Keep on Steppin

Last week I mentioned the advertisement that talks about the millions of steps we take in a lifetime, followed by the quote by Hugh Jackman, “However, it’s not the number of steps that matters; it’s where they take you.”

I thought about that statement at one of the churches we visited in Fiji the other day. It was in Suva, the capitol city of the country. We were met and carted around by a wonderful man who had served as Fiji’s Minister of Foreign Relations, as well as Ambassador to both Papua New Guinea and then Japan.  We had a lot of fun with him and his wife talking about all their experiences “in the service”.

But the real thrill was watching him talk about evangelism.  He’s just retired from the government, and is finding plenty of work to do with the churches around the country. He’s even helped start a new one in his home, made up mostly of international students from all over Asia and the South Pacific.

As he talked about these students, you could see the passion in his eyes. He and his wife have a lovely home, which of course is open all the time to students. The large living room was dominated by a huge white board completely filled with Bible study notes from a recent gathering. Wherever we wanted to sit, we’d have to move stacks of Bibles and other teaching materials first.

Downstairs, an Asian man with an interesting story lives in this former ambassador’s office, books and papers moved aside to accommodate a small cot in the corner. I mentioned him in a blog a few weeks ago, recalling that he had been swindled out of an enormous fortune and had been left high, dry and penniless. Unwilling to return to his homeland in shame, he is now staying here, rent free, devoting his time to learning more about the faith that is so obvious throughout the home. He has already made a profession of faith in Jesus as his Savior, and is now working through the Bible to learn more about his new Lord and Master.

Hearing about this man’s “ baby steps”, and how the family has taken him in, fed him and showed him a reason to hope, I couldn’t help but feel myself shrinking in horror and ‘concern about my own safety’ as that Pharisee would have who passed by on the other side, rather than take a chance to see the potential of this man and reach out to be part of such a classic blessing.

The ambassador says he’s teaching the unfortunate man “English, manners, and how to apply for a job”.  I had to marvel at the possibilities I was seeing right here before me. As this man pulls up from the rough patch that he’s been thrown into, I can just imagine him growing as a Christian, learning to love and forgive, and someday, Lord willing, returning home to family and friends with a message in his heart worth far more than the fortune he came with. And … as a bonus, when he does go home, it will be to a place where traditional missionaries could never hope to go. What a blessing in the making!

This home church has grown and is now meeting on Sundays down the road at a Korean church. They start the worship service at 7:00 am, in order to be finished before the Koreans arrive at 8:30 for services that will last the rest of the day and probably into the night.

When you enter the sanctuary, you can’t help but notice that the front wall of the sanctuary is covered with a huge mural of the world.  Superimposed over the world is a lot of bold Korean lettering.

The ambassador-become-pastor said to Tony. “I’ve pointed out to the Korean pastor that even though I can’t read Korean, I know what it says because there at the bottom I see, “28:19-20”. Laughing, the Korean pastor said, “And now all you have to remember is the first word: ‘GO’”

Isn’t that true of the great commission?  All Jesus was saying was “Go”.  In any and every language! I spent the rest of the day thinking, “What does ‘Go’ really mean?”

And I’ve decided that it means, “move outside yourself”.  You can ‘GO”, as we did, to Fiji, or you can ‘GO’ next door, you can “GO” to someone in your family, someone right on the couch beside you………… It’s just that simple.

And even though Jesus wasn’t specific, in the “going” you receive a huge blessing, so that makes it worth the trip don’t you think?

We had a lovely time in Fiji and accomplished our goals to help in the ministry, do some writing and then some relaxing.  We returned safely and started on the doctor visits. I will meet with the specialist this Wednesday to try and find out why my body chemistry seems to be bouncing all over the place, but I’m not too concerned.

Tony, on the other hand, has already been once and told to go back this next Thursday for an MRI because the doctor feels “pretty certain” that his prostrate has turned cancerous. We’ll hold off on that until we know more, but in the meantime we do appreciate your prayers. It is of some comfort that so many of you have already walked this road, but still, it’s a bit hard (I’m guessing) for the ‘invincible man’ part in him.

