By This They Will Know

Bula (Hello) from Fiji!

We finally made it, after a night in Sydney because flying standby means exactly that.  If any of you out there envy us for our half price tickets through my daughter’s connections as a Flight Attendant, remember to add in the joy of finding the cheapest hotel and dragging your bags over there since they don’t have a shuttle, just to cover your head for the night.

But when it works, it works like a charm. We finally found seats and made it to Fiji, one day late, and just hours before the president of the Baptist Convention (who incidentally is the pastor of the church,) met us at the airport right before he himself flew out.

He says we were a Godsend because we got here in time to preach at his church today.

We checked into our less than superb motel for the night and were pleased to find a delicious fish curry dinner (which in spite of the bad press Fiji has gotten lately, hasn’t killed us yet).  We dined outside and chatted with a world vagabond who’s about our age. Seems he just walked into the hotel a few days ago and offered to paint a few pictures on their walls for room and board. Why haven’t I thought of that? Except maybe for the fact that I can’t paint.

We had a lovely time eating, sharing experiences and making friends with the stray cat who helped me finish off my Moby Dick sized fish.

And today we woke up and went to church, only to find out that it’s Father’s day yet again!  This time it’s for Fiji!

Church went very well, the singing was that of angels, with everyone decked out in long flowing dresses of beautiful colors. The men were pretty impressive too, dressed mostly in the traditional ‘sulu’ skirts.

We were instantly welcomed in and appreciated, fed up to the eyeballs and carried to our new hotel (a challenge in itself; how do I find these places??)   They loaded us down with all the leftovers from the potluck and left us, so hopefully we can really get down to the brass tacks of writing, which was one of our objectives in coming.

As I sit here in the outdoor lobby, the only place we really have internet, I haven’t seen a cat to make friends with, but the radio on the front desk is playing Christian music. Right now it’s “Christ Alone”.  Could be a good sign for the week to come.  I’m really liking Fiji.  All the stores are closed and there are churches (full) everywhere.

Pray for me as I’ve snagged a ‘gig’ with the church women this next Tuesday. I think they just want to hang out and decide if I have anything of worth to say (no comments, please!). I feel honored.

Then if time permits, they’re going to ‘show us around’ on another day.  I’ve already fallen in love with them all.

Next week we’ll go to the other side of the island and spend some time in the capitol city of Suva.  I think there are more churches there, so who knows what we’ll get up to!

My take away for us all today is the verse in John 13:35, and the one Tony opened up his message with this morning:

‘By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love ya,

Marsha

Oh wait!  I see the resident cat…..it’s going to be a good week!

Dark Days

Thank you all for your concerns for me and my ant bite!  I’m guessing you Americans quietly put this on your list as to why you’ll never visit us, never mind that we got absolutely No Sympathy from my Aussie friends, telling me how much more horrific their ant stories were than mine. Even my grandson declares that he was bitten not once but three times, and furthermore had to be brave because he was with his mates!

Truth be known, this week has had a lot more than ant bites to be concerned about. God has been doing His ‘Sovereign’ thing in the illness of several near and dear friends.

Now I realize that we are, after all, circling our 70’s, and because of that, these things are going to become more common because of our predictable mortality.  Nevertheless I have to confess that it’s been hard to see God’s Hand in what our unchurched friends call “senseless tragedies”. We already know several who are doing daily battles with cancer, but this week was a real blow.

One friend’s young adult son has been diagnosed with a very rare form of “heart cancer”.  I’m not making this up.  There really is such a thing and it’s very serious.  Another friend in our Bible study has just been diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease.  He is younger than us and totally immersed in a daily faith that puts us to shame. Somehow, a part of me thinks that these people should be exempt from all this. Sickness should be for the bad guys only.

Why the young?  Why the good??

I have to admit, some of this shock and anger has taken us back to our own son’s diagnosis of leukemia at the age of 15.  It would lead to his death just 8 months later and in the words of as C.S. Lewis, “It wasn’t so much that I stopped believing in God, but I began to believe terrible things about Him”.

Again I say, “Why do the good die young? Why why why……”

And then if things weren’t bad enough on a personal level, our country here is suffering a crippling drought, exacerbated by out of control bushfires.  We woke this morning to smoke in our lungs and images of singed koalas on the news.

During this week, I was drawn to Philippians 1:6 in my daily reading where I found, marked in my Bible, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.

And then in the margin of my Bible I had written in, “1992, Adopting Nicki”.

We’d been trying to adopt another child for years before Trevor died and we figured we better get on with it since we were already in our early 40’s. Unfortunately things weren’t going well and we were wondering if it would ever come to fruition when I read and marked that verse.

How could Paul have such “confidence” when he himself was about to be martyred?  Later he says in the famous verse (1:21),

“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain”.

Heavy stuff for a spoiled child like me, and yet, now when I see this mark in my Bible over twenty five years later, I realize it’s true.  God did ’see us through’ the bad stuff and let us continue living, and not only that, but has let us continue being His pampered children.

