Breastplate of Righteousness

Last week we thought about the belt of truth.

That takes me back to an earlier story in 2 Kings 6. Remember that poor servant of the prophet Elisha? All he could see was the surrounding enemy, and all he could say was (loosely translated), “We’re gonna die.” All it took, though, was a good dose of truth, and the realization that “there are more with us than there are with them” (6:16). I hope you’ve all had occasion to throw that verse at your own circumstances, and take comfort in its truth

This week Tony decided to lead the way amongst our friends and have the first cataract removed.  I know many of you out there can relate to the pure JOY he feels now that he can see clearly again. He had no idea (as he’s been reminding me over and over and…) how the years had gradually clouded down his vision until what he thought was ‘normal’ was indeed pretty compromised.  Now he’s leaping and dancing around because he’s seeing leaves and colors again. The doctor told him that cataracts ‘suck up all the blues and greens’ in our vision, and that’s what he seems to notice more often. His very first “deer in the headlight” vision came when he looked out back and realized that our neighbor’s fence was blue, and not the dark gray he thought it was.

And I think that Tony’s experience is not too different from that of Elisha’s servant, in terms of shock and awe. For the servant, though, the experience was even more significant because he really thought all was lost. In Tony’s case, the deterioration was so gradual, he had to have the surgery before he could realize the truth of his condition.

That brings us to the next ‘item of armor’: the Breastplate of Righteousness.

Many years ago, Tony’s mother had a heart attack that went bad. She survived, but the triple bypass went septic and it began to look like it was going to get the best of her. Mind you, this was about 20 years ago and medicine has (hopefully) gotten better. Back then, the  only option available was to was to remove the infected breastplate, that protecting bone we call a sternum.

As dramatic as that seemed, the surgery seemed to have turned the tide.  She healed up nicely, even having plastic surgery afterward to make her look all pretty again.

But now she had no sternum.  Many of us don’t give a lot of thought to this predicament, but with no breastplate, your heart and lungs (pretty important organs, after all) are wide open to the slightest sneeze or cough or grandchild’s knee.

The solution was for her to strap on a child sized catcher’s vest,  especially when she rode in the car where a tap on the brakes could have wreaked havoc with her and the diagonal seatbelt.

So in Ephesians 6 :14,Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness”,  I think it’s interesting that  Paul only mentions it as he talks about the belt, almost as if we should know what the “Breastplate of Righteousness” is.

One comment you sent last week (Thank you! BTW), was that by filling our tool belt with memorized Scriptures, we can quickly access them and know right away what is the right approach to the things that come our way.

We don’t have to look far to see practical applications. As I overheard my 10 yr old grandson asking his mother about a man he came across who was wearing eye makeup, my heart hurt for the world he’s growing into.  HOW he needs this breastplate of knowing what Righteousness is and being able to use it properly.

Pray with us all as we venture forth.  We have Australian elections here next week and most of these same issues I’ve mentioned above are at stake in the people we vote for.  Then in just another couple of weeks, the fate of our American way of life hangs in the balance. Regardless of who is elected, we’ve been promised that No One is going to take it lying down. How we need to be praying!

