Learning to be Still

Hello all,

I’m happy to say that this has been a pretty “normal” week, at least compared to the past few weeks. Tony’s done with his 39-round set of radiotherapy sessions, and so we no longer have to drive to the hospital every day. Actually, that was a blessing in itself, since under the present lockdown, we’re not supposed to leave the house except for “essentials”, which includes food and medical care. And now, those restrictions are being lifted a bit, so that we can actually drive as far as Brisbane to see Chris and Nicki. Also, some of the recreation areas are opening up, provided we can keep the social distancing rules. Yep, this week, we can honestly say, “Life is good’

But if you know me, that you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m still feeling a bit restless. My sister and I were raised on a mountaintop in Colorado, and didn’t have a lot of chance to get out, except for church and school. One would think a background like that would result in two girls fairly content with a quiet homelife. Ah … nah. It seems the both of us couldn’t wait to fly the coop, seeking anything and everything that offered a bit of fun and excitement.  To this day, both of us are at our happiest when we’re surrounded with a noisy crowd while preoccupied by plans for the next trip.

I have to confess, this drives Tony nuts. It’s not that he doesn’t like people; it’s just that he’s energized by time alone, while I on the other hand am energized by people. If Tony is a Golden retriever, I’m an otter.
Well, as it turns out, we don’t have any big trips on the planning board, because so far at least, we can’t even leave the state of Queensland, much less Australia. Even weddings and funerals are either being postponed or at least trimmed to seven or less participants.

And of course that includes birthdays. Here I sit, looking at the BIG 7_0 bearing down on me, and it looks like it may come and go with little more than a sigh. Looking at our options, there’s really not much we can do to celebrate, so instead, I’m trying to learn to just be STILL.

“And how’s that going?” you ask.

Hmmmmm……….. some days are good, some days I spend doing like I did as a little girl, reading and looking out the window. Or as the little boy told his Daddy, “I’m sittin on the outside but STANDIN on the inside!”

The other day, in the midst of one of my fugues, I finally decided to look at my Bible. What does it have to say about fidgety people? David came to mind.
Yeah, what was he doing on the ROOF that afternoon when he should have been running the country? One can imagine that he was struggling with adventures long past with no sign of any new ones on the horizon.
Keep in mind that David wasn’t exactly raised on a mountaintop like I was, but he probably did learn at a young age how to entertain himself. I think he was mostly alone as a child, unloved by his brothers, left to the care of the sheep. A glimpse of his personality can be seen in Psalms 62, staring with verse 5,

“For God alone, O my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.”

And then in verse 11 he continues, “Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God and that to You, oh Lord, belongs steadfast love.”

I’m told this is an example of Hebrew poetry writing style. “Once God has spoken, twice I have heard…” This is simply a way of saying, “Hey this important; listen up!”

And what we hear in this passage are the two words: Power and Love. These are two things that are never in short supply when it comes to God. And no matter what I happen to be doing, right choices, bad choices; looking for trouble, waiting for peace … God’s Power and God’s Love surrounds me, keeping me on an even keel, if I’ll just take the time to look around and see Him at work: around me, in me, through me.

I don’t know about you, but what a wonderful reminder that God has is with me every day of my life, before my life even began. Whether I’m seeking His face in daily quiet time, or escaping from lockdown, intent on whatever my hand finds to do, He’s there to urge me back or cheer me on, depending on His Will.

Wherever you find yourself this week, I pray that you’ll sense His Presence.

May your days be peaceful and fun, and may the two never conflict with each other!

Marsha

Milestones

This week has been marked by a couple of milestones. First there was the great news about Tony’s health. After 39 straight days of radiotherapy (not counting weekends), he finished the prescribed course that was designed to blast every molecule of prostate cancer. This earned him the right to “ring the bell” under the sign that says, “I’ve conquered this moment”. If you follow my Facebook page, maybe you saw the Grand Event in living color. Afterwards, one of the nurses called him back into a room where she told him with a long face, “Now, your side effects will probably linger for another week or two, so you just have to be patient.” Tony was genuinely surprised, and asked, “What side effects?” whereupon she listed the dozen or so maladies, from mildly uncomfortable to downright dangerous. “But I haven’t had any of those,” Tony insisted. “All I can say is, a lot of folks have been praying for me!” Three cheers for God, and Big Thanks to all of you!

Saying goodbye was a bittersweet experience, owing to the fact that we had become quite close to lot of cancer patients who were on the same schedule as Tony’s. A lot of them are counting the days until they too can ring that bell. But there’s quite a few folks there who don’t have a lot to cheer about. These are the ones dealing with returned cancer, or those type of cancer where the radiation is more or less a last ditch effort. It brought huge lumps in our throats to walk out of the hospital, remembering these new precious friends, and wondering how they will fare with all that’s still headed their way. We took every opportunity to share God’s love with them, and gave them every reason to hope. Pray with us, will you? Pray that they and all who are facing such challenges will discover God’s love and some Real Healing in mind and body.

