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! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTkLgbfPKh8&feature=youtu.be

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

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!

Marsha
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

Mamool Cookies and Interesting Friends

Hello everyone.
Again……. a pretty slow and easy week, except for winter, which is coming hard and fast. I think I actually saw frost outside the other morning! (But of course I was imagining it, as it doesn’t get that cold here).   Sorry all you Northern Hemispherers!  Australians have their seasons divided into four three month sections, and while I thought June 1st was a bit premature to start Winter, by June 2nd the comforter on the bed felt pretty good!

Last week I talked about calming down and settling into the life we have and the tasks we have to do.  I’m happy to say that it’s been working well, due in no small part to your prayers. Thank you! I’ve joined a Women’s Bible study that I think I’m going to like, Tony’s pouring himself into some projects (more on that soon), and the grandkids, as always, continue to be cute.  We’ve commented to ourselves on several occasions this week, “We’re living the dream.”

In fact, I’m so relaxed that I’ve actually stopped thinking about traveling all the time………well, almost.  But then I came across this post from a friend the other day, and just had to nod my head in agreement.

Let me say this: I like people.  I like a LOT of people.  I find people interesting, and so during this time of enforced isolation, I’ve been a little out of sorts. I guess that’s partly why I found this story a bit insightful about  myself and about why I find traveling so invigorating.

In light of the rough week the world has had, especially in America, and to some extent here with a few of the rallies spilling over to include some of our Australian problems, I think you might find this little story very apropos.

It was written by an Arab-American poet, Naomi, Shibab Nye.  She was the keynote speaker at last year’s Christian Scholars Conference. She talks about “Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal”.

Her words:

“After learning my flight was detained 4 hours, I heard the announcement:
‘If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.’“Well—one pauses these days, but Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly. ‘”Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
problem? We told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
did this.’

“I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly. ‘Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick, sho bit se-wee?

“The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
she stopped crying. She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
following day. I said ‘No, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late’

“’Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.’ We called her son and I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and would ride next to her—Southwest.

“She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up about 2 hours.

“She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade Mamool cookies—little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag— and was offering them to all the women at the gate.

“To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.

“And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers—
non-alcoholic—and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American—ran around serving us all apple juice
and lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

“And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—
had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

“And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, this is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped —has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

“They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too. This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.”

And back to me, Marsha, I am reminded that not all is lost. Reading this story I immediately thought of the verses in  Matthew 25:37-40.  How these words of Jesus must resonate with us at this trying time,

“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?  ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

May we all come across some ‘interesting people’ this week!

Marsha

Learning to be Still

Hello all,

I’m happy to say that this has been a pretty “normal” week, at least compared to the past few weeks. Tony’s done with his 39-round set of radiotherapy sessions, and so we no longer have to drive to the hospital every day. Actually, that was a blessing in itself, since under the present lockdown, we’re not supposed to leave the house except for “essentials”, which includes food and medical care. And now, those restrictions are being lifted a bit, so that we can actually drive as far as Brisbane to see Chris and Nicki. Also, some of the recreation areas are opening up, provided we can keep the social distancing rules. Yep, this week, we can honestly say, “Life is good’

But if you know me, that you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m still feeling a bit restless. My sister and I were raised on a mountaintop in Colorado, and didn’t have a lot of chance to get out, except for church and school. One would think a background like that would result in two girls fairly content with a quiet homelife. Ah … nah. It seems the both of us couldn’t wait to fly the coop, seeking anything and everything that offered a bit of fun and excitement.  To this day, both of us are at our happiest when we’re surrounded with a noisy crowd while preoccupied by plans for the next trip.

I have to confess, this drives Tony nuts. It’s not that he doesn’t like people; it’s just that he’s energized by time alone, while I on the other hand am energized by people. If Tony is a Golden retriever, I’m an otter.
Well, as it turns out, we don’t have any big trips on the planning board, because so far at least, we can’t even leave the state of Queensland, much less Australia. Even weddings and funerals are either being postponed or at least trimmed to seven or less participants.

And of course that includes birthdays. Here I sit, looking at the BIG 7_0 bearing down on me, and it looks like it may come and go with little more than a sigh. Looking at our options, there’s really not much we can do to celebrate, so instead, I’m trying to learn to just be STILL.

“And how’s that going?” you ask.

Hmmmmm……….. some days are good, some days I spend doing like I did as a little girl, reading and looking out the window. Or as the little boy told his Daddy, “I’m sittin on the outside but STANDIN on the inside!”

