Dangerous Prayers

Once a long time ago, Tony and I were members of a pretty exciting prayer group.  A lot of the things we experienced were amazing, and challenged a lot of our ideas and traditions. Looking back, I think that was some of most spiritually-growing times we have ever known.

Fast forward now to the present.  I’ve grown weary reading the Old Testament over and over in my ‘Read thru the Bible’ plan, so, even though I still find some parts great,  this year I decided to give the OT a rest and do some of the quick devotionals that are also listed in my phone’s Bible reading application.

Anyway, I picked a short devotional plan put together by a man named Craig Groschel. He’s a pastor, and recently Tony was privileged to hear speak, thanks to the generosity of our son.  Tony was so impressed by him that I picked one of his plans called “Dangerous Prayers”.

It’s good, but I confess that, as I read, I remembered those days from long ago. Because, you see, our group was having such growth and success, one day I decided to ask God to ‘show me my sin’.

I didn’t realize that was a ‘dangerous prayer’.

“Well, that prayer was a big mistake!” I thought, after waking up one morning from a very unsettling dream.  In the dream, I was being led thru a mansion, filled with every kind of beautiful accessory and most importantly, spacious and with sunny rooms after rooms that seemed to go on forever.

This “mansion”, as it turned out, belonged to the people who were living there as they led me through… And they were some missionary associates of ours.

Now the interesting and unsettling thing about the dream, and the reason I woke up with such a start was because, in the dream I was getting more and more angry!

I thought about it for days, wondering why on the earth I’d had such a silly dream. And then God let me in on why I was so mad.

This couple were childless first term missionaries.  They had not lived in Japan for 15 years already like we had.  They were brand new. And with their arrival, because of some logistical situations in the mission, they were given a brand new WESTERN style house.

Now mind you, after 15 years in a tiny Japanese house, with the kids tucked together in one room, the single toilet convenient only to the front door with the bathtub thoughtfully arranged off of the kitchen, we too were now living in a big spacious western style mission house.  Why would I be upset with them for having a ‘mansion’ when it was built to the same houseplan as mine?

Then the penny dropped.  I was angry (at least subconsciously) in my dream, because I felt they hadn’t ‘paid the price’.

And here you thought missionaries weren’t petty.

I repented and made a vow, after cleaning up my act, not to ever pray that ‘dangerous’ of a prayer again.

But then this last week, without even asking, God is showing me once again how foible I am.

Our book, “Weaving Sunlight” came out recently, as I’m sure you were aware of after my daughter’s lavish reveal!  And while talking about the book,  someone casually asked me if I had bothered to ask permission from the people I had so generously written about. Theirs was a difficult story, and even though it turned out okay, thinking about those days still brings us all pain.

So once again, I was laid open to my sin and I found myself eating humble pie as I (finally) wrote and apologized.

They were gracious and forgave me, even offering to edit the story, filling in some gaps where my aging memory had failed me!  If you order a Kindle copy, (out in a few weeks) the mistake will be corrected.

No, I’m not going to stop praying those “dangerous prayers”. But sometimes, it’s a little like putting alcohol on a fresh cut. You know it’s the right thing to do, and the safest thing, in the long run, but it’s probably gonna hurt!

I need to remember that God is my Great Physician, and He will not let the slightest scratch go untreated.

So here’s my challenge to all of us: get yourself alone for some quiet time, then take a deep breath, close your eyes and say, “Lord, show me my sin.”

In the words of that intrepid cartoon character, Dark Wing Duck, “Let’s get dangerous.”

Send me a report sometime if you make it back in one piece,

Marsha

Hey it’s me, the Daughter!

Hello everyone, surprise! It’s me, Nicki. I know, I know, I’m sure you were expecting to hear from my mother, but I thought I’d take it upon myself to intervene and tell you about the latest writings of my parents before they get a chance to down play what I’d like to think are two of the greatest stories ever lived. The book is called Weaving Sunlight: God’s Tapestry of Two Lives. And I’ll start the way my father would: “Hold onto your britches, cause this is going to knock your socks off!”

The story starts with two love birds from two separate worlds, Colorado and Texas. My mother was born to Robert and Genevieve Smith in 1950, two years after my father. My father came into the world quickly and at the demand by his mother Jody, as she held the nurse in a death grip, that he would in fact be a boy, and so no other paperwork would be required. You’ll have to read the back story to get the rest of that hilarious experience.

Now fast forward to the year 1969. Some of you may remember that was a year that brought of the history’s most memorable moments, such as man’s first steps on the moon, the last public performance of the Beatles (on the roof of Apple Records, by the way. A month later, the world’s largest airplane, the Boeing 747 made its first commercial flight. In April, the movie Oliver won best picture at the 41st Academy Awards and Barbara Streisand was nominated for her role in Funny Girl. In July, David Bowie released his iconic single “Space Oddity”, a ground breaking single that was debuted in conjunction with the moon landing in late July.   Then, on August 1st, to be precise, Tony and Marsha stood in front of their friends and family and declared their love for each other. And from where I sit, that pretty much overshadows anything else that happened that year!

