On the Road Again

As I was saying goodbye to my daughter-in-love on the phone, just before starting out on this “Darwin Escape” trip, I was whining that we didn’t know if we’d get on the plane (standby) or if they’d let us into the Northern territories (Covid).  To add to that (without taking a breath), I grizzled that the motor home people had emailed us to say our particular van that we’d ordered had ‘been in an accident’ and we might have to cancel.

Kylie, calm as ever, answered in a way that I could hear her smile, “You wouldn’t have it any other way”.

So we’ve been in Darwin three days now, having had a pretty smooth trip. I have my doubts about the couple behind us on the plane, tho. We could just overhear them saying to the policeman in the terminal, “Yes, we drove thru Sydney but hey! We never got out of the car!”

I’m guessing they’re now enjoying a two-week lockdown accommodation  at their own expense in a government appointed hotel.  I just hope they avoided the $4000 fine!

Anyway, it’s nice to be WARM!  Early this morning, Darwin even treated us to one of their classic thunder storms. Beautiful.

But as per our reputation, we’re having our usual dramas, although nothing too dramatic.  We haven’t rented a car because we’re still not sure about the motor home plans. We’ll find out tomorrow if they got it repaired, fixed up an upgraded rig, or canceled the whole thing. In the meantime, we’ve been walking everywhere because it’s such a small town.

However, to get to church this afternoon where we’ll meet an old missionary friend, and hopefully share a little with the folks there, we need to unlock the secrets of Darwin’s bus service. We tried a dry run last night, going to a nice beach a few miles away, but it was a classic fail. No bus, no taxis, and although we did manage to find an Uber, the system somehow didn’t like our credit card!

I think it’s significant that the following post popped up this morning while I was checking emails. It’s from a blog I posted 5 years ago, and it seems Kylie was right: we’ve never had it any other way!

Here’s what I wrote back in 2015: It’s pretty long so just skip it if you have enough life going on to be too busy! ha

Here it is:

Have you ever driven anywhere with a cat in the car? If so, then maybe you can relate to our journey these last couple of days across the endless miles from Maine to Michigan.

You see, we had the unlisted help of four ‘ladies’ in the car. We’ve named our various GPS systems “Nelda”, (the original Tom Tom model we bought when we landed in America), “Stephanie” (the onboard one installed in the rental car,) and two unnamed iPhone apps. I think they would be great, except that they don’t work just anywhere since they no longer have a phone service connected. That meant we had to stop somewhere and hook up to the internet before they’d talk to us.

Stephanie set us out on what she considered a 14-hour route to get us to Michigan before Tony was due at an online seminar (for his doctoral study) and then he was scheduled to preach at a Japanese church. Two easy 7-hour driving days. No problem.

We left the parking lot bolstered with courage, but there were already issues between the girls. One wanted us to go left, the other wanted us to go…….you guessed it, right. Of course most of these devices are very lady-like in that they won’t show you all their secrets until you stop, find an internet, promise them something and then find out what they intended to reveal about their ultimate plans … sometime later.

Eventually we found ourselves on an ever-narrowing dirt road somewhere in Vermont. I will admit that the scenery was breathtaking, but we needed to stay on task. We retraced our steps to the pavement and found a diner with a kindly waitress. “Oh, GPS’s don’t work here, too many trees”, she said as she used an archaic tool (her hand) to point the way. Off we went, full of blueberry pancakes and hope…….again.

I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but we gradually developed a routine: Drive about 2 hours, look at all the beautiful scenery, stop and find a place with internet and then have a consultation.

Attending the battle/travel planning meeting were our three “GPS Girls” while built-in Stephanie remained stuck in the car, pouting and plotting. We would of course ask her opinion when we came back to the car, but she claimed to have a “safety feature” that refused any discussion as long as the car was moving. So she said.

So off we’d go for another 2+ hours, craning our necks out the windows in search of moose or anything else of note. We did see a lot of trees and lakes……

Finally we came upon an Alfred Hitchcockian motel, complete with a set of “ne’re-do-wells” lounging in the dark along the railings. I went straight for our room, slammed and locked the door behind us After checking the shower while whistling the theme from “Psycho”, I collapsed on the bed. We’d been on the road for 13 hours and weren’t half way there.

Bright and early the next morning we dashed down to the office to check out the “free continental breakfast”. The “ne’re-do-wells” (who it turned out were some very nice middle-aged bikers trying to rediscover their youth) were already lined up, but we managed to grab a roll and a cup of coffee before hitting the road again. The sleep had renewed our resolve to ‘get this done’, and since Lake Erie was lapping to our left side, I didn’t think the GPS girls could squabble any today.

