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Celebrate the Scars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bless ya bunches,

Marsha

Prisoners of Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your fellow prisoner,

Marsha

A Cheerful Giver

Three Missionaries walked into a bar…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheerfully,

Marsha

Celebrating Freedom

Happy Fourth of July!

Tonight I’m going to be short and simple.  I’m guessing you’ve had a big weekend too!  Tony got to preach twice in two languages in REAL churches after our restrictions have lightened up a bit.  Because of that, we’re pretty tired tonight but we had a great weekend.
On the actual fourth, we had a nice time with our kids, and grandkids, riding on the John Deere mower (blades disengaged) and picking oranges. It’s pretty chilly here, so we cancelled the bag races and headed inside. There, by a roaring fire, we sat around the table ‘explaining’ why we were celebrating.  Because we’re in Australia we felt the need to have a little history lesson to these Aussie kids about their American roots.

We explained about how American was ‘settled’ by mostly white pilgrims from England.  At this point they corrected us to stop and include the Native Americans, so it’s clear that they’ve heard a few things in their 5th, 3rd and kindergarten classes.  After we got that all tidied up we continued to point out that whereas Australia was ‘invaded’ by convicts, the second Americans (following the first native American immigrants, having made it all the way from the Ark) came here for a lot of reasons, but for the most part, wanted to be free to worship as they wished. I thought it was interesting that in both Australian and American “settler stories”, it was the Aboriginals and the Native Americans, who were responsible in a big way for the newcomers’ survival during those first few years.
In a nutshell, it seems that America was founded by people seeking freedom, while Australia was founded by English convicts who had lost theirs.

In theory, at least, America was built on a religious heritage, and if anything, Australia began with a built-in aversion to any kind of authority, including religious.

But one thing we could all agree on as we sat around the table, was the fact that today, these two countries are among the most blessed in the world. And especially us, I thought, sitting there with a heritage, family ties, and most importantly a love for God and each other that is the glue in our clan.
So much these days, it seems that our heritage is being “re-worked”, with a distinctive negative spin put on it. There’s probably some truth on both sides of the fence, but at the end of the day, it’s still true that God has been, and continues to be, so, so good to us. All the time.

Let me close with this little exciting announcement from Tony:

A new devotional series is coming to YouTube. It’s called The Road Rising, and it’s brought to you by your own Reverend Doctor Tony Woods. If you’ve read the book of the same name, then you know it’s the story of a man on a backpack trip. But in fact, it goes much deeper than that. The traveler, known only as Friend, follows a path set before him by God, and in the process discovers danger, hardships, new friends, old enemies and even a demon or two. The journal he keeps will provide 52 weeks of insights into the life of faith, recounted each week in a short video vlog by the author. The presentations are suitable for individual or small group participation, and will introduce just about every facet of life on the Kingdom path.

To keep up to date and follow along, please subscribe and tick the bell to be notified when new weekly video episodes are available. The first segment goes live at midnight, Friday, July 10 (Australia time).

Click here to join the journey! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTkLgbfPKh8&feature=youtu.be

No Worries!

This morning we attended church, as has become the norm, in our bed. Australia is still pretty much on lockdown.

This time we had at least finished breakfast, showered and had clothes on.  We’re getting good at this.  Well, there was the fact that, just a couple of hours later, Tony would be in the Facebook/Zoom saddle preaching to the Japanese church up in Brisbane, so we were motivated to comb our hair, at least.

One of the first songs we were invited to sing along with on this live Zoom session was “Oceans”.  There was a collective groan as we remembered that at the zenith of this song’s popularity we’d been known to have this put to us three times in one Sunday.  The Japanese version is especially tedious since the translated words just don’t fit to the music and you’re having to do mouth aerobics just to get it out.

But this morning, I was surprised when the words really touched my heart.

Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your Name
And keep my eyes above the waves

I remember many years ago, riding in the car as a family, discussing some important decision that memory fails to let me recall………. and at one point I said, “Well, God has never let us down…. yet.