The title, Weaving Sunlight, was inspired by an old heirloom my mother has kept from her childhood. It, a weaver’s shuttle, hand carved back in 1819 by one of her ancestors, and still brings to mind a time of innocence, when hours could be spent sitting on the floor playing with it. It took a lot of imagination, but I think there was a lot to go around back then. Sadly, I don’t believe we exercise our imaginations enough these days. But my mother’s imagination carried her into adulthood, and has helped her kids establish their own “heirloom moments”. One of the most significant, of course, was my adoption, but you’ll have to read the book to hear about that!

I started reading this book long before it actually came into print. When my parents handed me the first draft, I devoured it, story after story. And it wasn’t just because I was a part of tapestry. Seeing their story come alive on the pages, I began to connect the dots, seeing tier after tier, through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood, and I began to see how their lives wove in and around events that I wasn’t even aware of, and yet, looking back, the beautiful picture of God’s Hand at work can’t be missed today. And the beauty of it is, the picture doesn’t stop with them. It’s part of a huge tapestry that started back at Creation and will finally be revealed when Christ comes back. And each and every one of us will have the opportunity to see where our lives have fit into the final masterpiece

The book was especially fascinating to me because there were a lot of stories that I never knew anything about. Like for example, in the 6th grade, my mom got her first “job” as her school’s newspaper editor.  I also learned as I read that as the television entered family homes, her parents allowed her 30 minutes on a Saturday to sit in front of their new TV and devour every moment of one of the greatest shows created, “The Flintstones”. Of course, she was only allowed that treat if her hair was washed and curled, ready for church on Sunday morning. A few years passed, and she was sent to boarding school. Before going, she didn’t know much about it except that her sister had gone there, and that was enough.

Then there was my father, Tony, and that fateful night in 1968 when he sat at his desk in college and studied for a chemistry test. Going through the book and trying to guess what questions might be asked, he sat there and read about the properties of filtrate and hydrogen, and all those chemical mysteries. Then he came across a question that God planted in his lap: “Why not go into full time ministry?” It took him a while to realize the question didn’t come from the chemistry book, and it drove him to his knees. Was this really from God?

Actually, it was a direct answer to prayer from my mother. A thousand miles away, she told her college that she only wanted to marry a man who was going into ministry. Up until now she had kept it a secret from Tony, to make sure he didn’t change his plans for her sake. They prayed, God heard, and a few days later, she got a letter from Tony (remember, these were the days before email) saying, “Guess what? I’m going into full time ministry!” My mom’s first thought was that her roommates had spilled the beans, and the next few days were not a pretty sight! But this story was to be the foundation upon which the next 50 years have been built, so you’ll have to read it to get the whole story!

In 1973 after both my parents, now married, completed their degrees at Colorado State University, they followed another thread in the weave and joined the two-year “Journeyman Program” as short term missionaries. Sticking their toes in the water if you will, they applied for work in Switzerland and Indonesia but both the Mission Board and the Lord had other plans. Sending them off to Zambia, Africa, they experienced life together on the mission field. It was a life they couldn’t have ever foreseen, full of joys and sadness, wonderful lessons and unimaginable loss. Things like malignant melanomas, malaria, and terrorists filled their days. It was there that Trevor was conceived, a fact that would eventually lead to his death 15 years later. Africa helped to weave a strong marriage and a lifetime of skills for them both, before the Lord and the Board sent them off to their big playground of Japan.

Japan is an exciting adventure all by itself, and I know because it was during that time that I came onto the scene! For 40 years, my parents enjoyed a fruitful ministry there. They educated not only their own children, Trevor, Nathan and myself there, but they also led and educated those precious children of God; the Japanese people. Through preaching, helping with English classes, annual church Christmas pageants, and anything else they could think of, they planted churches, made friends and changed lives, becoming more and more “family” than they could have ever hoped for.

Trevor’s ashes are buried there, and we kids have been given the responsibility of seeing that Tony and Marsha and buried there as well. It wasn’t long after Trevor died that I was adopted, which I consider one of the luckiest, more blessed things that could ever have happened to me. Lucky, because they also gave me a brother of my own (Nathan), a role model for life and a friend forever.