Wrong. Nelda insisted we were 7 hours from the goal, Stephanie? 14. The iPhone cheerleaders backed up Nelda, so we followed her lead.

Before the day was out, we had gathered BOTH our laptops, both phones and Nelda into the rest stop for a final summit meeting. Canada has lovely rest stops called ‘Enroute’. They’re clean, predictable, decked out with fast food and tourist information, and a real comfort when you’re going nuts.

All the girls agreed, except of course for Stephanie, who kept insisting that we needed to circumnavigate Lake Erie, adding about 700 miles! We’ve come to the conclusion that she’s all looks and no brain and we’ll be glad to send her back with the car when the rental is finished.

After just under nine hours, we arrived in Detroit, found the motel we’d booked online, and Tony managed to log into his seminar on time. While he was pontificating, I called our Japanese friend and found out that he was still in Kentucky, having missed his plane home from a business trip! Hopefully we’ll see him and his wife tomorrow, at least at church if not before.

So it seems getting from “point A” to “point B” is not always a simple matter. It often comes down to where you put your faith. For this trip, we were “loaded for bear” with a total of two GPS units, two iPhone map apps and two laptop computers. As I think about it, I believe we would have had better success if we’d found more friendly waitresses along the way to ply us with pancakes and point us in the right direction.

When the writer of Proverbs tells us, “By wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Pro. 24:6), I don’t think he had GPS devices in mind. There are those whose counsel is good and helpful, and those who if given the chance will take you down a dead end dirt road. We need to know whom we can trust, and who will lead us in the right direction.

Jesus said it well: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). If we’ll follow His lead, and the lead of those He provides, we can’t go wrong. Let’s keep our eyes on Him, read His Word and listen to His counsel.

So long from Darwin! We’ll hopefully have smooth sailing and will have stories to tell next week! Happy trails, Marsha

Beating the Odds

Today I want to begin to tell you a story about two young PK’s (that’s Preacher’s kids if you’re not familiar with the title).  Their names are Aeneus and Jeannie Gunn and they’d been married a few weeks when he took her and travelled through the Australian Outback, thousands of miles north to became the sole station manager of a very large cattle property called “The Elsey”. The year was 1902.
When I say “large”, I mean a 5334 square kilometer property.  That’s 2059 square miles for us non-metric folks. That’s 1,393,600 acres (That’s one million, three hundred thousand and change), which is about on par with several properties that still exist in Australia today.  One property that operates to this day, and borders on the one I’m talking about, is Brunette Downs, and has 110,000 cattle and 50 employees.
The history of this property began in the 1880’s with its “acquisition”  by a certain Abraham Wallace.  He lived there with his wife, and 13 children, only one of whom survived infancy.  He had driven 2700 cattle from the Brisbane area (where we live) to the property.  That’s just a mere 3,537 km, (2174 miles). It took him 18 months and he wrote that only about 100 cows died during the trek. Another 900 or so were left behind, either wandered off, or had calves and couldn’t keep up. They became what’s known today as “scrub bulls’, numbering in the tens of thousands, completely feral and sharing the land with the kangaroos, water buffalo, “banteng” sorta of like cow-buffalos, Brumby horses and any other mammal that doesn’t mind living on…..nothing. After a number of years, unfortunately, Abraham died under somewhat mysterious circumstances and the station was managed by a series of other people, who apparently didn’t make any mark.
Enter 1902 and the afore-mentioned lovely young couple. They lived happily for a year and a bit before Aeneus contracted cerebral malaria and died.  Jeannie had done well to establish herself as a capable woman (albeit the only white woman in the northern territory), winning the respect of the Aboriginal hands as well as the tough ol’ English and Scot cowboys.  But because she wasn’t up to the task of continuing as station manager (Among other things, the times dictated that she still wear long heavy dresses and ride side saddle), she reluctantly returned alone to her hometown of Melbourne.  She never remarried but remained faithful to God and her country, opened a school, worked with war veterans and prospered well into her 90’s.  She died in the 1960’s after the successful publication of several books about life in the Outback, enlightening and softening people’s attitude to the mysterious northern country.   I’m struggling thru “We of the Never Never” for the second time now (1900’s English) and am enjoying it immensely.
So why am I sharing this story with you? Two reasons:
First, I think we (and by that, I mean “I”) need to remember this Covid thing is not that bad.  People have survived in much worse circumstances, especially when their lives are centered around God.
And… because we’re hoping to VISIT the Gunn homestead next week!  We opted out of the horseback option, as well as the car. Our friends have driven it, but it’s about a 36-hour drive in the best of conditions, which frequently are anything BUT best. Also, the “Wet” is coming soon. No one can predict it very accurately, but when it arrives, the air becomes unbearably hot and humid, while the roads become impassable. So the plan is to drive only as far as Brisbane, leave the car at the airport and fly to Darwin. Even though the rest of the country remains in lockdown, flights to that part of the country are still running on schedule,.  Our daughter Nicki, a flight attendant, flies every day  mostly for the sake of accessing the active mines that dot northern Queensland.  Anyway, after we regroup in Darwin, hopefully ’seeing the sights’ if there are any, we’ll pick up a self-contained motor home, fill up all the spaces with food and water, and watch the map closely to make sure we stay on the approved roads and out of the forbidden tribal lands or worse yet, the dangerous 4WD only bogs.
We have a narrow window of opportunity here, since school holidays begin next week, and most of our home groups are taking a break. Besides that, this is just about the only travel option that’s available. We’re free to roam as much as we please, but have to stay in the states of Queensland and Northern Territories. But, at 1,853 million square miles,(each), we shouldn’t get bored.  There’s only been 24 cases of Covid recorded up there, so the Aussie attitude of “She’ll be right, Mate” applies. Oh, and the ‘rest of the story’ as Paul Harvey used to say… in the year 2000, the “uninhabitable land”, known as the Elsey station, was returned to its original owners, the Mangarrayi Aboriginals. They, being clever, have opened it to tourism, which is perhaps much more lucrative than running cattle.
Stay tuned! God is faithful,  Oh, and remember the little ONE surviving child of Abraham Wallace?  She grew up and today there are 14 of her legacy living throughout Australia.
Marsha
For some additional light reading.  mtwilson.com.au/documentation/historical-society/historical-society-papers/59-historical-paper-no-4-elsey-station-the-wallace-connection/file

