Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Fresh Starts

It’s come to my attention that there’s a new book sweeping across at least America’s attention called “The Boy, the Mole” and something else that escapes me. I’m not sure what I think of it, since it’s only new, but while I was putting a hold on it at my library app, I looked at some of the illustrations. One jumped out at me, striking a chord in my heart long forgotten.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” asked one of the characters.

The boy’s answer was, “Kind”.

I remember answering this question in a Bible Study many years ago in an adult Sunday School class, and the lyrics popped into my mind of an old hymn from my childhood. Some of you will remember it:

“Out of the highways and byways of life, many are weary and sad”,

……………..and it goes on to the chorus:

“Make me a blessing, make me a blessing …………to someone today”.

Apparently that song had stuck in my mind, because I popped out the answer without thinking, “I wanted to be a blessing.”

This week in Singapore, we came across one of our old friends.  We haven’t spoken for over a year since we were here last, but this week she may have either intentionally or not, become a ‘blessing’ to us.

We always enjoy her and this time we were able to visit on a less than shallow level, and more importantly to articulate something that’s been bugging me for awhile.

Here’s my problem.  I’m not sure if I’m a blessing to anyone anymore. In fact, I’m not sure if I even am capable of thinking of others, of trying to reach out and make someone feel better.   Tommy Nelson, pastor of Denton Bible Church recently said this;

“You should get out of the ministry if you don’t care about people, because people are what God loves.”

I have to stop and wonder if this Cancer scare has knocked me around a bit more than I realize.  I seem to only think of myself these days.

As my friend and I talked about the plight we’re all in, she spoke of intentionally seeking out a spiritual mentor, (at the moment her mentor  seems to be a quiet and reserved Catholic Nun).

You see, she helped me understand, we ALL need a mentor.  A spiritual prod, someone to egg us along…….so that we can become, once again, a blessings to others. Sometimes in our lives, these people have shown up naturally, but more often than not we, without one, have become dry and self centered.

She and I went on to talk about the ‘forever foreigner’ problems that we as missionaries have.  Why? Because we share no common ground, no shared experience, with anyone except each other.  How true.  Except for my two kids, and perhaps some growing history thru their spouses, there is no one who shares our background. We are always on the outside looking in, trying to fit in. Sometimes it even becomes ‘comfortable’ to be non-accountable in some ways, but in the end it’s a pretty lonely existence.

This morning, we attended Grace Baptist Church, a place we’d visited some 30 years ago, pastored by a former employee of our IMB mission board.

As we sashayed in, dripping sweat from the steamy walk from the subway, we were alarmed to see the words emblazoned on the wall,

“Is there any part of my life that would benefit from a fresh start?”

Wow.  So all of you out there, I’ll be looking for that mentor, someone who will help me stop thinking only of myself and my plight……someone who’ll raise me up to God and His future plans for my life.

And bottom line here, when we get home in three more weeks, you can expect me (at least the 10’s of you who actually read this blog ) to show up at the potluck with the appropriate food, wearing the appropriate clothing and knowing who won the last football game.  I’m going to try to grow deeper and be less shallow and selfish.  Anyone want to take bets how long it’ll last?

We are fine, ready for the cruise in the morning and have really enjoyed our week here.  We’ll be back, Singapore!!

Next Sunday we’ll be at sea in the shark/pirate/and tour guide infested waters of Vietnam so don’t expect a blog.  Hopefully the next week, our Hong Kong friends will be waiting to ferry us to safety to land.  We love these guys so much!!

Tally Ho, Marsha

Never Rope a Cat

As we’ve looked back over the things we’ve learned over the years, today I’d like to share with you a very wise nugget of wisdom:

Never try to rope a cat.

This bit of wisdom all started in the early 70’s when Tony and I decided we needed a pet. After all, we were barely subsisting, sinking deeper into debt and wondering where our next meal would come from. What better time to add another mouth to feed?