As the years went by, a “Wall Of Witness” began to take shape in the form of pictures hanging in the hallway These individuals will forever have special places in my parents’ hearts, and if you ever have the chance to visit their bedroom today, you can still see all of them . My brother and I in later years have named this “The Wall of Fame”.  On the wall are included friends and mentors such as, Kumiko and Shinkichi Ito, Bob and Betty Faith Boatwight, my grandparents and a great grandmother.   I am 100% sure that I have missed a few to say the least but I want it to be known that my parents were not only blessed in Japan with a great mission field to work in but a plethora of friends and family to establish a lifelong friendship with. These people have encouraged my parents and have taught them invaluable things about life. They provided my parents with family when they were away from home, and friends for my brother and myself to call brothers and sisters in Christ. For that I am truly thankful.

Now, I know this blog has gone on far longer than expected but let me share with you this one more thing. Reading about our experiences and journeys will take you to places you never thought God would lead you. I know many of you have spent countless hours with my parents, listening to the life that God has blessed them both with and sometimes you might even have said, “WOW! They really have lived.” But if you get anything else out of this blog, please please, remember that YOUR story is the best one out there because it’s the journey that God has weaved together for YOU!

God blessed my parents with a world full of opportunities but also with heartache and loss. Though I may not have talked about it much here, we all experience the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly. But through it all, we are reminded that God has been weaving our journey together for a very long time. We can see a glimpse of our Master’s work and we can look forward to seeing a kingdom chock full our legacys.

SO, as you go out and buy this book or follow the link below, I urge to you read and be excited to read about these two ordinary and maybe a bit crazy followers of Christ whom I get to call my parents.  I also urge you to remember to write your own story down. It’s important, people need to know your story as well!

Till Maybe Next Time,

Nicki

Wasting Time

So there we sat, Tony and I and our new baby, Trevor.  I was 25 years old.

“I’m sorry to tell you this, but the melanoma you had last year appears to have metastasized into your lungs.  You may not have long to live”

We drove home in a stupor and started worrying.  We were to come back for ‘further tests’ in about 4 days, when they could fit us in.

I remembered stumbling around the house carrying my newborn. Yes, Tony and I were strong in our faith and certain God was in control, but just what that meant, we weren’t sure.  All I could imagine was a young hunk widower on a seminary campus, interviewing a sea of eligible girls looking for an instant family……..

Friends, (Bob Gierhart to name one) dropped by to pray with us. That sorta made it even more real and I began to be almost hysterical.  But finally Tony and I were able to really get down to some serious prayer.

The next morning we took more tests and suddenly they began backpedaling. “Well, it was there. Perhaps we were looking at a blood vessel face on.” Whether it was a case of mistaken identity or Divine intervention, I guess we won’t know this side of Heaven. What I do know is that there was a lot of time spent “what iffing” during those four days that could have been used for better things.

Recently I heard something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

“Worry is a poor use of imagination”.

How simple is that?? NOTHING happened to me back then, I was as healthy as a horse, but I let fear take hold and almost died of fright!

This morning our missions pastor auctioned off a roll of toilet paper.

We all laughed, but the panic here in Australia, particularly in the realm of toilet paper, is real.  I’m not sure why, but everybody is buying and hoarding stuff because of the Corona thing.  How silly, all the information points to the fact that yes, it’s spreading and no, it’s not as dangerous as the common flu.

But we let our imaginations run wild.

Jesus spoke over and over about worry.  “Who of you can add a hair to your head or an inch to your stature?  Who can add a day to his life and who can dress better than the lilies of the field?” and on and on. (Matthew 6:25-27, Luke 12:25)

Instead, The Psalmist commands us to “Cast our burdens of the Lord” (Psalms 55:22).

My imagination wants to run wild as we discuss with our doctors all the details of Tony’s soon-to-begin radiation therapy, but seriously, what can we do but trust Him? And give ourselves to thinking about what wonderful things also might be waiting for us?

So today, I want you to remember, DO NOT WORRY, because you’re just wasting your time.  Use your imagination to think of people coming to Christ, the world getting along with each other or even simple stuff like beautiful weather we had today or a baby’s smile I saw after church.

And while you’re doing that, just give me a chance to go and count how many toilet paper rolls are in the cupboard…..

Seriously, I know there’s a lot of grief out there with some of you. Please know we’re praying for so many of you as you walk thru tough times, praying that you’ll remember that God is in control.

Have a good week!

Marsha

No More Beer Drinkin

Today I’d like to continue a bit on what’s on everyone’s mind.  You guessed it, the Carona virus.

Of course everyone’s talking about it, the news is full of it, the famous Mexican Carona beer is ruing the day they ever named it that because (I’m not kidding) some, perhaps a small percent who live away from a good TV signal, have reportedly stopped drinking it because they don’t want to get the flu.