As we left the treatment area, we wanted to go straight to the diagnostic room and get a scan that would confirm everything we’re hoping for, but the doctor told us to wait three months, since Tony’s insides are reportedly needing to recover before they can get a real look.   So, we’ll wait, praising  God for His healing power, and for wonderful friends like you. It’s encouraging to know that both we and the doctor expect him to be clear of cancer.

And then there was the passing of Ravi Zacharias, that gifted Christian apologist who has blessed so many, us included, with his simple yet incredibly deep message of salvation for so many years. Tony has accepted the news like the good man of God he is, but confesses to feeling a bit … disappointed? that God would heal him, and yet take Ravi home, a man who was doing so much the Kingdom.  Perhaps there’s a bit of ‘survivor syndrome’ at work, with us feeling encouraged and yet with so many of our friends still struggling.

I guess there are really no words to express our feelings.  Why?  Why does someone so ‘helpful’ to the Cause of Christ have to go so soon?  Perhaps someday we’ll understand, but I can’t help but feel that one day we’ll understand.

But on a lighter note, you may have heard that our book, “Weaving Sunlight” is now out on Kindle, suitable for downloading onto your smart phone. It’s a LOT cheaper than the hardcopy, and more convenient to read for all of you techies out there. Please do buy it if you want to have a nice uncomplicated read about some folks whom God has blessed.

We’ve had a nice weekend. They’ve released some travel restrictions, all the while raising the petrol prices back up, but at least now we can get to both kids.   We’ve also been able to enjoy several departures from the strict diet, but intend to get back to being serious as we find that we feel better.  It’s a relief, however, to know that sugar and bacon still tastes like the stuff of life!

Till next week, I’ll leave you with the verse that brought Ravi Zacharias to Christianity after attempting to commit suicide when he was 17.  Years and years later he found this same verse on his grandmother’s grave.  You’ll remember I told you about her a few weeks ago, how she became a Christian during a Cholera outbreak.  Here’s the verse: John 14:19, “Because I live, ye shall also live”

And so with God’s grace and according to his plan, we live to see another day.  Let’s make it count!

Marsha

Bee ware

I heard an interesting story a few years ago. Apparently there were four college students who were away for the weekend for some capricious and non-academic fun, and managed to get back noticeably late for a very important exam.

As they sped down the freeway and the realization began to dawn, they put their heads together and came up with the perfect excuse. The rest of the trip they practiced it in order to have the story just right.  They would simply say that they’d had a flat tire.

What they failed to consider was that the professor, perhaps having come up against this ploy before, took them individually into another room and asked the same (to their undoing) question:  “Which tire?”

There’s even a verse in the Bible that is often quoted, from Numbers 32:23, … and be sure your sin will find you out. I’m pretty sure you could point to a lot of other verses that say the same thing, seeing as how this way of thinking has been with us since time began.

This last week, we decided to get up close and personal with our lovely bees.  You’ll remember we’ve had a hive of Native STINGLESS Australian bees for about a year, and so it’s time to add on a chamber so they can produce us the yearly one cup of the reportedly magnificent honey.

Now, with the cooler temperatures, we decided the time was right. We had added the “honey pot” a few weeks ago where the bees would be encouraged to store their excess, so we got all set, licking our lips, to see how things were going.

We also planned, while we were in there, to implement  some small but brilliant (at least we thought) modifications that would benefit all involved.  That’s as far as our planning got.

If we were to do a retake, we might have discussed  questions like “What will we do if they don’t want us to change their environment, and what might that action look like?’

But no, after all, we’re really veteran experts by now, don’t you think?  I’ve been on that many chat lines and I can almost hear the applause of the masses as we report to the amazed veterans how we changed things up.

It was cold, (about 60 degrees or 20 if you’re here in Australia). Bees are awake at that temp but like many of us, they can’t really fly till they enjoy the warmth of the sun for awhile.

We took off the lid, saw a few bees in the glass jar, obviously doing their honey-making thing. All’s well.  We pried off the jar, and…….

