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Rats

Today, I’d like to draw your attention to an amusing story written by Chuck Colson in his book “How Now Shall We Live?”  We’re going through it in our Thursday night Bible study, and we all got a kick out of is. Here’s a quote from Chapter 21:

Life has a demonstrable, natural order, which Behe and  others argue is designed with a purpose.  Sometimes in our            utopian dreams we forget this.  When we do, it can bring the roof down on our heads literally, as the World Health            Organization discovered.

In the early 1950s, a malaria outbreak occurred among Borneo’s Dayak people.  The World Health Organization            responded by spraying the people’s thatch-roofed huts with the pesticide DDT, which killed the mosquitoes, but also            killed a parasitic wasp that kept thatch-eating caterpillars under control.  At night the buzz of the malarial,  bloodsucking   mosquitoes was stilled, but sharp cracks and  then wild screaming followed—as people’s roofs caved in.

This was hardly the end of the problem.  The geckos stuffed  themselves on the toxic mosquitoes, which definitely took the           spring out of their step: these lizards can usually race over water for yards at a time.  They reeled like drunks on a DDT            Saturday night.  The neighborhood cats, after they had batted  the disoriented geckos around to their satisfaction, gorged on               them.

Then the cats died.

Thus the Year of the Rat (sic) was inaugurated into the life of the Dayak people.

Rats were everywhere, streaming over and through the Dayak’s roofless dwellings.  The rodents were a greater  threat than a   mere skin crawling, toe-biting nuisance.  The  rats threatened the people with Bubonic Plague, a condition  far more serious   than malaria, as bad as that is.

What was the World Health Organization to do?  What  unexpected additional disasters might occur if they poisoned  the rats?

Events were spinning out of control and the brains at the WHO were performing pirouettes of rationalization.  They had only   been trying to help, after all.

Someone finally had the bright idea that what was needed  was to reintroduce part of the natural order that had            collapsed.  Specifically, CATS.

They needed cats, New cats, they needed a lot of new cats to eat the rats (‘who ate the Geckos, who ate the mosquitoes,            who ate the spider she swallowed inside her”).

But how could the WHO transport thousands of cats into a  remote section of Borneo?

One morning as the Dayak people awoke and came out of their dwellings, they heard the droning of slow- flying            aircrafts.  Soon the sky was littered with parachuting pussycats.  Operation Cat Drop rained 14,000 felines down  on Borneo.   As soon as the cats hit the ground—  undoubtedly, on all fours— their ears went up and they raced  to unknown locations (for   reasons known only to cats—or the  aliens who control them)  Before too long the cats got around to the business of   mousing, or in this case, ratting, and the Dayaks were saved from mosquitoes, rats and the World Health Organization.

The chapter goes on to elaborate on our God planted, innate need to follow the moral order that God in his wisdom ordained for us…

This last week has been especially harrowing for us because a few months ago Australia was given a referendum to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to allowing Gay marriage.  Whilst usually we, as Australians, have mandatory voting, this was just more or less ‘asking for our opinion’ so it was not mandatory.  Over a third of the people couldn’t even be bothered to vote, whereas only 7 million (about a third of the population)  said a definite “no”.  The rest either voted yes or did nothing, so the referendum carried.

I feel especially sad because I feel that we all just want status quo and are afraid to stand up for what is right.  Who of us would be an Ezekiel and actually speak out for God, all the while garnering the disgust and ridicule of the great majority who just want to follow ‘the way of the world’.

Sin is insidious and we’re right in the middle of it, sailing along, enjoying life………that is, until the basics are gone and the roof falls in

I promise to get off my high horse and think of something positive to talk about next week, please stay tuned……..and promise me you’ll stay close to God and do what you can?

Thanks always, Marsha

Ruins

Today as you’re reading this blog, you are probably sharing the same profound sadness I’m feeling after the terrible church massacre in Texas. If nothing else, it serves as a reminder that life is fragile, even in what we might call a “safe” environment such as America’s Bible Belt. Satan is hard at work, driving wedges wherever he can, trying to instill fear, hatred and doubt… even, and maybe especially among the Body of Christ. Please join me in praying for His peace in the coming days, and for a clear understanding of how we as a Church need to respond.

