Gayle Erwin's Newsletter

June, July 1996 Newsletter


The Right Hand

Well over a billion people on this planet eat with their hands, and it isn't because they don't know better – it is their tradition, a revered and very efficient way of life. One common thread exists for those who eat with their hands: they all eat with their right hand.

This is more than symbolic, since the left hand is reserved for personal cleanliness functions. In countries where this "right hand" tradition is strongest, if you touch a dish on the table with your left hand, the dish will be silently and immediately removed.

Don't expect your host to correct you. He never will. He may wonder at your rudeness or crudeness, but he will never correct you. Once, on my first trip to India in 1976, I was eating in the home of an outstanding Christian leader. Their precocious and verbal four-year-old son had been banished to another room to eat while I was there. Part way through the meal, I heard him loudly call for his father's attention. When his father responded, he asked, "Is he eating with his left hand?" Obviously, he had been warned that I might and was told not to make an issue of it. To the embarrassed father, I smiled and said, "Well, I know some important things to remember, now."

This hand separation does, as would be expected, extend to symbolism. In Zimbabwe, I was careful to give and receive gifts only with my right hand. To do otherwise could be an insult unless the person knew you very well and understood that you were simply an ignorant American. One significant symbolism parks unforgettably in my mind. Often, when a gift is presented to someone, they will receive it with their right hand and will cup their left hand under their right hand as if to support it. This is their way of saying that your gift is too "heavy" or too much for them to receive only with one hand, so they must support their hand. This is their way of honoring your worthiness or the value of your gift as they also say, "Thank you."

In similar fashion, when you shake hands with someone, he might grasp his right wrist with his left hand as a way of saying that shaking hands with you is "too heavy for me" or "I am unworthy to be shaking hands with you." People say many things nonverbally if you carefully observe.

Pocket Hands

Zimbabwean native men do not walk around with their hands in their pockets as I and many Americans nonchalantly do. They keep their hands out of their pockets, because they believe that to put them in your pockets means that you have money or some reason to put your hands there. This makes pocket hands a signal of wealth or position. Being mostly poor people, they consider it arrogant to place their hands in their pockets. Perhaps it is OK for us Americans to walk around with our hands in our pockets, since, by world standards, we are all wealthy, but not them.

I shall never forget a dramatic moment in the history of the Zimbabwean Church. A Bible school had been built and in full swing for several years, but they had no chapel, no gathering place for the students or meeting hall for conferences. With their own hands they dug the foundations, made the bricks and built a large building. I was there on that joyous day when they dedicated the new building, the largest on campus. The building was filled with pastors and leaders from all over the country. The speaker, a leading businessman, who led the dedication, at the close of his message told the hands-in-the-pocket tradition, then said, "Now we have something. We are rich. I want everyone to walk around here at the front with their hands in their pockets." I stuffed my hands in my pockets and joined them proudly strutting around that building and smiling hard enough to hurt my face.

God's Hand

God, who created the hand, also masters its use. Notice that His hand is not the hot one of the baseball pitcher, or the tennis star, or the basketball tower or the football quarterback. No, God seems to reach his hand out to bless.

To the psalmist, the hand of God opened to release pleasure, right-eousness, loving kindness and tender care. The hand of God never opens to abuse his children. To counteract those who might teach otherwise, God sends his Son as His outstretched hand to show us how He operates.

Everywhere Jesus went, he "reached out his hand" and healing or blessing occurred. Children felt the tender touch of his hand. Blind men, who could not see his hand coming, benefitted from his touch. The leper, living the lonely, untouched life, found that there was One willing to break into his misery and touch.

Jesus successfully showed the nature of the Father, then, knowing where the "Good hands" were, placed himself in them. "Into your hands I commend my spirit."

Holy Hands

The Apostle Paul wanted men everywhere to "lift up holy hands, without anger or disputing." (1 Timothy 2:8) How do we do that? In our flesh, we never lift hands we made holy. All our holiness comes from God, however Paul gives us a fascinating clue: "without anger or disputing." I hear Jesus telling the apostles to love each other as He had loved them. I hear Jesus telling the crowd that anger toward your brother equals murder. Jewish people ascribed ones strength to the hand or the arm. He would as soon have his hand cut off as to forget Jerusalem. If someone gathered his strength in anger it would be to "lift his hand against" a foe. Is it possible that Paul says to never lift a hand against our brother or approach him in anger? Maybe that defines "holy hands."

So, holy hands are indeed lifted in praise, but that is only the result, not the cause.

So, holy hands are lifted to bless and not to harm, but that is only the result, not the cause.

So, holy hands are lifted everywhere, but that is only the result, not the cause.

The cause is God Himself. His holiness surrounds us.

Grandma's Hands

When my grandparents retired and moved from the farm to the city, I did not know of a promise my grandmother had made. For so long, they lived on a farm somewhat remote from church, even more remote when the bridge washed out, which it often did. My grandmother so hungered to go to church that she promised the Lord that if He let them move to the city, she would go to church every day that she could. That promise deeply affected my life.