Leaving Normal

So … if you wanted to drive from our house to Darwin, the capitol city of the Northern Territories, that would be like going from Charleston, South Carolina to Salt Lake City, a distance of 2,174 miles (just under 3500 kilometers). That mileage (to Darwin), is pretty well set, since there’s only one two-lane road. But there are plenty of variables along the way, such as kangaroos, camels, dingos and anything else that can run/hop/fly into your car. My map program happily says it’s only a 36-hour drive, but I think it may be discounting the occasional human presence that could slow you down considerably. “Road trains”, for example, are those notorious 5 and 6 trailered trucks that take up both sides of the road, and likely your windscreen, if you ever meet one. There are the rare road stops where you can buy gas, but to get to some of them, you need to enter tribal lands where necessary permissions must be obtained. On the other hand, I hear that those few outposts are required by law to provide you a place to stay if you need it, since sending a traveler away unprepared would be unthinkable.

I read somewhere that in 1948, the Northern Territories was offered to the Jewish nation as a possible place to settle after the war.  They had a think for a few minutes and declared it “NOT the Promised Land”.

And then when I thought I had heard just about everything, someone mentioned the other day the possibility of encountering “pirates” out in the middle of nowhere. Scenes from the movie, “Mad Max” come to mind, but considering how few pirates there must be out there, and the vastness of the territory they have to cover, the chances of running into one are pretty low.

Having said all that, in a couple of weeks, Tony and I are hoping to head out for Darwin. But fear not, we will NOT be driving, at least not from here. Our plan is to fly there, then rent a motor home and edge down a bit into that bit of Australia they call the “Top End of the Outback”. The Northern Territories is the only state (which is technically still a territory, hence the name) that borders on our own state of Queensland, and as of today is still possible to visit. There have only been 23 cases of Covid 19 out of 249,000 total population, so they’re not too worried. They figure that, with .5 people (that’s half a person) per square mile, social distancing is no problem.

The motor home idea seems like the best option, since we can pack all the food and water we need, and as long as we stay on the main roads, we should get along just fine. We opted not to rent a satellite phone, since SURELY help would come by eventually. Under the circumstances, even a pirate might be welcome…

We do need to get in and out before the “Wet” arrives, sometime in October. Monsoons come in with a vengeance, we’re told, and when that happens, everything comes to an abrupt halt until the roads dry out, which often takes weeks. Also, this is the best time to go, considering that the school holidays begin here, and a lot of our home groups take a break. A lot of them, including us, just feel the need to ‘get out of Dodge’ for awhile.

Last week, I quoted from Psalms 16:6, where he says that, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” Well, I suspect that what we’re about to experience is not one of those “pleasant places”, at least where physical comfort is considered. But that’s the point I want to make.

