Yebo Nkosi Yethu

As September emerged from the frigid wastes of Winter that is only now retreating to its cave, you may think that the advent of Spring is welcome.


And it is. But as happens from time to time, I accidentally expose myself to too much local news, and when this happens, I enter a malaise that can barely be described by words.


The negative news reports hammer home like blows from a mad pugilist. Barely has one punch to the face been felt, when several are delivered to the solar plexus. They build one upon the other.


This is the reason why I read news from abroad. It’s remote and serves as political entertainment.


The 2016 election in the U.S., the 2020 race, the Brexit chronicles. None of these directly affect me, are entertaining and are easily available..


An image occurs to me: the story of the little Dutch Boy who put his finger into the dike to stay a disaster.


I’ve never read the story (a story within a story: ‘Hans Brinker’) but that’s okay because the author Mary Mapes Dodge wrote the tale about Holland without having set foot in the Netherlands.


The imagery of me inadvertently reading local news is like the Dutch Boy with his finger in the dike trying to stem an ocean of negativity trying to breech the levy. The levy is my survival mechanism built on the principle of FOFO: fear of finding out.


Too much exposure to local news and I don’t have enough fingers to plug the holes.


On Sunday 1 September, early in the morning, I was alone in prayer, holes leaking all over the place and I found myself in Psalm 27:


I need to seek His face instead of seeking the news.


I catch a glimpse, a hint, a ghost in the light of local news that I will yet see His goodness in the land of the living. It’s not Biblical, but my mind forms a word-association with a city in Rhode Island called ‘Providence’.


Providence: under the providing care of God.

Spring is here, for real

I have to look to Him. Later that morning in church, we happen to sing the song ‘More than conquerors’:


“When waters rise

I lift my eyes up to your throne”.


My relationship with my own country is complicated.


I listen to Chris Tomlin’s ‘How Great is Our God (world edition)’ and the Zulu in the song gives me goose-flesh: Yebo Nkosi Yethu (Yes, Our Lord).


I listen to ‘Nkosi Sikeleli iAfrika’ and I feel nothing. Perhaps it’s the perception of the ruling party’s assumption that God has a wallet with His party membership card as the most prized possession, that He can be defined by politics, or even more heretically, by a political party.


My relationship with my own country is complicated.


My relationship with my God is simple.


There are holes in the dike.


Waters are rising.


I lift my eyes on a Sunday morning in September.


I lift my eyes up to Him.


I see merely a glimpse of what His providence may unfold for me in this land.


I wait for Him.

Google Emoogle Bible

My playlist in the vehicle keeps me going in the morning. My commute, when relatively free of the vehicular zombie hordes on the road, and including my playlist, is my most productive time of the day for thought and introspection.


The driver’s seat is my chapel.


The music is my choir.


The music and lyrics to Bethel’s ‘It is well’ bowl me over on this morning. I’m singing along:


‘Through it all

Through it all

My eyes are on You…’

Except I suddenly realise in the last few days, my eyes haven’t been on Him at all. I had been consulting Google about a set of facts but they were wrong.


Google can provide facts, but little context.


Emoogle (my emotions) can motivate for good or bad, but the signals are often murky and transitory.

Local tree prematurely suggesting that Spring is already here

The Bible is the only source of truth.


I recently begun starting off my prayers with: ‘I look to You’. I was supposed to have been but last week I was totally swayed by context-less information harvested from Google coupled with emotional troughs.


In realizing I wasn’t looking to Him, I started to look inward, disgusted, but also to Him after a sufficient time spent grovelling in self-pity (useless, but unavoidable). A Louie Giglio DVD message about the human body references the ability of our brain to filter out about 95% of the signals reaching our brain from the rest of the body. This is essential because there is a glut of signals and the brain prioritizes.


Similarly, our worldview is formed by the information we sample and taste and Google is easy and instantly accessible. Most often however, its agenda-driven and wrong. Looking to Him is counter-intuitive, but I reckon it involves consciously filtering out most of the internet and allowing His word a bit of time and space to change us.


For me, it doesn’t happen as often as it should, however I do endeavor to persevere.

The Filthy Thirteen

The 1965 novel, ‘The Dirty Dozen’ by E.M. Nathanson opens with an aloof, factual report in military-speak that details the execution by hanging of one Enos Gardiner at Marston-Tyne prison in the ETO (European Theatre of Operations) during WW2, before the author re-examines the same event through the eyes of the novel’s protagonist, Major John Reisman.

Classic movie

E.M. Nathanson wrote the novel after hearing whispers about a famously raucous unit from WW2, although he was never able to confirm anything more than rumour.


Loose lips sink ships and all that; it was different time and philosophy where in the service of the war, secrets were more willingly kept by that generation.


Subsequently, the story came to light of a notorious outfit that was named the ‘Filthy Thirteen’, a particularly rambunctious unit in the 506th PIR in the 101st Airborne.


Although the Filthy Thirteen were not composed of condemned men or military prisoners, they were kind of rough.


In the novel, ‘The Dirty Dozen’, the army devises a scheme that seems unlikely to work, specifically, to yank a dozen guys off death row, or from long sentences, the most disagreeable, rebellious malcontents and form a functional military unit to conduct a brazen assault of a Nazi chateau in France just prior to the D-Day landings, thereby inspiring confusion in the Wermacht officer class.


When I read Romans 5 and think about this novel (I’m reading both simultaneously), I get yet another picture of Christ saving the helpless, hopeless, and otherwise irredeemable.


We were yet sinners at the point just before we were saved. Not unlike the Dirty Dozen awaiting punishment for horrible crimes, destined for the hangman’s noose like Enos Gardiner, but at the last second when all seems lost, we got a reprieve.


I’m trying to conceptualise what it must be like to be a condemned man on death row and then to suddenly, without expectation, be told that the hanging is no longer happening. It would be simultaneously real and unreal the next morning on waking up.


Real, as in I expected to be dead but I’m waking up alive.


Unreal, as in, how can this be? And will pinching myself actually convince me that it’s true?


It’s in a state of abject hopelessness that we have suddenly been presented with hope. I glimpse a picture of this scene through the lyrics to ‘Come to the table’ by Sidewalk Prophets:


“Just when all hope seems lost

Love opened the door for us…”


The kingdom available to those formerly considered unclean, ruffians and vagabonds. We are invited to the table.


A quote I read recently by John MacArthur: ‘God is more willing to save sinners than sinners are to be saved.’ The imperative is that the banquet must be full.


Paul writes: ‘Very rarely will someone die for a righteous person, although for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.’ (Verse 7).


I’ve never been a member of the military, although I have great admiration for those who have served in the finest units with valorous distinction. I wouldn’t have ever been any good at it: I prefer to not be cannon fodder for what could possibly some nameless battle in a pointless war that is predicated on the exercise of politics instead of a righteous cause of defeating a moral evil.


Politics and power? Not worth dying for.

A man who serves a cause that is right? It’s rare that someone would give up their lives for such a person.

A good man? A benevolent man? Some people might.


Scripture contrasts this with what He did for us. In the logical economy, were we even worth a drop of sweat? Worth even a thought?


And yet He considered it worth His life.


It’s a profound thought to get one’s head around. Paul then argues that if God saved us when we were his enemies, how much more will He love us now that we are His children.


God’s grace is incredibly extravagant, going beyond the dirty dozen.


The filthy thirteen.

The sinful several billion.

The grace greater than gold.