Off we went one bright Saturday morning to the animal shelter. Actually the term was a bit of a misnomer. The place wasn’t so much a “shelter” as it was a holding tank for cats and dogs until such time as they could be euthanized. Abandoned animals were kept for a specified period of time, then they were ‘put down’. We knew it, and I think in some perverse way, the animals knew it too.

We came into the shelter that day intending to find a smallish dog. Tony’d grown up with Beagles, and since we were pretty much living in the country there in eastern Colorado, we were convinced this would be just the ticket.

No dogs. We couldn’t believe it, but there were no dogs that day.

As we were turning to go, a Siamese cat in an adjacent cage caught our eye.  Knowing that he had us, he began to hoot and holler as only Siamese can do.  I had grown up with Siamese cats, so I was naturally suckered in.  He continued his charade until both of us were near the cage, and then he amped it up with desperate cries that sounded a lot like,  “Help Me…. SAAAAAAVE me!!”  It didn’t help that the sign on his cage read, “abandoned”.

Who could resist?  We walked out with him entwined around our necks.

What can I say? He was a wonderful cat. We named him Oliver, taught him to adapt to the great outdoors, and especially not to stand outside with his legs crossed, howling to come in to use the litter box.  He was a quick study, and soon he was loving his new horizons, often bringing us dead rats, field mice and anything else he could find.  Fortunately for all of us, he never brought in a rattlesnake,  for which the area was actually famous.

One weekend, we decided to drive the hundred miles or so to our parents’ house. What the trip cost in gas was more than made up for in the haul of food we managed to commandeer. This trip ended up costing us more than we took in though, on account of the snowstorm that blew in suddenly. The closer we got to our parents’ house, the worse the snow got, and we hadn’t even started up the mountain yet. We finally decided we’d better stop for the night before getting into the Colorado High Country, where the snow would definitely be worse.

We found a cheap motel, got them to agree to us taking our cat inside and began to settle in. “Oh, but wait,” I thought, “Oliver better ‘do his business’ before we go inside.”

Because we lived in the country, and because we were cheap, we’d never invested in a collar or leash. Why would you ever need one?  Now we had a problem. What to do?

“Oh! We have some rope in the trunk,” I said with relief.  We always kept it there for the very likely event that we would need a tow.

And so we tied this one-inch thick, 50 ft long rope around a small cat’s neck.  We had every reason to expect that the plan would work. Oliver would cooperate, “do his thing”, and we’d settle in for a long winter’s night.

Oliver had other ideas. He tiptoed cautiously through the snow to the end of the rope.  Then quicker than greased lightening, he jumped straight up like a young fawn, did a dainty little pirouette in mid air, came down free from his constraint and shot off into the night.

Tony and I stood in shock and horror.  There went our cat!  We were done. We had no more great solutions.  There was nothing we could do but stand there in the falling snow while the music faded into a minor key.

And then, almost as soon as he was gone, I felt a familiar rub on my leg and there he was, purring and looking up at me like nothing had happened.

We scooped him up and took him inside.  There was no more thought of his toilet needs, and he didn’t seem to be too distressed with all the attention we were giving him. We snuggled down, happy that we were a “family” again.

So what’s the point, you say? Simply this: lately I’m beginning to wonder if we’re all not just a little bit like Oliver sometimes.

Like that cat, we’re completely oblivious to the snowstorm around us, to the traffic speeding past us, and yes, oblivious to God and whatever Plan He might be developing.  Instead, we take offense at whatever seems to be confining us (like, in our case, cancer) and we just choose to ‘jump the noose’ and take off into the night.

But God doesn’t despair like we did that night. He doesn’t get crazy. He just waits until we can finally begin to see things from the perspective He’s been showing us all along.  He waits until we find our way back to Him, and we rejoice with great purrs when He scoops us up into His arms and take us into the warmth.

Do you remember what Jesus said to His disciples in Jerusalem when they just weren’t getting it? “How much longer must I put up with you?” (Mark 9:19)

But of course we know the answer to that question already: as long as it takes. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He knows that we will find our way back to Him. Or, if we become hopelessly lost, He will come and find us.