If you’re watching the news, you’ve heard that Japan has “suggested” that all schools let out for their school year three weeks early.  That, along with the year-end break, will see the kids finally returning to school mid April. The real sad part is that schools, and don’t forget we participated in these national schools with all three kids, REALLY gear up for the big finish in March. Graduations at every level from Kindergarten thru University, and most important, just about every Junior High School graduation across the nation includes a much anticipated trip to Tokyo Disneyland ……..which is also closed.

There is even some serious talk of cancelling the Olympics. That would be huge financially as well as a major disappointment to our missionaries and churches who are preparing massive evangelism events.

My favorite apologist for Christianity is a guy our age, Ravi Zacharias.  A couple of years ago we were driving across America and listened to the audio book, “Walking from East to West”, which is his life story.  If you Google him, you’ll see that along with the likes of Billy Graham, he is one of the greatest Christian apologists ever …….. in spite of the fact that he was born a Hindu….in India.

Now back to the quarantine issue:  Ravi tells the story in his book about his Great Great Great Grandmother.  He only found out about it later in his life and the story goes something like this (sorry if you Google and find out different bits, but this is following the notes I wrote several years ago):

It seems that this woman was a little girl and became interested in the Christian missionaries who were living in her area.  There were several attributes that attracted her, like the warmth of the missionaries, the nice sweets and most important, a Bible that they were sharing with her as they were teaching her to read.

When her parents found out, of course there was a big hoo-ha and she was ordered to return the Bible and any other literature to the compound immediately.  Furthermore, she was forbidden to ever go back.

She did reluctantly set off to the missionaries to give them the message.  She was interested in Christianity but even (and especially) as a Hindu she knew the importance of obeying her parents.

She went to the compound, told them of her parents’ reaction and returned the Bible.  They seemed to understand and gave her a hug and said they’d be praying for her.  On the way out, she was stopped by a policeman.

“You cannot leave!” he demanded roughly, catching her by the collar and returning her to the missionaries.  “There is a Cholera outbreak and NO ONE is allowed to leave the compound”.  Addressing the alarmed missionaries, he shouted for emphasis, “She must stay here until it’s cleared.”

Well, by the end of the 5 weeks, she had not gotten sick and was a strong Christian, well-versed in the Scriptures and ready to live her life as a follower of Jesus.  Decades later (you’ll have to get the book and check the facts), Ravi and his family were able to visit her grave.  It was overtly Christian.

Good things CAN come out of quarantine.  Or for that matter, any other Huge Inconvenience that we think is so bad.

Please pray for our Japanese friends who will try to visit us this Wednesday from their home in Tokyo.  They still aren’t sure they will be admitted to Australia, but if they can, they’re going to stay with us for a few days.  They are being extra considerate not to ‘bother’ us because Tony’s starting his radiation soon. They won’t be a bother, of course, but let’s also pray that Japan will let them back home as well!!

And all of you, keep washing your hands and praising God for his daily mercies.

I’m sure you’ve heard the advice, “Wash your hands while you sing Happy Birthday” (apparently it takes about 20 seconds of vigorous washing to kill a virus).  I’m thinking, sing Jesus Loves Me instead!!

Hygienically,

Marsha

This Changes Everything

Hello all,

This last week we continued enjoying our getaway after the kids left on Sunday evening.  We were able to stay a few more days, writing and enjoying the facilities until our time was up. Then we packed up and came home, fulfilled and yet a part of us wishing we could stay longer. And really, that’s the best way to finish a getaway, isn’t it?

Now we’re back to about as normal and contented as anyone living in their own home in the heat of the summer can be.

Many of you have probably seen this long report about the man in China who ‘blew the whistle’ on the caronavirus.  I was really touched by it, but even more so by what it reveals about Chinese Christians in general.

I was reading the other day about the seemingly mundane things we often do that will change the course of life.  Consider the woman who took her precious perfume and poured it over Jesus’ feet.  I’m sure she could have ‘changed her life’ in so many other ways with that bottle of perfume, and yet she chose Jesus and here’s what He had to say about it:

Truly I say to you, wherever the Gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her. (Mark 14:9, NASB)

Yes, I understand that this last week there have been a lot of conspiracy theories about the virus and the evil powers that may or may not have had something to with it, but no matter how this thing may have been created or controlled, it’s worth noting what this doctor had to say about his faith in Christ. I have no doubt that his actions, like those of the woman with the perfume, will be spoken of for a long time. Here’s what one news agency had to say:

Dr. Li Wen’s Legacy

The doctor left a legacy that will always leave a mark in the hearts of the Chinese people. He cared for patients and tried to stop the spread of the virus knowing he might be infected. Doctor Li Wen chose to lay down his life for others. A pastor in Wuhan had this to say about the doctor and his wife who is eight months pregnant and now infected by the coronavisus, “May God heal them supernaturally and give them grace, peace, strength and comfort during this time.” Then he went on to urge readers to pray, sharing a poem that Dr. Li Wen wrote just before he succumbed to the virus. It’s in Chinese, but the translation goes like this,