My parents moved away from the city while I was in the ninth grade. Wanting to finish that grade in my school, I persuaded everybody to let me live with my grandparents and finish the ninth grade, ignorant of the fact that it meant going to church almost every night. Whenever revival meetings appeared in the newspaper, we geared up Grandpa and Grandma's old Pontiac. We saw some strange things and some wonderful things.

My grandfather's blindness worked to his benefit since my grandmother drove as one trained on a trafficless farm. She felt that proper driving meant positioning the hood ornament over the line in the middle of the road.

Grandpa was mercifully blind. The strangeness of some meetings fueled good discussions when we returned home. Grandpa helped me learn how to pick out the Biblical from the non-Biblical in our observation. I value that more now than I did then.

However, living in their home left me with some warm memories as well as knowledge. My grandmother lived in the kitchen. She loved me and I knew it. Whenever I passed nearby in the kitchen, she would reach up and pat me on the cheek. Flour from her hands flew everywhere. If I licked my lips, she baked me a chocolate cake. They don't make cakes like that any more. Or hands.

Going to church every night had an upside apart from the spiritual. When we arrived home, she always made me a sandwich and a cup of tea. So, anytime I am with you and refuse coffee and ask for a cup of tea, think of my grandma's hands.

— Gayle Erwin


About "The Winner Is...." The lady at our landlord's office often asks Joanie what time our meetings start but has never shown up. After we called to get a power failure fixed, she asked with new earnestness. Her son had suddenly begun reading The New Testament and having long talks with her about Jesus. She wanted to steer him our way and has been coming herself these last few times. He is really excited to follow Jesus. I asked him what got him interested all of a sudden in Jesus. He said he saw "The Last Temptation of Christ" movie and felt that it was wrong about Jesus, so he got curious to know what the Bible had to say. He wanted to know the truth, so he got a Gideon pocket New Testament and started reading like crazy.

He could see for himself that the Jesus of the Bible was way different from that of the film. He started bringing a friend who has just been convicted that the lyrics of her metal records are demonic and she wants to be free of demonic attacks and follow Jesus. Jesus wins again. Thought you would be interested.

Rob and Joanie Dingman
Siegen, Germany

Since I came down from the mountain top from the last retreat at Applegate Christian Fellowship, I started digging where the treasure is at and things haven't been the same since.

Your retreat couldn't have fallen on a worse weekend. It was the last weekend of deer season and the start of duck season. I had seen the only buck of the entire season that very morning before driving up to the retreat and it was a big one! All of me planned on going back out that last Sunday to get that buck even though it meant missing your teaching in the amphitheater.

When you said, "If you want to find treasure, you have to dig where it is at," the Holy Spirit melted my heart. Total conviction! My priorities were all wrong. At the break, I went to my cabin accompanied by a fellow dedicated hunter.

Though I had planned on carrying out my conviction in privacy, I knew I had better do it right now or it might not ever be done. My friend gasped as I took my deer tag out, ripped it up, and threw it away. Set free at last! (He still thinks I am crazy. Ha!)

After that weekend, God blessed me with a lack of desire to go out hunting, though it was still bird season. I eventually sold all my rifles, shotguns, reloading gear, etc. I did keep my black Lab "Tsippor Kaleb" (bird dog in Hebrew). Now, instead of getting up at 4:30 a.m. to go hunting, I have learned that 4:30 is my favorite time to get up and talk to God. There is an entire testimony that follows this, but praise God for the power of His Word!

A Friend
Jacksonville, OR

May I reprint the article "And the Winner Is..." in my college newspaper. I feel it expresses what many of my fellow students need to hear.

Also pray for us here at DeVry Institute in New Jersey. There are a few of us here who desire to see God move in the hearts of our classmates. Many are from the inner city, so there is a heavy spiritual battle being fought here. There is even one practicing warlock.

We have formed a weekly meeting to intercede in our school. Keep us in prayer.

Curtis Vislocky
Old Bridge, NJ


Must read:

Living Water by Chuck Smith from Harvest House. Excellent book on the Holy Spirit. Wise and rich and practical. The final notes are worth the price of the book.

Tales of the Vine and Seasons of the Vine by Wayne Jacobsen from Body Life in Visalia, CA. Excellent spiritual insights from growing up in a grape vineyard. Call 209-635-8565


Must hear:

Call 800-328-7603 and get on Sound Truth's mailing list. Their old and new music consistantly rings bells with me as well as the writing of Malcolm Wild.

Praise, Volume One from Calvary Chapel Music. Hot album of new songs from some of your favorite artists. Call 303-421-3800

Someone must be responsible for this, so Servant Quarters is published whenever by Gayle Erwin and has, as its goal, the spreading of the message of the Nature of Jesus. It is free for the asking. You may contact us at:

Servant Quarters
PO Box 219
Cathedral City, CA 92235
Phones: 619-321-0077
FAX: 760-202-1139