Real Treasures

After my grandson’s comment last week about not wanting to be rich, since that would mean “too much stuff to put away”, I decided to look into the lives of a few folks who have typified that attitude by the way they lived. The first name that comes to mind is Rennie Sanderson Otani. She just passed away this last Valentines Day, so she’s been in my thoughts lately.

When we went to Japan in 1978, she’d already been there 18 years and was making a tremendous impression on Japanese mission work. Let me tell you about her.

She was born into a Mississippi minister’s little gaggle of girls in 1927, surrounded by music, church and the love of the Lord, all wrapped up in southern happiness.  But it wasn’t long before she left all that behind, headed first for Southwestern Seminary in Texas and then from there to Japan as an appointed missionary by the Southern Baptist Convention.  She arrived in Yokohama in the spring of 1961 and immersed herself into language school.  As soon as she graduated, she moved to the far south of Japan where she taught for several years in our Baptist School there.

Then she came back north to be the minister of music at Oi Baptist Church in Tokyo, a responsibility she kept faithfully for the next 27 years.  Oh, but wait, there’s more.  Living a simple life, she never accumulated much, but in 1969 she found and married a real treasure. He was the assistant pastor of the church, Keigo Otani. That was in 1969, coincidentally just a few months before Tony and I were married.

Rennie and Keigo planted their lives in Japan. While we Baptist missionaries were enjoying retreats and seminars and all things American, she served as the music professor at Tokyo Seminary and taught students who serve in churches all across Japan. She directed the choir for the Baptist 100 year celebration in Fukuoka in 1989, and served as editor for the New Baptist Hymnal. She wrote countless hymns, sometimes music only but often music and lyrics together. Besides all that, Rennie taught and mentored many Japanese in church music, directing music, playing the piano, etc. She also wrote “Rennie’s notes” which was shared with our mission family for years and encouraged many women as she served. She was always close to us missionaries, and just about all of us knew her well, even though most of her daily life was spent in direct ministry with the Japanese Convention, where her heart and soul would always remain.

After their retirement, Rennie and her husband continued to work as usual, even pastoring a Japanese church in Singapore and other mission points.  They never accumulated a lot of “stuff” over the years, but never lacked for anything. They were a real tribute to us all; a perfect example of a life given completely to God, and in their case, given through their work with the Japanese.

Talk again next week, okay? This blog is going out late because we’re finally getting around to celebrating son Nathan’s 40th birthday!  It’s hotter than usual today, but the pool was wet, so a good time was had by all.

Marsha

Decluttering

My youngest grandson was sent to give himself his nightly bath.  He’s just turned 5 and is very proud of this responsibility, but with all the excitement of older brother having a birthday and the cake being readied for the festivities, I guess he just gave himself that extra measure of autonomy and filled the bathtub right up to the top.

Mother swung by in her rounds and ‘noticed’ the flagrant abuse of conservatism in a house where money spent on water is one of the things they govern quite carefully.

She said to me, “Mae, would you go in there, I’m just too busy and since I’m a bit perturbed, I might be a bit too hard on him”. So I did.

“Well well”, I said casually, as I looked thru the bubbles and saw a very happy child. “I guess you’re just having a luxurious bath, aren’t you?” I continued.

Then, seeing his puzzlement, I asked him if he knew what “luxurious” meant, and he clearly didn’t. So off the top of my head, I began to explain…

“It’s like rich people, who have such a nice time in life, treating themselves to so many extras,” I continued, faltering a bit thinking about how I had chosen to describe “rich people”.

“Oh NO!” He sat up and with a serious look on his face, and, wiping a stray bubble from his brow, continued with great conviction. “I never want to be rich.  Rich People have WAAY too much stuff to put away!”

In Tony’s words, “That’ll preach”.

The Bible has some things to say about this ‘problem’.

For example, Hebrews 13:5, “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

In the next few weeks, I want to highlight a few ‘saintly’ people, some known to you and some only known to history, who have not held their blessings back. Instead they have invested in others, leaving very little to ‘put away’ except in the lives of others.

Stay tuned!!  I’ll be talking about some people you may know who have gone to glory recently in our mission, but next week we’ll probably start with that wonderful woman named Mary with her bottle of perfume and what my Japanese pastor had to say about her so many years ago.

Face the Light

Okay so maybe you’re thinking that this whole “properties of light” series is going on forever, and I’m glad you thought of that, since today is the fifth and last “enlightenment” I’m going to share with you.