I don’t want to be a hero.
I still have my parents,
And my children,
My pregnant wife who’s about to give birth,
And many of my patients in the ward.
Though my integrity cannot be exchanged for the goodness of others,
Despite my loss and confusion,
I should proceed anyway.
Who let me choose this country and this family?
How many grievances do I have?
When this battle is over,
I will look up to the sky,
With tears like rain.I don’t want to be a hero.
But as a doctor,
I cannot just see this unknown virus
Hurting my peers
And so many innocent people.
Though they are dying,
They are always looking at me in their eyes,
With their hope of life.Who would have ever realized that I was going to die?
My soul is in heaven,
Looking at the white bed,
On which lies my own body,
With the same familiar face.
Where are my parents?
And my dear wife,
The lady I once had a hard time chasing?There is a light in the sky!
At the end of that light is the heaven that people often talk about.
But I’d rather not go there.
I’d rather go back to my hometown in Wuhan.
I have my new house there,
For which I still have to pay off the loan every month.
How can I give up?
How can I give up?
For my parents without their son,
How sad must it be?
For my sweetheart without her husband,
How can she face the vicissitudes in her future?I am already gone.
I see them taking my body,
Putting it into a bag,
With which lie many compatriots
Gone like me,
Being pushed into the fire in the hearth
At dawn.Goodbye, my dear ones.
Farewell, Wuhan, my hometown.
Hopefully, after the disaster,
You’ll remember someone once
Tried to let you know the truth as soon as possible.
Hopefully, after the disaster,
You’ll learn what it means to be righteous.
No more good people
Should suffer from endless fear,
And helpless sadness.‘I have fought the good fight.
And I have finished the race.
I have kept the faith.
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness.’
2 Timothy 4:7, Holy Bible.”

I ask you to think about this beautiful poem and the man who wrote it.  According to the news reports, the Chinese government punished him for making his findings public and yet in his poem he says he loves his hometown and his country.  Such a wonderful Christian heart.

And our thoughts should be, “What does God have for me to do that might change everything?”

Until next week then.

Marsha

Green Pastures

This morning I woke thinking about the twenty third Psalm, and that part about “walking through the valley of the shadow of death.” Last week I asked you to pray for my nephew Rich, and I’m happy to say that he’s passed safely through the ‘valley’ as far as the bypass surgery goes. While it was tricky for awhile, he’s still with us and improving daily.  Another one I mentioned, the son of dear friends from Japan, is today home in the arms of Jesus, after a safe and peaceful journey.

A few months ago, in the very beginning of Tony’s cancer journey, we walked into a large shopping mall that we usually steer clear of, and Tony, new to the scene, responded to a charming lady who stepped away from her kiosk and asked in sugared tones,” May I help you sir?”  I was frantically clawing at his sleeve to rescue him from this swaying siren, as she led him back to her lair.

He was mumbling something about finding the telephone store when she handed him a card that said he’d “won”.

You, my more worldly-wise readers, know exactly what he’d won:  a trip to the time share abattoir, a certain valley of it’s own.   Before we knew it, we had an appointment for the next day.  By then we knew what we were up against, so we went in on high caution, and after being treated like royalty and being promised the moon, they began outlining the 59 easy payments (which would actually morph into the rest of our lives). At that point, Tony (bless his heart!) ‘mentioned’ that he had cancer, and wasn’t sure what the future held. While he didn’t exactly intend it as a clever ploy, it did have the desired effect as the hard sell folks dropped their clenches and ushered us quickly to the door.

…but not before we collected the thing that we had in fact won: a week’s all expense paid stay in one of their several resorts. We knew no one had time for an actual trip, so we selected the ‘resort’ just 20 minutes from our house. We got here and were soon joined by our son, wife and 3 kids.

It was a weekend to remember.  We hope they’ll remember it too.

Crammed into a small two bed, one bath unit, and we soon hit the great outdoors, swimming in the pool, paddling in the lake, and generally enjoying every other form of entertainment involving clubs, ducks, turtles, balls and bats.  We built a dam in the cool waters of the creek that I’m sure can be seen from outer space, and got so much sun that I’m still radiating.

Besides the full on fun, we had “wonder walks” around the paths early and late, and even squeezed in a 10-minute ‘Woods family worship’ like we used to do back on the mission field when you had to make your own time and place. Tony played the guitar and shared a few words from the Word that the grandboys could understand about worry. Come to think of it, I think bits of that message were intended for the adults in the group!

Now the kids are gone, back to their own “real world” and we’re listening to the quiet, even as we gear up for a visit later this week from daughter Nicki, after which we’ll drive back home to catch up with our own realities.