You know those horror movies where Pandora’s box is opened and the evil black hoards pour out? In the instant while we stood, jaws gaping, that’s what happened.  THOUSANDS of bees poured out in the blink of an eye, covering the entire hive.  There was no way we were going to get them ‘back in the box’ so to speak.  It was in that moment that we realized that we had NO IDEA what to do. We ‘brushed’ at them but they’re so fragile, the results were not exactly what anyone wanted, except that some kind of alarm was sent out, and even more bees swarmed out of the hive. Keep in mind, they weren’t stinging, but they had decided to implement the “overwhelm the enemy” approach, quickly gaining access to every opening we presented, such as shirt collars, sleeves, trouser legs, eyes, ears, nose and mouth. At least they were still grounded because of the cold, and so could only get to us on their tiny feet. One of us (I won’t say who) came up with a brilliant idea: let’s get the hair drier and blow the critters off.

Some of you sharper ones out there may have already worked out what happened next.

In about three seconds, the bees began to try their appendages, with some calling out (I’m sure), “Hey! I can fly!” Suddenly, as if on command, they ALL  took to the air, recalculate their targets (us) and came at us in a cloud of Biblical proportions.

We had them all over us.  In our ears, hair, clothes, you name it.  It was hard not to panic, and well, maybe we did a little; creating a Bee dance of our own.  We ran back inside swatting and brushing. Forget the “Oh, aren’t they sweet!” observations. Now it was “Get them OFF me NOW!!”

Eventually, we were clear, mostly … except for one little girl (they’re mostly girls you know, about 90% of the hive of thousands; doing most of the work and hoping to be Queen someday. Perhaps not so different from our species eh?).

Anyway, she had hitchhiked on me and into my closet, and somehow as I’d changed into a new set of slacks, had ended up on the inside of my waistband.  That may have been all right, but when I leaned over to brush my teeth, she was getting squished and had no choice…  The bite she gave me, I assumed was a scratchy tag tickling me, but the investigation with my hand cost her her life.  Sad for her but nothing at all for me.

So what’s the point, you ask?

PLAN your actions. Trust in the wisdom of others who have more experience and think things through before something swarms out of hand. Need a proof test? Proverbs 14:12, There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death.

Fortunately for us, that “death” part only included the poor bees, but the point is taken.

Have a BEElessed week!

Epilogue, we got the lid back on the box but only after they’d all gotten cold again and headed back to bed.

Pray with us as the entire world tries to ‘get the bees back in the box’ with this Corona thing. You may want to sit down and do some planning yourselves.

Marsha

Lessons From an Ant

In the words of that popular radio broadcaster, Garrison Keillor, in his weekly series,  ”It’s been a quiet week here at Lake Woebegone”.

Today is Mother’s Day, and we have been magnificently lauded and honored by our children, their spouses and the grandkids. It was a red letter day for Tony, who enjoyed the Beef Bourguignon that our daughter had lovingly made and brought down for the occasion. This was to be his first taste of meat in six months, having stuck to an incredibly strict cancer-inhibiting diet during treatment. The daily laser light sword, as he calls it, will conclude in ten days, and he figures that’s close enough. Not sure how his body is going to react, but he went back for seconds. “Whatever happens, it was worth it!” he insisted.

For those of you on the other side of the world, your Sunday may be just beginning, so I hope you experience some extra love like we did, even if it has to be at a distance.
Keeping my own distance, I try to start every morning with some time on the treadmill, and to fend off boredom have been listening to everything from Michael W. Smith to Ravi Zacharias. This week has been Corrie Ten Boom, that legendary Dutch girl who ended up in the prison camps because her family was sheltering Jews.

Something that stood out in her testimony was her telling of being placed in solitary confinement. “Oh, I can identify with that!” I thought, what with the CoVid19 isolation restrictions we’re going through now. Well…

In Corrie’s case, she arrived at the prison camp with a case of the sniffles, and the Nazis didn’t want the people they were getting ready to kill to get sick, so off to solitary she went. Come to think of it, that might have been God’s protection.
Eventually, word reached her that her father had been gassed, as well as several others that she knew, and she had to grieve by herself.  The days drug on and on, and she realized all too painfully that, in every way, she was completely alone for the first time in her life. Corrie had been raised in a very active family, which had become even more so as escaping Jews had come into their home to hide from the Nazis.
Conversing with God was nothing new to the young girl, and in the absence of every other form of stimulation, her daily time with her Creator was precious. It was a glorious experience, to be sure, but she admitted that there were times when all she could do was cry and tell God that she was losing her mind. “I’m so alone!” she called out one morning, and as she spoke she noticed an ant crawling across the floor.  Her first reaction was to prevent the creature from invading her personal space, giving it a gentle flick with her handkerchief.

Frightened at this unexpected interruption, the ant scurried away and disappeared into a crack in the wall. Almost immediately, Corrie  felt God’s voice in her mind saying, “See? You’re not alone, and just like him, you too have a ‘hiding place’. I am there.”

Forty years later as she recalled that day, Corrie Ten Boom wrote this simple poem:

“When you look around, you’re distressed.
When you look inside, you’re depressed.
When you look to God, you’re at rest!”

