Hasten the Day

I remember watching the ”Hand Over” of Hong Kong back to China on July 1st, 1997. The scratchy images coming thru on the TV on that rainy night made my heart sad.  I remember thinking, “I feel like Dorothy and we’re not in Kansas anymore”.

Now you may think it’s crazy to feel that way, but we’d lived in Hong Kong, have a lot of friends there and knew that from now on their lives would never be the same because of the increasing influence of Communism.  The first hints of change came when we heard that the international school in Hong Kong would now be required to include “Loyalty” classes in their curriculum. A little scary, it was as if some of my carefully arranged world was being taken away.

Last Thursday (Australia time), Billy Graham died, and I felt those same emotions washing over me again. Say what you will, he was one of the ‘rocks’ in my perfect world, a man who remained faithful to the end of a long and productive life.

It rained all day here, and we were forced to “stand down” from our deck-building project. Actually the rain had nothing to do with it, but on that day one of us threw out his back and was unable to stand up. So after some thought, we just decided to take a ‘personal day’ and read news clips on the internet and think about one man’s legacy, thanking God for the huge influence he had on so many.

Just about everyone I talked to, and I’m guessing some of you, were affected by Billy Graham’s life and witness. Thankfully the media, even here in Australia, has been very generous in sharing so many things about him.  But personally, we also have many memories, as I’m sure do you.

Where to begin?

We attended several of his crusades, including two in Japan (1980 and 1994) and a very poignant one in Russia in 1992 as we were adopting Nicki.

My stepsister, who was tragically killed in an auto accident when she was 24, had recently gone forward in the Denver Crusade in the mid 60”s.

Our good friend here in Australia, as it turns out, gave her life to God in a RADIO broadcast!

The list goes on.

Not long ago, I was reading the book, “Unbroken”, the story of  Louis Zambarini, an Olympic runner, who spent many years as a POW in several terrible Japanese prison camps.  He was finally freed at the end of the war and spent all of his time planning his revenge, particularly on one Japanese prison guard referred to as “The Bird”.  Louis’s PTSD was so bad one night he woke up with his hands around his wife’s neck trying to choke her to death while dreaming it was the Bird.  Following that, his wife insisted that he go with her to seek help from a Billy Graham crusade. He went against his will, and on the third night there in Los Angeles, he was leaving during the invitation, feeling nothing but anger: at his wife, at God and at The Bird. Suddenly Billy’s words reverberated over the speakers, piercing his heart as he said, “I would ask anyone who is leaving right now to stop where you are and give your problems to Jesus.” The invitation was so personal and spot on, Zambarini did just that.

The change that began in his life that night was nothing short of miraculous. He soon began an evangelistic association himself and continued in the tradition of Billy Graham, winning even more to Christ.

With our world going the way it is today, I feel like another truly “good” thing has been taken from it.  Oh I know that Billy himself, in his last hours, proclaimed again that he was just a sinner saved by grace and that nothing about anything he actually did mattered a whit in the big picture, but only Christ crucified.  And that’s true…. But I can’t help but thank God for using a man like him to turn people like us back to the truth.

In fact, many of you may not know there is a ‘Billy Graham Law’ that he (obviously) instigated and that most evangelicals in ministry are constrained to follow.  Simply stated, it is that no ‘opposite’ sex will be alone with another unless they are married.  Good advice, as we saw it prove true with Billy’s life.  We even heard that the last years of his life he always had two nurses with him to ‘avoid scandal’……..and he did.

Last September when we were at our missionary reunion in our Southern Baptist encampment center, Ridgecrest, in Asheville, North Carolina, there were so many of us that some had to be billeted a few miles away at ’The Cove’, a conference center owned and operated by the Billy Graham Evangelistic group.  We were impressed with the facility and then going a few miles farther down the road, we had a chance to tour his childhood home and visit the museum there. It was amazing to see what humble beginnings he came from, then to see how far and wide his ministry has stretched over the years.  But that’s what happens when a person gives himself or herself to Christ. The outworking of a life in service may not be as obvious as that of Billy Graham, but I feel pretty sure that everything done for the Kingdom will bring absolute praise from our Father.