God continues to just bless our socks off.

If you’re on Facebook, then you may have heard the best gift we got this week, and that is the news that Tony’s prostate cancer seems to be at bay, and perhaps even receding. We’re still planning for the 39-day radiation therapy, set to begin in March. We did remind the doctor that we’re Christians and fully expect God to heal, and maybe even by using the doctor’s skills! He did assure us that he would get a good look before firing up the machine, and would be totally prepared to abort the mission if there’s noting left to shoot! Thanks again for your prayers.

Another exciting thing is that our much anticipated Weaving Sunlight book is finally available on Amazon!

However I must urge you to wait a few days before going online, as I think we’re going to negotiate a cheaper price soon. Apparently, some kind of glitch has resulted in a higher retail price than we were expecting, like Australia$ 37.95. Keep checking, and when you see it cheaper, grab a copy, okay? I really think it can be a blessing for people who want to see how God works in our lives to create a beautiful tapestry that only becomes clear in hindsight.

Here’s praying that your own artwork is coming together nicely this week!

Love ya,

Marsha

Quarantined

Good Morning!

Today comes to you from HOME SWEET HOME!!

We made it back, safely if not very comfortably.  For those of you who aren’t afforded the luxury of ‘staff travel’ at half price or less, let me assure you there is a great leveler in being the last to board, sometimes not sitting together and in the rear of cattle class.  Needless to say, I was sick of wearing a mask and was more than glad to get home.

Even if it was to be quarantined.

Not only by our son, who says we will not be coming near his babies, but also by the school they go to and the Australian government “strongly suggesting”, since we were in Hong Kong, that we confine ourselves to our house for at least 14 days.  We’re at day 12 since leaving HK and about to go nuts, but I have to admit we’re sort of enjoying the ‘down time’, foraging thru the pantry for food, catching up on reading and working in the garden.

Here’s a case you may find interesting.  Our cruise ship docked in Hong Kong on January 24th, the same day as another, larger ship arrived. We got off the boat and a stranger immediately told us to buy a mask, which we did. I didn’t know till later that it had just been deemed ‘illegal’ to be without a mask in Hong Kong; ironic when you remember that it had been illegal to wear one just a few days before because of all the protest riots.  I’m happy to say we saw no riots and the city was as lovely as ever but with very much reduced crowds, and the people we met were much more subdued than usual.  All in all though, it was a wonderful visit.

But back to that other ship that arrived the same day as we did. You’ve probably heard about it on the news, but it seems that an 80-year-old gentleman, six days after disembarking from his cruise, got sick and was tested positive for the Corona Virus.

Now, because this man would have been contagious while on the cruise, the ship is now tied up outside of Japan with more than 4300 people subjected to a 14-day quarantine. They are confined to their rooms and already at least 10 people have been offloaded to hospitals because they’ve become sick. Obviously the virus is no respecter of age or race, as Aussies, Americans, Filipinos, etc are coming down with it.

I can’t imagine, after the WONDERFUL month we’ve had traveling, anything more annoying than being stuck on a ship, no matter if it’s a fine luxury liner.  One family mentioned on the news, is confined in one “inside” cabin. This location is often a personal favorite with us as there are no windows and it’s very quiet.  Trouble is, they have two teenagers with them! AAAKKKKKKK can you imagine the “bonding”??

But we are finding our ‘quarantine’ rather cleansing, and in his usual “there’s a sermon in that” outlook on life, Tony has pointed out the theological implications. Get this:

The first quarantine started with Adam and Eve.  They were kicked out of the garden after only a few days (instead of being stuck in), and excluded from the 24-hour buffet. In fact, nothing was easy after that. Sin spread insidiously like, well, like a virus, first to Adam and Eve’s sons, and then on down to Noah, which called for yet another quarantine. God dealt decisively with the problem, but with even only eight survivors out of the whole world, sin’s sickness found a foothold.  And it still continues now, and no mask, no antiseptic, no isolating is going to get rid of it. Charles Colson once pointed out that, if a man were left alone in a room, he would do the wrong thing, every time.

Our own quarantine is up on Tuesday, and we get to be free again. It will be just in time for Tony’s doctor’s appointment with the radiologist. He will look at his PSA scores and decide if the therapy so far has had any affect on the cancer. Thanks for your prayers, and even more, for the peace that we continue to enjoy, thanks to you.

One of my favorite verses that comes to mind today is what Paul says in Colossians 1:20,

“…and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”

That’s what we’re looking forward to: peace made possible by the Blood of Jesus, lifting us out of the spiritual quarantine that sin has brought on. And by that Perfect Sacrifice, to be able to stand face to face with Jesus, masks removed, and say “Thank you”!