As if to taunt us further, we came up this week against a situation where Christian schools in Australia are being forced to compromise biblical principles or face severe legal action that could jeopardize the very existence of the schools themselves. I can’t go into detail now, but will let you know how Christians respond to the conundrum. Please pray for wisdom and courage.

And then, as I sat here and thought about these things this past week, I was drawn to the Book of Ezekiel. You may remember that one of my grandsons in an Ezekiel, so I’m rather partial to the prophet!  His 6th birthday came up this week, and I was reminded to pray especially that this child will grow to become the man of God his namesake was. His Mom (my daughter-in-law) reflected on that and added, “The world is going to need strong Godly leaders soon”.

Wise words for crazy times.

All thru our recent travels, it seems that every day was a visit to a ruin. Ruins in Ireland, ruins in Malta, ruins in Jordan….. In the case of our visit to Hong Kong, not ruins exactly, but more like remnants of a time gone by, marked by the end of a hundred years of British rule, now replaced by Communist law.

Observing all these examples of the rise and fall of kingdoms everywhere, I was brought back to Ezekiel and his prophesies assuring the people that God still loves them, in spite of what they did. I had to chuckle to myself as I read Ezekiel chapter 11, verses 2 and 3 in the Good News version: “… these men make evil plans and give bad advice in this city. They say, ‘We will soon be building houses again. The city is like a cooking pot, and we are like the meat in it, but at least it protects us from the fire.’”

It just seems so familiar as I look around today. People are cruising along, relaxing in their reasoning that they won’t be burnt (even if they’re cooking ourselves in the process). The Aussies say it so well: “She’ll be right, Mate!”

But look back at the ruins with me: one civilization after another growing and flourishing until they find themselves wiped out and built over by the next power that comes along.

As an American and as an Australian, I have to cry at what I’m seeing all around me. We NEED God, today more than ever. I know you’re praying already, but please don’t give up!  Remember those other words by dear Ezekiel, quoting God even as he prayed, And I sought for anyone among them who would repair the wall and stand in the breach before me on behalf of the land, so that I would not destroy it…. May that be our prayer for our homelands today… and may we not be included in God’s final assessment at the end of that verse:  “but I found no one” (Eze. 22:30).

God bless us all and teach us what to do.

Marsha

Down and Dirty

So in my struggle to get back to normal last week I completely forgot another thought I had been mulling over lately.

I remembered what I wanted to say as we were shopping for some new shoes to replace our two pairs of shoes that we were forced to throw away after we finished the Jordan-Middle East portion of our trip.

True, we had both traveled many a mile in those beloved shoes, but the roughest were in the Holy Land.

Do you remember in Matthew 8:36 and again in Luke where Jesus speaks to his Pharisee host who is silently turning his nose up at the “the sinful woman”?  Pay particular attention to Jesus’ reprimand in verse 44,

“Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to eat with        him. So he went to the Pharisee’s home and took his        place at the table. There was a woman who was a        notorious sinner in that city. When she learned that        Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s home, she took an        alabaster jar of perfume and knelt at his feet behind        him. She was crying and began to wash his feet with        her tears and dry them with her hair. Then she kissed        his feet over and over again, anointing them constantly        with the perfume.

Now the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this and        told himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would        have known who is touching him and what kind of        woman she is. She’s a sinner!”

Jesus told him, “Simon, I have something to ask you.”

“Teacher,” he replied, “ask it.”

“Two men were in debt to a moneylender. One owed        him 500 denarii, and the other 50. When they couldn’t        pay it back, he generously canceled the debts for both        of them. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon answered, “I suppose the one who had the        larger debt canceled.”

Jesus told him, “You have answered correctly.”

Then, turning to the woman, he told Simon, “Do you        see this woman? I came into your house. You didn’t        give me any water for my feet, but this woman has        washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her        hair. You didn’t give me a kiss,  but this woman, from        the moment I came in, has not stopped kissing my        feet. You didn’t anoint my head with oil, but this        woman has anointed my feet with perfume. So I’m        telling you that her sins, as many as they are, have        been forgiven, and that’s why she has shown such        great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven loves        little.”

Then Jesus told her, “Your sins are forgiven!”

I cannot tell you how wonderful our trip thru Jordan and then to Petra and the Dead Sea was.  BUT it was dirty.

For thousands of years many things have remained the same, and most certainly the DIRT.  Because it’s semi arid, that means DUSTY DIRTY GRITTY dirt on every surface. Oh sure, the cities are paved and clean for the most part, but as soon as you step off the sidewalk and into the ruined castle or the citadel or the ………anywhere, you’re kicking up dirt.