We had the best Christmas and New Years we could have dreamed of.  Everything was just perfect. There was that noose around our necks, but it wasn’t allowed to steal our joy, thanks in a big way to your prayers.  Whenever we started feeling the rope tighten, God would step in immediately and go straight for the heart with a message, “I’ve got this.”

God didn’t cause the cancer, any more than He orchestrated the storm that made us seek lodging that snowy night so many years ago. But He did invent everything and knows these things happen. He knows how to care for us, and we need to accept His tender loving care.

To that end, we’re leaving on Tuesday for a (doctor ordered) cruise.  Yes, it seems bizarre, but we’re both fit and hearty and Tony has to simply wait until March so that the radiation will be most effective.  Yes, we have a noose, but we might as well go visit some places we love and see some old friends.  Theoretically there’s nothing ominous that can happen, except maybe put on some of those pounds we’ve lost.

We’ll try to post again next week from Singapore, where you’ll remember we spent time last year setting up Tony’s Bible Study, “Anagaion”.    Then we’ll be on a boat all along the Asian coast until we reach Hong Kong.

We dock the evening of the beginning of Chinese New Year, (remember, these are the people who invented fireworks) so you may not hear from us for a few weeks, but please know we’re living in the first half of that verse in Proverbs 17:22, A cheerful heart is a good medicine.

Till next time, God bless,

Marsha

Is There Room?

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are now crawling out from all the good food and memories.

One of our best ‘memories’ this season, apart from the wonderful family, adorable kids, much anticipated gifts and all, was a deluge of much needed RAIN!  We came out of our church’s Christmas Eve service to buckets of sweet warm RAIN! It’s been 6 months without a drop in many drought and bushfire stricken areas so you can imagine we all had shouts of joy and some crazy wet dancing, all for the Glory of God and for answered prayers. It continued on and off all Christmas day and beyond.  Our yard is coming back to its original color and the temperatures have dropped from record breaking heat as well.  We are truly blessed!

Yesterday, I was trimming hedges (a summer job I know, and a nasty one at that, since I’m the ‘main hedge trimmer’ for awhile till Tony pulls himself together).  I decided to take them all down a notch or two, since as long as I’m going to have to stretch, I might as well get the tops down where I can reach them. All you hedge trimming pros out there know, and I’m learning, that the farther down you go the bigger the branches get. What started as an easy task for my little electric trimmer soon turned into a major forestry project, with bigger and bigger tools coming out of the garage. I finally ended up with a cross cut saw (meant for two men, I might add, but this one woman managed it. They don’t call me Scrappy for nothing!). Task completed, I stood back to admire my work, and have to say, even I was impressed. Tony said it reminded him of his days in Estes Park, Colorado, when the elk would come down out of the high country and rampage through every yard in town. That’s one of life’s mysteries: how do they know when hunting season begins, and how do they make it into town just hours ahead of starting time?

Well, anyway, I may have gone a little overboard with the hedges, but I was listening to Christmas music, in a world of my own and unaware of my own abilities. I heard a Christmas song that I don’t believe I’d heard before, but maybe you know it. It’s called

“Do You Have Room?” by Casting Crowns. I set down the Paul Bunyan crosscut and just stood there absorbing the lyrics while I thought about the question.

Do I have room for the Savior or has he been shuffled off to the hypothetical stable?  Yes, it’s true, there’s been a LOT on our minds these past several months.  Cancer has a way of coming in without an invite and re-arranging all your perspectives. Add to that the lifestyle changes, the occasional fear and anxiety, mixed together with perhaps just a twist of denial, and you might find that you don’t have a lot of room left for guests.

Or do we?  We were able to have a truly blessed Christmas, and for a few days we didn’t think about unwanted intruders in our hearts. Tony feels fine and continues to be (we believe) healthy.

But with all the resident joy, there still lurks the fact that many of our own people are in pain and struggle all around us.  To add to that, Tony’s only and favorite aunt went to be with the Lord the week before Christmas.  That was sad for us, because we’ll all miss her. She really had a gift for the wonder of it all and always made our lives a little bit better.