Hope you are all well and happy, and while you’re praying, please remember my nephew who is facing bypass surgery this next Thursday. And also two sets of dear friends from Japan who may be saying goodbye to their sons this week because of cancer’s specter.  Lord hasten the day when all things are perfect again.

Love,

Marsha

All’s Good

Many many years ago I remember overhearing out oldest son Trevor going on and on with his Japanese friends, telling them about our upcoming trip to America. We were due back for what was then called “Furlough”, a one-year time of touching base with churches and mission leadership that we had to take every four years. Nowadays, they call it “Stateside Assignment”, since the old term suggested “vacation”, but anyway…..

As we listened, Trevor was itemizing the trip from his point of view, which included Disneyland, riding horses in Texas, shopping at all the major toy stores, and of course loading up on the special foods we couldn’t get in Japan.
Later, when his friends had gone home, I asked Trevor (I think he was about 8 or so), “What do you think your friends feel when you tell them about all these wonderful things you’ll be doing?”  Of course, I was looking for him to experience a bit of shame and compassion, having gone on and on about all the things they might never be able to do.
But his answer was unexpected. “Oh!” he answered with all the confidence of a most pampered American prince, “They’ll be SO happy for me!”
That’s become a kind of byword in our family since then, whenever we catch ourselves focusing on how much we’ve been blessed, not taking into account the lives of our friends. And guess what? It’s occurred to me that I’ve been guilty of some “Trevor-isms” these last few weeks, regaling you with how good life has been since we started this time away.
That was not my intent, though.  I’m telling you these things simply because I’m happy, and not to foster any feelings of envy. Our lives are still full of the thuds and thrills we all have to face, not to mention the specter of Tony’s cancer, and all the reality we’ll find waiting for us when we get home in a couple of days
I’ve just been telling you all these wonderful things because (maybe like Trevor) I have a heart full of gratitude for the great journey this has been, and continues to be.  Recently I read that feeling gratitude actually makes your brain function better. If that’s the case, I must have gained an IQ point or two since we left home!
This morning we visited the International Baptist Church here in Manila. I’m pretty sure it was started by our mission many years ago, and it still bears the marks of its founders in everything from the furniture to the music to the excellent preaching.  The pastor turned out to be a ‘friend of a friend’ of many of ours and we were (again) blessed by the visit. I’ve remarked throughout this trip that getting with the family of God always brings happy surprises.  This morning he preached on the Fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22 and following:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things…………… Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
Next Tuesday, we TRY and return home. With all the news about the Corona Virus going around, there’s a possibility that we may find ourselves in quarantine somewhere along the way. I don’t foresee any problems, unless of course one of us pops a fever before we get on the plane. Now you know how you can pray! Our son has already informed us that we will NOT be seeing the grandkids until the 14-day incubation period has passed, and I agree that we might do well to just lock ourselves into the house for a week.  Of course I want to stay in the Philippines, but Tony reminds me that if we are going to be put in isolation somewhere, he’d rather be in a place where our health fund works. We’ll see what the government decides, but rest assured that today we’re very healthy and (as I’ve mentioned many times,) very grateful for this wonderful trip.
I wonder where this blog will come from next week?? You might want to spray a little disinfectant on your computer before you open it!
Love ya,
Marsha

A Quiet Understanding

Good morning from Hong Kong!

And Happy (Chinese) New Year!  I promised I’d find some internet and catch you up to what’s going on, so here goes:

Our cruise finally finished on Saturday.  We had a truly blessed time, meeting some nice Christians and even a couple or men who have Tony’s same cancer problem, and, what are the chances, have had the same treatment, which seems to be working well. It was all so encouraging.

Cruise goals: We focused on the “Three R’s”  Reading, Riting and Reflecting.  It’s been a good couple of weeks.

So what I’ve learned about Chinese New Year.  I have to say that while it’s floated around me the many years we’ve lived in Asia, I’ve never experienced it first hand.  Japan celebrates New Year with the Western world on January First, complete with their own special traditions of Red Beans, House Cleaning and Church services, but The Lunar New Year, aka Chinese New Year, follows the cycles of the moon instead of the Calendar.

Our Vietnamese guide, on the one day we took a tour to the Imperial Forbidden City of Vietnam in Hue, kindly read us some of the “rules” of the New Year and we did our best to comply.

For example, the first visitor you have on New Year’s day will be very significant to you and your family in the coming year.  For that reason, we declined from ingratiating ourselves to any of our friends here in Hong Kong on day one.  They are always so kind to us but I would hate to have them thinking they had to be putting up with us for the whole year.  Another advisory is to never give anyone a CAT on New years day.  Not sure why except the basic thought of, even though I love cats,  “Who would ever give someone a cat?”