Every night we were in the bathroom washing, no, actually scrubbing our feet, usually only minutes after we walked in the room from outside. I can’t exactly explain the need we felt to get clean, but it was real.

That is why our trusty shoes had to stay there… they just wouldn’t come clean, and the rough hot dry ground had  broken them up as well.

I just can’t imagine traveling, as Jesus did, from city to city, on foot, ‘homeless’, as I mentioned last week. And then add to that the fact that He was in raw leather sandals probably much more primitive than the ones we had; and yet ours really couldn’t cope, even just for a few days.

Again.  Life was hard in Jesus’ day, and we just have to stop once more and appreciate what He has done for us. You’ve all heard the phrase, “getting your hands dirty”, referencing the person who digs into a job heart and soul. After the last couple of weeks, I’m reminded that Jesus “got his feet dirty”… for me and for you. We can be inspired by the beautiful Renaissance paintings of Jesus doing what He came to do in spotless robes and on pristine streets. But for me it’s even more inspiring to realize that He came into a world that was wicked and dirty by any standard, even in the day to day stuff of living.

What a Savior, Who endured all the world had to throw at Him… right down to the daily grime.

Happy Trails, Marsha

PS…  I mentioned last time about having some tests done. They turned out good….nothing wrong, just (probably) I need to stop traveling and try to find some normalcy.  Our friend starts down the dusty dirty road of Chemotherapy tomorrow so please pray for traveling mercies. We as well as our church NEED him to be well.

Good to be Home

So……this last Monday we arrived home.  It’s true, we’re flying cheaper than most because of my daughter’s status with the airline (flight attendant) but, grateful that we are, the seats are the same size as always, and after eating with carefree abandon for three months, they’re even smaller!

We had a good trip though and came home to a new grand-dog and a lovely home looked after by good friends.  We washed clothes for a solid day (how can anyone get that many dirty clothes in carry on bags?), paid bills, pulled weeds and are just about back to normal as I write this.  Tony just finished preaching at Japanese church today so he feels like he’s ‘in his realm’ again.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about “Home” lately.

I’ve been a bit of a vagabond since I was 19 and married into the Woods family.  Before that I had lived in 3 houses, only one of which I remembered.  We took holidays only to see my cousins or even more occasionally to see my Daddy’s family in Texas.  That was it.

But all the traveling over the years fueled by the cause of missions and possibly exacerbated by a spirit of adventure, has made me what I’d like to call ‘flexible’.  We’ve slept on more floors than I can remember, including under and even ON dining room tables.  Like my son Nathan, I can pretty much sleep anywhere.

But as I settled into our very own bed after this ridiculously long trip, I thought first of how much I like it, more than the so so many others……

And immediately I was reminded of the verse where Jesus says, in Luke 9:58

Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (New Living Translation)

Jesus left HEAVEN to spend an extended time ‘out of pocket’………no home, no favorite bed or pillow…nothing to call his or to comfort him…….and he left HEAVEN, not just my humble (but comfortable) house.

What an incredible sacrifice He paid for us, to do this so that we might be saved.  Thank you Lord.

This next week holds a few dramas for us; a very good friend will hear about treatment from an Oncologist that he didn’t know he was needing when we left.  I also will have a few tests to see if we can chase down some nagging stomach issues.  Anyway, we’d appreciate your prayers, always thanking you for your readership and loyalty taking these things to the Throne of God.

CYA next week!

Marsha

Did I mention it’s good to be home??

Petra

The word, “Petra” is one I’ve been sorta familiar with a long time, but since hearing a lot of your comments lately I’ve been getting a whole new appreciation for it. There’s the obvious things, like the Christian music group we grew up with, and of course its significance as a scene in one of those Indiana Jones movies. But honestly, I just had NO IDEA!

Let me see if I can hit the History Highlights:

There’s evidence of the place being occupied by one bunch or another for thousands of years; even suggested that this was one of the destinations of Jacob’s brother Esau, who if you remember, lost his birthright.  It’s quite possibly associated with those “proud hearts” the prophet Obadiah spoke against. “Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, says the LORD (Obadiah 1:4).