But this week, the black is back, covering our lives with fear and sadness.  I don’t know what to say to our friends.  Somehow I feel like saying something like, “It’ll be all right” or “God loves you”  isn’t going to help them much.

I seem to remember that the only answer God gave Job in response to all his troubles was the famous passage, “Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me! “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

And then both of Tony’s sermons today were threaded through with this theme. In the morning it was “The Silence of God” and in the afternoon Japanese service it was “The Excuses of Moses”. I guess he’s hurting too.  At one point he referenced the verse in Isaiah 55:8-11where God says,  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Thanks for praying with us for these friends, and all the ones you know who are being treated ‘badly’, at least from our childish perspective. God is indeed Sovereign and for that we’re thankful.
And thanks for caring about us too.  We’ll be all right in His time.

Marsha

PS:  Next week we’ll be in Fiji (If you look on a map, it’s a tiny group of dots about 4 hours east of Australia). Tony’s been asked to present his Anagaion Bible study to a few churches there. We’re excited and nervous as well, having never been there and not knowing what to expect, but I’ll try to get you a report!

Stay tuned and please pray that we get on our standby flight as we’re already scheduled to meet the first pastor (who’s leaving the country just hours after we land).  The pastor is asking Tony to preach for him the next day, so it’ll be good if we can make the connection!

PPS: If you don’t hear from us next week, don’t panic, we may not have any internet.

Springtime: Fathers, Snakes and Ants

Good morning all,

It’s dawned on me that this is Labor Day Weekend in the northern hemisphere.  We hope you’re having a lovely last shout out to summer.

We’ve had a great day in church. It started with commissioning a lovely couple almost our age, to give up everything and travel half way around the world to be Christ’s ‘Salt and Light’ to some unfortunate refugee kids in a place where the horror continues and it isn’t even now safe to be there.  Such courage is rare and I’m more than impressed.  I’m sure you’ll pray with us for them.

Add to that, today is Fathers Day here in Australia. We had a hurried “fast food with playground” lunch with our kids and grandkids. It was so good to be reminded that we have fathers in our circle. Good ones at that.

It’s remarkable that Fathers day is on the first Sunday of Spring, in this case, September 1st.  Why isn’t it observed on the same day as in the Northern Hemisphere, you ask? After all, Mother’s Day coincides with both sides of the equator. The simple answer is that we’re about to move into summer Down Under, and everyone knows that spring is the time when a man’s thoughts turn to power tools.

And so today all the men got gardening equipment.  All of them that is, except Tony.

The reason may be because the other day I met up with another of Australia’s “deadliest”.  In my own back yard.

I’ve been saying lately that gardening is not for the faint hearted, but Tony likes to get at it while we’re technically in Winter here, believing as we do that most of the snakes are still asleep. It may be a wake up call, though, to realize that a big snake was seen sunning itself on our deck downstairs just an hour ago. We think it was only a harmless 3-foot long tree snake. But as Tony says, every snake he meets is potentially lethal since he injures himself trying to get out of its way.

But back to my own mortality reminder: half hearted though I was (it’s still a bit chilly here), I was doing my best to scrapple thru the dead mulch, pulling and tugging at the not dead grass that always invades everything.  I intrinsically understand in the back of my mind that I do need to tread carefully, but hey, I was wearing gloves, and we need to get ready for Spring.

Head down in the bushes as I worked, I hit something like a live electric wire.  At least that’s what it felt like.

Hot burning and vibrating.  On my wrist.  Right under the elastic that’s meant to keep all the bad things from getting in to me!

………Well, I never saw anything as I looked around and decided it wasn’t a hot wire.  The pain wasn’t lessening as I began to blindly yank off my glove while doing a Highland Dance of pain. Pulling up my sunglasses I looked everywhere for the crocodile that had removed my hand, but no, there was no croc, and my hand seemed to still be attached although it was turning numb pretty quickly.

I staggered over to Tony who, raising up from his digging, gave me a sympathetic glance and looked concerned, but not enough to tell me to stop working.  Instead he groaned a bit as he shifted his weight and turned back to his shovel.

Well…….. not wanting to be a drama queen, I’ll spare you the gory details, suffice it to say I spent the next 4 or 5 hours writhing in pain, not just at the sting, but resonating down in my arm as if I’d been given a deep cut.  These hours were spent  (as per Google’s helpful advice about  ‘stings and bites’) applying, in a prone position, “ice packs and aspirin”. The two of us vacillated about whether we should show up at the doctor or just wait till I started foaming at the mouth.   Later I read that some of the tribes in the Amazon recommend copious alcohol.

Several days later when the pain had subsided and the itching had begun, I found the one Aussie who even cared. He’s our Avocado Farmer friend who’s seen it all.  “Ah mate, from the sounds of it you got bitten AND stung by a ‘jumper’.  Ya shouldn’t make those blokes mad”!

Back to Google, this time typing with both hands, albeit one still cooperating rather reluctantly, I ascertained that the bite came from what is labeled, “The most dangerous ant in the world”, going by several local names, including the simple ‘jumper’, but most often a “Bulldog Ant”.  I’ll attach a link just to fan your horror …….. nahh, maybe I won’t.  It just looks like an ant.  In the notes I found some relief in their cheerful report that only 8 or 9 people have actually died of such a sting in the last few years, but only then because they’d given themselves a heart attack.