Keep the faith, Marsha

Getting the Job Done

Okay, I promised you that we’d take a walk together through the armor of God in the next few weeks. Let’s go: As I read Ephesians 6, the first thing that leaps out is that Paul is referring to powers and principalities that are not of this world. And, when I think about it, that fact of life is becoming more and more apparent these days. I also think it’s a sign of the times.  Maybe I’m oversimplifying here, but it seems that there was a time when life, as we know it,  was more tied to spiritual values. Some folks call it “superstition”, but it’s more than that. Then, as “science and logic” picked up, Satan had to pick up his game and come at us in more subtle ways. Now, though, as Revelation prophecies begin to be fulfilled, he has to “go back to the basics and pull out the more overt spiritual attacks.  We’re seeing things happening now that in the past generation were just not so much a part of life, (late term abortion for example) and it tends to create in us an uneasy sense of fear. What’s looming ahead? How can I protect myself? “Glad you asked,” says Paul. “Listen up.” First of all, note the words he’s using, like, “Take Up” and “Put on”.  He isn’t saying we have to go out and “try to get” or even that we have to “ask” or “pray” for these things.   Why?  I believe that Paul believes we already have this armor, given to us at the moment we become children of the King.  The only thing lacking is our “taking” up of what we already have. But that’s not to suggest that it’s just a case of ‘getting dressed’.  You’ll remember last week I talked about Magellan’s state of his armor?  Here was a guy who possessed it already.  He didn’t need to order it from China and wait for it to arrive. What he needed (and what for him was his fatal flaw) was the proper instruction about how and where to put it on … like not while standing in waist-deep water. So this last week Tony and I had a “Sleepover” (as the grandkids called it,) at our kids’ house.  Nathan and Kylie were due for a getaway for their anniversary and they kindly planned it in a busy time with the boys where there’d be little need for us to use our imagination to keep them entertained.  That was good, because they have plenty of energy…and we may fail in the imagination category, especially if we were to get into a panic.  As I lay on the floor, momentarily exhausted from just picking them up from school, little Micah, aged 4, was ‘working’ in his room. Each of the three boys is uniquely different, and Micah is our “Tool Man”.  As soon as he knew how to blow raspberries, he was attaching the sound to any and everything he could pick up and use as a power tool.  Until he gets just a little older, we have to hide the key to the ride-on mower, because there is no doubt that he would try – and eventually succeed – at getting that thing started. But I had to laugh as I watched him survey the situation in his room, then went and got his trusty tool belt.  After a little help getting it buckled up in the back, he was off to work. I couldn’t help but marvel at his ability to assess the right tool for every job, and then without looking, reach to the right place, every time. Speaking of belts, Ephesians 6:14 says, “Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth.” As Tony would say, “That’s a sermon that will preach itself.” And I expect that he hasn’t even considered the half of it. Give it some thought, and help us flesh it out, will you? I love your comments.God made each of us with a need to know the truth. It’s a heart-level desire, and we can thank Him for installing it in each of us.  Along with the need are the tools required to make the most of it. His Word and people’s experience will confirm that, I feel certain. Have a blessed week, CYA next time! Psa. 119:160 The sum of your word is truth;and every one of your righteous ordinances endures forever.

It Only Takes a Drop

So I was thinking about preachers this week. Besides being married to one, our circle of friends contains a lot of folks who either were, still are, or hope to be preachers. I’ve even been accused of being a preacher myself, but as a Southern Baptist woman, that idea doesn’t fly very far. Be that as it may, I don’t see anything against “pontificating” about this or that, and in fact a lot of folks would say that’s what I’m doing right now, through this blog. Not preaching tho. Nope.

Anyway, I heard somewhere that there are two types of preachers: those who open their Bibles, lock onto Scriptures and preach out of them. That is called exegetical hermeneutics….. I think. Then there are those who look around at life, find a sermon, then open their Bibles and find the appropriate Scripture to match. Tony insists that it’s not that simple, but that the best preaching comes from both the written Word and the lives that illustrate it. All the preacher has to do is tie the two together, add a poem and an appropriate invitation hymn and voila! The Word comes alive.

Anyway, recently (Ok, it was earlier this year when we could still travel), I came by a story that caught my attention. It was begging for a Scripture to connect to it, and after a LOT of thought and prayer, the idea for a few blogs started forming.

But first the story. We were in the Philippines and we came across a plaque commemorating Magellan and his visit back in March, 1521. Now if you paid attention in history class, then you probably all know about him. He was a Portuguese sailor, and is credited with being the first European to circumnavigate the globe. There’s actually a pretty good case being made for an earlier Chinese expedition, but unfortunately they didn’t have any plaques made up.

And when you dig a little deeper, you find that, while Magellan was Portuguese, he couldn’t get his country to fund his adventures, so he went to Spain. See also Columbus at about the same time. If you were a good little American school child like me, you’ll remember the jingle, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

So how was it that Magellan didn’t finish the course? It seems he got into a battle while in the Philippines with some indigenous people who weren’t too keen on letting him claim the country for Spain (or for Catholicism for that matter, but that’s another story).

He and his crew got off their boat, which was anchored on the beach, and waged a strategic attack, utilizing all the vigor of the trained soldiers that they were.

They were outfitted with all the latest equipment, including some pretty impressive armor, and considered themselves invincible against a few puny spears and arrows. Unfortunately for Magellan, though, it wasn’t the spears and arrows that he should have been watching, but rather the surf he plunged into. While Spanish armor is formidable on the field of battle, it can be a distinct disadvantage when you’re standing in waist-deep water. Google doesn’t go into a lot of detail about that day, but the Philippine account seems to take great delight in describing the poor man and his valiant but not-so-thought-through attempt.

