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The Only Constant

And so today we’re talking about those five properties of light again. Remember the first three? Light is the source of all life, the source of all power, and it’s everywhere. Keep in mind that coincidentally (Not!), GOD is the source of all life, and power, and He is everywhere. Do we see a pattern? This time, I want us to think about the 4th property of light, which is that it’s CONSTANT.

I hadn’t given much thought to this, but did you know that light is ALWAYS the same?  Light cannot be heated or cooled, sped up or slowed down.  Doing those things can result is MORE light, but the light itself will stay the same.

Now here’s where it gets amazing: all material things, all matter, even time, changes in relation to the speed of light, not the other way around.  That may be hard to take on board, but Albert Einstein, back in 1938, demonstrated conclusively that every thing, even time, will change in relation to light.

The atomic clock, without dispute the most accurate time piece in existence uses what they call the ‘resonant frequency’ of atoms in order to tell time.  That’s why we call it the ‘atomic clock’.  How accurate is it, you ask? I’m glad you asked. We’re told that, well, it’s not absolutely perfect. Although it hasn’t been proven yet, scientists will concede that the atomic clock will probably lose about one second every hundred million years. Not a big loss, for sure, but enough to take it out of the “constant” category. ,

In 1971 Joseph Hafele, a physicist,  and Richard Keating, an astronomer, took four Cesium Beam atomic clocks and put two each aboard two specially outfitted commercial airliners.  One flew east, with the earth’s rotation, and the other flew west, against it. Before taking off, they were all confirmed to be set to the time standard atomic clock, located in Washington, DC.

Refueling in flight, they went, not once but twice around the entire globe, landed, and checked the time. Turns out the clocks on the plane now disagreed with the clock in Washington. They were only off by .59 nanoseconds, but that was exactly the difference predicted by Einstein.

How does that affect us?  Today there are countless satellites  orbiting around the earth, and each one is targeted by a system of antennas so that they can communicate with each other.  You will be receiving this missive today by machines with more science involved than this mortal can imagine.  IF Einstein’s time difference was not taken into account, the signals would miss the satellites by miles, with no chance of connecting.

But it almost seems I’m talking more about time than light.  Let me direct you to a couple of verses.

Malachi 3:6  “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, or children of Jacob, have not perished.”  (that’s in the Old Testament)

… and then there’s Hebrews 13:8,  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

In this world God is the ONLY constant.

Next time I’ll finish this thread and move on. But until then, every time you turn on a light switch, think about God.

I’m sending this a little early because we, not being scientists with miles of calculations at our fingertips, are going to try to ‘link up’ with a group of campers from church….but only after we do the Japanese worship later today.  We hope to ‘camp’ for about 3 days down on the beach,  should be fun although it’s pretty hot……….thanks to all that ‘light’!

Till next week, Marsha

Seeing that Seafood

As I was reading my daily Bible plan (in the Message version, forgive my shallowness) I had to chuckle at Psalms 27:1. Here’s what it says,  ”Light, space, zest—that’s God!”.  Pretty over simplified perhaps. That’s why I often open my Daddy’s bible, here on my desk, to find out what  the King James might be saying. Here it is.  You all know it from your earliest memory verse days.   “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?  The Lord is my strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

But thinking of the ” Light, space and Zest” idea, my thoughts naturally turned to ………..Shrimp.

Or “Prawns” as the British/Australians of this world call them.

If you’re like me and love shrimp, you know them as a tasty tail, a bunch of legs and antennae and some disgusting big buggy eyes. Most places outside of Western culture serve them WHOLE so all of that grossness and  bugginess is on your plate ‘lookin’ at you’.  I have to struggle with disgust and my kind husband is often the one who fixes them up for me so that I can enjoy those delicious few bites.  I won’t even tell you about the time we were served (and ate) LIVE shrimp in Japan……..

But DID YOU KNOW that the shrimp, and most other decapods (10-legged crustaceans such as lobsters, crayfish etc) have the most sophisticated eye systems known to man?

