I’m really enjoying several of the books I picked up in Ethiopia at a small shop near the Orthodox seminary. They are in English and published by very small operations. They have no ISBNs and I assure you none of them are available on Amazon. The authors don’t show up if you Google their names. This was exactly the sort of thing I was hoping to find – stuff the internet doesn’t know anything about.

On of the books is a collection of popular sayings or stories entitled “Dramatic Entertaining Short Stories <Parables> for English Speaking Tourists” compiled by Megabie Aelaf and Rev. Mekbib Atnaw. Many of the stories are connected to some illustration from scripture. Here are a couple of my favorites:

There was an American pastor who used to be an amateur boxer. One day a city gambler came to his Church and said, “There is a teaching in the gospel that it is hard to accept. It says ‘if somebody slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him. Are you able to carry out this teaching practically?'” The pastor said, “Yes I can”. “May I slap you?” asked the gambler. The pastor offered his right cheek, and the gambler slapped him. The Pastor remained patient and turned his left cheek and was slapped again. But when the gambler wanted to slap him a third time, the pastor rolled up his sleeves and made a fist. He said, “The book did not allow you to slap me three times, but only twice.” (Matthew 5:39)

The editor goes on to explain that taking up arms to repel a foreign invader is just and that all good Christian men, even priests, should be ready to do so if the need arises.

Here is some interesting analysis that uses bone placement to argue for the equality of men and women:

Universal Interpretations On Natural Equality of Men & Women

If a man is the head of his wife, she is the crown of her husband (Proverbs 12:10). SO this word proves their unique and natural equality of both husband and wife from the beginning of Creation.

1. She was not made out of his head to have ruling authority over her husband.
2. Nor out of his fee to be trembled upon by him.
3. He created her from a one out of his side to be equal with him.
4. He created her from a bone under his arm to be protected by her husband, and
5. from a bone near his heart that she may be beloved and dear to him.

It is wonderful to see the work of the Holy Spirit how He has combined the Interpretations of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Scholars with Mathew Henry the Anglican Great Bible Commentator who lived in a long distance more than 10,000 files away.

Matthew Henry’s old commentary may not be that great, but man, the guy gets around!

Finally, I loved this story about two holy men – one who prayed all the time and the other who didn’t pray at all.

A large monastery was ready to celebrate its big anniversary. The abbot and other leading monks chose one of the monks who dedicated all his time for prayer shutting himself in a cell for 40 years and he supposed to be a great righteous and holy man of God in the sight of men. He was sent along with a humble, good and faithful servant to fetch green grass (reeds or bulrush) to spread out and furnish the floor of their meeting hall. The monk murmured in his heart saying, “I am honorable righteous hermit who shut myself in a cell for about 40 years. I am a holy man of God. How can they send me with this illiterate and secular person who could not know how to pray except manual work – cooking for the monks, cleaning the compound of the monastery, carrying quintals of grain and vegetable.”

Yes, it was true. The humble servant did not have time for church service except cooking, cleaning, washing the clothes of all monks of the monastery. He did not pray at all. His total concern was how to take care of the monks, and help the weak and old men in his good work. He really was very obedient to all those who lived in the monastery.

He used to fetch water from a very remote area. He was the one who always took care of some domestic animals which belonged to the monastery. He sometimes was plowing the land with oxen. So all his happiness was by helping others rather than himself. When both of them reached their destiny to cut the green grass, it was heavily raining and the whole area was flooded with water. The humble, good and faithful servant entered the sea and began to walk on the surface of the water just as our Lord Jesus Christ walked on the water (Matt. 15:26) as on dry land. But the other monk or hermit who was supposed great righteous man could not enter even the edge of the sea. He was afraid to follow the humble servant. The faithful servant said to him, “Father, please come on how can such a righteous man like you be afraid of walking on the water?”.

The proud hermit said to himself, “Honestly speaking I did not reach the rank of this humble servant of God. My own righteousness has been taken away from me. It may be because of my vain pride. I should have to examine myself again and again in the living word of God the almighty”.

Then, when the humble faithful servant came out from the sea with a load of green grass, the proud hermit fell on his fee and asked him forgiveness, because of his vain talks against him. For he had esteemed him just like a secular person. The Hermit was without understanding of God’s special way how he leads men to righteousness.