Jumping to Conclusions: Bad Exercise

It was Friday, July 31, 1987, when I heard the news on Brazilian radio. “A major tornado has hit a provincial capital in southern Canada.” I listened carefully, expecting to hear about Toronto, Ontario which is on the same latitude as South Dakota. Imagine my surprise when the announcer said, “Edmonton, a city in southern Canada, suffered major damage with 20 fatalities.”

Edmonton!? Canada’s northernmost provincial capital? The gateway to the North? With its long cold winters, it’s in southern Canada? Jo and I looked at each other and shook our heads, as much in dismay over the grief caused by the tornado, as over the ignorance of the announcer.

But, later, when I looked at a map of North America, I could understand why the reporter considered Edmonton to be in southern Canada. That’s because it is! It is well over 2,500 km from the northern boundary, and only 500 km from the southern border. It’s not just in the southern 50 percent of Canada, it’s in the southern 15 percent!

Eli‘s Worldview Versus Hannah’s Reality
I thought of this incident when I read the story in 1st Samuel 1, of Eli the priest seeing Hannah, the childless woman, moving her lips but not uttering a sound. He glanced at her and knew he’d seen that behaviour before, in drunks. So he rebuked her for being drunk. Wrong! She was anything but drunk. She was fervently praying for a child.

In his worldview, he saw soundlessly moving lips as evidence of drunkenness. In the reality of Hannah’s worldview, she was praying. In the reporter’s worldview, he saw Edmonton as a provincial capital located in the southern fifth of Canada, while Edmontonians see ourselves as the northernmost outpost of civilization.

People constantly tend to misinterpret actions by others who have a different worldview. It happens between adults and children, immigrants and long-time residents, seniors and college graduates, international travelers and local residents, and between the haves and the have-nots in our society.

Canela Women’s Bare Breasts
One day a cargo truck stopped in the Canela village on its way to a Brazilian town. When the young Brazilian men who were catching a ride on the truck saw all the women were topless, hundreds of them, they immediately assumed they were in a village of sluts and began to behave accordingly. They took pictures of each other draping their arms over the shoulders of half naked Canela women while they grinned lewdly into their friends’ camera. As Brazilians, they came from a hyper-sexed society, like our North American culture, which views breasts as sex objects, while on Canela mothers, breasts were thought of as baby feeding organs.

Happy hunter with sloth. Very good eating! And No, they are NOT a protected species.

Happy hunter with sloth. Very good eating! And No, they are NOT a protected species.

Canela Banking System
When we started our 20 plus years of living among the Canela, it seemed like we were living in a village of beggars since our neighbours kept asking for things from us. It was only after we understood the culture better that we realized they were not beggars, but simply practicing trading on the credit system. For generations they had been without refrigeration, or salt to preserve meat. When a hunter brought home fifty pounds of deer meat, he would have plenty left over after feeding his family. So when neighbours would come and ask for some meat, he would gladly give it, knowing he was building up credit with them, to cash in the next time they had excess food. For generations the Canelas had used this incredible mental debt and credit system. No paper, no IOUs, it was all done on mutual understanding and family memory.

We saw them at first as a village of beggars, but we were wrong, the Canelas were operating a sophisticated banking system where debts and credits generally were kept in balance. American bankers could have learned something from them!

Next time you see someone do something that strikes you as crazy, ask yourself, Is this person of a different age, culture, nationality or nationality? If so, try to understand why that action may be perfectly okay in the other person’s worldview.

When was the last time you jumped to a wrong conclusion and said something that showed up your ignorance?

A Special Posting to Celebrate the Launch!

BT EBook_Cover Final_Printsize_v3A few weeks ago I published my second e-book, The Why and How of Bible Translation: What Every Christian Should Know, but few do . . . very few. I immediately sent a download code to the more than fifty people who had already bought it, sight unseen, in previous months. Now it is ready for a general launch.

The 28 story-based articles in the three sections of this book shed light on worldwide Bible translation, a subject most Christians are confused about.

  • Why does the Bible need to be translated, isn’t it easier just to teach indigenous peoples the national language?
  • How is the Bible translated and how can you be sure it is translated accurately?
  • How has technology changed the world of Bible translation?
  • Why did Mark and Luke change what Jesus actually said instead of quoting Him exactly as Matthew did? Should today’s translators follow their example?
  • What is more difficult than translating from one language to another? Hint, think cultures.
  • Find out why support for Bible translation would skyrocket among Christians, if linguistics was taught as widely as biology, chemistry or physics.

A Special 25% Discount to Celebrate the Launch
The Why and How of Bible Translation: What Every Christian Should Know, But Few Do, Very Few
To download your 25% off ebook, only $2.99, go the publisher’s site

Open a free account. Click on Add to Cart.
Fill in this discount code VT57J. (Code expires on November 15, 2013)

You can download this book to your computer, laptop, tablet, e-reader, iPad, Kobo, Kindle, Nook, or smartphone, etc., as many times as you want and in as many formats as you want.