As Tony says, “Now it’s time to live what we’ve been preaching: know that the Lord is the last Word in all things. He’s put us on this road, and in His will, in His time, He will take us off it and on to be with Him.”

Until that time, Praise the Lord for the journey!

Keep on steppin,

Marsha

Landfall

Recently I saw an ad for an Australian clothing company, R.M. Williams.  This name is as familiar here, particularly with men’s clothing, as Stetson or maybe Brookstone Brothers is in the States. (I don’t really know because we hardly ever buy name brands).

Anyway, it’s just a man walking.  All you can see are his boots. The narration goes like this:

“The average person will take 216,262,500 steps in his lifetime.  That’s 110 thousand kilometers, or 4.4 laps around the earth.  However, it’s not the number of steps that matters, it’s where they take you.”

And then the camera pans up to the well-known and adored face of Hugh Jackman, complete with his “Greatest Showman” smile.

But already the information has taken hold by then, “It’s not the number of steps, but where they take you.”

Our steps have already taken us to a heap of pleasant places. This last Monday we left the Fijian churches in the capitol city of Suva and bucked and galloped our way in a tin boat across a shark filled strait over to a deserted (almost) tropical island just off the coast of the mainland. The ‘crossing’ of 45 minutes was so rough that even though my feet never moved from where they were twisted around a pole, my phone app recorded that I had traveled a little over 4 kilometers and climbed 4 flights of stairs.  I guess you get points for tensed muscles, screaming and holding on for dear life!

Where it ended up was as idyllic as the pictures we’d seen and we were able to settle in and begin sloughing off layers of tension. There is no TV on this island, and it’s graced only with a modicum (pun intended) of internet, next to the office, at certain unpredictable times in the day. The electricity stayed on the whole time, but water was sporadic; hot water even more so. And the daily meals are announced with a drum. If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. It was one of the best weeks we’ve had in ages. You know what I mean? Those times when the biggest concern the whole day is whether or not I’ll get the soap out of my hair before the water goes off.

This morning I sat for almost an hour and just thought about the goodness of God. And in this reflection, I realized that it’s become so apparent that God brought us here to this marvelous island country of Fiji.  I can’t reiterate enough how much I’ve been impressed by these people’s relatively unfettered lifestyle and love for God. I hope to return home tomorrow rested and rejuvenated.

It might be a good thing because this next couple of weeks we both face a battery of exams from specialist doctors. We’re not sure what’s going on with either of us; we both feel fine, but some of our numbers are skewed, so further investigations are necessary.  Also the school board that Tony’s been enjoying so much is now, well, not so much fun, thanks to a few well-meaning but totally uninformed critics who have made it their mission to bring the school down. They won’t, but I expect there will be plenty of stresses waiting for us when we get back.

I had to chuckle at this morning’s Bible reading, from 2 Timothy 3:6-7.

For among them are those who make their way into households and captivate silly women, overwhelmed by their sins and swayed by all kinds of desires, who are always being instructed and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

I guess some of these problems have existed since the dawn of time!  I’d just like to say that we’ve been glad to be mostly been out of internet reach.

But now the reality is back.  Thank you for your prayers as we travel home tomorrow.  If you will, please pray specifically for (1) a peaceful resolution down at the school, (2) some good news from Tony’s specialist, and (3) a handle on what’s causing my own lab numbers to keep bouncing around.

We love you all, and appreciate so much that we can know you’re praying for us, even as we remember you in our own prayers!

Love ya,

Marsha

Men in Skirts

This is the end of our first week in Fiji.  The next time you hear from me we’ll have landed back in Sydney, hopefully safe and sound.

We have spent a lot of time with some lovely people, both in groups and individually.  At one point I caught myself saying, “When we come back”.  I’m not sure where that came from but I have to be honest, I think we’d be open, at least for some more visits.

I had a ball at the ladies meeting that lasted pretty much all day. It’s amazing how we can relate when we have the same Father. There were so many stories of their faithfulness to God and His faithfulness to them.  Many told of how they’d come to the Lord, or how their family had. We had a lot to talk about (and a lot to eat…..and oh yes, there might have been some Fijian dancing as well).