The sermon I’m seeing here, and which has plenty of scriptural reference to back it up, involves underestimating the power of an unexpected and insidious enemy. For Magellan, it was water mixed with a porous suit of armor. But we don’t have to look far to see other threats all around us. Right now, the world is battling a germ that can’t even be seen with the naked eye, and on a different level there are those sidelong glances, those barely audible comments and those spiritual attacks that many insist don’t even exist much less pose a threat.

So help me out here. Give me some hints, and let’s see what we can produce. The poem and hymn can come later.

The Whole Armor of God (Ephesians 6: 10-13)

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of [b]the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Have a good week and keep your armor dry,

Marsha

Croc Bites

Well, we’re back safe and sound from our ‘big adventure’ in the outback.  From the sounds of things, our neighbors had a bigger adventure than we did, since the forested “green belt” behind our house decided to burn itself up. Check my Facebook page for pictures.

And if that wasn’t enough, our kids got together and did a “home makeover” in our absence, involving a lot of yard work, but also a radical transformation of my office, complete with new furniture, new curtains and “junk organization” that I had been putting off for years. The Aussies have an expression for how I felt: Gobsmakered. And I was … totally.

If we had known all this was going on while we were away, we might have been as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, but we didn’t, and our Outback Adventure was nothing short of magical. Motorhome life was surprisingly luxurious, possibly spoiling us against all future camping treks. But I have to admit, we breathed a huge sigh of relief when we drove the city bus-sized rig back into its starting place, clean and unscathed (well, mostly).

An underlying theme in the Outback seemed to be, stay alert and be careful.  Each day found us tromping thru dry and hot desert, broken by anthills the size of two-story buildings, and (unrelated) fire ants that seemed to have been waiting their whole lives for my arrival.

The landscape was broken occasionally by beautiful billabongs, those places where a dry riverbed makes a twist and starts holding water. They are indeed fantastic places where you just have to stop, and the only thing that would make them better would be if the 4 and 5 METER long crocodiles wouldn’t find them so inviting as well. At one place we stopped, there was a sign that said it was okay to fish, but never EVER get closer than five meters from the water. Seems those Jurassic leftovers can jump out of the water up to three fourths of their body length! We did take a tour on a boat that traveled through dozens of floating crocs. The guide said, “I’m required by law to tell you about our life preservers, but let me add this: NEVER get out of the boat, even if it’s sinking. People have swum in this water, but never for more than a few minutes. Anyone who sets foot in this river has a 3% chance of coming back out.”

The guide then pointed out a number or bright red buoys floating randomly in the water, about the size of a large soccer ball. He had us guess what they might be and we came up with nothing.  He told us they were “crocodile buoys”, in the water for the sole purpose of attracting the crocs, who, being very curious, will give them a bite to see how they taste.  Not liking the taste of polyurethane, they’ll spit them out and move on.  The guides come around occasionally and measure the bite imprints, which gives them an idea of what’s in the water and big they are.

Message was received, loud and clear, and every time we stopped somewhere in the middle of nowhere, we were reminded that “My help comes from the Lord” (Psalms 121:2), since it obviously won’t be coming from anywhere else for awhile. It was a gentle reminder that yes, we do need each other.

Every soul we met wanted to chat, sometimes interminably it seemed.  It was sad to realize we’ve really become ‘city slickers’ and yet, those lives we lead in close proximity to others can be a real asset.

So I was reminded of the places in the Bible where we are encouraged to “know our enemy” (see below).

Our guide also showed us a crocodile trap. It’s just like the bear traps I’ve seen in Colorado, but about half submerged in the water, complete with a big fish or some red meat as bait. When a big critter is caught, he’ll be moved along either to a more remote tourist and cattle-free area, or else he’ll go to a farm where he’ll be fixed up into a nice wallet.

The guide beamed as he reported that every year the crocs are getting bigger and bigger, which (at least to him) is a good thing because the species is recovering from years of being hunted nearly to extinction.

In the words of my husband, “I’m sure there’s a sermon here somewhere”. Like, where are the ‘crocodile buoys in your life?  Have the things you’ve chewed on left an impact for others to see? What consequences will follow?

I watch my little grand boys growing up in a world that seems to have no warning signs left.  I often wonder if I or the next generation have enough Biblical Background in us to ‘WARN” us when the dangers appear.  I think of the verse in the Bible that describes Satan so well.  Here in Australia you just have to use the word Crocodile where the Lion is!

1 Peter 5:8,  “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

Or also in Job 1:7,  ”Where have you come from?” said the LORD to Satan. “From roaming through the earth,” he replied, “and walking back and forth in it.”

So think with me how we can check our buoys for croc bites.  I’m writing this for my self as well as anyone else.