There’s even a lot of support for the idea that Petra will be the place where those who find Christ during the Tribulation will gather to escape the minions of Hell, who will be bent on their total annihilation. It won’t work, by the way, since Christ will return to save the day; and for that reason, it’s said that this is where the Second Coming might begin.

By the 1st century AD, work at Petra was going strong, inhabited by a people known as the Nabataeans, and it wasn’t long before it was a major destination for caravans coming in from the East. As we were walking down the long narrow entrance into Petra, we could still see carvings in the sandstone of camels loaded with goods … almost like billboards welcoming the merchants.

Of course it wasn’t long before Petra’s success got the attention of the Romans, who arrived and announced that they would be taking over the business now. According to them, it was a mutually agreed-upon acquisition, but one can’t help but wonder what the Nabataeans thought about it, given that so many arrowheads, spear points and siege rocks were discovered around the basement of the Temple of Zeus … great place for a “last stand.”

By the early 300s, Petra was a full-on Roman city, complete with amphitheater, markets and baths. Interesting though, that the caravan folks began to simply go around Petra (thus avoiding being taxed)  and took their business elsewhere. The result was that by around 600 AD, the place was deserted and all but forgotten.

Time marches on … for more than a thousand years to be more exact. In 1911, a British explorer by the name of Burkhardt hood-winked some Bedouins into thinking he was a Muslim pilgrim looking for a place to sacrifice. They led him to the secret place of Petra’s ruins, he took notes and got the word out, and the rest is history.

What an amazing place.  Just to think that things this old, so beautiful and perfectly preserved, all made by man searching for God………..well, as I said on Facebook, it rendered me speechless……

Which of course no one could believe!

Now we’re sitting here in Hong Kong where we’ve been having a ball for 4 days. Old friends from both the Japanese church and the International church have been SO GOOD, feeding us til we’re bursting at the seams and plying us with stories from the “good old days” about 20 years ago when we lived and served here.

Tony’s delighted to be presenting his Anagaion discipleship course (right about now in fact, if you’re reading this on Sunday morning Hong Kong time).

Before you wake up again, HOPEFULLY we’ll be air bound for HOME!

It’s been a wonderful trip, but we realize that it’s time to be back to reality.  Can’t wait to see those grand babies either!

God Bless, Marsha

Zoned Out

Good Morning all,

Some of you have been following our adventures in the Middle Eastern country of Jordan this last week.  I’ve posted more pictures than anyone wants on Facebook, so I’ll spare you more of the same this morning.

The capital city of Amman, where we’ve been for 5 days, is made up of geographical ‘zones’.  Beyond that I have no idea where I am most of the time because it all (sorry) looks alike.

As you read this, we’ll be on our way to the ancient ruins of Petra, but today our travels took us to another ancient city called Jaresh. Fascinating place, I have some thoughts on this that I’m still categorising in my mind and may share with you later if I come up with anything that makes sense.

I would like to tell you about two ‘zones’ I lived in, at least in my mind, for most of the day.

The first several hours and the last one, I’ll call the “Traffic Terror Zone”.

A lovely guy named “Bashar” picked us up at our guest house an hour late.  We were relieved that he had a late model car with seatbelts.

Within minutes I could guess that he fancied himself a Formula One driver, because before we’d ‘clicked in’, we were off like a young pony with a burr under the saddle.

Bashar talked and waved his hands as he drove pell-mell north on a pretty big freeway, winding and climbing while changing lanes constantly without even a glance behind.    Tony assured me he was only going 80, but it felt like we were in a rocket.  We passed numerous traffic signs to Syria, one hour away, and saw a few police vans with guns mounted on the roofs.  He assured us that all is well and we arrived at Jaresh in record time. I gathered my wits and crawled out of the back seat, whereupon he pointed to the gate of this marvellous and ancient temple ruin, and said, “Back here, 2 hour”.

After collecting ourselves with a visit to the “W.C.”, we then spent the next two hours walking around in the hot sun. Our phones recorded 5 miles, and that didn’t take in the steps.   We took so many pictures even we don’t know what we saw, but it was interesting.

Now, lets enter into the second ‘zone” and I’ll call that the “Gastronomical Nightmare’.

On the way up the highway, Bashar careened off the road to buy us some RAW eggplant for us to taste.  That was followed by another screeching stop for orange juice.