Thus making the iconic Aussie attitude, “She’ll be right!” so true. I’m sure my Aussie friends who are reading this now will be mocking my thin American blood and telling me to “pull up my socks”.  Thankfully that can be done with only one hand.

I’m going to add this to my list of “Things I’ve learned over the years”.  Never garden in Australia!

Till next time then ……. you know I’ll be here.

PS  I’m sure there’s a Biblical Application in this somewhere. Here’s what I found in my accordance:

Prov. 6:6             Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways, and be wise.

Prov. 30:25  the ants are a people without strength, yet they provide their food in the summer;

I’ll resist the temptation to add more to those verses, like “consider its ways and its determination to kill you”.

Or maybe, “ants are a people without strength, but they can still take your arm off”

I don’t like ants.

Marsha

Moving Forward

Thank you friends for bearing with us during the lead up and execution of what we, in all of our self-absorption, felt was the event of the half-century: our 50th wedding anniversary!
Now we’re completely over it, and are adjusting to what we call the “AP life” (After Party).  We’re discovering “AP” that we like to sleep more, uninterrupted by thoughts in the night like, “Did I buy enough pickles? Have we arranged for the music? Oh my goodness! Has the venue really been booked?”
I can almost hear you sighing, “Thank goodness” as I promise now that, at least for the next few weeks, I’m going to beat on another dead horse called “Marsha’s Blog” and try to share some observations we’ve made along the journey.  When that runs out, I may find (No! Don’t say it!) that I have nothing else to write about.For the last several years, I’ve shared with you everything from life on the mission field, upcoming retirement and grand anniversary celebrations. I’ve always assumed that “older and wiser” were two words that were inseparable, but so far at least, all I’ve managed to achieve is the former. It’s a matter for prayer, as Tony and I try to peep through the curtain into the Next Big Chapter. He assures me, by the way, that I will NEVER come to the point of having nothing to say. In the meantime …  here we go:

Today I’m going to fast forward a few years from Tony and I meeting to some time after we were married. What reminded me of this incident was that a few weeks ago my daughter and her hubby moved into a brand new house. We have fluffed and fluttered around them as they’re doing this, wanting to jump in and advise them as they make it happen. Nicki is calling it “Adulting”.

As you can imagine, they’ve had a few bumps in the road just like the ones we ourselves had back in the day. But I think I’m glad to say they’re not doing what WE did!
We didn’t buy a house (we were much too poor and unorganized for that), but Tony did get a teaching job way out in the boondocks of Colorado, and all we could think about was,  “We’re going to have a real SALARY! We’re going to be RICH!”
It wasn’t long before we racked up some debt. Not huge, but certainly (as we soon found out) more than this great paycheck of Tony’s could cover.

One month, after all the bills were paid – including 24% interest in some cases – I remember that we had exactly $4.00 left.  We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, smiled and soldiered on.  After all, we had a freezer (new purchase) full of vegetables from our garden, and a fireplace to keep us warm.

I was commuting into college every day, a mere 100-mile drive round trip.  Gas was about 36 cents a gallon, so we could afford that. We also made it an occasional habit to just show up at our folks and happily receive free meals and whatever else we could scavenge, for the weekend.

Along with this clever economic trick to go home for the weekend, we also, without really discussing it, quietly stopped giving our tithe.
I’ll always love and thank our wonderful pastor, Aaron Nutter, who never said a word either about our absent tithe nor our physical absence, as many weeks we just couldn’t muster going back into town on a Sunday.  We were young and we thought we knew everything and probably wouldn’t have taken a reprimand well.  He was old enough to know that sometimes we young people just needed to learn on our own.

Well, as this is becoming a long story, I’ll tell you what happened. We were actually headed out for the weekend at our folks’ house, three hours away, when something went “Clunk” at the crest of a hill, and the car rolled to a stop. Tony was able to flag down a truck heading in the way we’d just come.  A couple of hours later he walked back to the car and told me that he’d been able to find a payphone and call his folks and they would be there in a few more hours.
We huddled down in some sleeping bags and opened a coffee can of snacks we’d prepared for just such an emergency.  My parents had insisted that we make this ‘emergency kit’ for the car as I was commuting in Eastern Colorado where it’s not unusual to have wicked white out blizzards. In case you’re not familiar, in those cases you’re safer staying in your car and waiting out the storm.

Snuggling there, we figured the stalling of the car was a bona fide ‘Emergency’ so, as we’ve done all of our lives, we appropriated our motto, “When in doubt, eat”.

Eventually we were rescued and towed the car all the way into Fort Collins with a chain. I don’t think that would be legal today, but back then it was the only sensible thing to do.  Several days later, we got the repair bill.  $357 dollars!

If that wasn’t devastating enough, something about that number was familiar. We did a little calculating on paper, and you guessed it,  $357.00 was EXACTLY the amount we’d stiffed God to that point by withholding our tithe.

