Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Angels Sitting Close

If you’ve been following us for awhile, you’ll remember that right before all this heath drama snuck in, we went to Fiji for a few weeks.   Tony always has folks looking to do his Anagaion course and we were delighted to hit the road again, meet with church leaders there and being able to preach and teach all over the place.

You may remember too, that because our daughter is a flight attendant for Qantas, we can fly ‘stand by’ for about half price.  Most of the time it works smoothly.

But not on this particular day.  We had to fly first down to Sydney to catch the 4-hour flight to Fiji. So, watching the internet bookings carefully, we were confident that we’d sail right thru.  There were people waiting to pick us up in Fiji, so we really wanted to make it on time as per schedule.

The Gold Coast check in agent felt the same way, so much so that he took our luggage and checked it right on through; straight to Fiji so we wouldn’t have to recheck it in Sydney.

Well, as things sometimes happen, the Gold Coast folks didn’t shut the airplane door right on time, so we missed our slot to land in Sydney. But everything was still fitting together, and we expected to make it to the Sydney gate with 20 or so minutes to spare. No worries, we still had a couple of hours. It’d be tight but we could do it.

I’m sure you’ve all been there, holding on to those “best laid plans of mice and men”. The second shoe to drop came with the announcement that, once we landed in Sydney, we’d have to transfer to the International Terminal. But no problem; there was a courtesy shuttle bus that runs every 10 minutes. We can still do it. Stepping outside in Sydney, we strode confidently, perhaps with a little more “spring” on our step than normal. There was the shuttle bus. We hitched up and headed for the open door.

No wait, my gentleman husband stepped aside to let some more frantic folks thru, even though I was punching his arm and pointing to my watch. You guessed it.  We arrived, went to check in and the lady, (who reminded me a lot of the medical receptionist I mentioned a few weeks ago) looked at us with a cold stare and said, “No…you’re too late.  You should have been here three minutes ago.” We begged, we pleaded (sound familiar?) but she wouldn’t budge.  Told us to go to a certain place to “wait for our bags to be offloaded”. I’m sorry, but wouldn’t it have been easier for us to jog onto the plane than for them to dig thru everything and find two innocuous bags and off load them?

As I sat at the door waiting for our baggage to come out, I noticed a little old lady sitting next to me. I couldn’t really identify much about her; her clothing wasn’t anything we’d wear, but this being Sydney, I wouldn’t know where to start in guessing what international destination she would call home. And then, to add to the intrigue, she seemed to be mumbling to herself. I unconsciously slid as far away from her as the seat’s arm would allow.

But then, my need got the best of me. I was upset, and someone needed to know about it. As it turns out, by now I was actually mumbling to myself as well; but here was an available ear, so I raised the volume. On and on I went with my rhetorical rant to this unresponsive human about the absurdity of making us spend the night at our own expense, the fact that it was only 9AM and we had all day to kill before we could even spend th……etc etc.  WHY couldn’t they just be reasonable, there were seats for us on that plane!  Two, in fact!. Finally I began to get it out of my system. Some degree of reason trickled back in and I sighed and said, “Oh, but God is Good”.

And from the little old lady next to me, immediately came a clear and understandable reply, graced with perfect diction,  “ALL THE TIME!”

I can’t quite explain how humbled I was.  We laughed and had a very nice conversation as we both continued to wait. I never did find out where she was from.

I seem to be asking myself on more than one occasion lately, “Why Me?” But God, thru the Bible and again this morning thru Oswald Chambers, has reminded me that everything that happens to me may not actually be FOR my personal benefit. (how spoiled and naive I am) God has His own plans, and once in awhile in His love and mercy, he allows me to be a part of them. In the process, He may even make me into something better than I was, but the circumstance that led to it may not have necessarily been just for my own selfish needs.

This cancer trip isn’t fun (We are doing well, though), but we realized this morning, we may have another tool available to us when this is over. Maybe we’ll be able to know how it feels to be scared, or to be patient when you don’t want to be, or Who but God Himself knows what else? I do realize that GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME even when it doesn’t seem like it.

Lord, thank you for little angels in the form of old women who can put me back on track.

You all have a blessed week!  Marsha

News

Today I promised you some news, and also that then we’d quit talking incessantly about health issues.