But our sadness is exacerbated by the fact that her husband, Tony’s uncle, while being teamed up and happily married 63 years, remains a staunch unbeliever.  Over the years he’s been seeing ALL of his family come to Christ, but still he sits on his own recognizance (that must hurt) and insists that, even if there is a God, He wouldn’t condemn a man such as he is. And that much is true: he’s one of the best men I’ve known, a real patriarch for the family. But when it comes down to Jesus, there’s simply no room in his inn.

Please pray with us for this wonderful man, will you? His whole family is grieving doubly this year, saying goodbye to our aunt and wondering what will become of our uncle. We know that the prayers of righteous people can accomplish a lot (James 5:16). Please join us in making this truly the best Christmas ever!

Love you,

Marsha

Christmas in Australia

Today for a little twist, since it’s Summer Solstice here, and Winter solstice there if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere) I thought I’d share with you a song we sing with gusto (at least my grandkids who have it completely memorized), the “Australian version of Jingle Bells”.  It’s written by a famous Australian Christian Children’s singer, Colin Buchanon.

You can sing along or just watch the video below.

Here are the words.  I’ll explain in (parenthesis) in case the ‘language’ is too difficult.

Aussie Jingle Bells

Colin Buchanan

Dashing through the bush
In a rusty Holden Ute  (Australian brand of pick up)
Kicking up the dust
Esky in the boot  (Eski is a cooler, boot is the trunk or truck bed)
Kelpie by my side (Kelpie is an Australian breed of sheep dog)
Singing Christmas songs
It’s Summer time and I am in
My singlet, shorts and thongs (tank top, shorts and flip flops)

Oh! Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
Jingle all the way
Christmas in Australia
On a scorching summer’s day
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
Christmas time is beaut (beautiful, but they always say ‘beaut’)
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a rusty Holden Ute

Engine’s getting hot
We dodge the kangaroos
The swaggie climbs aboard  (anyone who’s a backpacker, hobo, etc)
He is welcome too
All the family’s there
Sitting by the pool
Christmas day, the Aussie way
By the barbecue!

Oh! Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
Jingle all the way
Christmas in Australia
On a scorching summer’s day
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
Christmas time is beaut
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a rusty Holden Ute

Come the afternoon
Grandpa has a doze
The kids and uncle Bruce
Are swimming in their clothes
The time comes round to go
We take the family snap
Then pack the car and all shoot through (shoot thru means to leave suddenly)
Before the washing up (dishwashing)

Oh! Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
Jingle all the way
Christmas in Australia
On a scorching summer’s day, hey
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
Christmas time is beaut
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a rusty Holden Ute

I said, oh what fun it is to ride
In a rusty Holden ute.

So as they say here, ‘ava listen to the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnJ8jsw4BSo

We’ve had a wonderful Sunday-before-Christmas, Tony preaching twice at an Aussie church and then our Japanese one. A couple of nights ago we had our carols program at church and are looking forward to both Christmas Eve services as well as Christmas Day ones, before a nice hot feast.

Wishing you the happiest Christmas season this year!

Love, Marsha and Tony

Looking on the Inside

A few days ago I had an interesting conversation with my youngest grandson, who’s still very little.  He’s the baby of the house and therefore, 1) may be prone to getting his way more often and, 2) is the most adorable of course.

Here’s how things went.  He wanted a mint from my purse. He knows they’re there because they often come out when we’re waiting for something, or otherwise offered in a time or place where you might need a mint for courage.  He’s also learned that it is not good to help himself, rummaging thru my tidy arrangement of purse things.

And so he asked most politely if he could have a ‘waiting pill’ as he calls them.

I, at first, said no, because we weren’t in a place that needed something to distract, but then relinquished because he was just so… well, cute.

I made the mistake of opening the lid and offering him the whole lot.  Usually, (I forgot), I take out just one and put in his grubby little hand.

Of course he dove in with both hands and finally got ahold of two.  I cautioned him that he only needed one but he wouldn’t give up. (again, he’s the youngest and therefore the toughest).  I countered with “OK, but you MUST give one of those to someone”

He heartily agreed, and we all shifted our attention to the conversation and action of the group.