We don’t always seek experiences that only offer “comfort” as the draw. Earlier this year, Tony gladly agreed to consent to 39 treatments with the radiotherapy technician, not because they have the best beds in town but because, well, having radiotherapy beat the alternative! I heard during Communion at church this morning that during Passover, Jews look forward to having a big helping of “bitter herbs”, not because they taste so good, but because it reminds them of the bitterness of slavery and the goodness of God, Who rescued them out of it.

What’s the motivation for this little trip into the Outback? Well, for one thing, we’ve never been there, and never let it be said that I missed a chance to see some place new. Also, Australia is my adopted country; I think I have a responsibility to get in touch with the land and people with whom I’ve identified.

On another level, I have an on-going challenge to become all I’ve been created to be. That means gleaning God’s Word for any guidelines I can find. Maybe some early morning prayer times when I’d rather be communing with my pillow. Coming to grips with those parts of me I want to ignore, and with which the Holy Spirit will not let me.

There may be kangaroos jumping into my car, Road Trains threatening to drive me off the road, maybe even an encounter with some modern day Mad Max who would like to convince me to give it up and go home. But I want to keep on the road that God has set before me. Please pray for me, that I will be faithful.

I’ll pray for you, too. Let’s hit the road!

Marsha

PS: Next week I’ll give you the inspiring story (at least to me) of the Elsey Station, and a sweet little Baptist Preacher’s daughter that made a difference.  Then in the next week hopefully we’ll be there with some hands on information.  We hope to visit with a recently widowed fellow IMB missionary friend of ours and maybe Tony will get a chance to speak at her church.

Boundaries in Pleasant Places

Good morning!

This coming Tuesday, Spring will arrive in Australia. I’ve said this before, but this is the only country I know that has four distinct dates for the four seasons.  It’s quite rational, except that this morning, it was pretty chilly outside and didn’t feel like Spring was anywhere near!

Of course, I have to keep that in perspective. When I say “cold”, I mean that I had a wrap around my shoulders and decided to go back inside and put on stockings (nylons) because my legs were feeling it.

This morning, Tony was getting ready to preach twice, plus a third online version thanks to Covid restrictions. As we drove to church, he asked me, “When you made that decision to go into full time ministry, and then made it a condition of our getting married, did you ever dream how that would play out today?”

I thought about it for a minute and remembered a high school student in Tony’s class who announced that after graduation, he was off to Australia to start a new life! I wonder whatever happened to him?  For a Colorado girl whose biggest launch up until then was all the way over to Kansas to go to High School, Australia was synonymous to moving to the MOON!

And what did I know of Australia?  The only things we were taught in school was “Waltzing Matilda” in music class, pictures of unending nothing, sprinkled with kangaroos and kookaburras (who laughed).

How would I have been able to forecast that I’d one day be 70, traveling down the road with a healthy husband, snuggling against the light chill in the semi-tropical, coastal northeast corner of Australia called Queensland?  This of course was following a breakfast of toast and vegimite (brewer’s yeast spread) and looking forward to enjoying Sunday with lovely Christians who share the worldwide faith we uphold.  And don’t get me started about the kids and grandkids!

The Psalmist says it so well in 16:6, The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

There was no way when I was 16 years old I could have imagined that I would end up in such a beautiful place of my childhood wonder. I hadn’t even committed my life to His service, and yet God had it all worked out.

I don’t want to oversimplify things here and suggest that we have some kind of special “deal” with God whereby He guarantees a life free from all bad stuff. We have, after all, suffered devastating loss, with the death of our son, malignant melanomas, prostate cancer and a world of uncertainty. I’m waiting now for the results of a biopsy to see if I’ll join the ranks of so many Australians who love the sun and get some nice plastic surgery on my face! This Covid thing has upset a truckload of plans we had for this year, and still threatens more doom and gloom before it’s finished.  I could easily take those words of the Psalmist and twist them into something like, “The boundaries lines keep changing … where’s my inheritance???”

But I don’t do that because, regardless of what tomorrow brings, I know that God is there already, marking out the boundaries, preparing the way and making sure that His children are ready for whatever comes. It’s an inheritance we can all look forward to, and we can take heart, knowing that whether the lines fall in Kansas, Colorado or somewhere between Coolangatta or Murwillumba, by His grace, they will indeed be “pleasant places”.

Next week I’ll share with you some interesting things we’re learning about our country here.  We’re hoping to take a little ‘trip’ into that barren area of Australia that I first heard about back in high school, out near Kakadu, Mataranka and a gorge named after someone called “Katherine”.

Stay tuned!!  Marsha

Where’s the Meat?

I came across an interesting anecdote the other day about a guy who worked all day helping an elderly lady do some renovations on her house.  ”At the end of the day”, she promised him, “I’ll give you all you can eat Pizza!”