I’m not superstitious, but does God have a sense of humor when He’s teaching something?

Not sure about that, but I AM sure about Malachi 3:10, and I’ll leave it with you:   “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

Hope you have a wonderful week!

Marsha

One More Mountain

Last night as we lay in bed, clean and safe, I asked Tony why he grabbed me and kissed me in the headlights of the rescue vehicle. He answered confidently,
“Because I didn’t think we’d make it”.

Some of you may recognize this from a blog I posted 5 years ago right after our 45th anniversary.  We’d just climbed, with almost disastrous results, our favorite mountain in Japan; Myoko San, as we had done on numerous anniversaries before.
It’s rather long, but if you have time, I’ll post it again today and you can grab a cup of coffee and have an exciting read.
The reason I was thinking about it recently, was that our 50th was somewhat like that climb.  We didn’t almost die and we didn’t have to call a rescue vehicle, but it a lot of ways, it was the same kind of “grueling”.
We had SO MUCH FUN!  True, we’d planned this ‘event’ for about 6 months, and the execution was not unlike launching a space shuttle or separating conjoined twins, of which I have no right of comparison.  But suffice it to say that it was a LOT of work and we could never have gotten it done without so many of you.  I can’t thank you enough, from my kids to all the relatives and near relatives that rolled up sleeves and pitched in.
Some wanted to ‘reflect’ on where we went wrong, but I told them it was of no interest to me because we’re NEVER doing it again.  Just like that mountain, we’re never revisiting it again!
And the “take away” that we’re left with from all the celebrations of party and cruise, is that both Tony and I are hearts full of gratitude.  We can’t imagine anything better than the blessing of 50 years together, beautiful children and grandchildren and sooo many friends. God has been overwhelmingly good to us.
Next week I want to propose a new tack I want to take (more ramblings no doubt), so we’ll see.  For now just enjoy the memories if you have time and we’ll see you next week!  Marsha

From August 10, 2014:

So where to begin.  Beautiful day, two small packs FULL of snacks, rice balls and water, best shape we’ve ever been in, sunny and 8:00AM.  We sail onto the trail with joyful abandon, even though within minutes my old comfortable tennis shoes blow a tread.  No worries, Tony’s penknife takes off the offending bit and we’re back on track. We pass up a water source because we have half bottles and are confidant that there will be more up ahead  (Mistake #1).  We get to the first intersection of trails at 12 PM, 2 hours slower than usual, but hey, we’re 64 and 66. By now my phone has died because it got stuck on camera mode in my back pocket.  The map was on that phone, but no worries. We’ve climbed this mountain so many times it’s like an old friend.

At the next split, we don’t find water, but it’s not too hot.  Cache one pack with snacks and the rest of the water to lighten the load (Mistake #2) and push on to the summit.

Rain begins to sprinkle, but we’re good.  Stop to ‘discuss’ throwing away the summit but I’m reluctant to give in.

Tony says, “Well, I won’t say quit unless we hear thunder”…… I’m not kidding, the words are not out of his mouth when lightning cracks and thunder rolls right overhead. Tony ponders whether imminent death is worse than resentful wife (Mistake #3). We decide to go ahead only as far as the chains, because hey, that would be dangerous in lightning! Remarkably, within about 20 minutes the sun comes out beautiful so we continue on, with inflated chests of victory.

We make the summit at 2:45.  A little late but that’s because we missed the trail at one point and ventured onto a cliff face not meant for people like us (Mistake #4).

Now we turn around and begin the descent in earnest, knowing that we’re thirsty and running behind time.  We get to the junction and the cached pack is GONE!   Alas, we remember the exuberant gang of junior high school boys we had met and also remember that ‘boys will be boys’ and snacks will turn anyone’s head.  We forgive them but wish they’d left the water.

About 5:30, we’re coming to where we should be seeing the trail to a ski area with a cable car we had planned to ride down. But by now it’s raining so hard the trail has become a log ride. It’s almost impossible to take a step without slipping. We both fall repeatedly and painfully, but by God’s grace are spared anything worse than cuts and bruises.

Eventually we come to a hut, a tiny one-room affair available to hikers.  We see that every inch is occupied by a large group, but ask if there’s a source of water anywhere. The man leads us about 200 yards down a different path to a spring, then insists that we come back up to the cabin. As we squat in the only space available, the foyer, he makes us coffee, which is better than any Starbucks I’ve ever tasted, then he gives us the facts: It’s at least two more hours to the cable car, which by now has already stopped operating. Since it spans several deep canyons, walking underneath would be impossible.  It will soon be dark and the trail from there on down is even worse. There’s no choice but to stay in the cabin with them.

We consider it, but Tony decides we simply have to go on. We have no food, no blanket and nothing dry to change into. Plus, there’s no place to even sit; and we simply can not stay with these guys, as kind as they are. (Perhaps this was probably our penultimate Mistake #5, leaving the dry hut.).

We head on, against their wishes. They gave us an umbrella (useless except as a hiking stick) and a small woman’s rain jacket, asking that we leave them at the bottom of the cable car the next day, if we made it.