According to scientists, our eyes use lenses to focus light by the use of refraction.  That means the bending of light to a focal point. As we age, our eyeballs get out of shape and the bending of the light isn’t as accurate and that’s why we hope for longer arms or stronger lenses in our glasses.

Ah, but the shrimp and their cousins actually ’see’ using eye mirrors that are of such intricate design, involving photon, crystals, and nanostructure that they can manipulate light at the wavelength level.

You may notice I’m quoting Creation Magazine directly, and that’s why I’m using scientist-speak.  Believe me, I have to read it out loud to even try to understand.

Carrying on …….. the mirrors comprise an array of nano spheres with an average diameter of 330nm (that’s smaller than a wavelength of visible light).  These receptors are arranged in regular arrays and wrapped around the bottom half of the light receptor. (have I lost you?) ………. The description goes on and all I can think of is “I regularly chop off and throw away this magnificent creation, so far superior to our own eyes, without a single thought more than a big ‘euww’.

The bottom line of all this amazing development is that a shrimp can see with the highest refractive indices of any biological creature, able to see blue light, which happens to be the only color of sunlight that can penetrate appreciably 70 meters down to where the shrimp live. But make no mistake:  It didn’t ‘evolve’ to this high tech; it was designed and created in one Breath.  AND it has eluded being replicated.  No one has come close to creating even the building blocks necessary to arrive at the finished product.

The rest of the article eludes me, except to say that ‘seeing light’ is crucial to every creature, and God has made it possible.

We are created to SEE the light. God gave shrimp the ability to find the light they need where there seems to be none, on the bottom of a very deep ocean.  I think he made us a little simpler because He KNOWS we can see His Light when we just open our eyes.

We continue to enjoy walking with Nicki and Chris thru their pregnancy.  Her baby is now ‘seeing’ even though it’ll be sometime until the eyelid skin cells in one swift movement ‘zip’ open to allow that eye to open.  Isn’t it just amazing?   One more of the miracles of life.

“See” you next time!

Marsha

Stepping Everywhere

Hello fellow blog readers, I hope you’ve had a lovely week.  You will recall I’ve been talking about the properties of light: First it’s (1) the source of all life, (2) the source of all power. And now, (3): Light is everywhere.

Apparently, scientists have never found anywhere in the universe where there is no light.  In fact, the commonly-accepted definition of the universe is, “That area encompassed by light”.

Another word for that condition is “omnipresence”. Where have we heard that word before? The only two places that word would be appropriate is when talking about light … or God.

I read an interesting thing in Exodus 6 this morning.   In the King James Version, chapter 6, verse 3, God says to Moses, “And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.”  But it was in the “message” that this leaped out at me, (same verse) “I am God.  I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as The Strong God, but by my name GOD (I-AM_PRESENT) I was not known to them”

So it wasn’t until Moses that we knew God is Omnipresent…….like Light.

Without a doubt one of the most comforting passages of Scripture in the Bible (unless of course you’re not a believer, in which case this is one of the most terrifying passages): Psalms 139:7-12,  Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.

Keep in mind that it’s Satan who, Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

God has no such limitations, in spite of what the enemy would like to tell you. Try as he may, he simply can’t be in all places at all times. That’s why he has to depend on his flunkies to be his eyes and ears for him.

So, to say it again, Light is the source of all life, all power, and is omnipresent. Do we see a pattern developing? Stay tuned!

Stepping Powerfully

If you tuned in last week, you’ll recall that I’m talking about that amazing analogy in the Bible where God is described as “The Light of the world”; and how the men who wrote that couldn’t have possibly known how spot on they were, since the five properties of light were even discovered and described until Albert Einstein did his thing in 1938. Last week, I began with the first property of light, that is, that it’s the source of all life. This week, let’s move on to number two, which is: Light is the ultimate source of all POWER.