Well, that kept him going the rest of the day and into the long afternoon when his strength was beginning to wane. Finally the job was done. The young man sat down to rest, his mouth watering as he heard the sounds of rustling in the kitchen.

Soon the old grandma toddled out onto the veranda holding a tray. “This is my specialty!” she declared, beaming with pride. “And it’s in keeping with the special diet my doctor has me on. It’s a crustless, meatless and cheeseless pizza!

I was drawn to that story, because that’s exactly what Tony and I have been facing these last six months, determined to lay off anything cancer likes, in an attempt to starve it away, even if we inadvertently starve ourselves.

Sugar, meat, dairy products, most carbohydrates … well, let’s just say anything we like was off the table. As you know, we’ve gotten the all-clear, and of course the credit goes to God. But now we’re trying to re-assess our lifestyle to see what might be acceptable. The doctor (being a vegan) has encouraged us to stay on the diet, so in deference to his wishes, Tony grilled up a couple of racks of pork ribs the other day to celebrate. He insists that he’s now a “part time carnivore”, but I’ve got my eye on him.

And even though a big part of me today is screaming, “I WANT PIZZA!  I don’t want anything ‘cheeseless, meatless or crustless ever again”, I think there’s a Voice in my heart (whose Presence and Work continue to guide me every day), and the Voice is saying, “Enjoy life, but don’t be silly.”

Maybe this is too much of a stretch, but it seems to me that a lot of Christians have the idea that, since we live under Grace, we can do whatever we want, living a life that’s virtually “bulletproof”, thanks to our status as a child of God.  And with that I wonder if we take all of the ‘meat and cheese’ (real nutrition) out of what we believe, affecting how we live and worship? Are we making our churches so ‘ visitor friendly’ that we’ve lost any God-given  nutrition?

Speaking of stories, I was driving the other day when a very old song came on the radio. I smiled as I remembered the words.  The title of the hymn is  “I Love To Tell The Story”; I’m sure most of you know the words.  In the second or third verse the lines went, “I love to tell the story, for those who know it best …”

My mind jumped ahead, trying to remember the rest of the verse.  Was it “and they’re sick to death of it?” …..or was it, “They have it all memorized and they’ve moved on to better things?”

No, it goes, “…for those who know it best, seem hungering and thirsting, to hear it like the rest!” That speaks to me today, as I think of pizzas and chocolate milkshakes.

Lord, make me hungry every day for the things I really need.

Our pastor preached a great sermon last week. He said, GET IN THE WORD, STAY IN THE WORD…….it’s the MEAT of who you are.

Toodle loo

Marsha

PS, Try singing it:

I Love to Tell the Story (by Kate Hankey, 1866)

I love to tell the story, Of unseen things above
Of Jesus and his glory, Of Jesus and his love

I love to tell the story, Because I know ’tis true

It satisfies my longings, As nothing else can do

I love to tell the story, ‘Twill be my theme in glory
To tell the old, old story, Of Jesus and his love

I love to tell the story, For those who know it best

Seem hungering and thirsting, To hear it like the rest

And when in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song
’Twill be the old old story, that I have loved so long.

All the Lovely Little Bottles

As my sister and I enjoyed an early morning call, as we sometimes do,  my darling husband toiled in the kitchen making breakfast.  Since he’s been on this ‘cancer killing diet’ (over which we’re rejoicing, BTW, since it, along with lots of prayers, seems to have worked!), I’ve been making up a concoction of dried chick peas, nutritional yeast and some spices, which, if you squint your eyes and taste buds, looks and tastes remarkably like an omelet.  This has become Tony’s “Award Winning” specialty, along with his famous Texas BBQ (to which sadly, we’ve found no plant based substitute).

We sat down to enjoy the repast, but alas… Now, I’m not one to spit out food, but this time I had to make an exception. It tasted like PURE SALT!

I did my best to soldier on, trying not to offend the cook, all the time asking pertinent questions like “What exactly did you put in this magnificent omelet?” or, “Was your head with you the entire time?”  Finally we both had to give up.  He hurried to the kitchen just as I was wondering if this was what early onset dementia looked like.

“You won’t believe this!” he said with a look of triumph. “I grabbed the jar next to the omelet mix in the dark.  That jar was full of my powdered barbecue rub!”

Problem solved.  I remember a famous preacher once confessing that while his wife was running errands one day, he helped himself to some garlic bread, lavishing it generously from the bottle of olive oil, which fortuitously happened to be sitting right there handy by the sink.  Being a man, he gutted thru several slices while he watched the game.  When his wife came home, he confessed that he didn’t particularly like the flavor of the olive oil, to which she smiled and said lovingly (as wives sometimes do),  “That’s because the pretty olive oil bottle is full of dishwashing liquid!”’