Make no mistake, we LOVE to eat, but the last week my stomach has been revolting (or maybe it’s me that’s revolting, but you get the idea).  We’ve even had the privilege of visiting one lovely American raised and trained doctor the day we arrived, I was so crook.  She prescribed “Spasmomen” and got me on my feet but that may be too much information.  Let’s just say, my stomach is a bit delicate.

When we staggered back from our self guided HOT SUN tour, Bashar indicated that now we would eat a buffet.  I demurred politely and said I’d like a drink and maybe some Baba Ganoush.  (Roasted and mashed eggplant and some spices, very easy on the stomach).

Well, there must be some regional differences in Baba Ganoush, because what I got most resembled a good RAW salsa, filled to the brim with onions, peppers and who knows what else.  Wash that down with a nice lemon/mint slushie complete with the whole fruit, skin and all, and enough mint to bring tears to your eyes..

I was holding my own after this sumptuous lunch when we started home, only to screech to a halt.  Bashar ran into a shed and came out with two large cups saying “Doctor! Try this!”  He called Tony that all day because I’d put the suffix, just for fun, on the paperwork.

His offering: two big glasses of fermented sheep milk. It was actually rather good, somewhat salty and reminiscent of Grandma’s buttermilk. I sipped it carefully for an hour and felt better.

But wait!  There’s more.  Another stop for a large a plate of figs, washed lightly with a bottle of water beside the road.

We asked to be dropped at a mall where we said goodbye and staggered in.  It was very modern with all the anchors stores, Body Works, Bed Bath and Beyond, H&M and a food court.   We settled on a strong cup of coffee to settle our stomachs……….and of course…. a Cinnabon.  Some people never learn.

So now back to the first circle of terror.  The taxi ride home brought to mind the words I’d seen from one of my readers this morning, who quoted, “The clinging hand of His child makes a desperate situation a delight to Him.”

Tony didn’t notice as he hopped in the front seat of the taxi that I didn’t have a seat belt in the back.  Again, we bolted into traffic with the driver playing a selection from his iPhone what might be called “contemporary Islamic Music” with a lot of ‘Allahs’ in every other word. Not to be outdone, I discovered that “God” was finding its way into my own thoughts as well. Tony said later that it was “somehow significant” that the young man seemed to be clutching the steering wheel in one hand and his prayer beads in the other with equal dedication.  For myself, I was catatonic with fear, gripping the seatback and bracing for impact.

And so the ‘message’ of today’s blog (if there is one) is two fold:

First, we can’t wait to get to the civility of Hong Kong this next week where Tony will be presenting his Anagaion course to our friends at International Baptist. And while Jordan’s been fun and interesting, we can’t wait to eat back to ‘normal’ Hong Kong fare again, like pigeon, pork and chicken feet!

And two, we’re ready to be home. Hopefully the 23rd.  We’ve got to settle down and act like adults.

Ya’ll take care now, hear?

Marsha

Walls

Good morning all, Hope you’re enjoying lovely sunshine as are we!

Many of you have surmised that we’ve been in the tiny country of Malta this last week.  As you’re reading this, we’ll be worshipping at the St Paul’s Cathedral in Valletta.  We wanted to go there and thank the nice people whom we met over two years ago who were so kind to pray for my healing when I had (but didn’t know it yet) Chikungunya, a mosquito borne mutation of Malaria.

Because of that miserable first visit, where we spent most of our time at the hospital, we decided to have a ‘do over’ now that I’m well, and I’m happy to say I’ve spent most of the week with my heart in my throat in awe of the amazing history of this place.  Needless to say, Tony’s been enraptured with it all as well.

If you ever thought the Bible was just an allegory or a “made up” story, read Acts 27 and 28.  The good Doctor Luke reported Paul’s adventures here in Malta with such accuracy and attention to detail, you can almost smell the salt in the air as you read. The little apartment where we’re staying this week is just up the road from the beach where most people believe Paul and his captors swam ashore after being shipwrecked. And looking at all the churches, shrines and souvenir shops in the area, I can almost believe it. But there is some controversy as to the exact location. A good case can be made for another spot just up the beach, and I like that place because divers actually brought up four 1st century anchors there that sound a lot like the ones that were cut loose from Paul’s ship (Acts 27: 29, 40). Yesterday, Tony and I went to the museum where the anchors are on display, but the room was undergoing renovations so we couldn’t get in to see them!