To my layman’s mind, this seems pretty elementary.  We have solar panels on our roof that make electricity somehow.  I get that. I don’t know how it does it, except that the sun goes in, and the power comes out, all the way to this computer.  We don’t have to go far out of town to see a lot of wind turbines that make electricity. Aha! I think, the exception to the rule. But I’m told that, no, without sunlight, there would be no wind; and without wind … well, you get the picture.

Tony is happy to step in here and quote a bunch of Sci Fi stuff like we see in author Jack Taylor’s, book “Black Holes”. Before his passing, Taylor wrote the foreword for our first book, Looking for a Lamb, by the way. Taylor describes the ultimate weapon, which would be powered entirely by light (Tony really wants one of those, by the way). With a weapon like this, matter is bombarded with anti-matter (lost me already), and it creates a beam of pure light which then travels (duh) at the speed of light. Inside that beam, nothing but NOTHING can exist. You can run but you can’t hide. All I can say is, if they ever produce one of those, I hope they’re careful where they point it.

That sounds a little like Revelation 4:11 where it says, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and (emphasis mine) POWER, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

That’s all well and good, if you’re aiming for world domination, but for this grandmother, I’m sufficiently awestruck at the power I see at work around our latest grand baby, due to make an appearance in about five months. From what we read, little “Schnicklefritz” (a name we’ve decided on until the big gender reveal) is already installing a light package, even though that baby is yet to see the phenomenon in person. Eyelids are still sealed shut until word comes down to rig for light. Even now, those eyes are tracking right and left in total darkness, and if Mum steps out in bight sunlight, the eyes sense it. Yep, that’s power at work, and it all depends on light.

Then I think of dear John the Apostle, sitting down and penning the words, This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

What a perfect analogy. What perfect applications we see all around us, even though we don’t always understand what we’re seeing. And I can just hear God whispering to me, “Just wait; you ain’t see nothin yet!”

Marsha

Stepping Light-ly

Well people, there’s been so much troublesome news this week, I decided I needed a little enlightenment. And the timing couldn’t have been better, since on Sunday, Tony preached about that very thing: light.

I’m reminded of a time 47 years ago when we were in Zambia, Africa. A fascinating man by the name of Dr. Herbert F. Mitchell came through town on a mission trip.  He had just retired from many years at NASA where he worked as a space scientist. In fact, his work was crucial to the Apollo moon project, playing a big role in insuring that the astronauts got to the moon and back safely.

His specific job was to calculate all the orbital information needed, a task that was built around Einstein’s theory of relativity. Remember that famous formula? E=MC2, or in other words, Energy (E) is equal to Mass (M) times the speed of light squared. Yeah, if you’re like me, that doesn’t tell me a whole lot, either. But according to Dr. Mitchell, we would have never gone into space or set foot on the moon without that insight from Einstein.

After retiring, Dr Mitchell decided to visit as much of the world as he could, sharing that information and comparing it to Scripture. He began by reading from 1John 1:5, This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.

“We need to understand,” he said, “that when John wrote those words, he was making an analogy that would have been meaningless before Einstein made his discovery in 1938.”  Then he went on to explain that “light” is made up of five specific properties. Here’s the first one:

Light is the source of all Life.

I had to think about that for awhile, but it’s true; If there’s no light, there’s no life. That fact was made clear to me during our last five years in Japan, when we lived in a tiny apartment in Tokyo, a city of 39 million people.  Our bedroom window, and every other window except one, faced the stair well and inner courtyard, so it was pretty much dark all the time. I soon discovered that if I was going to ‘come to life’ in the mornings, I was going to need some help. So my loving husband rigged up a desk lamp on a timer to come on at exactly 6AM.  I didn’t need an alarm clock, I needed a reason to live, and it worked like a charm.