Fortunately for us in the case of the omelet, only our blood pressure will suffer.

Now it’s a week after the great news I shared with you last time, and I know I need to get some perspective.  I was reading this morning how we Christians are often like spoiled children when we get a ‘miracle’.  You know, those times when your kids are sick, and for lack of anything else you can do, you pamper them with ice cream and cartoons.

Eventually, they get better, except that now they’re little monsters, demanding the same treatment as before. I can’t help but see a bit of myself in that picture.

This week we have experienced no special miracles, other than the fact that we’re alive, thriving, in love with God and each other, heaped on by fulfilling work to do and lots of friends and family to share good days with, albeit locked down at the moment.

I heard an interesting comment from Ravi Zacharias. It sounded familiar, but it re-struck me today. He said, “We are not people with souls, we are souls who just happen to be housed in people.”

Like the lovely olive oil bottle in the kitchen, my ‘house’ may look okay (especially with a little spit polishing), but I have to consider what’s inside. One bottle, just like one person, may look pretty much like any other bottle or person, but it’s what’s inside that counts.

Discovering what’s inside those around us can be a wonderful, uplifting experience. But at the same time, it can also be an opportunity for less-than-uplifting sharing. For example, today I came across a juicy piece of gossip and as most of you know, stuff like that just DEMANDS to be shared.

Okay, I’m not an evil person. I knew better than to run for the phone and pass along a little tidbit dressed up like a “prayer request”. I confess too that a fleeting thought crossed my mind: “Sharing this on my BLOG wouldn’t be the same as gossip. Besides, most of my readers don’t even know the people I run with. What would be the harm?

But the answer came pretty quickly. We’re all lovely bottles on the outside, but demeaning the contents of another diminishes us all. Like salt or soap, nobody wants it. Maybe I better start asking myself “what would my SOUL do?”

Hopefully we can all act like the soul that we are, in His image.  Let’s give it a go this week!

Thanks for listening, Marsha

Watch for Those Buses

I know we often quote Bible verses out of context at our peril, but allow me this once! I really like it, maybe because of its poetic nature. Jehoshaphat is addressing the people of Israel in II Chronicles 20, beginning with verse 5,

Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said: “O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?


This is how we felt this last week when the doctor confirmed that Tony is Cancer free and he sees no reason to think it will ever come back. “A few years ago, we would expect to see it again,” he told us. “But today with the technology we have, I’m confident that we saw all there was to see, and blasted it. Keep healthy and come back in six months.”

I was reminded that this is the doctor who we told at the beginning of all this that, “We’re pretty sure God is going to heal; we’re just not sure He’s going to use you.”

We did give him plenty of credit for his tools and the obvious skills he has in using them; but we also reminded him that a lot of folks have been praying for us, and if nothing else, the fact that Tony suffered no adverse side effects at all from the 39-part radiotherapy treatment is a pretty good testimony of the power of prayer!

As Tony said, looking back, “I can’t say I was afraid, necessarily. God, as always, has the last Word in these things. But the big thing I’m feeling now is the freedom from distraction. Nearly every day these past six months, we’ve had to structure our lives around this monster. Where can we go? What can I eat? What do I say to the family? The church? Now our lives are more, well, normal!”

I was trying to explain all this to our three grand boys, saying what a relief it is to be Cancer free. “Now if we just don’t step in front of a bus,” I said, almost under my breath.

“Mae?” my second grandchild asked, with just a hint of concern. “Can you get cancer from stepping in front of a bus?”

No, at least I don’t think so. But I do need to remember that we’re still as vulnerable to the thuds and thrills of life as we ever were. We’ve both had our “three score and ten”, after all, and each day from here on is just frosting on the cake.

But in the meantime, we’re well and truly back in the saddle, preaching, leading Bible studies, writing, and managing our newest project, The Road Rising Video Series. I’m sure you’ve heard all about it by now, but be sure to catch the latest 8-minute devotion, then hit the “Like” and “Subscribe” buttons. Here’s the link:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxSOUhlWYXAcUxkiAqlTc3Q

Covid is still keeping us pretty much house bound, although Queensland (where we live) has been a lot less impacted than other parts of the country. Be assured of our prayers for you, wherever you are. We look forward with you for the day when this will all be in the rear view mirror.

Love ya! And watch yourselves around those buses!

Marsha

Celebrate the Scars

This last week a friend of ours celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary.  I say “He” because his wife died a few years ago of an undiagnosed brain tumor just weeks after her retiring. It still breaks our hearts to think about it.  Many of you out there can identify with such a tragedy and know exactly what I mean.