We did visit the cave where Paul and the other prisoners were held for the three months while they wintered on their way to Rome.  A lot of evidence even outside the Bible supports it. So it was exciting to see. Above the cave now sits a gargantuan church built in AD67 by one of the nobility that Paul led to Christ!  How amazing.

But my moral treatise this morning is not about Paul, it’s about walls.

I’ll try to put in a picture of the city of Valletta (Sorry to those viewing the website blog; I’m technically challenged today).  The castle/fort/city of Valletta was built by some Crusaders, known as “The Knights of St John” around AD1073.

Before you think ill of the Crusaders, they did stop the westward expansion of the Ottomans and that needed to be done.  In the words of my Church History professor, “If it wasn’t for the Crusades you and I would be Muslim now”.   Modern history (today) tells us that this may be happening again if we’re not careful.

But back to Malta.

In 1530 the tiny island of Malta was given to the Knights of St John along with the responsibility of protecting ALL of the Mediterranean. The ‘rent’ for this privilege was one falcon a year.

And so they began……….and this is what struck me this week.

These knights, before anything else, concentrated themselves to Christ and built the WALLS of the city.  Most of them exist even today, strong as ever 600 years later.

Without fortifications, there can be no safety.

I was raised in a fairly normal family, and was afforded a fairly normal happy life.  Marriage for these 48 years has been wonderful.

Some of this, I believe is due to the fact that I felt secure within my walls.  I think now we call them “boundaries”.  Check out Psalms 74, where it talks about God setting up the boundaries in and around us.

Now the city of Valletta is a vibrant bustling city, The knights made it 268 years and did a tremendous service to humanity as well as world history. They eventually ‘fell’, partly because many of them had essentially lost their calling and had taken up the art of “corsair-ing” (That means ‘privateering’ for the sake of profit…..not a noble cause for a Knight supposedly dedicated to God).  There was also the fact that by now most of the knights were French and so welcomed Napoleon when he invaded Malta. Napoleon abolished the Spanish Inquisition, which I think was a good thing, but as far as the romantic vision of knights and fights for the rights……that basically came to an end in Malta.

So what are the walls that protect you and keep you on track for your service to God? Those things would make some great points in a sermon that I’m bound to hear from Tony one day soon. A few suggestions: Reading your Bible every day, surrounding yourself with folks who can keep you encouraged and accountable, reminding yourself daily just what God has called you to do, becoming so close to God that when the enemy knocks at the gate, you won’t be tempted to go open it and see what he wants.

Build your walls, keep them strong!

Love ya, Marsha

Wind and Rocks

As expected, we’ve had a lovely week here in Ireland.

After saying goodbye to 40 of our long lost Journeymen friends at the retreat (but only after agreeing to meet again in two years) we headed east, bound for Belfast. It was a very cheap airline, Thomas Cook, but the plane was clean and new.  We’d never experienced the A330LDL, which has the bathrooms downstairs! That made for a roomier upstairs, if you didn’t mind negotiating a spiral staircase during turbulence. Nice experience, beautiful flight.

We arrived in Belfast to a charming B&B, then headed out to meet the man I mentioned last week, the father of a friend we met during a tour of Campus Crusade’s filming of the Jesus video.

Charlie is an 85 year-old retired salmon fisherman, living right on the shores of his beloved Port Rush. His home looks like a restored lighthouse, complete with a wall-to-wall view of the raging North Sea and a massive pair of military grade binoculars to keep tabs on everything. As the incoming waves threatened to sweep us away, we watched seals riding the surf, then fed his pet Herring Seagulls that come by daily.  Finally we settled in around his peat fueled fireplace for a cuppa.

What an interesting man!  Unfortunately although Charlie’s life has been weathered with a good humor and an absolute gift for telling a story, he doesn’t share the views of his fourth daughter (whom we met in Florida). In his own words, “She’s gone a bit balmy with religion.”

We pray that our visit softened him somewhat to the faith his daughter embraces, and that one day soon he’ll understand the reason she’s gone this way.

Inspired by Charlie’s stories, we set out in earnest to see the sights of Ireland.  It felt good to be back on the left side of the road, even if it was quite a bit narrower that what we were used to. We arrived at our second B&B to find that somewhere we’d crossed from Northern Ireland (England) into The Republic of Ireland.  I rather thought the ‘crossing’ would have been more dramatic, but I’m coming to think the border may now exist mainly in people’s hearts (where we’re finding that it exists with quite a strong conviction).