I’m guessing that most of you who are reading this have already given your lives to Christ.  That’s a good thing, and encouraging to think that for us oldies it’s just a way of life that’s become as natural as breathing. But back to where I began; our world is changing, and not always for the better. For those of us who have enjoyed God’s blessings for so long, the changes seem especially painful. Yeah, I realize that the “good old days” weren’t all that good, if I’m honest with myself… but there’s so much going on around us today that makes those bygone days seem like Heaven on Earth.

God promises us a new heaven and a new earth, when every tear will be dried (Rev. 21:1-4), but before I join Peter in praying “hasten the day!” (2 Peter 3:12), I have to remember all those who have yet to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Those were the ones who drove Billy Graham to a lifetime of service, always reaching for one more lost soul to be won for the kingdom.  I think maybe God left him here on earth to be a light in the darkness for those 99 and a half years.  Can I do any less?

Thanks for traveling together with me, Marsha

How Firm a Foundation

So after last week’s discussion about the “big leap”, Tony and I jumped right into a project that may have been just about as ill advised as Mr. Govett’s horseback cruise off a 600 foot cliff!
We’ve been “fixing up” our downstairs bedroom/bath into a little apartment.  We’re waiting for you to come and visit, but in the meantime, we’re hoping to rent it out during the Commonwealth Games that are being held here on the Gold Coast in a few weeks.
We decided that a deck would just finish it off, and also stop mud and dirt from tracking in, so we asked a guy to come by and give us a quote.  It’s only little, about 8X20 ft, but nevertheless, he looked at the space and quoted us $2000!
We looked at each other and nodded, silently clicking our tongues while we ushered him to the door.
When he left, we euphemistically slapped each other on the backs and said that famous Aussie phrase, “Tell ‘em ee’s dreamin!” and sat down to draw up our own plans, supplemented with lots of YouTube instructional videos.
“Simple!  This should be fun, we can knock it out in a couple of days!”  And off we went to the building store.
That was Monday.
Now it’s Sunday and Tony and I are creaking around gingerly like two very old people.  Everything hurts. We may be broke, but we don’t know because we’ve lost track of the expenses.  The receipts are all in a drawer waiting to be calculated, but we’ve begun to notice that the store employees are now greeting us at the door every time we stagger in. On one of Tony’s solo visits where I had to stay back to hold something up at eye level till he returned, a clerk took one look at him and said, “Having a bad day?” Tony said he got a lump in his throat and almost burst into tears!
It’s not clear if we’ll finish this week……..or maybe next……or?
But we have learned a lot.
My sister texted me yesterday in response to my despair.   It’s seldom that I take to heart things she says, but this one resonated with me.  I’m thinking of cross-stitching it and hanging it on the wall.
Here’s what she said: “I’ve done a fair bit of this stuff and the foundations are the most difficult part.  Just wait till you get to the decking, it’ll be worth it.” In the quiet moments before the sun comes up and we scurry out to work, hoping to beat the heat but already wiping sweat, I’ve been soldiering thru my Bible readings, right now in Leviticus.  Not to be disrespectful, but some of this stuff is just flat boring, “Don’t eat this, don’t do that, this particular thing makes God happy, etc”
But then, coupled with Sherry’s advice, it dawned on me, “This is like so many things in life!” Rules; Confining, Boring, Unexciting…..
It’s all about FOUNDATIONS.  The Bible is absolutely full of ‘suggestions’ for a good start.  Very few seem like a walk in the park, but we are promised over and over that the effort will pay off.
I think right away of the many many years most of us spent in child rearing.  Some days were diamonds and then many were just stones, as John Denver sang.  It was tough but we did it because we all know a firm foundation pays off….and it has.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it”.  (Proverbs 22:11)

This week, that verse brings to mind those 20 cement-filled footings we dug out there, whose cement now extends to the screen door, the side of the house, and…..my hair and my blouse.

Or how about the Ten Commandments………. Maybe that’s the joists?  Get those things straight and level and the rest will fall into place (although we don’t use the word “fall” around here lately).