If you’ve looked on a map because you’re as clueless as I am about where in the world Fiji is, you’ll find it WAAAAY out in the middle of the South Pacific, sort of all alone unless you zoom in. Then you’ll realize there are a myriad of islands out here, many claiming Fiji as their country, but also lots of others, with names at least I have never heard of. Yesterday we went to the museum and saw the tiny little catamaran dugouts that even still occasionally sail from island to island.  The movie “Castaway” with Tom Hanks was filmed on one of these islands.

This morning Tony preached at two churches, the first one full of people from all over these various islands.  Tongans, Samoans, other Fijian islands, many coming here for higher education, and finding Christ in the process   We heard the beautiful testimony of a Tongan couple who prayed their way into scholarships and have just graduated here, she with a MA in Business and he as a Physical Therapist.  The give all the credit all to God. Another story I didn’t get all the details of is a young man who came here from that really big country that’s been in the news with Trump lately, and thru an unfortunate turn of events he was financially destroyed.  Somebody found out and he was led to Christ by these folks and is building back his life.  His smile is infectious.

That service was at 7:00 am.  Then we had a BIG breakfast with everyone and hastened over to another place and had another service in a more established church.   Again, the room was filled with beautiful people, wearing phenomenal clothing.  I tried not to keep staring at all the gowns, and like last week, the men were all in Sulas, which I’m told are a lot cooler than trousers. The music was superb ,even when we suddenly went acapella because the power went out, again.   Tony talked at length after the service with the Elders about bringing in seminary training as well as our discipleship book, Anagaion.  Pray for these life-changing decisions.

I was also impressed to find so many levels of society here that are dedicated Christians.  Hotel maids, waitresses, taxi drivers and then all the way along to highly educated and confident professors, sophisticated world travelers who could discuss things where I was struggling to keep up, and could rattle off countries where they had children and grandchildren.  One of the pastors is a former Ambassador to Japan!  Several other pastors are high up in a number of Para-church organizations as well as being successful businessmen.  Christianity is really for everyone here.

And now we’re ready for the third part of our trip, having completed our time with the churches, and with a good start on the “writing” we wanted to get done.  Tomorrow we’ll board some sort of boat, (hope it’s not a dugout) and toss and bob across a shark filled straight to Beqa Island, (pronounced for some reason “Benga”.) They say it’ll take 45 minutes and the seas will be ‘high’……oh joy.   We hope we arrive dry and in time to have several days of more writing but also some sun and fun in the ocean and surrounds.  We’ll let you know how it goes.

I haven’t mentioned the food, which you know we love. Well……all I can say is AMAZING!  I’m going to be cooking up some KoKonDa (fish marinated in lime juice and coconut). Everyone here drinks the famous (and reportedly robustly healthy) Fiji water, but I am sticking to “Boo”, or raw coconut with a straw.

Again, all I can say about Fiji is that God is here and is at work in ways we don’t often see.  We have been blessed and encouraged. As I’m typing this in the hotel room, I can hear a team of gospel singers belting it out just a few blocks away.  Last night we went down and listened to them.  We can’t understand the words because they’re in Fijian, but we can certainly understand the Spirit of God.

I learned the word for “Goodbye” today but have already forgotten it.  I’m taking that as a sign that maybe I’m not meant to say goodbye to this place!

Laters, Marsha

By This They Will Know

Bula (Hello) from Fiji!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love ya,

Marsha

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

Dark Days

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

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

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

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

Why the young?  Why the good??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marsha

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

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

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

Springtime: Fathers, Snakes and Ants

Good morning all,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t like ants.

Marsha

Moving Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope you have a wonderful week!

Marsha

One More Mountain

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

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

From August 10, 2014:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marsha

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

Have a safe and dry week!

Golden Celebrations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marsha

Finally Fitting Together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did Patti tell you?”

“Tell me what?” he asked.

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

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

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

Marsha