From that point on, an already difficult descent becomes a nightmare. With increasing darkness, we fall more and more, insects came out in droves, biting anywhere we were exposed.

While I’m wearing a garbage bag for a raincoat, Tony tries the borrowed small ladies coat for awhile but since the hood is the only thing that covers anything on his girth, we swap bag (which fits him nicely) for coat.  (He’s using his garbage bag to keep the phone dry) By this time we’ve had a couple of phone calls from the B&B owner where we were to stay the night. He’s worried about us.

The trail is horrible, just as predicted.  I also try whistling when I remember all the hikers today wearing “bear bells” (Apparently bears don’t like to be surprised). But I have to give that up as my lips are too wet.

There are ropes and chains to hold on to from time to time.  I’m following Tony, mildly relieved now that it’s too dark to see down the precipice where we could fall, but all the while BEGGING him not to fall.  Of course we both know from experience that falling is not a voluntary choice. Once I fell down standing still, the mud is that slick.  At least the lightning has subsided.

I begin to wonder about the big things.  SO many of our friends have recently faced challenges, including two this week, where they have either lost a mate or almost.  (I guess it’s our age that is beginning to bring these experiences into focus).  We juxtaposition for lead on the trail, depending on who is more stable at the time, but either way, if Tony went over, he’d not only leave me, which would be beyond devastating, but also he carries the one tiny mag light and the working phone.  Today we can laugh about which would be worse, the loss of HIM or the rescue he represented.  At the time it wasn’t funny at all…..

The phone rings again and we have to let it ring out.  No one can answer it because we’re too wet.  iPhones depend on skin contact and if there’s water between……. Finally it rings again and we’ve found a bit of hanky in some far nether-region and dry a finger off enough to make contact.  It’s our B&B guy and he tells us he’s called the authorities and they’ll meet us on the ski slope in a 4WD, if we can just get that far.

We stop to thank God and hurry on. Finally we break thru to a ski slope (we can’t find a trail, but we just head downhill).  Within minutes we can see headlights way below, moving slowly. Tony has just face planted again, but he tells me to take the Mag light and try to get the guy’s attention.

It takes at least another half hour to get to where he waits. From out of the darkness we hear a man’s voice, “Woods san desu ka?” No sweeter sound was ever heard. The drive on down to the village is another five miles or so, which had we been walking would have taken the rest of the night, barring the onset of hypothermia, which by now is a distinct possibility.

What can we say, theologically? It should go without saying, but say it we must: God was gracious and spared our lives. But did He warn us back up there on the mountain? I believe He did; but by ignoring the warning, were we being rebellious? Perhaps. How often do we act pig headed, demanding that our selfish wishes are granted?

Well, we got our wish, we made it to the summit.  But I have to wonder if the cuts, sore muscles, bruises and insect-stung swollen eyes we suffer today are not unlike a good switching with a stick.

These last few months before we retire are going to be filled with a lot of goodbyes. Climbing Mt Myoko was one of those, remembering years and years of fun adventures on that mountain.  I think I can say it was a “proper goodbye” but as we exited the rescue vehicle, enervated by our harrowing experience, we thanked the man profusely and said, “Don’t worry, we’ll NEVER be back!”

Marsha

PS. While we are thanking God for being patient with us, I came across the verse that says it all.  1Kings 20:11, “One who puts on his armor should not boast like the one who takes if off.”

Have a safe and dry week!

Golden Celebrations

While most of you are reading this, we’ll be enjoying our very last anniversary party… This is the one that our kids have especially planned with no input at all from us. It’s a ….. wait for it …… a hot dog roast over a warm and wonderful winter bonfire!

Yes, you may be having the same reaction I had when they suggested it. This is on the heels of one of the most intricate and complicated, “Cecil B. DeMills productions party for at least 130 guests that we have just executed smoothly (Big thanks to everyone),  and now you’re asking us to have a hot dog on a stick?

But as we thought about it, we were reminded by them that this was the most fun activity the kids experienced growing up. Even in the middle of rain and sleet, smoke in the eyes and the pain of napalm-like flaming marshmallows in the face, these are the times they look back on with exquisite fondness, basking in the certainty that through it all, they were loved, that they were part of something bigger than themselves, and that at the end of the day, they were family.

Last week when I was writing about God’s Call and how it led to our marriage, it suddenly dawned on me again that this was and still is an all out miracle. There’s no other way to describe it.  God saw my tears, heard my prayer and reached over and put a Divine bug in Tony’s ear.

And then this week I was reading in 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, where Paul was talking to the church at Corinth. The whole “plan” thing hit me again.   My daughter’s father-in-law, Grant, preached about this several years ago and it has stayed with me.  Here’s the verse:

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

You see, both Tony and I were raised by wise builders.  We got married, and then in the tradition of our parents, continued to build. Each day brought new revelations of God’s work and purpose, not only in our own lives, but in those of our kids as well.

Somewhere in the process as our kids camped through childhood and on into adulthood, they were led to soul mates of their own. We thank God every day that they were also raised by Godly and strong builders.