Tickle-Funny-Bone-cvrP3In Case You Missed the First E-Book
Here’s how to buy the first e-book, A Tickle in the Funny Bone, which is a collection of a dozen of my humorous columns including all the April Fool’s columns and the often hilarious responses from readers.

Download from the publisher’s site for only $1.99

Next week’s posting on INsights & OUTbursts “Jumping to Conclusions: A Bad Exercise”

How to Cook up a Better Marriage

“So Jack,” younger friends have said to me, “now that you and Jo are in the second half century of marriage, it must be nice to have your act together and be done with marital struggles.”

Well, yes and no. We have resolved many problems, but there always seems to be room for growth. Take, for instance, what Jo said to me last month after I had read a passage from a marriage book to her.

“Sure, I’d love to do something fun together after dinner instead of just reading or watching TV.”

I had heard her on this subject before and knew what she meant. To my wife, “something fun” means going to a movie, playing a board game, playing cards, or doing a puzzle—some sort of relaxing, low key, fun activity that we can do together.

To me, “something fun” means reading a funny book to her while she does handwork. I also like learning something practical or useful, about something that interests me. I have zero interest in learning and playing card or board games, and don’t like movies unless they are funny.

I knew Jo was not asking to spend more time with me. We already do plenty together. We read the Bible and pray together every morning. We go for walks together nearly every day, weather permitting. And every night before going to sleep, I read something funny or relaxing to her. We also have plenty of occasions during each day to talk with each other. Except for a few, relatively short instances, we have always worked and served God together. But for Jo, something obviously was still missing.

This time, however, when she repeated her mantra I did not brush it off, but decided to look at it as a problem that needed solving creatively.

“What,” I asked, “is something we could do together that would be fun for both of us?”

The answer came surprisingly quickly. Jo loves to cook dishes she has never prepared before. And I love to learn new things that may someday be useful. We came up with the idea of a culinary date in which we would work together in preparing something fancy, something complicated, something that was so work intensive she would hesitate to make it just for us.

A few evenings later, we had our first culinary date and produced a large pot of Chinese Hot and Sour soup. It was work intensive! But fun! The soup required only four main ingredients in the broth boiling on the stove, but then came an amazing list of flavouring oils, vinegars, pastes and spices—ten of them! I had no idea how much measuring, mixing and stirring that required. That was the first of our gastronomic fun, but by no means the last.

We are constantly alert for new things to try. Recently, returning from a ministry trip in our mini-motorhome we camped on a Walmart parking lot, and walked across the street to the Cheesecake Cafe. Dinner consisted of some shared appetizer dishes. One delicious item—battered, deep-fat-fried button mushrooms stuffed with goat cheese, cranberries and sausage—reminded me of what my dad used to say in Dutch, “They were so tasty; I nearly swallowed my tongue along with the delicacy.”

Naturally we wanted to make this appetizer on a culinary date. Although Jo loves to research recipes and is very good at it, she couldn’t find one exactly like the Cheesecake Cafe one, so she improvised. It took a lot of work, but were those mushrooms ever scrumptious! And fun to make for both of us.

Master Cook, Her Assistant, and Seafood Crepes. Yum!

Master Cook, Her Assistant, and Seafood Crepes. Yum!

During our sunset walk last night, we discussed what we would cook at our next date in the kitchen. I’m looking forward to it already. And not just because I get good things to eat! I love working together with Jo in an area where she is the expert and I learn from her as she mentors me.

And it’s good to know we found another way to improve our marriage.

How do you keep your marriage from going stale?

Discouraged? Check This Out.

This is terrible, I thought, I have only three published paper books and one ebook to my credit while these writers have published twice as many, and they’re only half my age!

I was participating in the annual writers’ conference of the Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship. As I walked by the book tables, it was discouraging to see how unfavourable my output was compared to that of my fellow writers. One young woman had published thirty books. Mind you, they were small, illustrated children’s books, but still—thirty books!

That weekend, I was home clearing up my study when I picked up a book I had published decades ago but had forgotten about. That got me started on a little self-encouragement project. I made a list of all the books I had published while working with the Canela people. Some were illustrated learn-to-read books and had only 45 pages, but hey, they had covers and were professionally published by the Brazilian government. That counts.