Yeah, this time of isolation is the pits, especially for an “otter” like me. But thanks to this wonderfully blessed Dutch girl from a couple of generations ago, I can still put things into perspective. “Distressed. Depressed. At rest!”

Thank you, God, for this time of enforced rest and removal from just about everything I used to deem “essential”. What I really need today, I have, filled and overflowing:

The love of family. Both a history and a future. Most importantly, a “hiding place” that’s never any farther than my thoughts of Him.
Whatever lies ahead for you today, I pray that it will be full of joy, hope and a bit of something you never knew before.

Marsha

Evangelical Word Games

So as you probably know, Japanese is a difficult language.  To start with, their unabridged dictionary has over 40,000 ‘pictographs’, called “kanji”. Only 6000 or so are necessary to be considered literate, at least to a 6th grade level, but the various combinations of these kanji lead to tens of thousands of words, the pronunciation of which can only be guessed at and must be memorized.   I’m sure that’s why Xavier (a 17th century missionary to Japan)  described Japanese as “without a doubt, the devil’s language.”  I know from personal experience that most of our missionaries have struggled valiantly to learn the required 6000 ones!

But if that wasn’t bad enough, then there is the LEVEL to be considered. Within Japanese society, there are at least five levels of speech, that which is directed to a child, a servant, a peer, a boss and a teacher, not to mention the discourse one would use when addressing the Emperor.

On any given day, whenever two Japanese meet for the first time, they offer some “mid-level” greetings, then as soon as possible exchange business cards. From that point on, everything is determined according to your “social level” and how it relates to the person standing in front of you. Bowing is preferred over handshakes, and there are strict rules as to the depth and the time given to a bow. After exchanging the cards, both parties now know ‘where they stand’ so to speak, and the level of speech now takes on clearly understood rules, with the ability to communicate everything from deep respect to quiet distain.

Now some of you may be jumping ahead of me, saying, “Wait a minute! We have the same system in English, just with different tools.” A handshake can be firm or soft, or even using both hands, and the length of time from initial grasp to letting go can speak volumes, right? Personal space is that great unwritten statute that carries with it either intimacy or formality; and woe be the one who misreads the signals!   What you say and how you say it has levels too.”

Australia had a Prime Minister awhile back who, in the spirit of that Aussie mateship we hold dear, once reached over and put his hand on the shoulder of the Queen of England. Fortunately for him, the Royal Executioner was not with the entourage that day, but all of Australia, from every walk of life, as they watched on TV, couldn’t help but gasp in their shock and offense!

Language and how we use it is such an interesting challenge! I think that we evangelicals also have certain ‘protocols’ when it comes to meeting new people, especially if the new people say they’re Christians.   So now I want to tell you about something that happened to me last week, and preface it with a little “back story”.

We listen to a couple of Christian radio stations when we’re in the car.  One plays more contemporary music, while the other feeds our “Old Time Religion” traditional needs. One thing that we enjoy is the occasional one-minute devotionals led by a man named Andy Kirk. He is an excellent presenter, really catching your ear with his confident and thought provoking presentations.   Here’s an excerpt from one of his pieces:

“A frog fell into a bowl of cream.  He panicked because he couldn’t find purchase to climb out, but a little voice told him not to give up.  We live in difficult times, and, like the frog, we must carry on, not allowing ourselves to despair (dramatic pause). You see, as dawn broke after a night of paddling, the frog was able to climb up on the mound of butter and escape.”

And then at the end of each segment, the presenter concludes with a firm, “I’m Andy Kirk.”

Now to the point. Last week Tony and I were walking around our neighborhood, doing anything to break our boredom and get some fresh air. Several houses away we noticed that the street was covered in chalk art. With all the schools being closed, the kids are often outside fighting off boredom. This art was especially good, and what caught our attention was a Bible verse from Isaiah, telling us in effect, to be of good cheer.  Another drawing said, “God loves you!”

We were so encouraged by the sight, especially after not finding a Christian on our street in the 4 years we’ve been here. In fact, it’s only recently that our neighbors have warmed a little to us after initially being afraid of us; only knowing that we’re transplanted Americans who say we have a relationship with Jesus.

Writing a note of thanks to the chalk artists,, we slipped it into their mailbox, taking care to apply the appropriate “level” in our language.  A few days later, we were walking back by the house and three boys came running out, obviously with a mission in mind, closely followed by their mother.  We looked at her, she looked at us and we asked, “Are you …?” as we both pointed to the mailbox.

“Oh”, she said, “We’re just coming to see you!”