The other day, in the midst of one of my fugues, I finally decided to look at my Bible. What does it have to say about fidgety people? David came to mind.
Yeah, what was he doing on the ROOF that afternoon when he should have been running the country? One can imagine that he was struggling with adventures long past with no sign of any new ones on the horizon.
Keep in mind that David wasn’t exactly raised on a mountaintop like I was, but he probably did learn at a young age how to entertain himself. I think he was mostly alone as a child, unloved by his brothers, left to the care of the sheep. A glimpse of his personality can be seen in Psalms 62, staring with verse 5,

“For God alone, O my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.”

And then in verse 11 he continues, “Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God and that to You, oh Lord, belongs steadfast love.”

I’m told this is an example of Hebrew poetry writing style. “Once God has spoken, twice I have heard…” This is simply a way of saying, “Hey this important; listen up!”

And what we hear in this passage are the two words: Power and Love. These are two things that are never in short supply when it comes to God. And no matter what I happen to be doing, right choices, bad choices; looking for trouble, waiting for peace … God’s Power and God’s Love surrounds me, keeping me on an even keel, if I’ll just take the time to look around and see Him at work: around me, in me, through me.

I don’t know about you, but what a wonderful reminder that God has is with me every day of my life, before my life even began. Whether I’m seeking His face in daily quiet time, or escaping from lockdown, intent on whatever my hand finds to do, He’s there to urge me back or cheer me on, depending on His Will.

Wherever you find yourself this week, I pray that you’ll sense His Presence.

May your days be peaceful and fun, and may the two never conflict with each other!

Marsha

Milestones

This week has been marked by a couple of milestones. First there was the great news about Tony’s health. After 39 straight days of radiotherapy (not counting weekends), he finished the prescribed course that was designed to blast every molecule of prostate cancer. This earned him the right to “ring the bell” under the sign that says, “I’ve conquered this moment”. If you follow my Facebook page, maybe you saw the Grand Event in living color. Afterwards, one of the nurses called him back into a room where she told him with a long face, “Now, your side effects will probably linger for another week or two, so you just have to be patient.” Tony was genuinely surprised, and asked, “What side effects?” whereupon she listed the dozen or so maladies, from mildly uncomfortable to downright dangerous. “But I haven’t had any of those,” Tony insisted. “All I can say is, a lot of folks have been praying for me!” Three cheers for God, and Big Thanks to all of you!

Saying goodbye was a bittersweet experience, owing to the fact that we had become quite close to lot of cancer patients who were on the same schedule as Tony’s. A lot of them are counting the days until they too can ring that bell. But there’s quite a few folks there who don’t have a lot to cheer about. These are the ones dealing with returned cancer, or those type of cancer where the radiation is more or less a last ditch effort. It brought huge lumps in our throats to walk out of the hospital, remembering these new precious friends, and wondering how they will fare with all that’s still headed their way. We took every opportunity to share God’s love with them, and gave them every reason to hope. Pray with us, will you? Pray that they and all who are facing such challenges will discover God’s love and some Real Healing in mind and body.

As we left the treatment area, we wanted to go straight to the diagnostic room and get a scan that would confirm everything we’re hoping for, but the doctor told us to wait three months, since Tony’s insides are reportedly needing to recover before they can get a real look.   So, we’ll wait, praising  God for His healing power, and for wonderful friends like you. It’s encouraging to know that both we and the doctor expect him to be clear of cancer.

And then there was the passing of Ravi Zacharias, that gifted Christian apologist who has blessed so many, us included, with his simple yet incredibly deep message of salvation for so many years. Tony has accepted the news like the good man of God he is, but confesses to feeling a bit … disappointed? that God would heal him, and yet take Ravi home, a man who was doing so much the Kingdom.  Perhaps there’s a bit of ‘survivor syndrome’ at work, with us feeling encouraged and yet with so many of our friends still struggling.

I guess there are really no words to express our feelings.  Why?  Why does someone so ‘helpful’ to the Cause of Christ have to go so soon?  Perhaps someday we’ll understand, but I can’t help but feel that one day we’ll understand.

But on a lighter note, you may have heard that our book, “Weaving Sunlight” is now out on Kindle, suitable for downloading onto your smart phone. It’s a LOT cheaper than the hardcopy, and more convenient to read for all of you techies out there. Please do buy it if you want to have a nice uncomplicated read about some folks whom God has blessed.

We’ve had a nice weekend. They’ve released some travel restrictions, all the while raising the petrol prices back up, but at least now we can get to both kids.   We’ve also been able to enjoy several departures from the strict diet, but intend to get back to being serious as we find that we feel better.  It’s a relief, however, to know that sugar and bacon still tastes like the stuff of life!