Then, in keeping with that “build it right” tradition, they have extended the project and are continuing the construction of an amazing heritage. The other day, Tony overheard our son Nathan responding to the question from a fellow police officer, “How do you keep your faith, with all the ugliness you have to put up with on the job?”

His answer was immediate and without doubt. He said, “I was raised by parents who taught us the importance of keeping God in first place. Whatever happens, I know that He is in charge, and there’s nothing anyone can do to take away the fact that I’m loved and accepted.”

My heart was warmed, not only by that comment, but to hear our daughter Nicki, as well as Nathan again, say almost the exact same thing last night at our party.

And as a further joy, at the party we had the pleasure of hearing from our pastor’s wife, Beverly Blake George. Rev. Norman Blake died just 10 years after he married us, but we never forgot him. Beverly has soldiered on these ensuing 50 years with little contact with us, but she hasn’t forgotten any minute detail and was able to come out to Australia to witness what she helped start.  She is such a blessing to this day!

And so with hearts full, we will continue from here to the next adventure.  I can eat again because yes, I proved last night that I could still fit into my wedding dress! Okay, maybe it wasn’t the WHOLE dress, but the veil fit perfectly, so I’m calling it.

Life is fun.  Have a wonderful week.  Next week the family will switch out of campfire mode and board ship for a four-day “starter cruise”, just along the east side of Australia.  The little boys are ecstatic with anticipation, as are we. Beverly is joining us to instruct us on how to be classy.

And as all kids on their honeymoon, you won’t be hearing from us next week ….giggle giggle.

August 18th we’ll be back. I’ll have the glitter out of my hair by then and maybe we’ll have some more news about Weaving Sunlight, our new book that’s coming out soon.

Until then, may your days be full of all the joy that God has for you. May each day mark yet another anniversary of the commitment you and He made to each other. And may we all look forward to our own “Golden Day” when we gather at His feet and begin a celebration to end all celebrations!

Marsha

Finally Fitting Together

So if you happen to have marked on your calendar, you’ll see  that we’re just about 4 days to our 50th!  Wow.  As you can imagine, the excitement level is picking up around here.  Last night Tony dreamed there was an elephant in the house and it was looking for him!  (He said apparently he was cowering in the shower) ……well, you can draw your own analogies, but at this very moment I’m torn between writing this to you and cleaning the linen closet!  The party isn’t till Saturday the 3rd, but people are going to start arriving soon.

I guess you’re wondering about that “evening-spoiling” kiss I mentioned last week.  Yes, we both realized that our “mateship summer” had blossomed into something more, which prompted a little more kissing before I headed off to college in Omaha Nebraska, again about 500 miles from Tony.

We were pretty committed to each other when we parted, but I left saying, “There’s just one thing holding us apart,” and of course not telling him what the “one thing” was. Mean ol’ me, but you remember, I was determined not to tell any guy I was going into full time Christian service and then have him “coincidentally” pull up with a similar decision.  I needed to know his decision was generated by God and no one else, and I really believed (and hoped!!) that God could make it happen.

Tony’s parting words to me were, “Now don’t expect a letter every week from me; you know I’ll be very busy.”  He was, and sure enough, I didn’t get a letter every week…… I got two or three.

We fell more and more in love and it was getting to be painful. What should I do?

Drastic situations call for drastic measures. I was just 18, but I remember suggesting to my roommate, Patti, who understood the problem, that we had better just pray about this.

So there in the dorm, like two old spinsters in our room on a Saturday night, Patti and I prayed that Tony would come to his senses!

Well, now you need to pan the camera 500 miles over to Colorado State University. There’s Tony in the basement of the Baptist Student Center, where he lived.  He was pouring over a chemistry book because there was a major exam coming soon.

As he told it, he was flipping through the pages, trying to imagine what questions might appear on the test. “What are the properties of a filtrate? What’s the formula for a bromide? Why not go into Christian service?”

“Hold it;” he thought,  “Where did that last question come from?” Tony looked back through the book but could find nothing like the question that had just smacked him upside the head. He tried to ignore it, but it wouldn’t go away. Finally, for the first time in his life, he got onto his knees and prayed, “God? Was that You?”

The rush that came over him was not to be ignored. He went to bed thinking about it, went to church the next morning and shared his experience with everyone there, then came home and wrote me a letter (remember these were the days before email). He spelled it all out, like I just did with you. Keep in mind that we had NEVER mentioned ministry in any conversation to this point.

Toward the end of the week I got that letter.  If I was the nice, trusting little girl you may have imagined me to be, you’d think that I smiled and thanked God; but unfortunately by now I’d become a certified cynic. My first thought was that Patti had been unable to keep the secret and had called him or something.  Even though she denied it, I was convinced that he was up to no good. So naturally I broke up with him.

Tony says that my letter I sent back to him was smoking when he took it out of the mailbox. I can’t remember exactly, but he insists that the words, “stupid”, “crazy” and “throw your life away” were featured. Harsh.

The next week I got a surprise in the form of HIS letter that said, “I can’t imagine why God would take away the person I love the most, but this is a decision I believe is from God, so ‘good bye’ to you too.”