From the backseat came Nathan’s critical teenage voice.  “What do you mean ‘yet’?”

That really hit me hard, much like the words this morning. The question was valid. Do I trust God or not? God doesn’t bring us to a poignant moment and then with a casual “Gotcha”, drop us without a hope to stand on.  He doesn’t ever, ever fail us; we all KNOW that, but do we/I LIVE IT?

These are (still) trying times for us all.  The world seems to be spinning into chaos.  More than one person has asked me this week if this is the ‘tribulation’ God mentions in the Bible (most certainly not).

I could let myself be anxious.  What if the economy fails like it threatens to every time I turn on the news? What if the crazies get control? And of course what about the virus that is still apparently doing very well?

Lots of things to be concerned about.  But as we look in our Bibles, and sing the songs like we did this morning, we know in our heart of hearts that there is absolutely nothing to worry about because God Does Not Fail.  See also Romans 6:8-10,

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

I wonder what we can do this week to remember that things aren’t so scary as they might seem? I could suggest finding a sulking teenager and take him for a ride while you vent your fears … but you might find, as I did, that he had more faith than I did!

Thanks for listening, Marsha

Not So Lost Boys

Hello all,

Something has crossed my desk recently that I think needs sharing.  It may be particularly apropos if you’ve been watching all the world news lately.

How many of you were forced to read The Lord of The Flies in school?  I don’t know about Australia, but in America, it was required reading. It’s a cautionary tale helping us all remember that when left alone, especially without adults, there’s going to be trouble. As I was a timid girl to begin with, reading this only drove home the fact that I couldn’t be trusted to take care of myself without a Speaker’s Conch and a lot of bloodshed.

And as much as that book impacted our lives, I remind myself that it was actually a fictitious story written by William Goldburg in 1951.

A few days ago, a tiny blip in the Australian newspaper, the Guardian, showcased an article written by a Dutch minister’s son, Rutger Bergman. Himself a non-believer (it happens) but somehow he still retained an intuitive feeling that man wasn’t all that bad after all.

So in a humanistic approach he set about to find some tender stories about man’s kindness and he wrote a book.  In this book, with quite a bit of research, he discovered and published the tale of a bunch of boys, a real life Lord of the Flies story, from back in the 60’s.  It goes something like this:

In 1965, six boys who were residents of a Catholic boarding school in Tonga got bored and decided to “borrow” a boat and sail to either Fiji or possibly New Zealand.  The oldest boy was 16 and the youngest 13.  They were, on the whole, good boys, but as I said, a bit bored. Their biggest fault was that they were just looking for a challenge. They were not particularly known as great planners, had almost no navigational skills (as evidenced by the fact that Fiji and New Zealand are in exact opposite directions from Tonga), or appropiate tools for such an undertaking. They set sail with great pomposity and not-so-great preparation, carrying only enough supplies for a few days at best; and after a seamless departure, they were already congratulating themselves on what a great adventure they had begun.

… perhaps a bit more of an adventure than any of them planned on. After the initial departure, boredom set in, and soon all six were sound asleep in the warm afternoon sun.  Water splashing into their faces woke them up to the reality of darkness and a bad storm. They survived the storm and then were adrift for eight grueling days, finally spotting an island. By this time, they were sunburned, dehydrated and starving, but they decided to elect one person to try and swim to shore and check it out.

When it was dark, in order to give them some advantage of surprise if the island was hostile,  one of the boys slipped over the side of the boat and started swimming. He was so weak, he barely made it, collapsing on the sand and sleeping until morning.  He had a quick look around and signaled the rest to come ashore. It was just as difficult for them, but eventually they were all safely on the beach. The island was clearly uninhabited, but they found some plants to eat and with fresh water they gradually began to revive.  Some time later, they were able to climb to the top of the island where they found the ruins of a civilization, which history recorded as having been abandoned by slavers some 70 years previously. In the vicinity of the ruins, they ‘inherited’ some feral chickens (still going strong after 70 years) along with some rudimentary tools.