I mentioned already that light is (1) the source of all life, (2) the source of all power, (3) it’s everywhere, ie, omnipresent, and (4) it’s constant and unchanging. Now here’s #5: Light is infinite, which is to say, eternal.

Think back: do you remember a time when you took a flashlight (“torch” to you Southern Hemispherers) and pointed it at the stars? That beam of light is still going, you know. It’s dispersing as it travels, the beam getting wider and wider, but it’s still going, constant speed, never stopping.

Astronomers tell us that the universe, which as I said earlier is that area encompassed by light, is expanding. You get a big telescope, and every direction you look, you’ll see the light moving … and it’s moving away from us.  They can tell that by something called “red shift”. Look it up when you have a chance.

Even if there is an edge to the universe, it’s expanding, and it’s expanding at the speed of light.

Discussions like this are hard for simple-minded people like me, but when we speak of the universe, we have to speak of it in terms of infinity.

Now look with me to Revelation 22:13,  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

If we speak of God, we have to speak of Him in terms of infinity. God is infinite, just as light is infinite. Wait, that’s not quite right. Light had a beginning, when God spoke it into existence (Genesis 1:3).

So what’s the point? Shall we establish a new religion, and worship a light bulb? If we did, it wouldn’t be new. Generation after generation have come to the same conclusion, that light is somehow synonymous with our Creator. But here’s the point: The men who wrote the Bible thousands of years ago gave God the same five properties of light that Albert Einstein discovered and described in 1938. And then in places like 1 John 1:5, they said, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.”

This is an amazing analogy that that could not have been made before 1938, unless it was made as a direct result of the inspiration of God.

And the analogy doesn’t stop there. When it comes to inspiration, it’s good to point out things that show the truth and depth of the Bible, but it’s even better to understand the message that those things are telling us. Is it possible that there are some among us who are not totally in the light?  In our own lives, are there corners of darkness that persist, blinding us to Who God really is, and who we are before Him?

A Christian who doesn’t know what God wants him to do is standing in darkness.

A Christian who is unaware of the gifts God has given him when he invited Jesus into his life is standing in darkness.

A Christian who is unaware of his own authority as a child of God is standing in darkness.

Anyone who does not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is lost in darkness

As we soldier on into this new year, let’s re-discover the light that is ours. Come out of the shadows that may have frightened us, discouraged us, or led us into blindness. Let’s face the light, and show the way for those around us who are still stumbling.

I hope when we come to this time next year, we’ll be able to look back on 2021 and say, “It was a good year, made even better by the guiding light that brought us through it.”

The Only Constant

And so today we’re talking about those five properties of light again. Remember the first three? Light is the source of all life, the source of all power, and it’s everywhere. Keep in mind that coincidentally (Not!), GOD is the source of all life, and power, and He is everywhere. Do we see a pattern? This time, I want us to think about the 4th property of light, which is that it’s CONSTANT.

I hadn’t given much thought to this, but did you know that light is ALWAYS the same?  Light cannot be heated or cooled, sped up or slowed down.  Doing those things can result is MORE light, but the light itself will stay the same.

Now here’s where it gets amazing: all material things, all matter, even time, changes in relation to the speed of light, not the other way around.  That may be hard to take on board, but Albert Einstein, back in 1938, demonstrated conclusively that every thing, even time, will change in relation to light.

The atomic clock, without dispute the most accurate time piece in existence uses what they call the ‘resonant frequency’ of atoms in order to tell time.  That’s why we call it the ‘atomic clock’.  How accurate is it, you ask? I’m glad you asked. We’re told that, well, it’s not absolutely perfect. Although it hasn’t been proven yet, scientists will concede that the atomic clock will probably lose about one second every hundred million years. Not a big loss, for sure, but enough to take it out of the “constant” category. ,

In 1971 Joseph Hafele, a physicist,  and Richard Keating, an astronomer, took four Cesium Beam atomic clocks and put two each aboard two specially outfitted commercial airliners.  One flew east, with the earth’s rotation, and the other flew west, against it. Before taking off, they were all confirmed to be set to the time standard atomic clock, located in Washington, DC.

Refueling in flight, they went, not once but twice around the entire globe, landed, and checked the time. Turns out the clocks on the plane now disagreed with the clock in Washington. They were only off by .59 nanoseconds, but that was exactly the difference predicted by Einstein.