I know I just keep saying this, but God has been SO good to us. One of the Bible studies that we lead has been looking at God’s idea of “Blessing”, and we’ve been amazed at all the references the Bible has to show us (there are many).

As our group studies together, over and over we keep coming back to that wonderful truth, that we’ve all been blessed.  Now I know, there’s a tendency among lots of churches these days to avoid that phrase, because when you say it, the unfinished thought that often communicates to others is, “…and you haven’t been.” We all agree that we would never want to make someone feel bad because of our happiness, but what are we to say?

Our 50th celebration last year meant the world to us and we’re happy to say it was a great success. I had really looked forward to that day for about, hmm……..49 years??  We’ve laughed at ourselves when we celebrate birthdays, and those are special times, to be sure. But when you compare the two milestones, you can’t help but think, “Okay, I’ve been alive for this many years, and that’s saying something. But when I can say, “I’ve stayed married for this many years, that calls for a real celebration!”

I won’t lie, this has been an ‘interesting’ year for all of us, especially with Tony’s surprise bout with cancer (we’ll get the final results in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned), and because a marriage is a living organism, there have naturally been times of distress and fatigue along with all the good stuff!!

I remember years ago when we lived in Colorado, our church had a “Jeep Club” made up of everyone with a four-wheel drive and a passion for testing their grit on some of the most challenging trails in the Rockies. It was on such a trip that I first fell in love with Tony, but that’s another story!

One of our church members bought a brand new Jeep Wagoneer and was anxious to join us for our next trip over the infamous Websters Pass. It’s an old miners track from the 1800s that hasn’t been maintained since the gold played out. At one point, the road leans so steeply to the left that we had to make the crossing one by one, with a half dozen or so people riding on the right side of the vehicle so it won’t roll into the valley. As the new owner lined up for the Saturday morning convoy, several folks came by to admire the vehicle, but mumbled to each other, “Umm, not a hash mark on it. Obviously he’ll be in for some surprises.”

As is often the case with our bodies as well, these folks treated the scratches and scrapes on their rigs with a mixture of pride and shame, with no lack of stories to go along with them.

I was recalling some of those “hash marks” in our marriage with a younger girl commenting about our anniversary (earlier in the week) and saying, “Oh, it’s just 51, no big deal”, to which she retorted, “It IS a big deal.  EVERY year, every minute IS a big deal!”

And she’s right.  So to celebrate this very big deal, Tony and I went up to Brisbane and grabbed a cheap hotel deal for the night.  When I say “Cheap Hotel”, it wasn’t like the ones we were limited to budget wise, when we were first married.  I remember one on our honeymoon stops where the room was only $3, but the love and excitement made up for it.  NOW, a ‘cheap hotel’ means that with Covid everyone’s trying to keep in business so the 5-Star, best of Brisbane, was going for a song. At our age, we NEED the spa, the down comforters, all that…….. When they figured out it was our anniversary, they even sent Champagne to the room.  We’ll have to figure out if we can use it as hand sanitizer!   It’s still winter here and it’s still Covid Crazy, but we figure that things may very well get worse before they get better, so we’d better live for the days we have.

I guess that’s a good way to look at everything, don’t you think? Enjoy the blessings. Be proud of your scars and the things they taught you. Praise God for both, and especially for the ones you can share with someone who has been a part of them with you.

Bless ya bunches,

Marsha

Prisoners of Hope

You may remember my confession last week … something to the effect that from henceforth I will stop trying to “micro manage” my happiness. At best, it can be both frustrating and time wasting, as I try to keep my assorted ducks in a proper row; on the other end of the scale, I think it borders on sin when I replace my trust in God for the never ending quest to be happy, healthy and wise.

Well, not coincidentally, I came across a passage in Zechariah this last week – God’s words to Israel in captivity- but maybe also speaking directly to me. It goes like this:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.  As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.

All in all, it’s a great passage of Scripture, talking about the coming King and the covenant we have with Him. But it was that last bit that grabbed my attention; that part where the captives (Israelites back then; and by association, us today) are referred to as “prisoners of hope”.

I mean, we all understand when someone is talking about “prisoners of war” or these days, “prisoners of a virus”, and depending on your political persuasion, “prisoners of lunatics”. But what does it mean to be a “prisoner of hope”?

We continue to live in a COVID-colored world.  Today our church finally trialed it’s first service in 19 weeks.  We were nervous.  Restrictions seem to be changing daily, usually for the better, but not always. We were finally told that we could sing as a group, provided we maintained the proper distance, and save our socializing until we get out of the building.