Ah, but you say, “What about the bottom of the ocean where sea creatures lurk who have never seen the light? Well, for one thing, even deep sea critters have to eat, and what they feed on are all those things that live way up in the light. When they die, they drift down to the bottom of the sea, a veritable smorgasbord from above. And it’s also worth noting that those guys have their own light sources in the form of luminescent fish and rocks that are all around them in abundance. The same applies to underground caves where all manner of creepy crawlies thrive without sunlight, but depend on luminescent rocks.

The Bible underlines this first property of light time and again, beginning with the first recorded words out of the mouth of God in Genesis one, “Let there be light”.  Again in Matthew 5:14, Jesus calls to us by saying “The city built on the hill cannot be hidden”, and urges us to “let our little lights shine”. We are in fact, according to Jesus, “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).

So, would you like to know more? Tune in next week, and I’ll give you the second property of light, and how it describes God perfectly.

Brighter days ahead! Have a ‘Bright Week”!

Marsha

Happy New Year!

Good Morning and Happy New Year!

Today I’m writing you a sort of ‘intermission’ between the years.  If, like us, you’re sort of spinning around and wondering what happened, then join the club.

2020 is over, proving, as many said, we now have valid proof that  “2020 Won”. (or as it’s written, 2021).

To bring that fact home, we had a vacation of sorts that was not the vacation we were planning.  Anyone else out there feeling the same? We were scheduled to visit a friend an airplane ride away, but at the last minute chickened out. It was only a domestic flight, but with the constantly changing border restrictions between prefectures, we were scared of getting stranded, either unable to come back home or else coming home to a government-enforced quarantine, to the tune of around $5000 for the two of us.

Now don’t laugh or mock us, but we HAD to leave our house, certainly not because we needed a vacation, but because I’d rented out OUR house on Airbnb and we had to vacate.  There is a long explanation for this; the week between Christmas and New Years is the peak of summer and when almost all Australians have a break from work (think 4th of July weekend).  Because of this, everyone’s looking for accommodation, and almost everyone wants to be where we live here in the Gold Coast.  People will pay enough in that week, especially for a whole home, that you can easily pay your taxes for the entire year with the profits.  Plus, it gives this old missionary a chance to do a deep clean and pack up and sort, taking time to evaluate the year’s accumulation of stuff.

So on that note, since we had to leave and had nowhere to go, I picked up the phone and called around, asking for somewhere that had cancellations, since our border to New South Wales had suddenly slammed shut just a few days before.

I know you Americans are shaking your heads at our concern Down Under, compared to the horrible reports that are coming down from the Northern Hemisphere. And you may have a point. I just pulled all the numbers I could find and came up with this thumbnail scorecard:

In Australia, we’ve had a total of 909 deaths attributed directly to Covid. With a population of 25,672,000, that comes out to about one death per 28,242 people. Keep in mind that at least three fourths of all Australians live way out in the country and hardly ever come in contact with anyone. Plus, while the Northern Hemisphere is in the throes of winter, we’re having a daily bake off of any germs that come by.

In the United States, I’m told that over 350,000 have died so far; with a population of 328,239,523, that comes to one death per 937 people.

With a worldwide population of over 7.6 billion and total Covid deaths recorded of 1.8 million, that comes to one death every 425 people.

Now, the skeptic in me wants to question the numbers, but I think the bottom line remains: our numbers here with a death ratio of 1:28,242 isn’t that bad, but we realize you folks in the USA are suffering, and our hearts go out to you. A church friend of ours from our youth died just before Christmas, making him the first one we personally knew to succumb to this pandemic.

But let me get back to more trivial things like where to go when our options were limited. My search finally landed a timeshare that somebody had been forced to cancel, so we booked it for half the going rate. It was just 10 miles from our house, in a beach area that we’d never visited (there’s too many to count right here on the Gold Coast).  Absolutely beautiful!  Soon the kids got wind of our good fortune and loaded up (at our invitation) and came with lots of food and sleeping bags. It was a week to remember.

In a lot of ways, I think a few days with the grandkids can be compared to last year, when we didn’t know what to expect from day to day. Some moments were Hallmark, Kodak, and “priceless”. Other times, well, we found ourselves tempted to dangle them over the balcony. Come to think of it, they would probably have been delighted, since they spent a great deal of their time trying to do just that.