How does that affect us?  Today there are countless satellites  orbiting around the earth, and each one is targeted by a system of antennas so that they can communicate with each other.  You will be receiving this missive today by machines with more science involved than this mortal can imagine.  IF Einstein’s time difference was not taken into account, the signals would miss the satellites by miles, with no chance of connecting.

But it almost seems I’m talking more about time than light.  Let me direct you to a couple of verses.

Malachi 3:6  “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, or children of Jacob, have not perished.”  (that’s in the Old Testament)

… and then there’s Hebrews 13:8,  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

In this world God is the ONLY constant.

Next time I’ll finish this thread and move on. But until then, every time you turn on a light switch, think about God.

I’m sending this a little early because we, not being scientists with miles of calculations at our fingertips, are going to try to ‘link up’ with a group of campers from church….but only after we do the Japanese worship later today.  We hope to ‘camp’ for about 3 days down on the beach,  should be fun although it’s pretty hot……….thanks to all that ‘light’!

Till next week, Marsha

Seeing that Seafood

As I was reading my daily Bible plan (in the Message version, forgive my shallowness) I had to chuckle at Psalms 27:1. Here’s what it says,  ”Light, space, zest—that’s God!”.  Pretty over simplified perhaps. That’s why I often open my Daddy’s bible, here on my desk, to find out what  the King James might be saying. Here it is.  You all know it from your earliest memory verse days.   “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?  The Lord is my strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

But thinking of the ” Light, space and Zest” idea, my thoughts naturally turned to ………..Shrimp.

Or “Prawns” as the British/Australians of this world call them.

If you’re like me and love shrimp, you know them as a tasty tail, a bunch of legs and antennae and some disgusting big buggy eyes. Most places outside of Western culture serve them WHOLE so all of that grossness and  bugginess is on your plate ‘lookin’ at you’.  I have to struggle with disgust and my kind husband is often the one who fixes them up for me so that I can enjoy those delicious few bites.  I won’t even tell you about the time we were served (and ate) LIVE shrimp in Japan……..

But DID YOU KNOW that the shrimp, and most other decapods (10-legged crustaceans such as lobsters, crayfish etc) have the most sophisticated eye systems known to man?

According to scientists, our eyes use lenses to focus light by the use of refraction.  That means the bending of light to a focal point. As we age, our eyeballs get out of shape and the bending of the light isn’t as accurate and that’s why we hope for longer arms or stronger lenses in our glasses.

Ah, but the shrimp and their cousins actually ’see’ using eye mirrors that are of such intricate design, involving photon, crystals, and nanostructure that they can manipulate light at the wavelength level.

You may notice I’m quoting Creation Magazine directly, and that’s why I’m using scientist-speak.  Believe me, I have to read it out loud to even try to understand.

Carrying on …….. the mirrors comprise an array of nano spheres with an average diameter of 330nm (that’s smaller than a wavelength of visible light).  These receptors are arranged in regular arrays and wrapped around the bottom half of the light receptor. (have I lost you?) ………. The description goes on and all I can think of is “I regularly chop off and throw away this magnificent creation, so far superior to our own eyes, without a single thought more than a big ‘euww’.

The bottom line of all this amazing development is that a shrimp can see with the highest refractive indices of any biological creature, able to see blue light, which happens to be the only color of sunlight that can penetrate appreciably 70 meters down to where the shrimp live. But make no mistake:  It didn’t ‘evolve’ to this high tech; it was designed and created in one Breath.  AND it has eluded being replicated.  No one has come close to creating even the building blocks necessary to arrive at the finished product.

The rest of the article eludes me, except to say that ‘seeing light’ is crucial to every creature, and God has made it possible.

We are created to SEE the light. God gave shrimp the ability to find the light they need where there seems to be none, on the bottom of a very deep ocean.  I think he made us a little simpler because He KNOWS we can see His Light when we just open our eyes.

We continue to enjoy walking with Nicki and Chris thru their pregnancy.  Her baby is now ‘seeing’ even though it’ll be sometime until the eyelid skin cells in one swift movement ‘zip’ open to allow that eye to open.  Isn’t it just amazing?   One more of the miracles of life.

“See” you next time!

Marsha

Stepping Everywhere

Hello fellow blog readers, I hope you’ve had a lovely week.  You will recall I’ve been talking about the properties of light: First it’s (1) the source of all life, (2) the source of all power. And now, (3): Light is everywhere.