A few minutes later, I looked and both mints were gone.  I got his attention and asked “Did you give a mint to someone?”  Vehemently nodding yes, he smiled his winning smile.

“Who?”  I asked.

“Uhm, Daaaaa,” (and then he thought better), “Mum!”  he answered, looking me straight in the eye with the most innocent expression of purity.

“So, I think I’ll ask her how she liked the mint,” I countered.

“NO!” he said quickly, still pulling the “gotta love me” face.

“Why not?” I countered, beginning to have trouble not smiling.  I haven’t raised kids and been a schoolteacher to not recognize a lie when I’m handed one.

“Oh,” he said, still innocently, but dropping his voice to a conspiratorial whisper as he continued, “She doesn’t want to talk about it.”

Yup, and there you have it.  We can look innocent, but those who have more experience or are possibly God himself can look on the inside.

Hopefully we’re all having a wonderful Christmas season and not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.

Tony had a little pre-radiation surgery this week, and all went as planned, but it definitely had some of the stuff of nightmares.  I’d give you more details, but ‘He doesn’t want to talk about it.”  Suffice it to say, we’ve both come good and are looking forward to Christmas. He doesn’t have radiation till March, so we feel like we’ve got the world ahead of us, feeling great (still) and having lots of loved ones and beautiful moments here and there.

As you read this, we will have attended our Annual Church Christmas Carols, and been filled with Holiday Hope.

Merry Christmas all as we prepare what the LORD sees in us for this special holiday.

Marsha

But the Lord said to Samuel, “ For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b

God’s Not Dead

Last week I talked about Christmas and I want to keep that theme going, but let me indulge you with an experience we had the other day, then I’ll get back to the eggnog and chestnuts. Promise!
But first let me make a quick announcement: Weaving Sunlight, the story of our lives in 400 easy pages, has now reached the proof copy stage. Once that’s checked over this next week, we’ll be able to release it to Amazon in both hard copy and Kindle versions, so standby!  Anyway, the first part of the book talks about a bear coming in and wrecking our tent while camping in Yellowstone on our honeymoon. We’ve compared him to that critter who roams “to and fro, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). And whenever something like this latest challenge comes knocking, we say to each other, “The bear is back.”

Or maybe better said this time, “The Bear is lurking and we don’t know what it’s up to!”  It concerns this on-going slugfest with Tony’s cancer. Nothing new, don’t panic.  I was just starting to get tired of the constant Presence of this monster that I know many of you can relate to.

Looking back over the past couple of months, I can see that we had been RELIGIOUS about our diet, not taking on anything that would help cancer grow, etc.  Tony has occasionally taken some sugar-loaded snack out of the pantry where it has been lurking, drop it in the trash and say, “Take that, you vile deceiver!”

Lots of exercise too.  Tony’s melting away the pounds and says he feels better than he has in years, adding that, “Whatever happens, I’m gonna look good!” We’ve both been able to laugh, and thanks to your prayers, have enjoyed a peace like never before. And yet ……….

Anyway, this whole cancer thing was weighing down on me yesterday, we’re clearly doing our best, but time just hangs, leaving us mystified as to what’s really going on. We want answers, but just have to wait to get them, which you can imagine for me, is hard.   The doctors don’t seem to have time to see us, or answer what they must consider ‘stupid’ questions.  I know they see this stuff every day, but it’s all NEW to us!  and so we wait.

And then yesterday I found myself lying in bed, in the early predawn of the day, that summer time feeling when you know it’s going to be a scorcher,  and I just had to pray, “God, we need just a word of encouragement.”

Right on queue, my phone dinged.

I looked at it and didn’t recognize the name, and not wanting to disturb Tony, I ignored it. Then I pulled myself together, slipped into the other room and looked properly at the phone.

There was a long text from a lady ‘re-introducing’ herself as a primary nurse who cared for our son when he was dying of leukemia 27 years ago. She was the only Christian we knew in the unit and gave us a lot of support and encouragement during our 8-month battle, but sadly, when he died, we moved on and I unfortunately hadn’t thought of her since. She said she’d always remembered us, and thru the miracle of internet found this very blog and voila! here we were connected again.