I have to say, it was a great day, even though we had to stay vigilant. We were happy, though, because the lessening of restrictions means that things are getting better! And I was wondering this week what those pitiful Israelites, drug off once again to Babylon, had to be happy about? But look what God called them: “Prisoners of HOPE!” No matter how tough things get, God reminds them, better days are coming.

And the same is true for us. We still put up with a lot. And if it’s not viral, then it’s other health issues, financial repercussions, things that need fixing, from the car to the house to strained relationships. All these things can pile up until we almost feel like we’re headed for Babylon.

But we have hope. In fact, it’s hope based on a promise; a promise from God Himself, Who tells us, “Listen, I haven’t forgotten you and I never will. You’ve got My assurance, and that’s not going to change. Yes, you are a prisoner: a prisoner of Hope!”

That said, I guess we can decide how we’re going to feel about what’s happening around us.  I wrestle daily with my longings for my old way of life, and yet, I was encouraged today to think … and hope … about what the future might hold.  Can you ‘dream’ a bit with me? Imagine HOW God is going to turn things around in your life, write it down for future reference, then as things continue to improve, thank Him for His goodness.

Your fellow prisoner,

Marsha

A Cheerful Giver

Three Missionaries walked into a bar…..

Now that I’ve got your attention, let me continue:

It was actually three missionary families and we walked into a city park.  Back in our days in Sendai, Japan, there were only about 100 foreigners in a town of a million and most of us were immersed in Japanese ministry. As a result when we could occasionally get together with other English speakers, it was a real treat.

This particular occasion, a few of us decided to have a combined birthday party for the kids among us. We would bring whatever food we could to the park, share it, and then since we were across the street from Sendai’s one and only MacDonalds restaurant, we would go and get some things for the kids to enjoy.

The three families that gathered that day represented, by coincidence, the three variations of financial support on the mission field.

#1 was Us.  Fully supported with a living wage from our mission board, the Southern Baptists. They decided that their missionaries worldwide would be provided an equal amount of “buying power” no matter where they lived, with the stipulation that they would not supplement the amount by working extra jobs or going directly to the churches to ask for more. It’s called the “Cooperative Program,” and it actually works pretty well.

Group #2 are those families who “do deputation”, speaking at churches, visiting donors, working side jobs etc. The money raised is then distributed to the missionary from a central agency, who helps by filling in shortfalls if necessary.

And then there’s  #3, when the missionary receives each month exactly what they manage to raise. If Granny Smith forgets to pop your $50 in the mail, then they’re $50 short that month.  It’s this last group who are most often described as “Faith Missionaries”.

On this particular day in Sendai, all three plans were represented within our group. We loved working together and helping each other in all ways.  There was no “division” as far as we were concerned; we did what we needed to do, and helping whenever help was needed.

Now as I said, Tony and I represented that first tier, working alongside our friends who were supported from tiers 2 and 3.

We all arrived at the party, and there was much hilarity. Then it was time to move on the MacDonalds. Only then, it came to light that the middle family (Tier #2, with a salary) had misunderstood the plan and had no money with them.

My Tier 3, Faith Missionary friend, jumped up and said without any hesitation, “Since we were all planning on getting Macdonalds, we’ll just get your kids’ food too!”

He and I somehow were appointed to lead the rowdy gang across the street. I was rehearsing what I would say to the forgetful family’s kids… something like, “OK you rascals, you may have one plain burger each and that’s it …” all the while dreaming up more unkind ways to punish them for their parent’s oversight.

Then I heard my friend (Remember? The one who didn’t know where his next meal was coming from) say warmly, “Here you go kids, just step up and order whatever you want!”

I crawled behind the group as we all made our way back across the street. I was so humbled by the one who actually lived his life by faith, and who had so much more joy than me.

Jesus talks a LOT about the condition of the heart, and what makes a generous spirit.  In the end, we all raised our children, and are now loving retirement and grandkids. Regardless of the income stream we lived under for so many decades, I’d say we’re all equally blessed. If we could, we would jump at the chance to get together again, and I’m sure if any one of us was having trouble coming up with the finances, the rest of us would see to it that we could all make it. Thankfully these days, we have social media to keep in touch, but a part of me wonders if that generous missionary didn’t have an easier time through it all, because he chose not to be burdened down with little things like, “Where is my next meal coming from??”

In the words of another missionary kid in Sendai, after we had babysat their large tribe for the evening, “Oh we had a lot of fun; I just wish Mrs. Woods could relax!”  Ouch.

Maybe I’m my own worst enemy!  Something to think about this next week.  Do we limit our own happiness trying to micro-manage every situation?

I’m going to sit back now and re-read 2 Corinthians 9:6-8,

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Cheerfully,

Marsha