I’m sure you can think of many other references. The list is endless but the message is the same, “Foundations are difficult, slow and unrewarding but the product is worth the effort”
I’m sure you Americans out there reading this are thinking a lot about the foundations that are supposed to be holding up our society, and wondering like I am, where did things start to fall apart? Let me just say that there are a lot of Australians here who are thinking the same thing, and not in a reproachful way. You never have to look far to see crumbling foundations. But we remind ourselves that God is faithful and is still there, and there are still a lot of good things happening.
Stay warm, or in our case, cool (record heat wave here). I’ll tell you how this next week goes, when hopefully we get thru the tough part.  We’re ‘bonding’ if that’s possible after 48 years of marriage…….and looking forward to a good result!  I”m pretty sure it’ll be SOLID!
Till next week, unless Tony inadvertently hammers me into the structure somehow, Marsha

Govett's Leap

Hello everyone,

Today I had a great story for you, but I thought I should do some research first, just to make sure I’m not making this stuff up,  and wouldn’t you know (and those of you who use the internet WILL know) that my story may indeed be just a myth. Mind you, the locals tell the story as gospel truth, and they even have a bronze statue to honor the guy in question.

I’ll try and include  a picture of the monument, and tell the story as fact, because after all there is a good point here we can all take away!

OK.

Many years ago in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, Australia, there was a young man who went by the name “Govett”.  No one knew exactly where he lived, as he kept to himself and had no friends.

Very occasionally, he’d wander into the town pub in the evening and have a drink, sitting alone and never talking to anyone.

Now this was in the gold rush days and folks spun yarns about him, imagining that he was sitting on a secret claim and probably had a lot of money stashed somewhere.

He also was known for keeping a leather satchel close by his side at all times.  What could be in that thing? Everyone wondered and gossiped.

Well, one night Govett sat there alone drinking his one pint as always, his satchel by his side, and when he got up to leave, several men in the bar decided the time had come to corner this guy and find out what he was hiding.  They hustled out the door in various stages of inebriation, to mount up and pursue this quiet man.

Turning back and noticing that he was being followed, he spurred his horse on its way.  The chase heightened and the fever pitch of clattering hooves rang out up and down the countryside.

Until that is….. until everything went silent.

There in the darkness,  Govett and his horse sailed off a cliff into eternity.  The cliff walls at that point are over 600 feet tall, or roughly the height of a 54-story building…….straight down.

Days later when the chagrined pursuers made it down to the foot of the canyon (This is the true part; the canyon walls are still there), they found the remains of the man, the horse, and the mysterious satchel.

They carefully opened the bag expecting to see gold ore pour out into their waiting hands, but to their surprise, all they found was a carefully documented notebook, hand-drawn maps and a few survey tools.

History will tell us that Govett was registered as a government surveyor.  What is not certain is exactly HOW Mr. Govett died, since the official reports of that night have been mysteriously lost.  But here’s the point as I see it: everyone NEEDS A FRIEND!

Someone who can vouch for you, who has your back when the gossips start up.  Someone to confide in and maybe even share a drink with (lemonade of course).

The Holy Spirit has not left us alone.  The Bible is full of admonitions about not being alone, my favorite found in Ecclesiastes 4:12,  “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
God means for us to be in family, whether it’s your brothers and sisters in Christ, your biological family or just you and God.  Don’t be alone!

Thanks for hearing out my tale, even if it might not be true.  What is true is that a fair share of unfortunates over the years have lost the battle with gravity along those cliffs. If I was one of them, I’d hope to at least like to have a good story to go with it, like our friend Govett!
Marsha

Born to Thrive

Hellooooo my ol’ friends!
I sit here today, I’m looking up at the big, but sagging  ’Happy 70th’ balloon languishing dangerously near the ceiling fan in the heat. It’s Sunday afternoon here, and all I want to do is take a nap.   I have to admit we’ve had quite a time since I last talked to you before the new year, taking off the month of January so that Tony could give you a daily message.  .  Hopefully you enjoyed that “Month of Prayer”,  that was our church’s idea to jumpstart everyone into the New Year.  It seems to have worked since we had a full house today.

But I have to say I’ve missed talking to you all.

We’ve had a crazy fun-filled summer here.  What with Christmas, the grandkids and most importantly Tony’s big 70th, we laughed and loved a lot.

My sister Sherry also came out, although only 2 weeks, and of course that was fun.  We’re glad we’re sharing our ‘old age’ together.  I think we were a bit slow paced for her, but then, it’s really hot here.

