Cultural Schema

“Do you have anti-freeze?” I asked, as I walked into the auto parts store ten minutes after closing. The door was still unlocked, and they graciously let me come into the shop, yet they looked blankly at me.

“Anti-freeze?” I asked again.

Puzzled looks around the room.

“Ahh…Coolant! I need coolant. My car is overheating,” I said, finally realizing people living in this desert have never had a need for anti-freeze.

The context in which you live shapes the way you understand things.

This can be true of the way we understand people too. I am learning to listen and ask questions. I don’t want to misunderstand what people do and say because I have not paid attention to how my understanding is different. My experiences have shaped my understanding in certain ways that others may never have experienced.

Coolant, not anti-freeze.

Petrol, not gasoline.

Trousers, not pants (means undies).

Operating theater, not operating room.

Use your right hand only to eat or pass something on to someone else. The left hand is considered unclean.

Context and culture shape the meaning of actions and words.

I have a lot to learn.

Keith Adding "Coolant"


Yesterday after church I was approached by two women. One asked for prayer for her friend, who was just new to our church. I asked them where they were from, just out of curiosity.  Or maybe it was just to make small talk before I asked what they needed prayer for.

“Cuba,” she replied.  She then went on to explain about her friend’s need for her employer to renew her work visa. They want to send her back to Cuba, but she wants to keep working here. She was telling me in English because her friend wasn’t able to. It then dawned on me that Spanish was their native language. That accent didn’t come from Kerala or Karnataka, from Malawi or Martinique, from Bangladesh or Botswana. It came from someone who spoke Spanish.

As I prayed, I wept. I was standing hand-in-hand with someone from the other side of the world, my side of the world. She felt not only like a sister in Christ, but also a geographical neighbor. Cuba is just a stone’s throw from Florida (actually 90 miles). Perhaps I also wept because, even though I grew up in Los Angeles county, I never learned Spanish enough to converse with her. I felt sad I couldn’t pray for her in Spanish.

Another thing. I believe in all my years, I had never before met a person who was still from Cuba. I’ve only met Cuban Americans, people born in America or those who left communist Cuba and made a new life in the US. In my lifetime, those Cuban Americans have not been welcome in their native country. (Now, thank God, after the recent changes perhaps they can now go between the US and Cuba, if they so desire.)

After this experience, I was struck again with the awesomeness of this place. I’m humbled that I can be here, praying and worshiping freely with my sisters.

This place where Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and more live together, worshiping legally and without persecution. This place where dozens and dozens of nationalities come together and live in peace.

God bless Bahrain.

Be at peace with your neighbors.

Posted in ELC

A Tribute to My Fathers

“More meat, please,” my three-year-old self said, holding out the plate to my father.

He grabbed a serving spoon full of thick mashed potatoes, and proceeded to plop them onto my waiting plate.

First, more starch. He didn’t want any child of his to look skinny. He didn’t want anyone to think he wasn’t able to provide for his bursting-at-the-seams family. Seven children in this small house. “Why do they have so many kids?” the neighbors might wonder. “They can’t even feed them.”

But this time, I was faster. I grabbed my plate out from under the falling, unwanted potato blob. The spoonful landed, splatting on the table. “More meat I said!”

My siblings sat quietly. No one dared laugh. They looked at me. They looked at him. What will he do? they wondered. A slight upturn of his mouth revealed there would be no explosion this time. Relief around the table.

That story is part of the family lore around our father. Of course, I don’t really remember the incident. In fact, I don’t remember much about him at all. My older siblings remember him. They have stories, many of them painful, of life with Dad.

One thing I can say about my dad is he was a good provider. He provided not only unwanted potatoes, but the money to be able to afford meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, clothing, and a roof over our heads–even if it was a tight fit. In the midst of chronic alcoholism, he managed to continue to work and earn money for his large family.

Alcohol and tobacco abuse killed him at age 43, but thanks to Social Security and generous death benefits from my dad’s work at the power company in Los Angeles, my mom was able to carry on. We were able to survive and maybe even thrive after he was gone. Today, I’m thankful that he was able to continue working, in spite of his illness.

God in his holy dwelling is a father to the fatherless and a champion of the widows. Psalm 68:5

This verse holds a lot of meaning for me. I was seven when my earthly dad died. I am comforted with this promise that God was and continues to be a father to me.

Many people don’t have fathers for a variety of reasons, and some people who do have fathers have bad ones. However, God is a good father.

Today in church, the Church School children gave a tribute to dads with a skit, a video of wishes about their fathers, and a prayer.

I was invited to pray for fathers at this service, so I chose this prayer by Charles R. Swindoll, with a few minor revisions. It gave me peace when I prayed it, and I hope it does for you too.

Lord, you are good to give us fathers. Far too often it’s a difficult role and thankless job, so we pray that today you will encourage all the men in that place. Guard their hearts. Strengthen their resolve. Help them embrace the joy that comes with the rearing of their children.

We thank you for our own fathers. For those of us who had supportive, loving and faithful fathers, we give you great thanks. There is nothing like a good father–one who leads his family with love and grace–presenting a life of self-sacrificial love consistently to his children.

Father, we also pray today for those who haven’t a father nearby or don’t have one like they would have wanted. We pray for those who have a father who taints their image of You. We pray you will make them trusting people and see that you are the Father of the fatherless. You’re able to take their deepest hurts and heal them. We pray you would use your word and your people to relieve some of their pain. For those who have not yet bowed their knee to the Savior, bring them to that place right now. May we give honor to you, God, for being our father and for giving us fathers. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

This Father’s Day I’m thankful for the physical provision that my dad was able to provide.

I’m even more thankful, that in the midst of brokenness, my father in heaven provides love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

Mom and Dad circa 1964

Mom and Dad circa 1964