If you haven’t already heard being shouted from the housetops or on Facebook and various church prayer chains, it has been determined (as it was before) that Tony’s cancer is aggressive, but that it’s mostly contained with the only exception being a couple of lymph nodes that lit up under the radioactive camera. The doctor took that as fairly good news, so we will too.

Surgery is scheduled for December 2nd which seems a long time to wait for something like this, but apparently all the butchery that’s been done already in order to ‘find’ the cancer has to settle down so that they can see what they’re doing.  In the meantime, we were told to get in as great shape as possible, since that will help with both the surgery and the recovery. We took that to heart, and Tony says that I’m now in “warrior mode”. Anything that cancer likes, such as sugar, meat and dairy products are off the table, literally. The plan is to starve that sucker (the cancer, not Tony!) before it even thinks about spreading any further. The plan is working, at least to the extent that Tony’s feeling and looking great, so spirits are high all around.

Over breakfast most mornings, we’ve been reading from Oswald Chambers’ book, “My Utmost for His Highest”.  I like him because back in 1927 he knew how to say it like it was, and still is.  This morning he’s talking about “Discernment of Faith” and alludes to the fact that we are not necessarily to look for that “rosy feeling” that comes when circumstances work out the way you hoped and prayed. Rather, he says, as we mature in the faith, we grow to understand that (in his words), “I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do.”  As Job said in the 13th chapter, verse 15, “Though he slay me yet I will hope in him”.

We are overjoyed that we think we have a chance against this insidious disease called cancer, but we are also confident that God has got this! Granted, His definition of “got” may not be ours, but we are confident that He will see that His will is done in spite of the circumstances we look at. And that’s a big Win!

I promise now to look around and talk about something else next week. Meanwhile life scurries along. Tony’s preaching and writing and I’m procrastinating about those most onerous tasks like cooking and cleaning, both of us loving our kids and grandkids, friends and church members here on the Gold Coast.  We are also mindful that we’re not the only folks on the block with issues. Just looking around the church this morning at several cases of terminal diseases, fractured families and a world of hurt, it makes our own situation seem pretty insignificant by comparison. We do remember each of you who share with us your daily challenges, and we pray for you even as we cherish your prayers for us. We are truly a “Band of Brothers” like those soldiers who endure so much together; but in our case, we have the added blessing of knowing that there will come a time when all this is behind us and God is before us, drying every tear, holding us in His arms and bringing us into His Kingdom.

And that’s good news.

Happy trails,

Marsha

Walking With Help

I remember saying when our son died some 27 years ago, “If anyone else around here gets cancer, I’m buying a blender!”

And that’s what we’ve done.  Tony still has no definite information, just that he has aggressive prostate cancer so he needs to get fit.  Last week, we bought a blender and a treadmill. I have to say, he’s committed to both! Thankfully, he’s already lost 3 kilos (7 lbs) and is feeling better physically than he did before he was diagnosed.  It’s not been an easy time, but we’ve been blessed with an extra-ordinary sense of peace and joy, a product, I’m sure of all your prayers! This is not to say that healing is a given; just that whatever circumstances come our way, we’re confident that God is in it, and will give us what we need, when we need it. That said, I have to admit: waiting has been the hardest aspect of this whole thing.

But let’s talk about that verse I mentioned last week in Isaiah 40:31.  I’ll put it here in case you forgot it:

But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

I was first drawn to this verse in the book, “Tracks of a Fellow Struggler” written by John Claypool, way back in 1974.  He very aptly describes this verse as being in three stages, none of them being simultaneous.  He also mentions that the most triumphant stage is the first one, about flying, and then on down from there.

There may be times when, in the euphoria of the moment, you are able to soar with the eagles.  I know you’ve experienced this with me many times thru the years.

Then sometimes we’re just running along. Things are happening. We’re not tired, necessarily; just happily fulfilling our purpose.

And then there are the times like this last week when we just seem to stumble along, moving from appointment to appointment, meeting the responsibilities and trusting God to not let us faint.