After doing the isolation math (The two of us could visit their house, but the 5 of them would not be allowed, strictly, to come to our place), we ended up in their yard, and started what I call the ‘evangelical game’.  A few well-couched questions determined that they were quite possibly Christians.   She then ascertained that we were retired Baptist missionaries, as we’d said in our note. On to the next step.  Where do the boys go to school?  Oh, a Christian school. Good, they probably know church words. Maybe we can find some common ground.

By now the dad had come out and joined us, and we were still doing the formal language of strangers, until I gingerly moved to the penultimate question.

“And where do you go to church?”

He said, “Calvary”.

They had passed the questionnaire perfectly, showing themselves to be theologically correct evangelicals, so we didn’t have to….well, I’ll let you fill in the gaps there.

So, finding myself relieved, I must have inadvertently dropped my guard a notch and let the language settle into the “Besties” category.

“Oh I know that church,” I practically shouted, “I hear it’s really good.  In fact, they have some DUDE that always talks on the radio.”

At that point the dad pulled himself up to full height and with a twinkle in his eye said in his strong, all too-familiar voice, “I’m Andy Kirk”.

My choice of appropriate level words deserted me, so I went all Japanese and did a deep bow, mostly to hide my red face.

Isn’t it fun to find brothers and sisters in Christ? I suspect there are more of them in your area than you might know. What a jab, to get to Heaven and find that a really great believer lived right up the street from you.

So … get out there and ask! What’s the worst that could happen? What’s the best?

And lastly, doesn’t God have a sense of humor to humble us in our judgmental ways?

Marsha

Humbled by Answered Prayer

Well, this has been a week hasn’t it?  Down here in Australia, the virus is waning but the restrictions are still strongly enforced. Fortunately we’re moving into Autumn, so we’re not tempted to camp or go to the beach so much. But that’s not why you’re here today, I’m guessing? You want to hear about the Child Soldier story I promised, right?

I wish I could articulate how I’ve been feeling about this whole deal, but let me just start at the beginning:

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling particularly discouraged, and so, (even though I don’t often do this) I prayed an honest but whiney prayer, “Lord, I need some encouragement .………. and I’d like someone….. anyone, to just call and say hello.”

Then I went about my every day business.

Almost on cue, I GOT A PHONE CALL!  It was a FRIEND that I don’t really know that well, asking if I’d like to take a walk.  So, there was a request ‘granted’ so to speak.  But God wasn’t finished yet.

Tony and I got dressed, combed our hair and went off for our daily visit to the hospital for what, instead of the standard term, “Radiation” he prefers to call the “laser light sword” treatment.  On the way home, we stopped into a seldom-used supermarket to get those one or two items that we always seem to need (Tony waits in the car, to keep it legal).

In the spirit of Social Distancing, there was a security guard ……well, standing guard.  As the line progressed, I had time to observe him. He was well over 6 feet tall, VERY BLACK and had VERY WHITE teeth.  That can only mean one thing, so I stepped up to my allotted square and asked him, “Where are you from?”

That can be a dicey question in Australia where everybody’s got some ethnicity but may have been born here, and often the answer, given with some offense, is, “Australia”, but he beamed at me and in that beautiful accented English said, “South Sudan”.

Definitely the second answer to prayer for the day.

I told him about us and he told me about himself.  I said we were in Ethiopia in 1996 for three months at the Bonga UN refugee camp in Gambella, Ethiopia. His answer was, “I know that camp, but I’m from the Dinka tribe.”

Tony and I worked with the other tribe, the Uduk, which had been re-located to a separate camp because the Dinkas kept beating up on them. When I reminded this man of that, he just smiled and said, “Yes, that would be right.”

Anyway, in the space of 3 or 4 minutes we laughed and reminisced.  I wanted to hug him and told him so, but of course …. we can’t do that right now, can we?  I got his details and in a few days he called me and filled in some more about his life. We ascertained that he’s a Christian and I was able to call some of the people from his church that we know and find out more.

I was prepared to tell you all about him, but I decided to Google him just on a whim and I found SO MUCH about him that I’m going to just leave it to you to have a look for yourselves.  His name is Yai Atem.  If the link doesn’t open when you click on it, just copy and paste into your browser.  Have your tissues ready.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-18/lost-boy-of-sudan-yai-atem/6947506

I’m going to have to let you draw your own conclusions about him. All I can say was that he was a specific answer to what I needed that day.  All this week, I’ve tried to get my head around what I think about him, but I’m still working on it. I think for once in my life, I really don’t know WHAT to think.  Anything I could say at this point would be cliche’.

But I do have to share what his parting words to me were as I was jostled forward in line and was pushed out of earshot.

“Don’t worry,” he called to me, “You and I have seen worse than this!”

