To Move or to Sit

A few weeks ago I did something I usually try not to do.

I unwittingly intimidated someone.

There is a lovely lady in our church.  I think she’s about 87, with an amazing story, going back three generations.  I mentioned her recently in a blog about how her family had become Christians 3 generations ago at a Billy Graham crusade.

So….we were having a chat over an after church lunch when we got to talking about some of her memories, etc.  She complained that she’s getting deaf and forgetful and an idea ‘struck me’.

You may remember, right after the New Year, I mentioned asking God for a challenge…. something amazing to do. And sitting there, I suddenly had my ‘eureka’ moment.

The next day, I called the lady’s daughter and asked if she thought I could be allowed to write her story.  The daughter was enthusiastic.

Then I heard nothing….. for weeks.

Finally, at church, I saw the lady, and she pulled me aside and asked if I’d heard from her daughter (I hadn’t).  Then she explained:

“I was so honored by your request to write my story, but actually it made me so depressed that I was unable to go out for over a week. You see, I just can’t remember things clearly anymore.  I think ‘our story’ will have to remain untold.”

Now I’m depressed.

And I’m thinking of those last few weeks leading up to the first Easter, as Jesus finished up His work, died and rose again.

And I wondered, has He ever been impatient with us?  Did He ever have great plans in place, plans that would bless everyone’s socks off… except when it came time to get started, we waffled out with something like, “Uhm…. Actually, I don’t think I can do it”?

The other night at Bible study, we talked about Abraham walking up that mountain with Isaac, never swerving in what he had been told to do. Tony confessed that he could NEVER have done such a thing as sacrifice his son. End of story.

But we all realized, after much discussion, that Abraham, that ‘friend of God’ kept climbing, and was even able to answer Isaac when he asked about the sacrificial lamb, “God will provide”. How could he do that??

Because Abraham trusted God, not his own abilities.

Don’t worry about me and my grand plans to ‘help God’. He’s got it covered. Maybe He just wants me to be still for a minute. Like the children of Israel, when God reminded them through the prophet Isaiah (30:15), “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

I don’t want to add the rest of that verse: “But you refused.”

In all of my excitement about “helping God out”, there are times, I admit, when His Word seems to be saying, “Just sit still My child and watch.” But all too often I sit as long as I can, then wiggle out of my chair and say, “But, how about….?”

Move when He says move. Sit when he says sit. That’s the challenge, isn’t it? I’ll pray for you; please pray for me.

Just sittin here,

Marsha

Ode to a Pole

He is Risen!

Happy Easter,  As I write this, our hearts are full, we’ve had countless services, mourning and grieving thru Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, then all the services this Easter day, beginning at 5:30 AM with a glorious sunrise, and finally ending with an amazing combined worship of the Japanese churches at our house, followed with a dream potluck of all the food I love.  We have old Missionary friends (who aren’t that old) visiting from Japan, so our cup has really run over.
To that end, I’m going to post a blog I’ve written years ago, because the Polish Priest said it best…….Enjoy and remember.

Ode to a Pole

When I was a girl, most of the jokes that were going around in my grade school classrooms involved “Polaks”.  You know the type, “How many Polaks does it take to change a light bulb”……those sorts of jokes. Somehow this was ridiculously funny to a 10 year old.  I’ve found later in life this genre of jokes also masquerade as Aggie jokes, Belgium jokes and even Blonde jokes (Now as a blond, that offends me!). Pretty much anyone who is not in your circle of experience…

Imagine my jaw-dropping surprise when I met my first “Polak”…. who I have later learned are more correctly referred to as “Poles”. It was in 1981.

He came to class in the form of a handsome and composed young priest.  We were newly arrived in Tokyo and Tony and I were about his age but were neither handsome nor composed as we struggled along in a language school run by the Catholics; all of us together trying to learn Japanese.

I don’t remember his name; come to think of it, I probably never heard it, since everyone just referred to him as “Father”.  I don’t know where in Poland he came from but it was apparent that he, like us, had given his life to service and ministry to the Japanese.  We never really spoke, because he and the two nuns who arrived with him spoke almost no English. Believe me, in those early days, our communication in Japanese was relegated to bold sentences like “I like tulips” and “This is a pen!”.

But back to the Poles….

While I continually, from my childhood exposure, expected those three to do something completely zany and without reason (as per the jokes), I began to sense a real ‘presence’ in them. Even though most of us had no common language (the other students had come largely from Europe and South America), there was a level of communication as we sat in small classrooms day after day and struggled with what a Catholic priest back in the 1600s by the name of Francis Xavier had aptly called, “The Devil’s language!”

Anyway, during this daily struggle, you pretty well KNEW which of those priests and nuns had a personal relationship with OUR LORD and Savior Jesus Christ, and who were just there maybe for the status or possibly the dream of a better world thru the social gospel …….