I’ll never forget the sound of the quarters tumbling into the pay phone as the operator waited until I put in enough to make the call. My first words were,

“Did Patti tell you?”

“Tell me what?” he asked.

“That I’m going to marry a minister; that’s the ONE thing I’ve been taking about all this time!”

We got busy getting married.  A year and a day from that disturbing kiss, we became man and wife. And now that’s been 50 years ago. Not a bad foundation to start a life on. And God has always been faithful.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee”.    Isaiah 26:3

Marsha

An Evening Spoiled (?)

This morning I’d like to bring you up to speed on our ‘run up’ to anniversary time, which is August 1st.    Things are starting to crawl toward the ever growing celebration mark, both with cleaning and laying in supplies, but it’s fun and we feel like the goal is in sight.  Tony has recently been pointing out that almost no one in either family, with the possible exception of an aunt on Tony’s side, has made it to 50 years married. Tony’s folks, who were some of the most ‘in love’ folks we ever knew, only got to 49 1/2 years before Mom up and died!

Of course we have to factor in the age we live in, better medicine, no wars, etc.  But also there’s a lot more stress, evil inputs into our hearts and minds (thank you Netflix!) and an increasing ‘me generation’ where entitlement rules, that’s growing all around us. All that to say we’re very very happy to still be on the same page after these many years.

So, last week we talked about ‘The Wink”, where we got interested in each other.  Unfortunately it wasn’t a Hallmark fairytale story ending after that, apparently we still had some stuff to work out.

I went back to my boarding school after that summer and of course “Absence didn’t make the heart grow fonder”; in fact it was the opposite.  We had decided to go our separate ways before I left Colorado.  I was into my senior year and had big challenges to think about and he, well, he was a big College guy (actually that gap represented a lot of the problem).  Anyway, we went our way and did our thing.

And in the process of all that, while I was still 17, I made a commitment to go into full time Christian work when I got thru university.  I go into this more in our upcoming book, Weaving Sunlight, but it was a REAL thing for me, giving my future to the Lord, and I decided then and there no guy I dated would know about this decision as I didn’t want to have to question any decision he might make in the future, ie: feel that he had made a similar decision because of me.  I also vowed that I would not abandon this decision and would not marry anyone who didn’t share it.

The next summer, I had graduated, considered myself ‘on my way’, when Tony asked me out again.  We’d bumped into each other a couple of times and probably deep inside I knew that there was still a spark there somewhere  (again, expounded ad naseum in the book, but I’ll be brief here).

My shocked reaction to him asking me out was, “Just friends?” to which he replied rather adamantly I thought “Oh! I wouldn’t have it any other way!” He told me later that he was dying on the inside but didn’t want anything to jeopardize the emerging relationship.

Somewhat taken aback that he didn’t seem that interested on a romantic level, I agreed.  And so this time, we took it slow and easy.  We went and did everything, learning to enjoy each other for what we were, and finding out we had a lot in common.  I got to know the guy behind all the bravado and he……..well, one night, July 31st, as he was dropping me at my house after we’d seen a movie, he said, rather nonchalantly, “Well, at the risk of spoiling a perfectly good evening,” then leaned way over to the passenger side and gave me a kiss!

Well, he sure ruined the evening, that’s for sure.  As much as I enjoyed the kiss, I went into the house with my head spinning. Remember my rule?  I wouldn’t tell any boy about my commitment to ministry and yet here I’d gone and fallen in love with a guy who I wouldn’t marry at this point.  He was headed straight for a career as an English teacher.

Maybe you wonder what happened?

….. Stay tuned.  J

Marsha

That Wonderful Wink

So last week Tony got ahold of my blog and before I could send it, he added the teaser, “Wait till next week to find out what happened at church”.

Well, it’s been 50+ years, so I had to ask him, “What happened at church?”

And then he winked at me.

Oh!  Now I remember!!

I saw him for the first time at his parents’ house.  We were 17 and 19 and his folks were the youth directors of our tiny little youth group. They were so cool we had ’Training Union’ at their house before church!!  I was vaguely aware that they had a son, but to hear them talk, he was off at war or something.  Actually, he was touring Europe with a bunch of students, including a girlfriend, for the summer.  He had graduated from high school the year before but somehow had qualified to go.

And then, when I walked into their living room, there he was, back from the ‘war’. I was introduced and we had our Bible study.  From there we all jumped into our individual cars and proceeded on to the evening service at church, as you did back in the day.

And so when I walked into the sanctuary, I didn’t notice him till I turned my head, and there he was, sitting in the “Choir”.  I use the term loosely because it consisted of the 8 or 10 people who could actually carry a tune. I don’t remember them ever doing a special number or anything, and certainly never at night, but there he sat, facing our congregation of about 30.

“Wonderful”, I thought as I settled into my seat,  “Now I can take my time and get a good look at him during the sermon.”

To catch you up to speed in my life, I had just finished my Junior year of High school, He had just finished his Freshman year at college.

