by the corruptness that is all around.

How is this wondrous, blessed condition brought about? God has already made the Way for you to know Him. Twice it is written here. The grace, this peace, is in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. It is through the knowledge of Him that we lay claim to the feast for the soul. The soul’s resource is in knowing Jesus. Period. It is that simple. This life-giving knowledge of Jesus is revealed in God’s word, the Bible. Only. Exclusively.

I wonder if the apostle Peter wouldn’t say something like this: God’s divine power has given me everything I need to cope with persecution as I get to know the crucified and risen Christ better and better.

A refugee fleeing for her life, physically, can say, “God’s divine power has given me everything I need to encourage my soul and not succumb to hate or despair as I learn more and more about Jesus from the Bible, and believe everything it says about Him. A U.N. camp can not offer my soul any remedy that the Holy Spirit does not already offer, through the Word.”

One soldier survived when all the others were killed by a roadside bomb. If that dear one has his faith in the Lord Jesus, he already has all he needs to heal his soul and mind of the trauma. Healing, comfort, hope and a future is granted to him through the knowledge of Christ and His promises.

King David, the first disciples, the ancient Christians, those Christ-followers down through the ages all knew something we seem to have forgotten in these recent decades. Many have become absorbed and fascinated with the human idea that we can study and understand the soul apart from the Creator and Designer of it. What’s more, we are being told that God’s word is not sufficient to meet the real, deep needs of the soul. The knowledge of Christ, as He is revealed in the Bible, is supposedly shamefully simplistic and irrelevant to the deeper, larger issues that humans face today. Heart and soul conditions have been renamed with labels we don’t find in Scripture. These labels may help us categorise human behavior but they tend to send us in the wrong direction for wisdom and help in need. Human philosophies of the soul undermine our confidence in God’s word as the sufficient and authoritative, first and last word on the soul.

I can testify with the cloud of witnesses who have gone before me that, indeed, God’s divine power has provided me with every encouragement, exhortation, every teaching and all nourishment that is necessary to my soul; this soul that lives in a foreign culture, this soul that yearns for a home, this soul that is tempted to think of myself more highly than I ought, to replaying horrific conversations, and, this soul that is hungry for God. Feasting on Christ, to know Him as He is made known in God’s word, always has been, and is, complete and sufficient nourishment for this, my soul.

One of my Spoon Lickers, a TCK (third culture kid = one who’s parents raised him in a culture that was not their own, a new culture to the whole family) recently told me that the most important thing he learned growing up in our home was that “God’s word is enough.” He has obtained faith, the Holy Spirit lives in him. He has a Bible. Therefore, he is confident that he has everything he needs for his soul to really and truly live, anytime, anywhere, in any situation.

Do you believe that the knowledge of Christ is sufficient to address your circumstances, the issues of your soul? Do you believe that the Bible is God’s word, given to be our sole source of this knowledge? How would your life change if you really did believe this? What changes would you make in your reading material, your online searches, the people you talk to about your problems? What changes might your children see in you?

You can give your children nothing more valuable than a steadfast confidence in God’s Word as the one and only, the totally sufficient resource that trains the soul to truly live.

II Peter; Colossians 2:8; Ps. 119; Hebrews 1