Other rules regard sickness, and a myriad other ones, mostly food related, so we just stayed away from our friends till today, Sunday. Then today we were blessed beyond belief with first meeting up with our ride to church (“take the MTR to Admirlaty, change lines to the Chai Wan line and get off at the Wan Chai stop”, so easy because of Hong Kong’s excellent transportation systems.)  Then the first song we sang was that old song, “There’s a quiet understanding”…..so appropriate to the love we have for these friends.     Then after church we took one of our friends ‘display model yachts’ over to another island (Base price 25 million Hong Kong Dollars) and had a seafood feast.  Coming home it was the total scene of “Jesus calms the storm” as we wondered if we’d ever be able to get back on, but we did, and we survived.  It’s so hard to describe how we love being with these folks, even when it’s only for a few hours every few years.  I guess it’s a true picture of “God’s Family”

Next week you’ll either hear from us from the Philippines or from somewhere to be determined.  The Philippines are having some trouble with a little volcano just outside of Manila, so we’re watching the situation carefully. We think we might need to put a week or so between us and the becoming famous Coronavirus, now necessitating a state of emergency in Hong Kong, so that Australia will not think we’re contagious and let us back in!  Don’t worry, we’re taking every precaution, wearing masks and washing our hands like crazy.

Always appreciative of your prayers, we’re doing fine.  Marsha

Fresh Starts

It’s come to my attention that there’s a new book sweeping across at least America’s attention called “The Boy, the Mole” and something else that escapes me. I’m not sure what I think of it, since it’s only new, but while I was putting a hold on it at my library app, I looked at some of the illustrations. One jumped out at me, striking a chord in my heart long forgotten.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” asked one of the characters.

The boy’s answer was, “Kind”.

I remember answering this question in a Bible Study many years ago in an adult Sunday School class, and the lyrics popped into my mind of an old hymn from my childhood. Some of you will remember it:

“Out of the highways and byways of life, many are weary and sad”,

……………..and it goes on to the chorus:

“Make me a blessing, make me a blessing …………to someone today”.

Apparently that song had stuck in my mind, because I popped out the answer without thinking, “I wanted to be a blessing.”

This week in Singapore, we came across one of our old friends.  We haven’t spoken for over a year since we were here last, but this week she may have either intentionally or not, become a ‘blessing’ to us.

We always enjoy her and this time we were able to visit on a less than shallow level, and more importantly to articulate something that’s been bugging me for awhile.

Here’s my problem.  I’m not sure if I’m a blessing to anyone anymore. In fact, I’m not sure if I even am capable of thinking of others, of trying to reach out and make someone feel better.   Tommy Nelson, pastor of Denton Bible Church recently said this;

“You should get out of the ministry if you don’t care about people, because people are what God loves.”

I have to stop and wonder if this Cancer scare has knocked me around a bit more than I realize.  I seem to only think of myself these days.

As my friend and I talked about the plight we’re all in, she spoke of intentionally seeking out a spiritual mentor, (at the moment her mentor  seems to be a quiet and reserved Catholic Nun).

You see, she helped me understand, we ALL need a mentor.  A spiritual prod, someone to egg us along…….so that we can become, once again, a blessings to others. Sometimes in our lives, these people have shown up naturally, but more often than not we, without one, have become dry and self centered.

She and I went on to talk about the ‘forever foreigner’ problems that we as missionaries have.  Why? Because we share no common ground, no shared experience, with anyone except each other.  How true.  Except for my two kids, and perhaps some growing history thru their spouses, there is no one who shares our background. We are always on the outside looking in, trying to fit in. Sometimes it even becomes ‘comfortable’ to be non-accountable in some ways, but in the end it’s a pretty lonely existence.

This morning, we attended Grace Baptist Church, a place we’d visited some 30 years ago, pastored by a former employee of our IMB mission board.

As we sashayed in, dripping sweat from the steamy walk from the subway, we were alarmed to see the words emblazoned on the wall,

“Is there any part of my life that would benefit from a fresh start?”

Wow.  So all of you out there, I’ll be looking for that mentor, someone who will help me stop thinking only of myself and my plight……someone who’ll raise me up to God and His future plans for my life.

And bottom line here, when we get home in three more weeks, you can expect me (at least the 10’s of you who actually read this blog ) to show up at the potluck with the appropriate food, wearing the appropriate clothing and knowing who won the last football game.  I’m going to try to grow deeper and be less shallow and selfish.  Anyone want to take bets how long it’ll last?

We are fine, ready for the cruise in the morning and have really enjoyed our week here.  We’ll be back, Singapore!!

Next Sunday we’ll be at sea in the shark/pirate/and tour guide infested waters of Vietnam so don’t expect a blog.  Hopefully the next week, our Hong Kong friends will be waiting to ferry us to safety to land.  We love these guys so much!!

Tally Ho, Marsha