And so, after a few weeks of hoping and then despairing that they’d ever be discovered, they began to live there, establishing order, learning to focus on what they were good at and more importantly, wait out their differences until they could fall into a system of conflict resolution that worked.  They fed themselves, had lots of projects with assigned responsibilities for building a shelter, keeping a signal fire going etc.  One of the boys fell and broke his leg, but when they were finally rescued, doctors discovered that it had been  set perfectly.

In comparing this true story to William Goldburg’s fictional piece. I saw at least one major difference. Goldburg’s premise, and most of us would agree, even theologically, was that people, left to themselves, will self-destruct. The apologist, Charles Colson, underscored that fact in his study, How Now Shall We Live? with the comment that, “Left in a room by himself, a man will do the wrong thing, every time.”

But the difference in the story of these six boys lies, I believe, in the fact that they all had a relationship with God. They were not without sin, to be sure – after all, this whole adventure began with their decision to “borrow” someone’s boat without their permission,– but the key lay in how they dealt with themselves and the situation they were in.

When things got tough, and then even tougher, the foundation of faith that had helped shaped them kicked in and helped them survive. Totau, the boy who first swam to shore, said later that they all prayed for his safety before he left the boat and swam to shore. As they settled in for the long haul as castaways, they organized morning prayers and devotions, faithfully maintaining them every day of their exile ….which ended up being 15 months long.

We would do well to remember this (I’m preaching to myself here), especially in these crazy days.  We may not exactly be castaways today, but whatever situation we find ourselves in, it will definitely go better if we have an on-going relationship with the Savior. I have to grimace at all those movies where the guy comes to the end of his rope, falls to his knees and says something like, “Uh, God? I know we haven’t talked much lately, but …” How much better would that conversation have gone if the guy had just been speaking to God just that morning?!?

If you want to read more about these boys’ most excellent adventure, here’s a YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iynwbDFJuik

I also need to give credit to the Australian Guardian newspaper who resurrected this story.  I have tried to get their permission to use it, but they’re ignoring me.  Hopefully, I won’t be transported to Atu Island, which I understand is once again….. uninhabited.

Spoiler alert:  the boys you see in this old ‘documentary’ film are actors ……. with clothes on.  Naturally in 1965, no one had an iPhone to document it all, including the loss of their clothes and growth of their hair.  When they did finally attract the attention of a passing boat, they looked like honest savages, so much so that the pilot had his gun ready.  Imagine his surprise when they called out for help in perfect boarding school English!

Marsha
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6)

Counting the Years

In my life, I’ve taught a lot of English classes from University level down to bored Japanese housewives who would gather at the church under the guise of learning English. It sorta comes with the job of being light and salt to the unsaved.

One day, to get the conversation going, I asked for the class to tell me about the best birthday present they’d ever received.  Answers ranged from dinners in fine restaurants, to perfume and puppies … the usual.  And then one woman (not a believer) said happily and without hesitation, “My Life!”

Her answer has come home to me this week as I enter my 7th decade!!! People say they can’t believe I’m 70, to which I reply, “Neither can I!”  In the words of Mae West, “If I’d have known I was going to live this long I’d have taken better care of myself!”

But this woman’s answer, “My Life” made me stop and think.  Of course God gave me my life, and she’s right; that was unequivocally the best present I could have asked for, to get to experience life to the fullest because of Christ.

And now, thanks to lovely Covid, we still can’t really have a party or a trip. In the past, I’ve been spoiled with both, but this year, we’re just taking it relatively quietly. Our daughter, Nicki, came down (Chris had responsibilities at their church) and we spent the day in the kitchen rustling up some of my favorite (non-diety) foods.  Son Nathan was able to swing by for a few minutes before he went to work, and Kylie and the grands made it over to entertain us all as they marked their height on my wall, which we do every year on my birthday.