So I got comfortable and began my feast.  That was until this smiling guy, ostensibly looking off into the distance, WINKED at me!

I was mortified.  I left the service the minute it was over and didn’t hear another thing from him…..for…..OK, well, until about 3 days later, when he (at the urging of both my sister and his mother) called and asked me for a date.  We never mentioned the ‘Wink’ again……

Years later, long after we were married, he told me the truth.  “If you’d have winked back I would have run for the hills,” he said. “But because you blushed red and avoided me, I knew there was a purity and innocence I was interested in pursuing.”

Last Sunday we attended an annual “Hymn Sing” at a local church.  We may have been the youngest there, but we had to admit we’re not that young since we knew all the hymns!

And then they played (as a special) that old song, “I’ll walk with God”.  Tony and I both got goosebumps and teared up at the same time as we listened to the words.  On the way home we tried to remember why this song was so important.

You guessed it, the next morning, I got out our old and faded wedding album and there it was.  It was the song, sung by a talented and booming baritone, that was used for us to light our one candle.

I’ll put the words here in case you want to remember them.  I can’t believe that at our young age we had such mature thoughts.

I’ll walk with God from this day on

His helping hand, I’ll lean upon

This is my prayer, my humble plea

May the Lord be ever with me

There is no death, though eyes grow dim

There is no fear when I’m near to Him

I’ll lean on Him forever

And He’ll forsake me never

He will not fail me

As long as my faith is strong

Whatever road I may walk along

I’ll walk with God, I’ll take His hand

I’ll talk with God, He’ll understand

I’ll pray to Him, each day to Him

And He’ll hear the words that I say

His hand will guide my throne and rod

And I’ll never walk alone

While I walk with God

Every one of those words have played true in our lives.  Maybe it’s because the both of us were so shy and naive.

Sorry we put the wrong address for the website blog last week. It’s marshawoods.blogspot.com (No middle letter G).

Keep on Walkin!

Marsha

Location Location

Today I’m happy to announce that it looks like many of you made the change of address to the new Blog apparently seamlessly.  I believe now you can make comments so have fun with that! marshagwoods.blogspot.com

I promised you that for the next little while I’m going to give you some excerpts from our upcoming book, Weaving Sunlight. This is not shameless advertising, and you don’t even need to buy a copy. Basically we wrote it to ourselves so that we could see what God has done in our lives these last 50 years! Tony has a favorite song that he’s planning to sing at our anniversary celebration, by Andrew Peterson called “Dancin in the Minefields”. There’s one part where he still can’t get through without choking up, I suppose because it’s just a little too close to home. The words go, “At the end of all my faith, to end of all my days, when I forget my name … remind me.”

Weaving Sunlight was written as a reminder of the times we’re apt to forget as we get older. And to do that, we have to back to where it all started: at church. That’s where we first met, Evergreen Baptist Church, in Colorado. There we got to know each other, became friends, fell in love, were called to ministry, and eventually got married.

In the years since that time, the church moved (and when I say “moved” I mean they jacked it up and drug it) to another site a few miles away. The Post Office bought the land where it had sat, and I still can’t go in there without feeling something a little more meaningful than buying a stamp.

But I know, as I’m sure you know as well, the Church, for us, is not that bit of dirt under the post office, nor is the building we drug off and renovated. No, it’s much more than that, and looking back over 50 years, it’s even more than we’ve come to imagine.

Our kids grew up in church, whether the building was in America, Africa, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand or Australia. We used to tell them, “Unless you’re on fire, you’re going to church today.” They laugh about that today, but back when they were kids, they never were sure if we were serious or not. But they went to church, made friends at church, found Christ at church and each in their own way, got married in church. When we lived in Japan where earthquakes are common, we told our kids, “If you’re away from home and an earthquake stops everything, find a church, go there and wait. We’ll find you.”

It’s such an encouragement to see them carrying those values on to the next generation. Granted, going to a worship service in their churches is quite unlike what we grew up with, especially in terms of music. But we can still see the family atmosphere where they worship, and in their own way, they’re still making memories that one of these days they will choose to write about.

I suspect you have your own idea about what the Church today should and should not be like. It took an elderly deacon to remind a pastor friend of ours that “The church is not a coffee shop!” But in the pastor’s defense, I believe he still wants the church to be a place where family can gather, worship and grow in the Lord; and if a cup of coffee can help in that process, it can’t be all bad.

Phillip Yancey, renowned Christian author, is said to have come back to Jesus in a church in my childhood neighborhood in Evergreen.  I remember it well because my mother was incensed that they served coffee and donuts in the lobby before the services. She thought the whole lot of them should go where the coffee would be eternally boiling, and all I wanted was to go there and get a free donut.

Sadly, our church had no free coffee and donuts. It was more like Garrison Keillor’s imaginary church in Minnesota, “The Church of our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility”. But that was the era of the church I grew up in. And whether you’re looking at the Church back then or the Church today, I can still insist that, “Good things happen in church.”

Next time, I’ll share with you the mind-blowing thing that happened at Evergreen Church that would determine our destiny as man and wife.

Until then, see you at church!

Marsha