OK, enough travel dialogue.  Here’s the thing that made us stop and think.

We’ve especially enjoyed the rolling hills covered with lush green grass with lots of varied livestock.   Every field is bordered either with either thick hedge rows or stone fences.  The fields are quite small as well.

It was explained to us that the fields are the product of ‘as many rocks as you have to remove to plow in your immediate space……i.e.; the more rocks, the larger field you can build a fence to encompass.  At least that’s how it went before things got civilized and people started using surveyors.

The rock walls have a real charm, like picture postcards. But I have to say that a big part of the charm is the haphazard way the rocks are stacked…. Dare I say sloppy?

But it’s by design, we were told. The walls are “dry stacked”, without mortar, to allow the wind to blow right through the cracks. Why? You ask. Because if the wall was a solid buttress, the wind would eventually prevail and blow it over.

As Tony says, “Gotta be a sermon there, right?”  Perhaps it’s a weak one, especially with all the admonitions in the Bible to ‘build your house on the solid rock’ etc.  But gaps? To let the wind thru?

Ireland is two things, GREEN (lots of rain which thankfully we missed) and WIND.  We visited the ‘Cliffs of Moher” where on average at least one person a week falls or is blown off to their death, never to be recovered.

The ‘winds’ of our life sometimes feel like they will blow us over.  The ‘rocks’ we find in our field sometimes feel more like a curse than a chance to expand our boundaries of experience.

BUT if we can arrange and stack those life problems and let the gaps take the gusts, perhaps we can have a secure life, rich and green.

And here’s a Bible verse for you to chew on.  Nehemiah 4: 2 and 3. It references the Ammonites discussing the Jewish rebuild of the Temple.

“He spoke in the presence of his brothers and the wealthy men of Samaria and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble even the burned ones? Now Tobiah the Ammonite was near him and he said, “Even what they are building– if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down!”

How often were the Chosen People of God mocked by people who just didn’t get it that God was on the Jews side. Walls are walls and they serve a purpose, usually to be strong, even if it means letting the wind blow thru instead of knocking them down.

May the Road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back……..I think that’s how the Irish Blessing goes….

Till next week, which should find us in a warmer place, Marsha

Community

Good Afternoon!

If you’re getting this email earlier than expected, it’s because in a few hours Tony and I will be on a plane leaving America and headed for Ireland. In the hope of getting this away before we leave the internet, I’m going to try and send it right away.

So Tony mentioned that last week that by talking about the “Band of Brothers” experience of spending the week with the retired ancients in our mission, I may have inadvertently left you, my loyal readers, out of the picture.

I had to agree… Now I need to talk about YOU!

Last Saturday as we were walking through North Carolina’s Ridgecrest Baptist encampment, I mentioned to one of my friends that I had to mail out the blog, because if “Texas woke up at 6AM Sunday and it wasn’t there, they’d be stressed”.

That friend was evidently one of those dear people I mentioned last week who sometime regard me with a mixture of patience and pity. I got one of her looks just then, as if to say, “Seriously, do you really think they care?”

But somehow I feel that you do.  Care, I mean.  I have no way of knowing how many of you actually read my blog, but I do get enough comments to know that some do, and based on that, I’d like to suggest a new category with just YOU in mind.

Let’s call it “Community”.  I don’t know all of you, and many of you don’t really know me, but thru Christ, we are ‘neighbors’, and much, much more.

I know that you make my life more rosy, knowing that you’re there………and that you care. Sometimes I even feel you watching over my shoulder, clicking your teeth in warning, saying. “Watch out there, you don’t want to have to have another online confession ”.

As I write this, we are finishing up the 44th Anniversary Journeymen reunion that brought us down to this part of Florida yesterday. Many of the attendees were also with us last week at Ridgecrest, having completed their Journeyman tour (two years of short term missions) and going on into career missions like we did. But about forty others in our group went on into secular careers and except for the occasional reunion we’ve had no contact with them.

It’s been a bittersweet experience, learning how their lives have turned out. Some have died, some are dying now of cancer. Some have lost husbands and wives, children and abilities. In many ways, those folks are a little like you, my precious readers. I don’t know some of them, as some of them married into the group later. Others I had no idea about, since we’ve had no regular contact over the years.