Perhaps one of my favorite birthday treats some years ago was seeing a lovely friend, Miyagi san, accept Christ as her Savior during a special evangelistic outreach……. which happened to be on my birthday. She was a product of one of those English classes, by the way. Being able to share Christ all my life, encouraged by precious people like you whose generous prayers made it possible, has really been a blessing that God has granted me.  I was surprised to find that the SBC convention is still praying for me, one of their missionaries, albeit retired, on my birthday.  Another grand legacy I’ve been given.

I’ve cheated death a few times, and I’m just mentioning the times I know of; there are probably other times that we have no idea of. Gonna have a great conversation with my guardian angel one of these days!

For sure, it will be a real eye opener to see all the bullets I’ve dodged unknowingly. But I hope, by God’s grace, that I’m not given the opportunity to see all the times when I missed an opportunity to share Christ or be kind……. but didn’t. Without a doubt, I’ve been given more peace and happiness than I deserve. And I hope by His grace there will be a few more opportunities before the journey is finished. Tony reminded me this morning of Psalms 90:10, and said with a kiss on the cheek, “The rest is not downhill anymore. If anything, there may be some serious rock climbing ahead. But one thing we can both say is, from here on, every day is just frosting on the birthday cake! And I for one plan to keep my fork handy.

Thank you all for making my day (and my life) so wonderful!  CYA next week!

Psalms 90:10 “The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;”
and then in vs 12, So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Marsha

Mamool Cookies and Interesting Friends

Hello everyone.
Again……. a pretty slow and easy week, except for winter, which is coming hard and fast. I think I actually saw frost outside the other morning! (But of course I was imagining it, as it doesn’t get that cold here).   Sorry all you Northern Hemispherers!  Australians have their seasons divided into four three month sections, and while I thought June 1st was a bit premature to start Winter, by June 2nd the comforter on the bed felt pretty good!

Last week I talked about calming down and settling into the life we have and the tasks we have to do.  I’m happy to say that it’s been working well, due in no small part to your prayers. Thank you! I’ve joined a Women’s Bible study that I think I’m going to like, Tony’s pouring himself into some projects (more on that soon), and the grandkids, as always, continue to be cute.  We’ve commented to ourselves on several occasions this week, “We’re living the dream.”

In fact, I’m so relaxed that I’ve actually stopped thinking about traveling all the time………well, almost.  But then I came across this post from a friend the other day, and just had to nod my head in agreement.

Let me say this: I like people.  I like a LOT of people.  I find people interesting, and so during this time of enforced isolation, I’ve been a little out of sorts. I guess that’s partly why I found this story a bit insightful about  myself and about why I find traveling so invigorating.

In light of the rough week the world has had, especially in America, and to some extent here with a few of the rallies spilling over to include some of our Australian problems, I think you might find this little story very apropos.

It was written by an Arab-American poet, Naomi, Shibab Nye.  She was the keynote speaker at last year’s Christian Scholars Conference. She talks about “Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal”.

Her words:

“After learning my flight was detained 4 hours, I heard the announcement:
‘If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.’“Well—one pauses these days, but Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly. ‘”Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
problem? We told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
did this.’

“I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly. ‘Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick, sho bit se-wee?

“The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
she stopped crying. She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
following day. I said ‘No, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late’

“’Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.’ We called her son and I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and would ride next to her—Southwest.

“She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up about 2 hours.

“She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade Mamool cookies—little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag— and was offering them to all the women at the gate.

“To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.

“And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers—
non-alcoholic—and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American—ran around serving us all apple juice
and lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

“And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—
had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

“And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, this is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped —has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

“They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too. This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.”

And back to me, Marsha, I am reminded that not all is lost. Reading this story I immediately thought of the verses in  Matthew 25:37-40.  How these words of Jesus must resonate with us at this trying time,

“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?  ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

May we all come across some ‘interesting people’ this week!

Marsha

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