Back to Tony’s birthday party last week.  We took the opportunity to share a ‘secret’ that we’ve been holding onto for several weeks. Since we missed, by a generation,  the tradition of having a big ‘reveal’ when young folks announce the gender of their unborn babies, we decided to plan a ‘reveal’ of our own. It was a lot of fun, and we giggled like a couple of kids as we put it all together.

If you’re on Facebook, then you know already that  has Tony decided to keep BEES in this next decade of his life.  When our friends here heard, they smiled and stifled yawns. I guess you have to be tough to impress Aussies.

Or maybe they figured out that actually we’re going to put our hand to raising ‘Australian STINGLESS Bees”.  They are critical to our ecology, make about a quart of honey each year and most of all are reputed to make nice pets.  I can’t at this point, imagine that, but we’ll put our name in and ‘ava’ go when the next queen is ready to travel to our humble home.  Wish us luck.
But I’m rambling  (and on this auspicious first blog of 2018!).

What I want to share with you today is the good message I heard this morning.  Our church announced as their new theme for the year, the word, Thrive”. It’s taken from a quote (based in Scripture) from the music group Casting Crowns, and it says, “We must not just ‘Survive’ but ‘Thrive’.

Wow.  In a lot of ways since retirement, I’ve just been surviving. Finding my feet in my new home, new (again) church, new (again) friends, etc.  Specifically, I wonder if I’ve lacked a purpose really beyond just settling in.  Now, after this morning I want to really commit myself and my future to God…… that I do HIS will, whatever that is.  This week our home group is starting a new Bible Study, so that should be fun, but maybe there’s more? Stay tuned!

I want to thank each of you for your support, both in prayer and in spirit.  I know you’re out there even though sometimes I don’t hear from you.  I know you too are ‘thriving’, following God’s will and waiting to see what opens up!

Next week I’m going to tell you a story about a guy who maybe kept a little too much to himself……..and how that worked out. Prepare to be challenged!

Love ya like a sister,

Marsha

New Year’s Resolutions

Well, as you’re reading this, you must realize that this is the last day of 2017.  What a year it’s been!

I heard two good sermons today, one focused on Philippians Chapter 1, verse 6.  You’re all familiar with it and you probably have some memories attached to it, but it’s especially apropos on this the last day of the year.  “And I am sure that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Then the other sermon, by Tony at the Japanese church was about “God’s New Years Resolution”. Yeah, that’s what I thought, but he pointed out that God is not trying to forget the past failures and do better this time, but rather continue His constant ‘resolve’ to bring you to Himself.

Next week we hope to be down in the ‘outback’ visiting with our Daughter-in-Love’s family.  They live 30 miles beyond a town that the address includes “Via another even larger town’s name”. I doubt that you’ll get a blog post from me next week! ha

But wait! as we start this new year, I’d like to invite/inform you that Tony is doing a January DAILY post about our favorite pastor from Japan, Naoki Noguchi, and the insights he has to offer. While this series is for our local church, he’s had a lot of fun writing it and has included your name (if you’re on the email list) to receive a post every day.  If you don’t want to read it, don’t, and if you don’t even want to see it in your inbox, write us and tell us to take your name off the list.  If you’re reading this online, you can write us at tony@mywoods.net and ask to be included for the month of January.

As you’re reading this, we’ll be at some church member’s place ringing in the new year.  They have a very posh 2 story condo looking over about everything, so we should see some good fireworks. It’s steamy hot today so their multiple decks will be nice. I like the laid-back lifestyle of the Gold Coast; they have fireworks at 9PM!! (and again at midnight for the traditionalists).

God Bless! and Happy New Year!  Marsha

Merry Christmas!

OK all you people, I said I wouldn’t write this week, but here’s a little ditty I came across that spoke to me this busy season!

1 Corinthians 13

A Christmas Version

By Sharon Jaynes

With permission of Moody Publishers

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child. Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired. Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.

Merry Christmas and lots of love to you and yours!

What Are We Lookin At?

Dear Friends,

Well, if you’re as busy as we are, you’re probably not reading this!  I’ll keep it short.