Till next week, I’ll leave you with the verse that brought Ravi Zacharias to Christianity after attempting to commit suicide when he was 17.  Years and years later he found this same verse on his grandmother’s grave.  You’ll remember I told you about her a few weeks ago, how she became a Christian during a Cholera outbreak.  Here’s the verse: John 14:19, “Because I live, ye shall also live”

And so with God’s grace and according to his plan, we live to see another day.  Let’s make it count!

Marsha

Bee ware

I heard an interesting story a few years ago. Apparently there were four college students who were away for the weekend for some capricious and non-academic fun, and managed to get back noticeably late for a very important exam.

As they sped down the freeway and the realization began to dawn, they put their heads together and came up with the perfect excuse. The rest of the trip they practiced it in order to have the story just right.  They would simply say that they’d had a flat tire.

What they failed to consider was that the professor, perhaps having come up against this ploy before, took them individually into another room and asked the same (to their undoing) question:  “Which tire?”

There’s even a verse in the Bible that is often quoted, from Numbers 32:23, … and be sure your sin will find you out. I’m pretty sure you could point to a lot of other verses that say the same thing, seeing as how this way of thinking has been with us since time began.

This last week, we decided to get up close and personal with our lovely bees.  You’ll remember we’ve had a hive of Native STINGLESS Australian bees for about a year, and so it’s time to add on a chamber so they can produce us the yearly one cup of the reportedly magnificent honey.

Now, with the cooler temperatures, we decided the time was right. We had added the “honey pot” a few weeks ago where the bees would be encouraged to store their excess, so we got all set, licking our lips, to see how things were going.

We also planned, while we were in there, to implement  some small but brilliant (at least we thought) modifications that would benefit all involved.  That’s as far as our planning got.

If we were to do a retake, we might have discussed  questions like “What will we do if they don’t want us to change their environment, and what might that action look like?’

But no, after all, we’re really veteran experts by now, don’t you think?  I’ve been on that many chat lines and I can almost hear the applause of the masses as we report to the amazed veterans how we changed things up.

It was cold, (about 60 degrees or 20 if you’re here in Australia). Bees are awake at that temp but like many of us, they can’t really fly till they enjoy the warmth of the sun for awhile.

We took off the lid, saw a few bees in the glass jar, obviously doing their honey-making thing. All’s well.  We pried off the jar, and…….

You know those horror movies where Pandora’s box is opened and the evil black hoards pour out? In the instant while we stood, jaws gaping, that’s what happened.  THOUSANDS of bees poured out in the blink of an eye, covering the entire hive.  There was no way we were going to get them ‘back in the box’ so to speak.  It was in that moment that we realized that we had NO IDEA what to do. We ‘brushed’ at them but they’re so fragile, the results were not exactly what anyone wanted, except that some kind of alarm was sent out, and even more bees swarmed out of the hive. Keep in mind, they weren’t stinging, but they had decided to implement the “overwhelm the enemy” approach, quickly gaining access to every opening we presented, such as shirt collars, sleeves, trouser legs, eyes, ears, nose and mouth. At least they were still grounded because of the cold, and so could only get to us on their tiny feet. One of us (I won’t say who) came up with a brilliant idea: let’s get the hair drier and blow the critters off.

Some of you sharper ones out there may have already worked out what happened next.

In about three seconds, the bees began to try their appendages, with some calling out (I’m sure), “Hey! I can fly!” Suddenly, as if on command, they ALL  took to the air, recalculate their targets (us) and came at us in a cloud of Biblical proportions.

We had them all over us.  In our ears, hair, clothes, you name it.  It was hard not to panic, and well, maybe we did a little; creating a Bee dance of our own.  We ran back inside swatting and brushing. Forget the “Oh, aren’t they sweet!” observations. Now it was “Get them OFF me NOW!!”

Eventually, we were clear, mostly … except for one little girl (they’re mostly girls you know, about 90% of the hive of thousands; doing most of the work and hoping to be Queen someday. Perhaps not so different from our species eh?).

Anyway, she had hitchhiked on me and into my closet, and somehow as I’d changed into a new set of slacks, had ended up on the inside of my waistband.  That may have been all right, but when I leaned over to brush my teeth, she was getting squished and had no choice…  The bite she gave me, I assumed was a scratchy tag tickling me, but the investigation with my hand cost her her life.  Sad for her but nothing at all for me.

So what’s the point, you ask?

PLAN your actions. Trust in the wisdom of others who have more experience and think things through before something swarms out of hand. Need a proof test? Proverbs 14:12, There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death.