I staggered out of the store, confused and so very humbled, I didn’t even yet know (because I had yet to search the internet) exactly what he’d been thru, but I knew my so-called “hardships” could never compare.

Later he clarified to me on the phone, “I don’t know what we’d have done without you Christian people who saved our lives”.

If this post has in any way touched you, please try to see the Sandra Bullock movie, “The Good Lie”.  It came out several years ago and is the best representation of what was going on over there when we were involved.  Yai told me he was either IN the movie or that was HIS life ……. I couldn’t understand thru my tears.

Hoping as usual you’re all doing great.  Tony’s still feeling fine with only 3 more weeks of radiation to go.  We’re getting good at the internet, holding Bible Studies as well as ‘attending’ some great church services.  Today, to top it off, we got up early, dressed in our best and had a nice Zoom conversation with 4 other retired missionary friends across the world in three time zones, really uplifting.

Keep being Faithful.

Marsha

Eating Poison

Good Morning,

I think many of you are familiar with the works of Edgar Allen Poe.  This morning, I came across an interesting comment he made while introducing a short story called “The Black Cat”. It’s often compared to his more famous work, “The Telltale Heart”, in that they both tell about a person who almost gets away with murder, but is finally brought down by his own sense of guilt. There’s a sermon right there, I suppose, but not one I’m getting ready to share. The part that grabbed me this morning was the way in which the story begins: “For the most wild, yet mostly homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief.”

I had to smile a bit, and wonder how many of my blogs should have started that way. “I neither expect nor solicit belief.”

For example, what would you say if I told you that one of Tony’s and my favorite things to eat for breakfast is a concoction that depends on poison for its preparation?

Do you believe me?  Maybe I should explain.  There are a lot of Texans on both sides of our family tree; and before you jump ahead of me and declare, “Oh well, that explains it!”  hear me out. My heritage goes a long way east, and for several hundred years has been moving steadily west, from the Mississippi River thru Missouri to Texas, to Colorado, then to Japan before taking a slight turn south and west to Australia.

But back in the turn of the 20th century, life was hard west of the Mississippi and the people there had to be a tough lot. My Maternal Grandfather died of the pandemic Spanish Flu when my mother was just an infant.  My daddy inherited that pioneer spirit, and it showed itself when he came home from the war to find that his fiancée had married his brother.  No, he didn’t pull out his six-gun, but that very night, he packed up his belongings and headed for the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Over the next several years, he met and married the lady who would give me life, and created for us a wonderful family; made more so because my sister and I were part of it!

In his heart of hearts, Daddy was a tough but also a warm and loving man.  Eventually he made peace with his brother and they were able to testify a lot about the joy of forgiveness. (and I got some great cousins).

Being a scientist by trade, his world was pretty much based on facts, and one way that played out (here it comes at last!)  was in the fact that every morning of his life he ate the same thing.

By now you may have guess that I’m talking about GRITS!

Neither Tony nor I are quite that rigid in our diet, but I do confess to several sacks of that stuff of life tucked away in my pantry. My lovely Aussie son-in-law, after trying them once, declared that grits is one thing that will never pass his lips again (He may have been traumatized expecting something sweet, the same way first timers often look at vegemite and think it looks like chocolate). But if you share my heritage, then you can appreciate a piping hot bowl of grits with a good slathering of butter and a lot of salt and pepper. Ah, the stuff of dreams!

But wait!  Back to the point I promised. If you do some research, you’ll find that “grits” are made by the process of “Nixtamalization by the use of lye”.  Yeah, I had to look it up too, but someone back thru the ages discovered that if you soaked hard corn in lye (a deadly poison when taken straight), the hull (called the pericarp) will finally come off, leaving you with a nice, basically nutrition-less mass of white starch that can be ground up, cooked, and become the platform for a lot of other yummy things, like biscuits, gravy, bacon and eggs.

In honor of this heritage, we watched “True Grit” the other night. It’s a great John Wayne movie from the 80’s, and while it’s not about corn, it looks at the mettle of the man of the west.  Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) never gave in, never backed down, always kept his cool and in the end he … well I guess he didn’t get the girl, but he had a mighty fine horse. And when it over, we all said, “Ahh, there was a man with true grit!”

Now, how about we step forward and consider that ‘Nixamalization’ process to something like the Coronavirus? It’s been tough in a lot of ways, to the point where some are suggesting that the cure may be worse than the disease. As each day I sit in my batch of lye (otherwise known as “lockdown and social distancing”), I can almost feel my pericarps hitting the floor.