The other day my grand boys arrived in a whirl, as they often do.  They were unexpected, which sent me into a dive, trying to hide unwrapped presents before they found them.  After they raided the cookie jar, I could see them casting around for mischief.

Not wanting to brag, but after 7 years, I have to admit that I may be getting to be more of a pro at this, as I was able to think on my feet for a change, and said, “Boys!  Would you please set up our nativity for us!”  We had purposely left one of the older, wooden ones out in harms way for them to be able to play with.

The first question, from the 6 yr old, was ‘Where’s the husband?’  I was busy and brushed the question aside as he pivoted on his heels and spun off to sort it out.  The older one long ago had lost interest when he found a ball.

The afternoon progressed, everyone had a nice but short visit and soon they scurried away (but not before a dip in the pool, as it’s been quite hot here).  As I was straightening up I glanced over at the nativity and laughed out loud.

ALL of the figures were huddled inside the tiny stable, shoulder to shoulder, and they were ALL obviously struggling to get a glimpse of the baby. The ‘view’ we got from the outside was just the polished backsides of a lot of wooden carvings.  No carefully staged lineup, just everyone from shepherd to king and even the ‘husband’with his own  priorities in the right place.

In Australia, we count time to something exciting by the number of ‘sleeps’.  As you read this, you will realize that you have only ‘8 sleeps’ till Christmas morning.  Have a wonderful time and keep your eyes glued to what’s really important!

And if you think of it, help the person next to you get a look.

We plan to have a quiet Christmas with family and a possible drive down to Kylie’s parents in the country for a nice ‘bush Christmas’.  Unless something really strikes me, I’ll probably give you a break for a couple of weeks.  You all have a REALLY BLESSED season, ya’hear?

Marsha

Saying Goodbye

This week, I realized a few things. Can you believe it was almost 20 years ago when we had to decide if we wanted to leave Japan, where we felt we had “grown up”, and move to continue working with Japanese in far, far away Australia. It was such a difficult decision that often I would get in the car, crank up the CD player and bawl my eyes out, listening to the then popular melody by Hillsong Australia, “The Power of Your Love”

One of the lines always jumped out at me, causing me to join in and yell out my grief with the lyrics,  “Hold me Close, Let your Love surround me!”  (I realize as I type this that it sorta sounds like a country western song), but this one is directed toward the Lord of our universe, of whom we occasionally need to be reminded of His love for us.  Here’s a link if you’re not familiar with the song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga6Qtxzd6vk

Last week our inarguably best friend here in Australia died.  He was a young 70 but unfortunately, thru gross misdiagnosis, he only knew he was sick for a couple of months and didn’t really feel the cancer that was taking him out until the last few days. Thankfully, his suffering was minimized, and we’ve got Alan’s wife, Beth, to credit for a lot of that. As a qualified nurse, she was right there at his side, making sure he was comfortable, staying in close touch with his doctors and staff, and knowing when it was time to call the family (in which she included us).

The last time we chatted with him, he was sitting up in his hospital bed and we discussed the differences between a ‘shovel’ and a ‘spade’, never imagining he would be gone in 24 hours.

That was Alan.  Quiet, non-obtrusive and humble to a fault, but all the while absolutely engaged with what was going on, especially when it came to the needs of people around him. As a certified electrician as well as a “handyman’s handyman” and accomplished administrator, he was always in demand: at our house, the church, anywhere we needed understanding or fixing.  Never waiting to be asked to do something, he just seemed to ‘sense’ when things were awry and before you knew it, he had them working again, whether it be mechanical, emotional or spiritual.

We had his ‘Celebration’ service this week, and it was standing room only. One couple even made their way back in from a camping trip two days into the Outback. Driving at 4:00 in the morning (a risky proposition in that part of the world), they hit a kangaroo and barely made it into town in one piece, but agreed that they wouldn’t have missed it.

Just as everyone was gathered in the church, the sanctuary lights began flickering and practically everyone murmured in one voice, “Oh, where’s Alan? We need him!”

The music began, and I immediately became totally unraveled. You guessed it, “The Power of your Love”…….Who would have thought that God would have let that song be picked, selfishly, I believe, just for me?  As I stood there, fighting back tears, and just wanting to cry out, “WHY?”….. I realized that the last time I remember singing this song, 20 years ago, I was feeling many of the same emotions. God really did wrap His arms around us back then, and it was no less evident now. Today I am SO SO thankful for two adult children with wonderful spouses and beautiful children of their own and most importantly, a love for the Lord that continues to sustain us all when we need Him most.

