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Where’s the Meat?

I came across an interesting anecdote the other day about a guy who worked all day helping an elderly lady do some renovations on her house.  ”At the end of the day”, she promised him, “I’ll give you all you can eat Pizza!”

Well, that kept him going the rest of the day and into the long afternoon when his strength was beginning to wane. Finally the job was done. The young man sat down to rest, his mouth watering as he heard the sounds of rustling in the kitchen.

Soon the old grandma toddled out onto the veranda holding a tray. “This is my specialty!” she declared, beaming with pride. “And it’s in keeping with the special diet my doctor has me on. It’s a crustless, meatless and cheeseless pizza!

I was drawn to that story, because that’s exactly what Tony and I have been facing these last six months, determined to lay off anything cancer likes, in an attempt to starve it away, even if we inadvertently starve ourselves.

Sugar, meat, dairy products, most carbohydrates … well, let’s just say anything we like was off the table. As you know, we’ve gotten the all-clear, and of course the credit goes to God. But now we’re trying to re-assess our lifestyle to see what might be acceptable. The doctor (being a vegan) has encouraged us to stay on the diet, so in deference to his wishes, Tony grilled up a couple of racks of pork ribs the other day to celebrate. He insists that he’s now a “part time carnivore”, but I’ve got my eye on him.

And even though a big part of me today is screaming, “I WANT PIZZA!  I don’t want anything ‘cheeseless, meatless or crustless ever again”, I think there’s a Voice in my heart (whose Presence and Work continue to guide me every day), and the Voice is saying, “Enjoy life, but don’t be silly.”

Maybe this is too much of a stretch, but it seems to me that a lot of Christians have the idea that, since we live under Grace, we can do whatever we want, living a life that’s virtually “bulletproof”, thanks to our status as a child of God.  And with that I wonder if we take all of the ‘meat and cheese’ (real nutrition) out of what we believe, affecting how we live and worship? Are we making our churches so ‘ visitor friendly’ that we’ve lost any God-given  nutrition?

Speaking of stories, I was driving the other day when a very old song came on the radio. I smiled as I remembered the words.  The title of the hymn is  “I Love To Tell The Story”; I’m sure most of you know the words.  In the second or third verse the lines went, “I love to tell the story, for those who know it best …”

My mind jumped ahead, trying to remember the rest of the verse.  Was it “and they’re sick to death of it?” …..or was it, “They have it all memorized and they’ve moved on to better things?”

No, it goes, “…for those who know it best, seem hungering and thirsting, to hear it like the rest!” That speaks to me today, as I think of pizzas and chocolate milkshakes.

Lord, make me hungry every day for the things I really need.

Our pastor preached a great sermon last week. He said, GET IN THE WORD, STAY IN THE WORD…….it’s the MEAT of who you are.

Toodle loo


PS, Try singing it:

I Love to Tell the Story (by Kate Hankey, 1866)

I love to tell the story, Of unseen things above
Of Jesus and his glory, Of Jesus and his love

I love to tell the story, Because I know ’tis true

It satisfies my longings, As nothing else can do

I love to tell the story, ‘Twill be my theme in glory
To tell the old, old story, Of Jesus and his love

I love to tell the story, For those who know it best

Seem hungering and thirsting, To hear it like the rest

And when in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song
’Twill be the old old story, that I have loved so long.

All the Lovely Little Bottles

As my sister and I enjoyed an early morning call, as we sometimes do,  my darling husband toiled in the kitchen making breakfast.  Since he’s been on this ‘cancer killing diet’ (over which we’re rejoicing, BTW, since it, along with lots of prayers, seems to have worked!), I’ve been making up a concoction of dried chick peas, nutritional yeast and some spices, which, if you squint your eyes and taste buds, looks and tastes remarkably like an omelet.  This has become Tony’s “Award Winning” specialty, along with his famous Texas BBQ (to which sadly, we’ve found no plant based substitute).

We sat down to enjoy the repast, but alas… Now, I’m not one to spit out food, but this time I had to make an exception. It tasted like PURE SALT!

I did my best to soldier on, trying not to offend the cook, all the time asking pertinent questions like “What exactly did you put in this magnificent omelet?” or, “Was your head with you the entire time?”  Finally we both had to give up.  He hurried to the kitchen just as I was wondering if this was what early onset dementia looked like.

“You won’t believe this!” he said with a look of triumph. “I grabbed the jar next to the omelet mix in the dark.  That jar was full of my powdered barbecue rub!”

Problem solved.  I remember a famous preacher once confessing that while his wife was running errands one day, he helped himself to some garlic bread, lavishing it generously from the bottle of olive oil, which fortuitously happened to be sitting right there handy by the sink.  Being a man, he gutted thru several slices while he watched the game.  When his wife came home, he confessed that he didn’t particularly like the flavor of the olive oil, to which she smiled and said lovingly (as wives sometimes do),  “That’s because the pretty olive oil bottle is full of dishwashing liquid!”’