But like last year, we mostly found ourselves thanking God for every moment and seeing how He has total control, loving and caring for us. I know we will look back on this event with smiles on our faces, and even possibly, want to do it again.

On that note, we moved into the New Year, complete with some beautiful little local fireworks at 9:00pm for us all to watch.

As I mentioned last week, Nicki’s pregnancy continues to be a joy for us, and we’ve started a series called “Letters to Schnicklefritz”, which we’ll be sending to the baby for the next 6 months or so.  Hopefully, it’s a niche that might attract a publisher, especially if you have an uncle or neighbor who is a publisher and want to recommend us to him.  So if you’d like to read these, send me your details and we’ll get you on the list to read the upcoming ones every Wednesday till July.

Next week I’m going to start a series here that Tony is currently preaching about “Light”.  I think it’ll be interesting, as some of us enjoy 4:30AM light in the heat of summer and the rest of you snuggle next to the fire trying to remember brighter days.

Cherrio………….and all the best for 2021

Marsha

The Best Christmas Present

Greetings from Sunny and Hot Australia!

I hope you all had the best Christmas ever. I know we did! Why, you ask?

You see, about 10 years ago our wonderful prospective son-in-love proposed to our daughter from the worship team stage at our church, complete with big screen video and lots of fanfare

.

Fast forward to Christmas day this year, where we sat before that same stage and watched in joy as daughter, her husband, both brother-in-law and father-in-law all joined together with the worship team to lead us in a medley of beautiful Christmas carols. Some of the Pennycuick family had driven almost a thousand miles to get there. They came from New South Wales, the outback town of Broken Hill where there have been something like TWO Covid cases, so they were able to get into Queensland. Mum and Dad didn’t have as far to come, but since they started just over the border in more civilized New South Wales, there were treated to some bureaucratic and complicated permissions to get certified to our (again) locked down prefecture.

But everyone agreed the trip was worth it, especially the newest member of the worship team, possibly kicking a foot to the music, who was announcing a forecasted arrival next July: BABY Pennycuick! Needless to say, we’re all dancing in the aisles (at least as much as good Baptists can dance).

So that’s the penultimate of our Christmas news.  Like most of us, it’s been quite a year, and one that most folks are happy to be looking at in the year-view mirror. But all in all, it’s been a good year. Tony is still apparently cancer-free and has gone back to being a part-time carnivore, finding that he didn’t lose his taste for unhealthy food.  So far, his only complaint as this year ends is a memorable case of sciatica resulting in back pain that has left him almost unable to walk. Any suggestions for home remedies out there? I teased him this morning, saying all he needed was a handkerchief pinned to his shirt to complete the picture. He failed to appreciate the humor.

We were reminded this week of the global crisis that still persists. A deacon in the church where I grew up whom I’ve always  enjoyed, was healthy and then suddenly died yesterday of Covid, … the first case of someone we actually knew well. Then another close friend told us of his failed marriage, totally blindsiding us, since they seemed to be the perfect couple.
What can we say about 2020? I suppose the same thing we can say each year since the Garden of Eden: Sin continues to break things, loved ones continue to come to the end of their days.

But literally “Thanks be to God”, Christ has come and continues to reach out to us in love, with hope and promise. Joys abound all around us, a reminder of His presence and mercy. And when the hard times bear down, we bear up, knowing that He has never forsaken us, and never will.

Christmas brought that reminder, and the memories of the season, of the Infant Savior of the world and His precious time here among us will gird us up for 2021. Bring it on, Lord. Come quickly!
Peace on Earth and pass the leftovers………..

Marsha

It’s Back (?)

We had the privilege of visiting Bethlehem a few years ago.  On our previous trips to Israel we’d been visiting missionary friends who lived in Nazareth.  They encouraged us to skip seeing it as the Catholics and ensuing tourists had completely over-built and over-glamorized the spot.