It has come back to me especially this week that none of us know really how much time we have in this life. When we retired and settled here, God provided good friends and we imagined “growing old” with them.
Tony always preaches that as long as you have a pulse, God has a purpose for you here on earth.  I guess Alan had accomplished what he was meant to do, but it’s going to be tough living without his pulse around here. It’s only in knowing he’s joined so many others who have gone before and is now at peace with our Savior that we’re able to carry on.
And so it’s with sad hearts that we enter this Christmas season… a time that should be the happiest time of all. But it’s less sad, knowing that because of Christ’s birth, we really do have a reason to rejoice after all.
On that happy note, we did have to smile as we watched our grandboys perform in their school Christmas programs.  Little Micah, only just two, stole the show with his dancing…….he takes after his daddy.   All three boys are officially on their summer break of seemingly innumerable weeks, so we’re looking forward to not having time for too much sadness.
In the words of Tiny Tim, “God Bless Us All”

Snakes and Jello

We had a dog once named Hershey.  She was a mini dashound.  We got her so that our little boys could experience ‘responsibility’. Hershey lived 14 years and during that time taught us a lot more than we ever wanted to know. But the lesson that was the greatest was lived out in the life she chose for herself.

In her defense, I need to tell you that after we got her as a puppy, we began to realize that something was all going wrong. Tony had had many dogs and me a few, and they were all trainable, reasonable, etc. Hershey, on the other hand was nice enough when you were around, but as the years played out, we realized that she was the worst dog we’d ever had, especially when we were gone.

And so we began to ‘check’ into her past. Very soon we found out that (this was in Japan,) her breed had only been in the country for a few years, so that necessitated inbreeding her ancestors in order to meet the demand for such a cute little dog.  We discovered this when looking at her pedigree and realizing that both her paternal and maternal grandmothers were the same dog!  To add to that, she had been ‘puppy milled’ and taken from her mother way too soon, giving her no life skills, such as coping and being secure when she was alone, which was often.

As a result, when we walked out of the door, she went from a lovely dog to what we casually called “Kujo!”  One time she pulled up the good part of a linoleum floor, ripped off a screen door, peed in more places than I can remember, and the list goes on.

And so, pursuant to her lifestyle, Hershey began to lose privileges right and left……….not because we didn’t like her, but because she couldn’t understand or obey the basic rules of the house.  I would like to say it had a happy ending but she unfortunately lived out the last several years of her life confined to the arc of a very short leash if we planned to be away for longer than a few minutes.

Actually a sad story, but….it became a great teaching tool as the kids reached the teenage years and all the exciting newfound freedoms.

Our byword to the kids as they started out the door was,  “Remember Hershey; she could have had it all if she’d just followed the rules”

And so we get to the much anticipated story of the “Thanksgiving murder” by Tony Woods.  I tell you this with some trepidation because after the event it was pointed out that we don’t do such things here in wonderful Australia……but Tony’s from Texas, so here goes:

I was carefully releasing a jello mold of particular anticipation, as it’s one of my annual ‘signature dishes’ for the Thanksgiving table.  We were eagerly hoping to see our 13 family members (4 or whom are actually our Woods family and staunch Americans”), when my phone rang.

I glanced at the caller ID and noticed that it was Tony……….the one I live with and whom I’d seen walking thru the house 5 minutes before.

With an exasperated huff, cradling the phone to my ear with my shoulder while being careful not to drop the mold, I answered, perhaps a bit crankily, “WHAT?”

“Uhh,” my macho man quivered. “Can you bring a shovel out to the garden, I’m holding down a Red Belly Black Snake by the tail and I’m afraid he’s not too happy about it!”

“Ok, but I’ve got to do this Jello thing first!” I countered…… to no answer.

I dropped the phone to the kitchen counter and said to myself, “I can’t believe he CALLED me.”

But then I thought, as I looked at the jello, “Well, a Red Belly Black Snake is, indeed, deadly poisonous, so maybe just this once I should make haste!”  I dropped the mold and headed out….taking time to slip on some flip flops. (It’s summer here, you’ll remember).