And I begin to wonder, what am I going to be like when all this is over? Most of us agree that this is an event that’s going to define this generation. So far, most folks are finding things to laugh about, and every day we can see people showing their good sides that might not have been so obvious before. Will that continue when things get back to “normal”, or at least the new normal in which we’ll find ourselves? I hope so.
There are so many Bible references that give us hope. Just this morning, during our online worship service, our pastor read from James 1:12. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial for when he has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Maybe you can add some of your own “endure-theme” favorite verses today, pass them around and be a blessing to many others?
Next week, I’ll tell you about a former child soldier I met in the social distancing line at the grocery store.  Ironically, it was a particular day when I had specifically asked God for some encouragement!!

Y’all come back now. Grits are on the stove,

Marsha

He Is Risen!

He is Risen!

Hello Everyone. Tony here. I managed to wrench the keyboard away from Marsha when she wasn’t looking, and she has graciously let me send out this week’s blog. I think she feels sorry for me, because I had just finished a smokin’ Easter message and was planning to share it with three different churches when the lockdown order came. Now I only have an audience of one, so she has suggested I share the gist – not the entire truckload -  of that message with you.

It centers around those “Aha!” moments we experience once in awhile, when all the dots connect and understanding comes flooding in. For example (and I’d love to have seen the guy’s expression) the morning when he stepped outside, coffee in hand and admired the newly-completed Tower of Pisa. Pausing in mid sip, he looked again and asked out loud, “Is that thing leaning?”

Aha.

Jesus is the Master of orchestrating life’s “Aha!” moments for the sake of the Kingdom. We might wonder why He seemed so secretive at the beginning of His ministry. Just a couple of examples: Matthew 8:4, “Don’t tell anyone, but go straight to the priest and let him examine you.” and again in Matthew 9:30, “Don’t tell anyone.”

The reason is given clearly in John 16:12, where Jesus declares to His disciples, “There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now.”

But unbeknownst to the disciples, they were being prepared, one step at a time, for the moment when they would stand before the Risen Lord, and like Thomas, declare, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

“Aha!”

I often wonder what God is up to all around me, but I haven’t been made privy to it because my system just couldn’t take it in. In the case of the disciples, they had to be led, ever so gently, from miracle to miracle, each one more profound than the last, until finally Jesus could chide them, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Easter. The greatest “Aha!” moment of all time. As we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, let’s remember the path that brought us to this point, where we can understand not only the reality of the event but the meaning behind it and the implication it carries for us. Now we are freed from the curse of sin. Now we have a home in God’s Kingdom. Now Satan has no more power over us, neither in this life nor in the next.

Perhaps the best Easter sermon of all time was given in four words by an angel as he sat on a rock outside the empty tomb. You’ve probably noticed from all the accounts of angels throughout Scripture this one truth: angels do not sit in the Presence of God. And yet, here’s this angel, moving the stone away from the tomb entrance (not for Christ’s sake, by the way, but for ours), then he sits on it and declares, “He is not here” (Matthew 28:6).

“Aha!” Indeed. He is Risen. Halleluiah!

And just a note from me, Marsha.  We’ve had a wonderful Easter Thanks to the internet, we are just about to join in our 4th service of the day!  What a blessing in such a time as we’re all in at the moment.  Can’t wait to visit with you again next week.  Happy Easter!!

Cooling My Jets

Hello all you fellow humans who are locked up at the moment! Here in Australia, the rules seem a bit Draconian. Like, if you’re over 65, you’re only ‘allowed out of your home’ to seek medical help, pick up a few groceries and get a modicum of outdoor exercise. And of course, all that is provided we engage in “social distancing”. I didn’t think we’d be GLAD that Tony must go to the hospital every working day, but it does give us a reason to get out of bed and put on some clean clothes. As I mentioned last week, we are ‘living’ for that little time out.  But as the weeks progress, and things are clamping down tighter, we’re not sure how many “lateral activities” we’ll be able to include while we’re out, or for how long.    Our children are careful to monitor just how much fun we have on the going and the coming, and we’re trying to obey……just. I think I’m thankful that they’re all so caring.   We’re relieved that we bought a treadmill when Tony first got sick, so we have that to keep us somewhat occupied. We are still losing weight and still on the plant based diet, but our victories are beginning to be a bit microscopic.   And on that note, I’ve been listening to my other favorite preacher, Ravi Zacharias.  He makes me think, which is hard when you’re on a treadmill.

The other day he made an interesting comment in a sermon, filmed 6 months ago before all this crazy started.  He said, “I’m was born a Hindi Indian, and I know several languages.  I think it’s interesting that in ALL of them, we use the phrase, “Time is walking”, or “The Clock is walking.”  Only in English is the phrase, “The clock is running” or “Time is flying”.

There, pounding it out as I walked, something akin to wonder came over me and he was able to help me verbalize what I’ve been feeling these past few weeks.  I wasn’t born in India, I was born and raised in a post-depression household where both of my parents had to work to realize the Great American Dream.  Paramount to that was hard work and the general feeling that “Time was of the essence”.

