a place of abundance

"we went through fire and through water, yet You brought us out into a place of abundance" Psalm 66:12b

Lamb Tongues September 20, 2011

Filed under: Asian-American,perspective — vivmabuni @ 10:40 pm

I push the grocery cart fast. Breezing through the aisles. Places to go, errands to run, lots of this and that on my mind. And out of the corner of my eye I see the yellow tray. It doesn’t register until after I push past the glass case.

I’m brought to a complete stop. And then I back up my cart and peer in.

A yellow tray holding rows of purplish, pinkish somethings. I read the sign, part Arabic, part English.

Lamb tongues.

Whoa. I’ve never seen that before. Then again, probably 40% of the stuff in the store would fit in that category.

I love this little store. Persian music playing overhead, stacks of Iranian phone books outside, a hefty bunch of red leaf lettuce sells for .59, Arabic pita bread for .75, the produce is fresh and the prices unmatched. But what I love most is hearing the different languages, and seeing people from different cultures. A woman from a South American country picked up a bag of dried brown oval-shaped things and looked at me, “What do you think this is used for?” I read the bag, part Arabic, part English: Dried Lemons. “I really don’t know. But it looks interesting.”

Here in the aisles of this little grocery store I find packages of things unfamiliar. But for most of the patrons, these same packages and smells bring memories of home and comfort food.

And I think about the smell of the pantry in my parents house and it’s the same as the aisles of the Asian markets I visit. These markets have huge tanks of live fish in the back of the store, and duck tongues and chicken feet in styrofoam trays and plastic wrap, placed right next to the drum sticks and chicken thighs.

I grew up eating roasted watermelon seed, the cheek meat of fish, sea cucumber, and not only the sweet meat of the blue crab but also the green pasty eggs of the female crabs. These were delicacies we enjoyed on special occasions.

And I wonder if lamb tongues would hold the same place of honor in a meal shared by a Middle Eastern family.

Like snails and frog legs in France, or sheep brain in Central Asia. Raw fish in Japan.

I marvel at the variety of food, and languages and cultures and it comes to me all over again: God is not an American.

Sometimes I forget this fact and think that God only hears prayers in English or that it’s the original Hebrew and Greek and then the English translation of the Bible. I read my Bible with American lenses, but the details that stand out to me as I read are often from a woman’s perspective. And I wonder how the same passages would be understood by the people in cultures different from me or from a different time period. Or how their lenses would help me understand more richly and deeply the Word of God.

Darrin and I teach from the Bible in different contexts–Bible studies, retreats, conferences, Sunday school classes, etc. and I can tend to come across kind of dogmatic and black and white. But I have come to appreciate and respect Darrin’s humble posture. He says, “The Bible has been around for thousands of years, translated, studied and taught by godly people through the ages. Who am I to say so emphatically what a particular passage says or means?” I don’t think this means that we have a wishy-washy approach to Scripture, but I am challenged to continue to grow and evaluate how I read the Bible in light of culture and context.

I love how God displays His beauty and creativeness through different languages and peoples. And as His image bearers, we reflect who God is through who we are and how we live. I think that it is through bringing together all nations, ethnic groups and tongues that we are able to see Him reflected fully.

What an amazing God and what an amazing, diverse, wonderful and tasty world we live in.

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6 Responses to “Lamb Tongues”

  1. Toni Sonnenfeld Says:

    Wow, what timing. I am a Children’s leader at BSF and this very week we are studying Acts 2 – the giving of the Holy Spirit to the disciples and ALL the people of every language being able to understand their preaching of God’s grace and salvation.

    As a young girl, my mom often fixed us beef tongue and I always thought it was delicious. (She did it because it was so inexpensive.) I assume lamb’s tongue would be similar. Going to the local market in Thailand was a culture shock of sights and smells I’ll never forget.

    • vivmabuni Says:

      Toni, how fun for God to connect BSF, Acts 2 and this post! 🙂 I’ve heard about the market in Thailand and the variety of bugs that get fried up for people to eat! Isn’t it wonderful to move outside our familiar world and have God expand our understanding of how big He is? I love that you have been able to travel to so many continents and see and smell first hand and meet people from different walks of life.

  2. Brian Virtue Says:

    Viv – totally agree. great post. I started working on an article called “A Three Cultures Approach to Engaging Scripture” and I’m trying to make some of the connections for folks of how culture is all over how we experience and teach the Scriptures. I may need to get you to be one of my editors 🙂 The three cultures always in play are our own, the culture that the Scriptures are embedded in, and the culture(s) of our audience(s). All of us can benefit so much by learning to apply more and more of what we all easily accept in say a cross-cultural training for overseas missions or something to our daily engagements of Scripture and teaching. Anyway – great thoughts. I’m glad God is bigger than any one country – we’d be in trouble if that were the case 🙂

    • vivmabuni Says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Brian! I am very, very interested in reading your article. I hope you know what a big fan I am of your articles! 🙂 I think some of these thoughts are slowly coming together for me about culture and how it influences how we interact with the Scriptures. As my own awareness grows of the cultural lenses I read through, it’s helping me to expand and take in how people can read the same passage but pull out entirely different observations because of different culture, gender, even time period they come from. For sure a conversation to be continued. Look forward to interacting on this topic more!

  3. onesam Says:

    You really touched me this morning Vivian…I was drawn in by the title…Wondered where you would go with it and was taken away with the words “God is not American” I love re-reading and repeating this out loud…My prayers of late is to expand my view in mind & heart to the sheer BIG-NESS of our God… I am good at making him small..Making my problems and concerns bigger than He is…Quick to forget that the Holy Spirit groans for me in a language only our Father God understands.. You are so right!!! God is the Universe. He is the World, spoke it into being!!! And imagining all the cultures around the world participating in ‘special occasions’ with ingredients unusual ~ unfamiliar to most of us – most of the time, yet so dearly precious to them, softens me… Thank You Viv, inviting me to look beyond what I ‘know’ to consider the MORE-NESS to life, to this world, to God – than I will ever know…But my heart is open and wiling to receive… Humbled and adoring Jesus in awe today…Love you xo xo xo Sam

    • vivmabuni Says:

      Sam, I can hear your voice as I read what you wrote and I can picture in my mind your eyes and your smile. Thank you for your encouraging words and for sharing with me how this little post brought you to MORE-NESS to our great God. 🙂 Love you and hugs to you!


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