Apparently, scientists have never found anywhere in the universe where there is no light.  In fact, the commonly-accepted definition of the universe is, “That area encompassed by light”.

Another word for that condition is “omnipresence”. Where have we heard that word before? The only two places that word would be appropriate is when talking about light … or God.

I read an interesting thing in Exodus 6 this morning.   In the King James Version, chapter 6, verse 3, God says to Moses, “And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.”  But it was in the “message” that this leaped out at me, (same verse) “I am God.  I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as The Strong God, but by my name GOD (I-AM_PRESENT) I was not known to them”

So it wasn’t until Moses that we knew God is Omnipresent…….like Light.

Without a doubt one of the most comforting passages of Scripture in the Bible (unless of course you’re not a believer, in which case this is one of the most terrifying passages): Psalms 139:7-12,  Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.

Keep in mind that it’s Satan who, Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

God has no such limitations, in spite of what the enemy would like to tell you. Try as he may, he simply can’t be in all places at all times. That’s why he has to depend on his flunkies to be his eyes and ears for him.

So, to say it again, Light is the source of all life, all power, and is omnipresent. Do we see a pattern developing? Stay tuned!

Stepping Powerfully

If you tuned in last week, you’ll recall that I’m talking about that amazing analogy in the Bible where God is described as “The Light of the world”; and how the men who wrote that couldn’t have possibly known how spot on they were, since the five properties of light were even discovered and described until Albert Einstein did his thing in 1938. Last week, I began with the first property of light, that is, that it’s the source of all life. This week, let’s move on to number two, which is: Light is the ultimate source of all POWER.

To my layman’s mind, this seems pretty elementary.  We have solar panels on our roof that make electricity somehow.  I get that. I don’t know how it does it, except that the sun goes in, and the power comes out, all the way to this computer.  We don’t have to go far out of town to see a lot of wind turbines that make electricity. Aha! I think, the exception to the rule. But I’m told that, no, without sunlight, there would be no wind; and without wind … well, you get the picture.

Tony is happy to step in here and quote a bunch of Sci Fi stuff like we see in author Jack Taylor’s, book “Black Holes”. Before his passing, Taylor wrote the foreword for our first book, Looking for a Lamb, by the way. Taylor describes the ultimate weapon, which would be powered entirely by light (Tony really wants one of those, by the way). With a weapon like this, matter is bombarded with anti-matter (lost me already), and it creates a beam of pure light which then travels (duh) at the speed of light. Inside that beam, nothing but NOTHING can exist. You can run but you can’t hide. All I can say is, if they ever produce one of those, I hope they’re careful where they point it.

That sounds a little like Revelation 4:11 where it says, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and (emphasis mine) POWER, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

That’s all well and good, if you’re aiming for world domination, but for this grandmother, I’m sufficiently awestruck at the power I see at work around our latest grand baby, due to make an appearance in about five months. From what we read, little “Schnicklefritz” (a name we’ve decided on until the big gender reveal) is already installing a light package, even though that baby is yet to see the phenomenon in person. Eyelids are still sealed shut until word comes down to rig for light. Even now, those eyes are tracking right and left in total darkness, and if Mum steps out in bight sunlight, the eyes sense it. Yep, that’s power at work, and it all depends on light.

Then I think of dear John the Apostle, sitting down and penning the words, This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

What a perfect analogy. What perfect applications we see all around us, even though we don’t always understand what we’re seeing. And I can just hear God whispering to me, “Just wait; you ain’t see nothin yet!”

Marsha

Stepping Light-ly

Well people, there’s been so much troublesome news this week, I decided I needed a little enlightenment. And the timing couldn’t have been better, since on Sunday, Tony preached about that very thing: light.

I’m reminded of a time 47 years ago when we were in Zambia, Africa. A fascinating man by the name of Dr. Herbert F. Mitchell came through town on a mission trip.  He had just retired from many years at NASA where he worked as a space scientist. In fact, his work was crucial to the Apollo moon project, playing a big role in insuring that the astronauts got to the moon and back safely.

His specific job was to calculate all the orbital information needed, a task that was built around Einstein’s theory of relativity. Remember that famous formula? E=MC2, or in other words, Energy (E) is equal to Mass (M) times the speed of light squared. Yeah, if you’re like me, that doesn’t tell me a whole lot, either. But according to Dr. Mitchell, we would have never gone into space or set foot on the moon without that insight from Einstein.