Fortunately for us, that “death” part only included the poor bees, but the point is taken.

Have a BEElessed week!

Epilogue, we got the lid back on the box but only after they’d all gotten cold again and headed back to bed.

Pray with us as the entire world tries to ‘get the bees back in the box’ with this Corona thing. You may want to sit down and do some planning yourselves.

Marsha

Lessons From an Ant

In the words of that popular radio broadcaster, Garrison Keillor, in his weekly series,  ”It’s been a quiet week here at Lake Woebegone”.

Today is Mother’s Day, and we have been magnificently lauded and honored by our children, their spouses and the grandkids. It was a red letter day for Tony, who enjoyed the Beef Bourguignon that our daughter had lovingly made and brought down for the occasion. This was to be his first taste of meat in six months, having stuck to an incredibly strict cancer-inhibiting diet during treatment. The daily laser light sword, as he calls it, will conclude in ten days, and he figures that’s close enough. Not sure how his body is going to react, but he went back for seconds. “Whatever happens, it was worth it!” he insisted.

For those of you on the other side of the world, your Sunday may be just beginning, so I hope you experience some extra love like we did, even if it has to be at a distance.
Keeping my own distance, I try to start every morning with some time on the treadmill, and to fend off boredom have been listening to everything from Michael W. Smith to Ravi Zacharias. This week has been Corrie Ten Boom, that legendary Dutch girl who ended up in the prison camps because her family was sheltering Jews.

Something that stood out in her testimony was her telling of being placed in solitary confinement. “Oh, I can identify with that!” I thought, what with the CoVid19 isolation restrictions we’re going through now. Well…

In Corrie’s case, she arrived at the prison camp with a case of the sniffles, and the Nazis didn’t want the people they were getting ready to kill to get sick, so off to solitary she went. Come to think of it, that might have been God’s protection.
Eventually, word reached her that her father had been gassed, as well as several others that she knew, and she had to grieve by herself.  The days drug on and on, and she realized all too painfully that, in every way, she was completely alone for the first time in her life. Corrie had been raised in a very active family, which had become even more so as escaping Jews had come into their home to hide from the Nazis.
Conversing with God was nothing new to the young girl, and in the absence of every other form of stimulation, her daily time with her Creator was precious. It was a glorious experience, to be sure, but she admitted that there were times when all she could do was cry and tell God that she was losing her mind. “I’m so alone!” she called out one morning, and as she spoke she noticed an ant crawling across the floor.  Her first reaction was to prevent the creature from invading her personal space, giving it a gentle flick with her handkerchief.

Frightened at this unexpected interruption, the ant scurried away and disappeared into a crack in the wall. Almost immediately, Corrie  felt God’s voice in her mind saying, “See? You’re not alone, and just like him, you too have a ‘hiding place’. I am there.”

Forty years later as she recalled that day, Corrie Ten Boom wrote this simple poem:

“When you look around, you’re distressed.
When you look inside, you’re depressed.
When you look to God, you’re at rest!”

Yeah, this time of isolation is the pits, especially for an “otter” like me. But thanks to this wonderfully blessed Dutch girl from a couple of generations ago, I can still put things into perspective. “Distressed. Depressed. At rest!”

Thank you, God, for this time of enforced rest and removal from just about everything I used to deem “essential”. What I really need today, I have, filled and overflowing:

The love of family. Both a history and a future. Most importantly, a “hiding place” that’s never any farther than my thoughts of Him.
Whatever lies ahead for you today, I pray that it will be full of joy, hope and a bit of something you never knew before.

Marsha

Evangelical Word Games

So as you probably know, Japanese is a difficult language.  To start with, their unabridged dictionary has over 40,000 ‘pictographs’, called “kanji”. Only 6000 or so are necessary to be considered literate, at least to a 6th grade level, but the various combinations of these kanji lead to tens of thousands of words, the pronunciation of which can only be guessed at and must be memorized.   I’m sure that’s why Xavier (a 17th century missionary to Japan)  described Japanese as “without a doubt, the devil’s language.”  I know from personal experience that most of our missionaries have struggled valiantly to learn the required 6000 ones!

But if that wasn’t bad enough, then there is the LEVEL to be considered. Within Japanese society, there are at least five levels of speech, that which is directed to a child, a servant, a peer, a boss and a teacher, not to mention the discourse one would use when addressing the Emperor.