I guess they were right, but I was also glad I got to finally see it.  Yes, there’s a beautiful cathedral standing above the place where Jesus was born, but I have to thank the original Catholics, in the form of Helen. She was the mother of Constantine, the Roman Emperor, and when he became a Christian, he sent her to the Holy Land to ‘suss out’ all the holy sites before people completely forgot.  After all, it was already 300AD!  She travelled from village to village, meeting believers and listening to oral history, putting her mark (that of the Roman Empire) wherever she could.  Because of that, there is reason to believe that the CAVES under the cathedral, (that hadn’t yet been built) were places where the locals usually kept their stock. And these places would have made great alternatives when there was “no room in the inn”.

Actually, we were told on this latest trip that if you look into the history of the area, most stables were in fact caves or rocky enclosures.  It certainly makes sense when you realize that stones were the most common materials for building, much more than wood. Also another charm point of a cave or hollow is that it would be relatively cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

At any rate, as we climbed down into the cave under the cathedral, we could ‘picture’ that this would be a perfect, private and sheltered place to spend the night.  It would have had plenty of aroma, that’s for sure, but also safe and secluded. What a beautiful place for the Birth of a King!

I’ll never forget our first Christmas in Japan.  We’d been there 6 months and our son Trevor, aged 4, was already comfortable in Japanese, as he had been going to pre-school. We, on the other hand were wondering if we could ever even buy a loaf of bread…. in a bakery!  The adult brain is pretty well hardened, whereas kids like Trevor just started playing, not worrying about verbs and conjunctions and proper sentence structure.

Anyway, he announced one day that he was going be the leader of the Shepherd gang for the Christmas Pageant. And, he added with excitement, he had a speaking part!  I had a moment of horror at the entire community mocking my strange foreign child, but he did not disappoint.  On cue, he jumped up and said in a loud voice, “Sa!  Betsu-la-hamu iko!”  (“So! Let’s go to Bethlehem!”).  What a proud mom, what a great command!

Let’s GET TO BETHLEHEM!!

I’m sure you’ve heard on the news that somewhere in the world, tomorrow, the Winter Solstice, that the “star” the wise men followed as it came to rest over the Baby Jesus, will be making a rare appearance.  According to popular thought, it’s the alignment of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars. I’ve done a little research and according to Google, the last recorded and visible alignment like this was in 1226 and the next one we might look forward to seeing is in 2288!  Might be worth dusting off the telescope.

At that time, back in the Middle East, the world wasn’t a very good place to be. There was plenty of political unrest and associated violence. Most people lived in poverty. Herod was stalking the wise men. The world at that time definitely needed a Savior!

And how have things changed since then? I think most of us might shudder at the thought of repeating 2020, and might be looking with a bit of fear and trepidation at 2021.

But then we’re reminded……… there IS a Savior!  He was born in Bethlehem for You and Me.

Mic. 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times.”

Tony and I would like to wish you the most awe inspired Christmas ever. For us, there are a few items on the not so distant horizon that make us believe it’s going to be great year. We’ll tell you all about it … next time!

Marsha

Shepherds

Today is the third Sunday of Advent.  As I’ve said before, there are many ways to interpret these four Sundays leading up to Christmas, depending on your particular church’s traditions. In the circles we run with, the tendency is to focus on Prophesy, The Wise Men, The Shepherds and finally, Bethlehem.

Today, those Shepherds.  You’ll remember awhile back I told you how I’d handed the box of nativity decorations to my middle grandson (he was about six at the time), and asked him to set it up for me. The rest of us went about decorating and Ezekiel was left to his own devices.

He did an excellent job, carefully unwrapping and placing each figure in it’s “traditional” place…… until it came to the shepherds.

As you would expect, he had Mary and Joseph, placed well back in the stable, out of the cold.  The towering wise men were just arriving, along with their entourage of servants and camels. Other animals were placed here and there, some curious to see the Blessed Event, others looking uninterested.