Time continues on, but what a joy to know that God is timeless.

She sent pictures, and reminders of those days that were bittersweet. Her (former) husband has just died of prostate cancer, and she, in the course of her career, has become a trained hospice and grief counselor. This in itself may be the best ‘encourager’ God could have picked, someone to answer our questions, give us a realistic picture of what’s going on and perhaps what to expect. But any outcomes down the track are beside the point. The point that struck me, and that I want to give you today is this: You are never alone. In the middle of the battlefields, slaying baddies and looking good … or lying in your bed facing the day holding back tears. God is there, and He is not silent. If Tony can say, “Whatever happens, I’m gonna look good!” then God can say, “Whatever happens, I’m gonna look better!”

And in the words of  “Laugh In’s” Lily Tomlin (look it up in your Funk and Wagnalls), “And that’s the truth. PSSFTT!”

Tangerines in My Stocking

Hello, and Happy December!

If you’re reading this in the USA I guess you’ve survived Thanksgiving and Black Friday!  Here in Australia neither holiday has taken on as yet, although the merchant community is trying their best to convince us to go shopping. For the most part, it’s business as usual, except for the fact that many of our schools ended last Friday for summer break. Come to think of it, this may be a different kind of ‘Black Friday’ for some parents, especially if they’re working!

We enjoyed watching the grand children sing their Christmas performances. But of course nothing the school could produce held a candle to our son Nathan’s annual Water Slide Party. It seems they have a larger than normal back yard with a pretty impressive slope down to the Crown Land forest. And oh yeah, the yard is pretty well de-nuded of every tree that used to flourish there, thanks in part to our gift of a chain saw awhile back. That may have been a mistake, but I suspect that it’s excellent therapy for a cop, so we haven’t complained.

December 1st also signals the first day of Summer, and it was a real scorcher!! The event was enjoyed by too many kids to count, mainly friends of Ezekiel, who coincidentally was also celebrating his 8th birthday. It was a great day, especially since there were no broken bones; and though new speed and distance records were set, no one made it all the way to the forest. Next year … be afraid.

Even though we don’t have Thanksgiving here, we do have Christmas, and the decorations, especially in the stores, have been up since before Halloween.  Along with the festivities comes the requisite guilt as everything and everyone pressures you to do better and spend more lavishly this year. And as I was pondering this, something triggered a memory from long ago.

It was the Christmas of 1991, we had been battling cancer with our son Trevor for about 6 months. He had nearly died several times, and we were pretty frazzled.

And then I came across an article that suggested asking your family members what really says “Christmas” to them. I realized that we didn’t really know, even within our family. Wanting this to be the best Christmas ever, one day I casually asked Trevor, “What is the one thing that says “Christmas” to you?

I expected him to respond by mentioning perhaps one of the more spectacular gifts we had given him in his scant 16 years; would it be the puppy, or the skis….. or maybe one of our memorable toy-laden Stateside Christmases with the relatives.

He answered immediately, as if this was the easiest question ever

(pardon the Japanese, but we were a family pretty mixed up in two languages), “Mikans in my stocking.  Yep, that’s Christmas for me!” he beamed.

I was stupefied.  Here was a kid whom I’d do almost anything for, especially now that he was sick, and he was happy with a tangerine in his stocking.  That was always what we grabbed out of the fruit basket year after year, always somewhat guiltily, to cover up the lack of great things we felt we should be putting in their stockings!

Sometimes it’s the little things, don’t you think?  The warmth of a smile or a hug …….. or knowing everything is OK because tangerines are still there. Who knew?

That was Trevor’s last Christmas.  You can believe that I had scoured the entire city of Denver to find a Japanese tangerine, and he had it in his stocking that Christmas morning.