On any given day, whenever two Japanese meet for the first time, they offer some “mid-level” greetings, then as soon as possible exchange business cards. From that point on, everything is determined according to your “social level” and how it relates to the person standing in front of you. Bowing is preferred over handshakes, and there are strict rules as to the depth and the time given to a bow. After exchanging the cards, both parties now know ‘where they stand’ so to speak, and the level of speech now takes on clearly understood rules, with the ability to communicate everything from deep respect to quiet distain.

Now some of you may be jumping ahead of me, saying, “Wait a minute! We have the same system in English, just with different tools.” A handshake can be firm or soft, or even using both hands, and the length of time from initial grasp to letting go can speak volumes, right? Personal space is that great unwritten statute that carries with it either intimacy or formality; and woe be the one who misreads the signals!   What you say and how you say it has levels too.”

Australia had a Prime Minister awhile back who, in the spirit of that Aussie mateship we hold dear, once reached over and put his hand on the shoulder of the Queen of England. Fortunately for him, the Royal Executioner was not with the entourage that day, but all of Australia, from every walk of life, as they watched on TV, couldn’t help but gasp in their shock and offense!

Language and how we use it is such an interesting challenge! I think that we evangelicals also have certain ‘protocols’ when it comes to meeting new people, especially if the new people say they’re Christians.   So now I want to tell you about something that happened to me last week, and preface it with a little “back story”.

We listen to a couple of Christian radio stations when we’re in the car.  One plays more contemporary music, while the other feeds our “Old Time Religion” traditional needs. One thing that we enjoy is the occasional one-minute devotionals led by a man named Andy Kirk. He is an excellent presenter, really catching your ear with his confident and thought provoking presentations.   Here’s an excerpt from one of his pieces:

“A frog fell into a bowl of cream.  He panicked because he couldn’t find purchase to climb out, but a little voice told him not to give up.  We live in difficult times, and, like the frog, we must carry on, not allowing ourselves to despair (dramatic pause). You see, as dawn broke after a night of paddling, the frog was able to climb up on the mound of butter and escape.”

And then at the end of each segment, the presenter concludes with a firm, “I’m Andy Kirk.”

Now to the point. Last week Tony and I were walking around our neighborhood, doing anything to break our boredom and get some fresh air. Several houses away we noticed that the street was covered in chalk art. With all the schools being closed, the kids are often outside fighting off boredom. This art was especially good, and what caught our attention was a Bible verse from Isaiah, telling us in effect, to be of good cheer.  Another drawing said, “God loves you!”

We were so encouraged by the sight, especially after not finding a Christian on our street in the 4 years we’ve been here. In fact, it’s only recently that our neighbors have warmed a little to us after initially being afraid of us; only knowing that we’re transplanted Americans who say we have a relationship with Jesus.

Writing a note of thanks to the chalk artists,, we slipped it into their mailbox, taking care to apply the appropriate “level” in our language.  A few days later, we were walking back by the house and three boys came running out, obviously with a mission in mind, closely followed by their mother.  We looked at her, she looked at us and we asked, “Are you …?” as we both pointed to the mailbox.

“Oh”, she said, “We’re just coming to see you!”

After doing the isolation math (The two of us could visit their house, but the 5 of them would not be allowed, strictly, to come to our place), we ended up in their yard, and started what I call the ‘evangelical game’.  A few well-couched questions determined that they were quite possibly Christians.   She then ascertained that we were retired Baptist missionaries, as we’d said in our note. On to the next step.  Where do the boys go to school?  Oh, a Christian school. Good, they probably know church words. Maybe we can find some common ground.

By now the dad had come out and joined us, and we were still doing the formal language of strangers, until I gingerly moved to the penultimate question.

“And where do you go to church?”

He said, “Calvary”.

They had passed the questionnaire perfectly, showing themselves to be theologically correct evangelicals, so we didn’t have to….well, I’ll let you fill in the gaps there.

So, finding myself relieved, I must have inadvertently dropped my guard a notch and let the language settle into the “Besties” category.

“Oh I know that church,” I practically shouted, “I hear it’s really good.  In fact, they have some DUDE that always talks on the radio.”

At that point the dad pulled himself up to full height and with a twinkle in his eye said in his strong, all too-familiar voice, “I’m Andy Kirk”.

My choice of appropriate level words deserted me, so I went all Japanese and did a deep bow, mostly to hide my red face.

Isn’t it fun to find brothers and sisters in Christ? I suspect there are more of them in your area than you might know. What a jab, to get to Heaven and find that a really great believer lived right up the street from you.

So … get out there and ask! What’s the worst that could happen? What’s the best?

And lastly, doesn’t God have a sense of humor to humble us in our judgmental ways?

Marsha