But one thing we all share together, just as I hope and pray I share with you: we’ve put our trust in the One Who made us. The kinds of things they.. and you… have experienced in a lifetime are common to anyone, anywhere. Certainly as God’s children, we have no exclusive right to the thuds and thrills that come with living. But the thing that sets us apart and makes us this “Band of Brothers” is the faith that knows that this life is not all there is.

Like the “dew on the grass” that’s gone before you know it (Isaiah 26:19), our lives are lived in joy and pain, grief and glory, but that will all soon be a thing of the past, leaving just …. us! with an eternity to experience together and a loving Father Who has been a part of it all since before we were born.

And so I thank you for listening as I often think out loud……living my life under your gaze and feeling that somehow we share our lives in the process.

As I mentioned above, if you’re reading this now, it means that the internet worked and we’re off to bonny Ireland.  A recent DNA test says I’m 27% Irish and Tony’s 7% with a twist of Olde English. Who knows? We may hop off the plane and break into a jig.

And then last Friday, just to add a sweet little topping to our week’s adventure, we popped into the museum that tells about the making of the “Jesus Film.”  Long after the crowd left the tour we were still talking to our lovely guide, who happened to be from…….you guessed it, Ireland.  Her 85-year-old father lives within a stone’s throw of our first stop on our anticipated “Woods Driving Tour”, so we promised to give him a call when we get there. She was delighted and told us that her father “loves to tell stories”…..I wonder who you’re thinking of when you read that? (Buddy?)  Do stay tuned!

And so, young reader, please look on us old folks with a measure of appreciation for what we have to offer, knowing that all too soon it will be your turn to do the offering. To those “more experienced” among us, enjoy the fellowship we have, knowing that it’s just a foretaste of what lies around the corner.

Young or old, I love you all.

Marsha

Band of Brothers

This last week I’ve experienced more emotions and learned more about myself than I ever imagined.

Tony and I both came from small families, and as we get older that’s growing even smaller as we float our way to the top of the survivors.

However this last week, we’ve been with 1200 RETIRED Missionaries, all from the International Mission Board.  We ourselves were totally supported by them for almost 40 years.  Gathered together were the young folks like us (late 60’s) all the way up to the wheelchair ridden hunched over ones who are near 100, all having served the same mission board, put up with the same authorities, (and loving most of them), learning the same acronyms like CPM and PBD and of course the OOBs……and all the rest……..

I think my point is, that by nature of the job, we’ve spent more time and association with these folks than we ever did with our families or even our country.  It was said many times that with most of us having logged in 30 – 40 year careers, the aggregation of the 1200 of us represents nearly 27000 years of service.

And then I realized something else, possibly a bit of a shock.  For most of our lives, we’ve either been a bit reviled or a bit ‘pedestalled’  (is that even a word? Let me explain, we were often put on a pedestal, even though we seldom deserved it).  Most of the ‘reviling’ came from people who either don’t share our religious beliefs or don’t ‘get’ our foreignness. Some of you, especially those who read our blog but don’t know us, sometimes tend to over-esteem us.  Others, and they are many, roll their eyes in patient disgust and quietly put up with our idiosyncrasies. You know which of these people you are.

But I think, last week in that meeting, that I finally understood that with all of our escapades and adventures sharing God’s story throughout the world, THIS “Band of Brothers’ are the only people who can really understand us up close and personal!  Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs with each other, but because of our shared history, or maybe our shared weirdness along with the shared dedication to the same cause, we really are “US”.  We can be ourselves and no one thinks we’re strange, because in large part, they are strange as well.  This must be how old soldiers feel; like family, but family that’s shared more than most families.

And so it’s with renewed support, finally knowing who we really are, we carry on to our next reunion: the Missionary Journeyman class of 1973-75. One hundred of us went out to the four corners of the earth to serve for only 2 years.  In our case it was in Zambia, Africa. That experience set us on the path of career missions.

Many of the same folks were at last week’s big reunion, but we’ll see most of the rest of the Journeymen next week, so that’ll be a lot of fun. We drove the 8 hours down to Florida with our good friends, talking and laughing the whole way and even missing an intrepid Alligator trying to cross the freeway.

And then next Sunday afternoon we’re heading off to balmy Ireland (or more likely ‘chilly’ Ireland), perhaps on another search of where we really came from! hahaha

Wish us luck!  Marsha