Writing this makes me think of that great, albeit non-theological Christmas song,  “Little Drummer Boy”.  I don’t think Jesus wants us to go crazy trying to ‘find’ the Christmas Spirit. It’s not even important to do a doctoral study to try and determine exactly when Jesus was born, and what day of the year we should be celebrating.  He just wants us to remember the fact that He came and why. And then we are to turn that Love of God on others.  Gift giving, especially to the Savior, can give us more goose-bumps than receiving.

This morning in church we heard the testimony of a young man, Indian (from India), who was adopted at birth out of more tragic circumstances that we can imagine.  As he told of the love he felt in our church and how he was accepting Christ and being baptized because of the people who had given so much to him thru Jesus, it just made it all real for us.  Tangerines, for sure.

Have a happy, relaxed season thinking about what’s really real. If you have a chance, drop me a line and tell me what Christmas is to you, will you?

Till next week, Marsha

No Drumsticks Then!

This afternoon, as I’m writing this, we just returned from a 3-day conference of Japanese Christians.  Only a few people remember that we actually started this annual gathering back nearly 20 years ago and it’s rocked along, hit and miss since then.  Then, about 3 years ago, it really got to moving and this was the third “new and revised” event, attracting about 150 Japanese and associates from all over Australia, New Zealand and beyond.  We stayed in a Christian camp which was nostalgic of our younger days but reminding us again we’re not that young.

To say “Mune ga ippai” (our hearts are full) would be an understatement.  Quite by accident we’ve become the elder statesmen of the group, and we heard “Tony and Marsha” so many times in so many situations, from those first memories, to continuing excitement about Tony’s doctoral Bible study called “Anagaion”. And of course there was plenty of shock and concern to go around in light of his recent diagnosis.

While hiding in my room this morning for some respite, I came across an article, apparently written last year, about the “Surprising Story of the First Thanksgiving”.

I’ll put the link here, if you want to take the few minutes to read it https://www.dailysignal.com/2018/11/22/the-surprising-story-of-the-first-thanksgiving/

Otherwise, lets see if I can summarize it:

Apparently the Pilgrims took meticulous records, which add a lot to the well-known story we’ve all heard in history class. According to this article, they weren’t escaping religious prosecution as much as looking for a place to raise their children without the troubling influences of the people they found both in England and then later in Holland. They wanted to work for a living and have time for their families instead of pouring out their lives in factories.  (Does this sound familiar?)

Contracts drawn up with the king of England, they set off for North Carolina but, due to the wind, ended up at Plymouth Rock. As we know from history, they had a pretty bad time of it from the moment they set foot on dry land. Many of their people died the first winter, including 14 of the 18 wives and mothers that set sail.

Being a wife and mother myself, the first question that struck me was, “How in the world did they ever get that first Thanksgiving meal on the table?” As it turns out, that first feast may have been a little different from the one pictured in my history book. Actually, quite a bit different from anything we might get to experience here in Australia.

No turkey was mentioned in the records, and wow, they mentioned everything.  They probably did enjoy some kind of water fowl, but the bulk of the meal was probably made up of turnips, parsnips and ……..(wait for it) EEL!  They ate with their hands and most likely sat on the ground that first year. Tables, chairs and eating utensils  were still pretty low on the priority list of things to make.

I guess this article resonated a bit with me because this week is Thanksgiving and our hearts are full of gratitude to God for giving us a lifetime of ministry to a people group that’s so easy to love.  Also we’re thankful for how even though we feel a little like the pilgrims, “We left for North Carolina and ended up in Maine”; and yet He shelters us every day in this cancer storm, thanks in large part to your prayers.

I’m happy to say the “Hormone Therapy” is going as expected. Apparently all the cancer cells have been frozen in their tracks, due to the double punch of medicine along with restricting anything in the diet that cancer likes (like sugar, meat,and dairy products). That, in combination with the recently-purchased tread mill, is resulting in a new look for the man of my dreams! He’s already shed 15 pounds and hasn’t slowed down yet. As he put it, “Whatever happens, I’m gonna look good!”