This week while Tony was getting a PET scan to determine exactly where all the cancer might be lurking, I was out walking to pass the time.  I passed a church with a big banner that read, “Our church is open, please come in”

I surprised myself when I felt the sudden desire to just go in there and lie on the cool floor and pour out all my fear and trepidation to God.  I didn’t go in, and the feeling passed, but I think that’s what it feels like to “Walk and want to faint”, or possibly to ‘walk and think you’re going to faint’.

Part of pulling myself together was when I reminded myself that I’m not sure that this will be the worst time we have to face before all this over. I may need to save the ‘laying on the floor” stage for later.

Also, ironically, Tony is holding me up. He is a rock, soldiering on, preaching today in Japanese and looking like the picture of health (which he basically is).  Also our wonderful kids, who have rallied, are showing us every day that they’ll be here for us if the going gets tough.

Looking around me, I realize that I’m not the only one in the world having an anxious day, and I remind myself that, with God in control, this may indeed be nothing and I’ll be laughing next week.

I hope so.  But a promise is a promise and God has declared in Isaiah, “Those that trust in the Lord will walk and NOT faint”.

I promise I’ll let you all know when we know something and then we’ll move on to other topics.

Have a blessed week,

Marsha

The Path. The Destination

A great mentor of ours, Stan Nelson, had his memorial service this last week.  As I read all the emails and comments about it, one of his favorite scripture passages came up more than once. It’s from Isaiah 40, starting with verse 28,

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

I’ll talk more about this passage next time, but I have to confess that we’re just not ‘soaring’ much this week. As you may have been hearing, Tony has been having a battery of tests following his diagnosis of prostate cancer. By now we can say that, yes, it’s there. Furthermore, it’s described as a particularly “aggressive” form (I hate that word when it’s used in conjunction with “cancer”). What we DON’T know yet is whether or not it’s still contained, or if it’s already spread through his body. The answer to that question will come with a PET scan on Friday, although we won’t get the result of that until the following week.

Frankly, we both feel pretty gutted. For a man who has absolutely NO symptoms, and feels like he’s in the prime of his life,  this is hard news to take. Naturally, our emotions are all over the place, but I have to add this: we’ve been here before. Way back in1975, after our return to the States following two years as missionary Journeymen in Zambia. I had gotten a malignant melanoma removed in a jungle hospital, and in the process of following up, doctors in San Francisco found a spot on my lung. Talking to Tony privately, the doctor said, “This is bad. We’re looking at an average survival rate of about two years.”

Horrified, Tony asked, “What can we do?”

“Come back in a week, and we’ll run some more tests.”

You think that was a week to remember? We both went through all the classic stages of grief (which Tony would write about in his book, Looking for a Lamb nearly twenty years later. Then, the week finished, we made our way to the hospital. But here’s the thing: we both felt okay about it. God had given us a peace that just couldn’t be described.

And the outcome? Embarrassed doctors, who said, “Well, it was there!”

Of course that’s not to say we expect the same scenario this time. One miracle doesn’t prove a pattern. But the peace? Yeah, it’s here, big time. Full disclosure, we do fall into a punk once in awhile. It usually happens when we start “what if-ing”. But then we remind ourselves that God doesn’t deal in possibilities. He knows already how this is going to work out, and in the meantime He’s asking us to have a little faith and trust Him.

And really, from His point of view, it’s a win-win. Temporal healing while we’re here on this earth, or permanent healing in His Kingdom. So we’re not concerned about the destination. Honest. Just the path between here and there.

Next week we still won’t have all the test results in, but at least hopefully we’ll both be a lot healthier and fit.  And please be assured that every blog henceforth won’t be a medical diary.  I do want to get back to sharing some more things we’ve noticed along the way, but for this week, we’d just like to ask you for a lot of prayer! Patience. Peace. Assurance. And of course healing!

Thanks for your support!  It means so much to us.

Marsha

Keep on Steppin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until that time, Praise the Lord for the journey!

Keep on steppin,

Marsha

Landfall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love ya,

Marsha

Men in Skirts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laters, Marsha

By This They Will Know

Bula (Hello) from Fiji!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love ya,

Marsha

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

Dark Days

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

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

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

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

Why the young?  Why the good??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marsha

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

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

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

Springtime: Fathers, Snakes and Ants

Good morning all,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t like ants.

Marsha