Then there were the shepherds, taking no mind of the others, but crowded right up to the manger, blocking the view and in the process no doubt providing a measure of shelter from the cold. What I saw here in my grandson’s interpretation of the familiar scene, was the fact that he had actually listened to the story. Most Nativity scenes that I’ve observed (including my own) carefully have all the characters properly lined up as if getting ready for a family portrait. The center of attention, of course, is the Baby Jesus, looked upon by Joseph and Mary … carefully staged so that everyone is adequately visible.

But Ezekiel, in his childhood understanding, was not interested in portraits or stage plays. He thought, “Those shepherds were the first on the scene; it was cold; and I don’t care if you’re a Wise Man or a wise guy, you’ll have to wait your turn. And as I admired his craft, I concluded that this was probably more accurate than most traditional scenes we see every year. Granted, if he’d have been a little more theologically inclined, he might have left the wise men out there in the East for two or three more years. But some things just need compressing.

That scene led me to ponder those shepherds, and ask myself what was going on in their minds that night? I don’t think their lives were particularly exciting, except for the odd bear or lion from time to time to get their adrenaline running, but think about it: these guys had just been serenaded by ANGELS! In a sound and light show never before seen and so far never repeated, they were proclaiming that the Savior of Mankind had been born. And then, with the real “knock the socks off” moment, they were invited to a front row seat. If I were a shepherd that night, I think I would have been running, pushing, shoving, hang the formalities and move over. Wouldn’t you?

How would you feel if you got a special invitation to kneel at the foot of the Master? Would you stand looking outwards at the world around, give proper credence to any and all authority that happened to be present, and take your proper place so that all could see and admire the Miracle Child?  I don’t think so.

So what am I suggesting? Roll up your sleeves and grab for that last Christmas present on the shelf? C.S Lewis describes those Christians who are so caught up in their own personalities as “all elbows”. For them, the Nativity is something like an extension of their own lives … focused on Jesus, to be sure, but never failing to place themselves in a position where their own image can be seen.

As I look again at our Nativity this year, I’m going to try and get into the mind of each and every person standing or kneeling there. And come to think of it, I’m not going to dismiss the animals in my assessment. Just think, one of those donkeys in that stable might possibly have been the grandmother of the one who had never been ridden until the day in Jerusalem when a disciple came to his owner and, “The Master has need of him.” Obedient to a fault. I’ll take that over any wise man or woman. And possibly best represented in the lives of those shepherds.

I’d like to encourage us all, as we bustle and wrestle into the season, to think of that ‘one last gift’ we need to pick up and think of the ‘Best Gift of All’

Have a great week!

Marsha

Wise Men Still Seek Him

Today is the second Sunday of Advent.  If you didn’t read last week’s blog, you might want to catch up. My main blogspot is down for some reason, but you can still read it on www.mywoods.net .

Today’s subject is about the Wise Men, but let me start by telling you about a place we visited this last week. You guessed it, we’re ‘on the road again’. We and most of the country are all well and not suffering much from the virus except that we’re locked down in Australia, so many of us are having to find contentment in just ‘getting to know our country’.

To that end, Tony and I flew up (Thank you stewardess daughter for discounted tickets!) to Cairns, far north Queensland for a couple of weeks in the sun and tropics.

We visited an historical place called Paronella Park, which you might be able to find on Google. We would never have found it except for some Aussie friends who told us about it. It’s way off the beaten track on a narrow winding road that I’d call jungle, but the locals call it ’scrub’.  Anyway think hot and humid, filled with vines with names like ‘wait awhile’ and ‘lawyer’, since they’re both apparently fast growing and wanting to completely impede any progress. Also in the area is a nasty tree called the “back out” plant, since that’s all you can do if you ever get caught by it’s poisonous thorns.  Paronella Park is a heritage site, built by a Spaniard named Jose Paronella in the late 1920’s. Let me tell you the story.