Fortunately for us in the case of the omelet, only our blood pressure will suffer.

Now it’s a week after the great news I shared with you last time, and I know I need to get some perspective.  I was reading this morning how we Christians are often like spoiled children when we get a ‘miracle’.  You know, those times when your kids are sick, and for lack of anything else you can do, you pamper them with ice cream and cartoons.

Eventually, they get better, except that now they’re little monsters, demanding the same treatment as before. I can’t help but see a bit of myself in that picture.

This week we have experienced no special miracles, other than the fact that we’re alive, thriving, in love with God and each other, heaped on by fulfilling work to do and lots of friends and family to share good days with, albeit locked down at the moment.

I heard an interesting comment from Ravi Zacharias. It sounded familiar, but it re-struck me today. He said, “We are not people with souls, we are souls who just happen to be housed in people.”

Like the lovely olive oil bottle in the kitchen, my ‘house’ may look okay (especially with a little spit polishing), but I have to consider what’s inside. One bottle, just like one person, may look pretty much like any other bottle or person, but it’s what’s inside that counts.

Discovering what’s inside those around us can be a wonderful, uplifting experience. But at the same time, it can also be an opportunity for less-than-uplifting sharing. For example, today I came across a juicy piece of gossip and as most of you know, stuff like that just DEMANDS to be shared.

Okay, I’m not an evil person. I knew better than to run for the phone and pass along a little tidbit dressed up like a “prayer request”. I confess too that a fleeting thought crossed my mind: “Sharing this on my BLOG wouldn’t be the same as gossip. Besides, most of my readers don’t even know the people I run with. What would be the harm?

But the answer came pretty quickly. We’re all lovely bottles on the outside, but demeaning the contents of another diminishes us all. Like salt or soap, nobody wants it. Maybe I better start asking myself “what would my SOUL do?”

Hopefully we can all act like the soul that we are, in His image.  Let’s give it a go this week!

Thanks for listening, Marsha

Watch for Those Buses

I know we often quote Bible verses out of context at our peril, but allow me this once! I really like it, maybe because of its poetic nature. Jehoshaphat is addressing the people of Israel in II Chronicles 20, beginning with verse 5,

Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said: “O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?

This is how we felt this last week when the doctor confirmed that Tony is Cancer free and he sees no reason to think it will ever come back. “A few years ago, we would expect to see it again,” he told us. “But today with the technology we have, I’m confident that we saw all there was to see, and blasted it. Keep healthy and come back in six months.”

I was reminded that this is the doctor who we told at the beginning of all this that, “We’re pretty sure God is going to heal; we’re just not sure He’s going to use you.”

We did give him plenty of credit for his tools and the obvious skills he has in using them; but we also reminded him that a lot of folks have been praying for us, and if nothing else, the fact that Tony suffered no adverse side effects at all from the 39-part radiotherapy treatment is a pretty good testimony of the power of prayer!

As Tony said, looking back, “I can’t say I was afraid, necessarily. God, as always, has the last Word in these things. But the big thing I’m feeling now is the freedom from distraction. Nearly every day these past six months, we’ve had to structure our lives around this monster. Where can we go? What can I eat? What do I say to the family? The church? Now our lives are more, well, normal!”

I was trying to explain all this to our three grand boys, saying what a relief it is to be Cancer free. “Now if we just don’t step in front of a bus,” I said, almost under my breath.

“Mae?” my second grandchild asked, with just a hint of concern. “Can you get cancer from stepping in front of a bus?”

No, at least I don’t think so. But I do need to remember that we’re still as vulnerable to the thuds and thrills of life as we ever were. We’ve both had our “three score and ten”, after all, and each day from here on is just frosting on the cake.

But in the meantime, we’re well and truly back in the saddle, preaching, leading Bible studies, writing, and managing our newest project, The Road Rising Video Series. I’m sure you’ve heard all about it by now, but be sure to catch the latest 8-minute devotion, then hit the “Like” and “Subscribe” buttons. Here’s the link:

Covid is still keeping us pretty much house bound, although Queensland (where we live) has been a lot less impacted than other parts of the country. Be assured of our prayers for you, wherever you are. We look forward with you for the day when this will all be in the rear view mirror.

Love ya! And watch yourselves around those buses!


Celebrate the Scars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bless ya bunches,


Prisoners of Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your fellow prisoner,


A Cheerful Giver

Three Missionaries walked into a bar…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Celebrating Freedom

Happy Fourth of July!

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

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

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

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

Let me close with this little exciting announcement from Tony:

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

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

Click here to join the journey!

No Worries!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for listening, Marsha

Not So Lost Boys

Hello all,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you want to read more about these boys’ most excellent adventure, here’s a YouTube link:

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

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

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

Counting the Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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