Lately, as you’ve surmised, we’ve been in the States on a crosscountry tour renewing old family ties, awestruck by the way God has been working in and through all of our lives to weave the tapestry that is us.

It’s been a good trip so far, lots of fun, laughter and good visits.  Time and again, in our visits, we could point to significant moments in our histories… some good, some not so good. But put those moments all together and it’s easy to see the Hand of God in our lives, and that’s always encouraging.

So…….my mother died when I was 14.  Most of you know that.  It probably helped shaped who I am.  I can’t remember a lot of the things she taught me, at least not specifically, other than a lot of what I learned more through experience than words.  Love, the power and Presence of God, how to wash behind my ears, stuff like that.  I remember some of the lessons about responsibility, enforced by daily chores, like carrying the family “night potty” down the hill to the outhouse without slopping it…..an experience for a six year old that only lasted about a year or so till we got indoor plumbing.

Some of my mother’s most passionate lessons that I remember involved the topic of cleanliness. According to her, if you had the misfortune of having cockroaches, you probably weren’t going to heaven.  God didn’t allow slobs in heaven.  I got that. We lived in dry cold Colorado, where they could hardly survive, so we felt secure.

After she died, two things happened that made me question these lessons. The first was my becoming an adult, with all the “real life” experiences that tend to make me more tolerant. The other was moving to the mission field, where the concept of cleanliness is sometimes defined in different terms.

One of my first “unclean” encounters was with fleas. They were fairly common in Japan, even in homes that were spotless. I nearly killed our cat with flea powder until I realized that our Japanese visitors weren’t as horrified about the pests as we were.

Then my children, being the loving things they are, gave ME lice….brought home from kindergarten.  I still remember the night when I woke up Tony and asked him to look at a particular place on my head and he said, “It’s moving”.  Tears in the bathtub as I scrubbed my hair over and over, followed by months and months of self-examination both outwardly and inwardly, wondering what sort of ’degenerate’ I was to host such things.

And the lessons continued over the years. I got Scabies in Africa, Ringworm in Japan, and don’t forget the cockroaches!  Living occasionally in the tropics, we’d have rat-sized ones that would come up the drains into the house and wake you up in the night scurrying across your face.

I only mention these things because last night we settled into a nice enough little hotel on our way to Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.

The point of this whole trip across America is to attend four glorious days of celebrating with fellow IMB missionaries who have retired and joined the ranks of “Emeritus”. Our mission board puts this event on every 5 years for anyone who qualifies and can still put one foot in front of the other.  We’re excited!

But in this humble (yet somehow expensive) hotel, we had another ‘first’ experience.  I’d like to say that, after 40 years on the mission field, I would be able to face BEDBUGS with some degree of aplomb and say,  “Hah! I’ve seen worse. Bring it on!”

I’d like to say that, but I’m afraid my response was more like, “Don’t touch anything!!  Grab the bags, we’re outta here…take a look at the top of my head”… Fortunately the hotel was sympathetic to our plight and they agreed we’d have a full refund and we agreed we wouldn’t post the name of the place online.

Yes, the lessons still continue, even at this stage of my life. I gave this great consideration in our new (Motel 6) place as I scrubbed every inch of myself raw wondering, really, am I learning anything thru these experiences?

I think I can say I’ve learned to temper some of my Mother’s passion, admitting that uncleanliness and immorality don’t necessarily go hand in hand. I’ve learned that in some environments the presence of a rat or a cockroach are not a call to arms but rather an invitation to reach out to those who live daily in such conditions. I’ve heard that with the cessation of the use of DDT, bedbugs and other vermin are coming back into our lives, even in nice hotels.

And I remind myself that people’s souls are worth far more than the things that surround them, after all.

But I’ll have to say that there are some pests who will NEVER make my “okay” list. I will never accept rats in my pantry, cockroaches in my cereal or bedbugs in my sheets!

I hope you have a pest free week. But more than that, I hope you have a chance to be salt and light in whatever circumstance you find yourself.

One hand on the Bible, one hand on the bug spray. I don’t know…maybe there’s a sermon in there somewhere.

Have a good week!


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