In 1887, Jose was born into a family of many kids in Catalonia, in the northeast quadrant of Spain.   Growing up in a lower middle class family, he was barely educated when his mother died and he, in order to ease the burden, moved out to find a trade.  On his way out, a neighbor lady, who was a widow with a large brood of kids as well, arranged a marriage to one of her daughters.  Jose reluctantly agreed, but at the moment he was off to see the world, starting with Australia. They were engaged and he took off with a vague promise to return soon.

After a long and arduous ocean voyage, Jose arrived in Brisbane, Australia. Word soon came that there was lots of work in the mines and cane fields of the far north, so he jumped on the next buckboard and went “where the money was”.  After a brief stint in the mines, he decided to come out in the sunshine and try his hand as a sugar cane cutter. As you may know, this is some of the meanest work in the world. Accidents, disease, rats, snakes, and heat.  You name it, it happened.   Most of the workers were European immigrants, but he soon rose above the rest, working hard and learning rudimentary English as he struggled along.  Soon he was able to leave the backbreaking stuff to the rest. He actually bought, with money he’d saved, a small plot of land that he could develop himself and then sell it for a fast profit. He soon discovered that cutting cane was a lot easier than clearing land!

But Jose persevered, and soon became the proverbial  “poor boy works hard and makes good’.  By the time he was 34 he had bought, cleared, planted and then sold over 15 ‘farms’ , each time making a massive profit.  He was amazed at how much people would pay for a farm when all the initial hard work had been done.  He was now a wealthy man and could follow his ‘dream’ of building a Spanish park.  It would be as whimsical as his grandmother’s stories of castles and parks that had put wonder in his eyes as he sat at her knee.

He felt that it was finally the right time for a wife, so he went home to collect his fiancé.  Imagine his surprise after so many years, (although he’d never written even once, because, as I said, he hadn’t been much for school), when he found that she’d married long before and even had a child.  No worries, the family, not wanting to lose face on a deal, rustled around in the back and came out dragging another sister, 14 years younger than Jose, but with a light in her eyes that seemed to say, ‘get me out of this place!’

Jose and Margarita married within days and spent the next year touring all the castles and amusement parks of Europe (remember he was quite wealthy by now), before they came to Queensland to start hacking out another farm in the jungle. Margarita was only 22 but understood what she’d signed up for and became an integral part of everything from hard labor to fine cooking and careful administration.

Soon they found the piece of land they’d been looking for that best suited the park idea; he wrangled a deal and work began.  Then he, almost illiterate, figured out how to harness the beautiful local waterfall into a hydro electric plant. He sent to Germany for the machinery, and viola, 30 years before anything else in the area developed, he had electricity as well as plumbed and running water!

As you can imagine, people began to flock in.  The new “Paronella Park” was located on the only dirt tract that led to the end of the continent, and who wouldn’t, in the searing heat and discomfort of the early cars, not to mention the dress code of the 30’s,  just stop and have a swim in the lake, enjoy some ICE CREAM and wander thru the gardens?  By 1935 it was up and running and did so until the 70’s when the road was diverted, leaving Jose and his park in the middle of nowhere. Eventually the property came to ruin, was abandoned in the jungle, and most of the family died off.

But then in the early 90’s, another person with a vision bought the ruined park and, inch by inch, have worked to get it back to ’tourist ready’.  We enjoyed looking around, but found the ‘ice cream’ to be way too expensive now!

So… what’s this got to do with the Wise Men?  Easy.  They had a dream. Yet, unlike Jose, they were far from illiterate. They weren’t necessarily leaving a bad situation for a good one……or so they thought. However, after studying the wisdom of the time, they came to the realization that something better was coming, and they took a leap of faith and started in search of it.

And so as we prepare for Christmas, in the words of the author of Hebrews, let’s throw off the old and set forth for the goal…….

(Hebrews 12:1-2),

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Come Wise Men and Women! Come Lord Jesus!!