On Thursday morning Tony will get a “mid-treatment’ injection of another kind of hormone therapy.  We understand this is not a cure, but simply debilitating the enemy so that sometime in March, they can pull out the “Big Gun” and start with the radiation. The main problem in these situations are all the little cancer cells that escape unseen. But, we were told, Australia has the best imaging equipment in the world, and in the doctor’s words, “If I can see it, I can shoot it.” Thank you for joining us for this prayer.

Also on the schedule this week is a visit to the grandkids’ school to see extraordinary performances coming from our gifted and talented Grandboys (aren’t they all?)  I made Ezekiel a very cute (I must say) shepherds get-up and his mom will ‘unhide’ the 5 foot staff right before they leave for school.  It was entirely too handy for rounding up his brothers around the house.

You all have a nice feast on us.  Later on Thursday we’ll probably drop by the store and get a roast chicken, oh wait……guess it’ll have to be a ‘soy’ chicken, but it’ll taste nice with the people we love.  Wish you could join us!

Stay safe this weekend and try not to get stranded when the wind blows you off course.

Marsha

Best Laid Plans…

When I was a little girl, maybe 10 or 12, I think even then I was a little, shall we say, PLAN oriented? I do remember plotting out my life and putting it to paper.  About this time I was coming to grips with the Second Coming of Christ, and so I had to include that in my plan.

I was going to finish school, possibly becoming a doctor.  Then I was going to marry a real hunk of a man, like in the movies.  We would live in perfect harmony and have two beautiful children, first a boy and then a little girl.

And then when the kids were about 8, Christ would return in a bolt of lightning and take us all away.  I chose 8 as the perfect age to end the parenting responsibility because, well, I’d helped the teacher in Sunday School and I figured after 8 these little guys just weren’t worth saving.

As fate would have it, some of those dreams actually came true, and some not so much. At 17, I committed my life to Christian service, whatever that meant to me at the time, and I’ll have to say that was an unexpected blessing of the greatest extent.  Also, I did get the Hunk, and am happy to report that I’ve had the fabulous marriage.  I eventually got the perfect boy and then the perfect girl, but since the Second Coming hasn’t quite followed my schedule, we had to gut it out getting them up to their current ages of 30 and 38  (They are wonderful, by the way, and for that I’m really thankful!).

Nowadays, the plans I had made for myself are beginning to run off the edge of the paper, and Tony and I have been led to think a lot about LIFE lately, and all the thuds and thrills that we never planned on.

And I think I’m going to have to plagiarize Oswald Chambers yet again. If you have your own copy of My Utmost for His Highest check out November 10th, from 1st Thessalonians 3:2. Paul is talking about how once we’re sanctified, it becomes difficult to be able to state what your aim in life is, because God has taken you up into HIS purpose by HIS Holy spirit.

Ironically our pastor touched on it this morning in his sermon from 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.where he put it simply, “Jesus walked on earth, He was with us, but then He died and now, His Holy Spirit is IN us.”

Such a profound thought to realize that, in spite of all the plans I’ve worked out and clung to for years, I’m not actually my own.  Oswald goes on to say so aptly, “As long as we have a personal interest in our own character, we cannot get through into identification with God’s interests”.

When I stop telling God what He can do for me, He can catch me up for what He wants without me constantly reacting.  He can crumple me up or exalt me; it’s up to Him.

This week we got what seemed at first to be some troublesome news.  But the more we process it, the more we’re coming to think that it might not be as bad as we originally thought. Anyway, they cancelled Tony’s surgery to remove the cancer because the doctor has decided that he can’t get it all with a scalpel, and besides, the tolerances are so tight that he’s pretty sure he’ll leave Tony with some pretty significant and permanent damage if he tries.

So Plan B is to do “Hormone Therapy” and Radiation.  They’ve started the pills already, and he’ll have an injection in a few weeks that will hopefully stop the growth, then at some date later on, they’ll do radiation.  The Doctor did say that the “5 Year outcome of this method and surgery are about the same”, whatever that means.

And so with this news, again, not what we were exactly planning for, we have to keep praying that Tony and I will become tuned to God’s way of thinking.  Thank you again and again for supporting us in this journey!

Love ya,

Marsha

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