As a result, Although I might consider myself lazy, it’s possible that I have way too much …….. What shall we call it? White middle class ambition?… and now here I am.  I’m even thinking of taking the “No Junk Mail” sign off of our mailbox, I’m that bored. To top that off, I’m guilt-ridden that my ‘procrastination list’ is growing.   But wait, didn’t we just challenge each other last week to PRAY for things that don’t involve us?  Yes, I’m happy to say that this week has been absolutely FULL of prayer requests from all over the world. You remember I asked for prayer for our Missionary kids running the Angola hospital?   Good news is that the government let a guy travel down and get their generator fixed.  Now they’re getting back to ‘normal’, which still is very understaffed and needy, but they’re settling in well.  The OBGYN wife even safely delivered a healthy set of triplets!  How about other new prayer concerns from all over the world?  You just tell God you’re open for business and you’ll have a LOT to pray about!   I just had a nice phone call from three grand boys who have just been on a ‘nature walk’. We will look back on these days and realize that they may have changed our lives.

I need (and maybe you) need to stop fretting about the lack of activity.  Stop blaming myself that seemingly nothing got accomplished today, and instead of that, just let go, get into some relaxing times with our Creator, and let it happen.  I’m going to try that this week.

Next week I’m going to work hard and to tell you something besides how pathetic we are. Maybe it’ll be a story from days gone by, who knows!  I do know that our  God is at work in all of this and we can make it!!

As always,

Marsha

The Gift of Time

Thanks everyone for your comments last week about your ‘dangerous prayers’.

It’s amazing how much all of our lives have changed in just a few days, because of this crazy virus.  Fortunately for us, last week we had really good visits from both kids and families, before Australia cinched down the ‘social distance’ suggestions even further.  We have been just about completely cut off from everyone these last few days.

Except of course, for necessities.  And for that, we are thankful that Tony’s radiation is considered ‘necessary’, meaning that once a day (except weekends), we can comb our hair and take the 20-minute drive to the hospital.  By now, we have finished the first week, so that’s five treatments down and only 34 to go! So far, as expected, he has no side effects or discomfort.  The doctors are warning of a little fatigue syndrome coming up soon, but that just means an excuse to take a nap! We are VERY thankful for this and will keep you posted.

But back to all of us.  We were encouraged to pray “Dangerous prayers” last week, but I think for a lot of us, myself included, they came out more as “Coping prayers!” The feeling we’re dealing with during this government-mandated lockdown is reminiscent of a few times back in Colorado when we were snowed in for a day or two. But in this case, we look outside, and there’s no snow; just gorgeous Australian fall days begging us to come outside and play! (or pull weeds).

So this week, I have a new challenge for you:  I figure because we’re all locked down, I don’t have many great new things to tell you, no ‘big adventures, etc, so how about we just look to God and see what He reveals to us?

We seem to have been given TIME……. time to sort out that drawer, look thru the recipe book for something to make with the food we have in the cupboard, read that book,  write that letter or call that friend.  Tony has spent endless hours sorting nuts and bolts in his workshop. Honestly, the place looks just the same as before, but Tony insists that it’s becoming a thing of beauty.

Craig Groeschel, the author of “Dangerous Prayers” had a good idea.  Try listing EVERYTHING you’ve prayed for just in this last week.  For example, mine would look something like this, “I want nice weather so that I can say it’s too hot to work in the yard.  I want Tony’s radiation to go well, so that I can be happy, I want my children healthy and happy and most of all I don’t want to get this virus”. But seriously? Is that really ALL that I’m about?

That’s about it.  A whole week, and that’s what I came up with!!  I feel a bit ashamed. Just a few hours ago, we experienced our second online worship session with our church, and I was reminded that there’s a whole world out there that I should be praying about.  In fact, I’m going to make a list this week, and see if I can attend to some ‘bigger issues’ in prayer.
At the top of my list will be the little bush hospital in Angola run by Trevor’s only American best friend, as least in Japan.  We worked alongside him and his family in Sendai, and we all sorta grew up together. He and his wife, both doctors, have sent out an SOS saying that they have well over 100 cases of children suffering with a bad outbreak of Malaria, with more coming in every day.   Their generator is broken, they have 3 children in each bed with the rest on the floor.  The government has mandated no travel whatsoever so the generator repairman can’t come.  They can’t even imagine what they might do if/when the Corona virus comes.

Please put them on the top of your prayer list and if you remember, as you may feel miserable in isolation from time to time, say a little prayer for them and their three healthy (at this point) children.

Happy Hibernating!

Marsha