23 out of the 37 total books published

23 out of the 37 total books published

It started slowly in the 1970s when I, with Jo’s help, wrote and published four easy reading books in Canela totalling 280 pages. Then production exploded in the 1980s with 23 books totalling 1,273 pages. One was in English on Canela linguistics, the rest in Canela. In the 1990s only two books were published, one a small song book, the other a large partial Bible, a total of 777 pages. In the 2000s, four books totalling 561 pages including the Poke in the Ribs and Kick in the Pants books. Thus far in the 2010s, three books: the Bonk on the Head book, the ebook, A Tickle in the Funny Bone, and the ebook just published this week, The Why and How of Bible Translation: What Every Christian Should Know (but few do, very few).

I was pleased to see a grand total of 37 books with about 3,200 pages and well over 750,000 words. Hmm, that is as much as ten Romance novels or seven John Grisham books.

Oh, and I also wrote over 500 article length blog posts that I didn’t publish in my printed books, as well as scores of articles for magazines

Okay, now I’m encouraged. Especially as I have another ebook in production right now.

Of course, as a Christian I realize all this is nonsense! I am a child of God! That is all I need to remember when I am discouraged for any reason.

I could be lying flat on my back in bed, unable to hear, see, or speak and my heavenly Father would not love me any less than He would if I had written ten million words of God-glorifying stories.

My greatest problem, How can I have my sins forgiven and enjoy a totally new life? has been solved by Jesus’ death in my place and resurrection. Because of what Jesus did for me, I am rightly related to God, and that is all I need to remember.

When Jesus’ disciples returned elated from a productive ministry trip, He adjusted their priorities by saying, “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” Luke 10:20 (NIV).

In that spirit I say, “I am a child of God and He loves me. That’s all I really need. Everything else is details.”

It’s Enough to Make You Sick

We had been on a steep learning curve ever since we arrived in the village to learn the Canela people’s language and culture when suddenly the curve got even steeper.

I had hired Blackpalm, an older Canela man to help us learn his language. Every day for the previous four months, he had come to our house and patiently repeated words and phrases and corrected our pronunciation.

Our clay table cook stove. Note lovely cook at right.

Our clay table cook stove. Note lovely cook at right.

He always looked forward to our mid-morning coffee break, and one day it was especially satisfying since Jo had made a Dutch delicacy, oliebollen, to go with our coffee. The doughnut-like balls were easy to make without an oven since all she needed was a pan of hot oil to deep-fry them in.

He cautiously nibbled at his oliebol, then his face broke into a smile as he ate it up quickly and asked for another one. All three of us ate until they were all gone. What’s not to love about fried dough and icing sugar?

“How do you make these sweet things,” he asked Jo.

She showed him a bag of flour and said, “This is powder made from grinding up wheat which is sort of like rice.” She then showed him the butter, milk, salt, spices, sugar, and eggs and said, “These are all mixed up into a batter and then you drop a lump into the boiling oil, and . . . .”

“Wait!” he said, holding up his hands, “Are there eggs in these sweet things?”

When Jo said, “Yes,” he jumped up, ran outside, stuck his finger down his throat, and vomited up all of Jo’s delicious oliebollen.

When he came back, all teary eyed, he asked, “What are you doing? Are you trying to kill my little son?”

That’s when our learning curve started to go straight up as we began to research the enormous number of taboos the Canelas practice. It took years, but we eventually discovered that Canelas believe that not only what you personally eat will affect your health, but what you eat will also affect the health of close relatives. Babies, the elderly and sick people are especially vulnerable to certain foods being eaten by their relatives. There are many other ways a person can “pollute” another weaker person but eating the “polluting” types of food is the main concern.

Since it is a well-known fact among Canelas that eating eggs will cause diarrhea, and since babies are particularly prone to diarrhea and death through dehydration, no one in the immediate family eats eggs during the first year or two of a child’s life. Since Blackpalm was the father of a newborn, no wonder he was so upset.

Because of this taboo, many adults don’t eat eggs for 10-15 years at a stretch, denying themselves an excellent source of scarce protein. Pregnant women also tend to avoid eating meat and subsist mostly on starchy manioc root.

We prayed much and worked hard to teach Canelas the truth about health and germs and demonstrated a healthy lifestyle ourselves.

We noticed many of these taboos changing when they saw how we boiled our water and evaded many sicknesses that way. Then people learned to read and learned about hygiene and the value of clean drinking water to avoid diarrhea.

But the big changes came when early in the translation process we translated 1st Timothy. Our translation helpers’ faces lit up with big smiles when they read chapter 4 verses 3-5 which taught specifically about all foods.

“. . . which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”

The Canelas were a sickly group of fewer than 400 when we first started living with them in their village. By the time we left 22 years later, the village had grown to well over a thousand. Today, 45 years after the oliebollen incident, the village is thriving with nearly 2,000 inhabitants with healthier bodies, educated minds, and a growing number of spiritually alive souls.

As we climbed that steep learning curve Jo and I sometimes asked ourselves, “Is this going to be worth it?”

What do you think?