After retiring, Dr Mitchell decided to visit as much of the world as he could, sharing that information and comparing it to Scripture. He began by reading from 1John 1:5, This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.

“We need to understand,” he said, “that when John wrote those words, he was making an analogy that would have been meaningless before Einstein made his discovery in 1938.”  Then he went on to explain that “light” is made up of five specific properties. Here’s the first one:

Light is the source of all Life.

I had to think about that for awhile, but it’s true; If there’s no light, there’s no life. That fact was made clear to me during our last five years in Japan, when we lived in a tiny apartment in Tokyo, a city of 39 million people.  Our bedroom window, and every other window except one, faced the stair well and inner courtyard, so it was pretty much dark all the time. I soon discovered that if I was going to ‘come to life’ in the mornings, I was going to need some help. So my loving husband rigged up a desk lamp on a timer to come on at exactly 6AM.  I didn’t need an alarm clock, I needed a reason to live, and it worked like a charm.

Ah, but you say, “What about the bottom of the ocean where sea creatures lurk who have never seen the light? Well, for one thing, even deep sea critters have to eat, and what they feed on are all those things that live way up in the light. When they die, they drift down to the bottom of the sea, a veritable smorgasbord from above. And it’s also worth noting that those guys have their own light sources in the form of luminescent fish and rocks that are all around them in abundance. The same applies to underground caves where all manner of creepy crawlies thrive without sunlight, but depend on luminescent rocks.

The Bible underlines this first property of light time and again, beginning with the first recorded words out of the mouth of God in Genesis one, “Let there be light”.  Again in Matthew 5:14, Jesus calls to us by saying “The city built on the hill cannot be hidden”, and urges us to “let our little lights shine”. We are in fact, according to Jesus, “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).

So, would you like to know more? Tune in next week, and I’ll give you the second property of light, and how it describes God perfectly.

Brighter days ahead! Have a ‘Bright Week”!

Marsha

Happy New Year!

Good Morning and Happy New Year!

Today I’m writing you a sort of ‘intermission’ between the years.  If, like us, you’re sort of spinning around and wondering what happened, then join the club.

2020 is over, proving, as many said, we now have valid proof that  “2020 Won”. (or as it’s written, 2021).

To bring that fact home, we had a vacation of sorts that was not the vacation we were planning.  Anyone else out there feeling the same? We were scheduled to visit a friend an airplane ride away, but at the last minute chickened out. It was only a domestic flight, but with the constantly changing border restrictions between prefectures, we were scared of getting stranded, either unable to come back home or else coming home to a government-enforced quarantine, to the tune of around $5000 for the two of us.

Now don’t laugh or mock us, but we HAD to leave our house, certainly not because we needed a vacation, but because I’d rented out OUR house on Airbnb and we had to vacate.  There is a long explanation for this; the week between Christmas and New Years is the peak of summer and when almost all Australians have a break from work (think 4th of July weekend).  Because of this, everyone’s looking for accommodation, and almost everyone wants to be where we live here in the Gold Coast.  People will pay enough in that week, especially for a whole home, that you can easily pay your taxes for the entire year with the profits.  Plus, it gives this old missionary a chance to do a deep clean and pack up and sort, taking time to evaluate the year’s accumulation of stuff.

So on that note, since we had to leave and had nowhere to go, I picked up the phone and called around, asking for somewhere that had cancellations, since our border to New South Wales had suddenly slammed shut just a few days before.

I know you Americans are shaking your heads at our concern Down Under, compared to the horrible reports that are coming down from the Northern Hemisphere. And you may have a point. I just pulled all the numbers I could find and came up with this thumbnail scorecard:

In Australia, we’ve had a total of 909 deaths attributed directly to Covid. With a population of 25,672,000, that comes out to about one death per 28,242 people. Keep in mind that at least three fourths of all Australians live way out in the country and hardly ever come in contact with anyone. Plus, while the Northern Hemisphere is in the throes of winter, we’re having a daily bake off of any germs that come by.

In the United States, I’m told that over 350,000 have died so far; with a population of 328,239,523, that comes to one death per 937 people.

With a worldwide population of over 7.6 billion and total Covid deaths recorded of 1.8 million, that comes to one death every 425 people.

Now, the skeptic in me wants to question the numbers, but I think the bottom line remains: our numbers here with a death ratio of 1:28,242 isn’t that bad, but we realize you folks in the USA are suffering, and our hearts go out to you. A church friend of ours from our youth died just before Christmas, making him the first one we personally knew to succumb to this pandemic.