Are we getting complacent with all this Corona stuff, thinking it’s easier to catch a podcast rather than dragging ourselves out to church? Doing that robs you of your chance for fellowship, and yes, for accountability.

Are our attitudes towards what we once considered real sin changing and numbing with the times?

Are we too lazy or apathetic to get out and vote, knowing deep inside we need to fight to keep what we once held dear?

While in High School a guy named “Tony Fontane” came to talk to us.  He’d been a popular singer in the 50’s until a near fatal accident led him to find Christ and clean up his life.  Here’s what he left me with: “You can’t walk thru a barn and come out smelling like a rose … unless the name of the cow was Rose.”

Preach on, Brothers and Sisters,

Marsha

Next week we’ll talk a little more about keeping ourselves safe in perilous times.

Learning from Out Back

Good Morning Fellow Sojourners,

When we checked in with you last week, we were on our way to Darwin, hopefully to pick up a modest-sized motor home to begin our trek through the Northern Territory Outback. Just before we boarded the plane in Brisbane, we got a call, saying that the rig we had booked had been in “an accident”, and they might have to cancel our booking. We arrived in great trepidation, only slightly alleviated by the news that, no, they didn’t have to cancel us, but woohoo! they were assigning us the biggest rig on the lot. We’d have to come back two days early, but we were getting a huge discount for our trouble. It was a behemoth that left us speechless and Tony with one foot on the sidewalk, ready to make a run for it. He manned up though, and after a few near-death experiences, he actually began enjoying being the biggest kid on the block. It was a little embarrassing whenever we pulled into a campsite and people would look it over ask, “So… it’s just the TWO of you?” But after a week, we really love it, and are wondering how many kidneys we’d have to sell to own one.  We LOVE the cruising life!  Here in Australia, folks like us are called “the Grey Nomads” and we’ve met some really interesting ones along the way.

Anyway, we’ve ticked off everything on our list of ‘must sees’ and are now sad that we have to say goodbye to such opulence tomorrow.

Like the proverb about crossing a river, we’re not the same people who set foot in the water last Monday.  We’ve relaxed in ways we never thought imaginable, worshiped God in His amazing creation and feel like we’ve truly seen a part of Australia known only to a few.

The highlight had to be visiting the homestead of Aeneas and Jeannie Gunn, the sweet little preacher’s kids that I wrote about recently.  The Elsey homestead is  more desolate and yet more beautiful than I could imagine and I had the “pleasure”(?) of experiencing even more hardship by stepping in a fire ant hill in my enthusiasm to read the lonely gravestone. Thankfully, I was able to be free to discard any and all ant-infested clothing right there on the spot, knowing that there wasn’t another soul except for my husband for at least two hours in any direction. It was there that I realized the significance of the hardships of being so far away from everything in an emergency. Fortunately I was able to get the situation under control (thanks to Tony) and didn’t suffer more than a few adrenaline fueled welts. It really made us really appreciate the Royal Flying Doctor Service that serves this huge area.

Let me close this blog by quoting from the poignant ending of a book by Jeannie Gunn, author of  “We of the Never Never”. Her husband was the head of the Elsey Station, and his name was Aeneas Gunn, known as “The Meluka” to all. Sadly, he died just a year and a bit after arriving about 1901, a victim of Cerebral Malaria, known locally as Black Water Fever. I hope it speaks to you as it did to me: not only that life is hard and sometimes short,  but that God is faithful.

Here are her words:

All unaware, that scourge of the Wet crept back to the homestead, and the Great Shadow, closing in on us, flung wide those gates of Death once more, and turning, before passing through, beckoned to our Maluka to follow.  But at those open gates the Maluka lingered a little while, while those who were fighting so fiercely and impotently to close them, lingering to teach us out of his own great faith that “Behind all shadows standeth God”.  And then the gates gently closing, a woman stood alone in that little home that had been wrested, so merrily, out of the very heart of Nature.

That is all the world need know.  All else lies dead in the silent hearts of the Men of the Never Never, in those great, silent hearts that came in to the woman in her need; came in at the Dandy’s call, and went out to her, and shut her in from all the dangers and terror that beset her, quietly mourning their own loss the while.  And as those great hearts mourned, ever and anon a long drawn out sobbing cry went up from the camp, as the tribe mourned for their beloved dead….their dead and ours, our Maluka, “The Best Boss that ever a man struck”.

Another of her quotes from the book pretty much sums up our time here in “the Territories” as the locals call the Northern Territory,

We had so much happiness we forgot to get old.”

Cya next week!

Marsha

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.