As I rounded the corner, there they were, scared Tony and mad snake in the bottom of the garden.  Tony instructed ME to hold the board that was holding the snake down while he positioned himself over the head.  I’ll have to admit, standing there, toes bursting out, just inches from fangs and fury was a bit daunting, maybe even worth a phone call.  All I could think of was the statistic that most snake bites occur in Australia when people are trying to catch or kill them.

As Tony did battle with a most unwilling to die snake, I finally began yelling, “Oh! Oh!  Stop!! That’s so mean!!”  Tony reminded me that a trip to the hospital would be worse than a failed jello mold.

Finally, after the tide of battle seemed to be moving away from the snake, I abandoned the board while Tony continued to make sure he wouldn’t be coming back for revenge. Returning to my jello mold I kept saying, “Poor snake, poor snake”…….

A few hours later we had a lovely dinner, but occasionally I’d think of the snake and say under my breath, “Poor snake”, until the next  morning when Tony reminded me of Hershey.

“It’s the same thing, really,” he mused.   “Hershey could have had it all if she’d have followed a few simple rules.  Same with the snake, I was happy to leave him alone, but he was making his way with blistering speed to the house, and that’s off limits!”

All of our Aussie neighbors agree, “It’s nice to relocate our lovely native animals, but if they’re headed for the house, they just have to be ‘relocated’ to the trash can.

I wonder what a great life we’d have if we just followed the rules that God has put in place.  Rules of contact, of boundaries, and of behavior! He said it Himself in Jeremiah 7:23, “Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you.”

Marsha

The Gospel of Noodles

Soo…… after my several week rage at the state of world affairs, today I’d like to tell you a sweet little tale about God and his work in Japan

I heard this on our visit to Japan this last July.  One of the men, who is a marvelous Christian and a pastor, heard it from his pastor.

It seems that in the 1950’s street evangelists were the modus operandi for getting out the word of God.  You’ll remember (at least some of you) that it was right after the war and Japan was in a pretty depressed state, both physically and mentally.  If you had electricity, you’d be lucky to have a radio and certainly not a TV.  There was little money to waste on frivolous things like movies (picture shows) and the like, so people standing in the street proclaiming something were sure to bring a crowd.

But not just that, the Japanese were starving for the truth.  They had ‘believed’ that their Emperor was a god, only to hear in his surrender to the Allies that he, by his own admission, was not god at all.  Incidentally, that was the very first time anyone had ever heard his voice, and it came this time over the radio.  He, as Emperor, was and is, even today, almost never seen, except perhaps on New Years Day when he and the Empress wave to the masses from the balcony of their palace.

And so my friend’s pastor was a new Christian and was happy to tell people about it.  He would stand on the street for hours shouting out the Good news of salvation to the lost Japanese.  Sometimes the response was dismal, especially if the grownups were busy with the business of recovering their homes, lives, and the like.

Sometimes he only had some scruffy boys and girls who had nothing else to do as his audience.  A little band of three or four neighbor boys, probably about 9 or 10 used to be particularly disruptive and rude to the man.

As he shouted out the Gospel, they would taunt him and mimic his words.  For example, when he prayed fervently to finish the sermon, after his last “Amen” they would scurry off, jeering back at him “Ramen!” and “Somen!” (two versions of Japanese noodles which were at the time about all anybody had to eat”).

But this pastor never gave up his passion for getting out the word. This one street corner was the spot that he’d given his life to and he’d been there faithfully for over 10 years. Years passed and one day he noticed a well dressed young man standing very reverently and respectfully in the crowd, nodding in solemn agreement with everything the Pastor said

After his message, the young man stepped up to him and he said, “Do you remember me?”

Actually the pastor had no idea until the man hung his head and quietly said “Ramen…..Somen”

After a wonderful realization and reunion, the young man explained, that even though he’d taunted the preacher all those years,  he had watched and learned, and as a youth in college, far far away, he had sought out Christians because of their love and persistence……and now he himself had become a pastor.

“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24) Make your own sermon.

Next week I’ll tell you about a murder Tony committed in our back yard as we were preparing Thanksgiving dinner.

Love ya, Marsha