But let me get back to more trivial things like where to go when our options were limited. My search finally landed a timeshare that somebody had been forced to cancel, so we booked it for half the going rate. It was just 10 miles from our house, in a beach area that we’d never visited (there’s too many to count right here on the Gold Coast).  Absolutely beautiful!  Soon the kids got wind of our good fortune and loaded up (at our invitation) and came with lots of food and sleeping bags. It was a week to remember.

In a lot of ways, I think a few days with the grandkids can be compared to last year, when we didn’t know what to expect from day to day. Some moments were Hallmark, Kodak, and “priceless”. Other times, well, we found ourselves tempted to dangle them over the balcony. Come to think of it, they would probably have been delighted, since they spent a great deal of their time trying to do just that.

But like last year, we mostly found ourselves thanking God for every moment and seeing how He has total control, loving and caring for us. I know we will look back on this event with smiles on our faces, and even possibly, want to do it again.

On that note, we moved into the New Year, complete with some beautiful little local fireworks at 9:00pm for us all to watch.

As I mentioned last week, Nicki’s pregnancy continues to be a joy for us, and we’ve started a series called “Letters to Schnicklefritz”, which we’ll be sending to the baby for the next 6 months or so.  Hopefully, it’s a niche that might attract a publisher, especially if you have an uncle or neighbor who is a publisher and want to recommend us to him.  So if you’d like to read these, send me your details and we’ll get you on the list to read the upcoming ones every Wednesday till July.

Next week I’m going to start a series here that Tony is currently preaching about “Light”.  I think it’ll be interesting, as some of us enjoy 4:30AM light in the heat of summer and the rest of you snuggle next to the fire trying to remember brighter days.

Cherrio………….and all the best for 2021

Marsha

The Best Christmas Present

Greetings from Sunny and Hot Australia!

I hope you all had the best Christmas ever. I know we did! Why, you ask?

You see, about 10 years ago our wonderful prospective son-in-love proposed to our daughter from the worship team stage at our church, complete with big screen video and lots of fanfare

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Fast forward to Christmas day this year, where we sat before that same stage and watched in joy as daughter, her husband, both brother-in-law and father-in-law all joined together with the worship team to lead us in a medley of beautiful Christmas carols. Some of the Pennycuick family had driven almost a thousand miles to get there. They came from New South Wales, the outback town of Broken Hill where there have been something like TWO Covid cases, so they were able to get into Queensland. Mum and Dad didn’t have as far to come, but since they started just over the border in more civilized New South Wales, there were treated to some bureaucratic and complicated permissions to get certified to our (again) locked down prefecture.

But everyone agreed the trip was worth it, especially the newest member of the worship team, possibly kicking a foot to the music, who was announcing a forecasted arrival next July: BABY Pennycuick! Needless to say, we’re all dancing in the aisles (at least as much as good Baptists can dance).

So that’s the penultimate of our Christmas news.  Like most of us, it’s been quite a year, and one that most folks are happy to be looking at in the year-view mirror. But all in all, it’s been a good year. Tony is still apparently cancer-free and has gone back to being a part-time carnivore, finding that he didn’t lose his taste for unhealthy food.  So far, his only complaint as this year ends is a memorable case of sciatica resulting in back pain that has left him almost unable to walk. Any suggestions for home remedies out there? I teased him this morning, saying all he needed was a handkerchief pinned to his shirt to complete the picture. He failed to appreciate the humor.

We were reminded this week of the global crisis that still persists. A deacon in the church where I grew up whom I’ve always  enjoyed, was healthy and then suddenly died yesterday of Covid, … the first case of someone we actually knew well. Then another close friend told us of his failed marriage, totally blindsiding us, since they seemed to be the perfect couple.
What can we say about 2020? I suppose the same thing we can say each year since the Garden of Eden: Sin continues to break things, loved ones continue to come to the end of their days.

But literally “Thanks be to God”, Christ has come and continues to reach out to us in love, with hope and promise. Joys abound all around us, a reminder of His presence and mercy. And when the hard times bear down, we bear up, knowing that He has never forsaken us, and never will.

Christmas brought that reminder, and the memories of the season, of the Infant Savior of the world and His precious time here among us will gird us up for 2021. Bring it on, Lord. Come quickly!
Peace on Earth and pass the leftovers………..

Marsha