Finally it was Easter, and the Poles came through.  When we arrived at school that Monday after Easter, the nuns ran to us and then after us, shaking a bottle of perfume on us and shouting gleefully “Ee’s ALIVE!!” with much shouting and ensuing hilarity!  They couldn’t really ‘explain’ what they were doing, but some of the teachers commented that the Poles did this every year to celebrate the fragrance of new life in Christ through His resurrection.

Later that day, after things had settled down and we were having our morning break, the quiet handsome priest spoke a simple one-line sentence. I don’t know what prompted him, but I have never forgotten it.

“All God wants from us is for us to come back to Him”.

Later I learned a Japanese word, “O- mukae”.  This is the verb which most closely means the “coming/going to collect someone”.  I didn’t understand it until I saw the relief and joy in my children’s faces when I came to “O-mukae” them from their day at Japanese preschool. It’s not to say they hadn’t had a great day at school but just being able to finally let go and rush into the arms of the one who loves them the most……..to be safe and secure and being going home to relax in the security of home……This is a look that says it all.

This Easter, Jesus comes down from the cross to “O-mukai” us.  He’s come for us……..all we have to do is raise our little puny arms, relax and like the priest suggested, “come back to Him”

Enjoy this most special of all days,

Marsha

“Little People”

Last night in Bible Study we got to talking about all the ‘little people’ in God’s Big Picture.  It was an odd conversation, because well, we’re studying Genesis, which is all about the ‘Big People’ who set things in motion that we’re still seeing the effects of today. Look at Abram, whose name meant “Exalted Father” until God changed it to Abraham, “Father of Nations”.

And here we are today: adopted sons and daughters of Father Abraham numbering more than the grains of sand on the beach. Each of us may seem insignificant at a personal level, but then there’s God, Who calls us together, commands us to “stand and hold” and we marvel to see that we can hold back the ocean. There’s a sermon if there ever was one, but in the meantime, I can’t help be feel like a grain of sand, tossed here and there, not accomplishing a whole lot, really.

Last year you’ll remember we went up to Japan for a few weeks. It turned out to be quite a nostalgic trip, but even with all the catching up with old friends, we still had a chance to get back to the coalface, chipping away at the huge challenge of helping the Japanese discover Christ.

We left exhausted late one evening on a packed-to-the-gills Jetstar plane headed for home.  If you haven’t flown a “low cost carrier” (LCC) airplane, then you can rejoice that you’ve missed experiencing the life of a sardine.  But hey, the price was right! That night, we waited in line for over an hour to board, then were finally levered into place by a team of flight attendants, surprising all grumpy old MEN, possibly retired pro-wrestlers, who shouted orders like Marine Sergeants.

We squeezed into our seats and were figuring out how we could both breathe if we could just work out a system for sharing the space. But then a tiny woman appeared, apparently assigned to fill up that last bit of space. She was pulling what looked like a full sized suitcase at least as big as her. She stopped at one of the seats in front of us and looked up wistfully at the overhead bin.

Tony, seeing her dilemma, wiggled and struggled to his feet and offered to help her.  I vainly tugged at his sleeve, suggesting we adapt an “everyone for themselves” attitude and ignore her plight, but he was determined to help, even though his back seems to play up regularly these days.

As he was trying to loft the lead filled oversized case into the locker, he spoke to her in Japanese, naturally assuming that since we were leaving Japan…….

She responded in English, “Or Solly, I no speak Japanese, I Korean.”

Then, as he got the bag into the overhead, she looked up at him and said,

“You missionary, light?”

Somewhat taken back he said, “Uh…..well, yes……”

She beamed up at him “You Pastor Tony Woods, light?”

Dumbfounded he said yes and she continued, “I hear you preach in Brisbane, my friend Tomoko you friend!”

Wow.

Tony dropped into his seat amazed and humbled at such a small world we live in, while adjusting himself to try to sleep for the 8 hours home, cramped though we were.

After an eternity of non-sleep he found himself lifting down her huge case, when she said,

“We have breakfast and talk about Rord!”

It was 4:30 AM and we were changing planes, but we did have a layover, and I’m embarrassed to say, we were relieved that at least from there we would be continuing on different planes.  We ate a muffin and talked about “the Lord”, then excused ourselves to hurry to our gate.

And what do you know, having just eased into some more comfortable seats, glad to be ALONE for a few moments, we heard the squeaking of her heavy bag.  Looking up in fear, we noticed she was practically dragging a tall bewildered young man by the arm.

With almost no hesitation she said, “Dis boy no speak Engrish, but he go Gold Coast wit you…….he Japanese and no know Jesus, so you tell him!”

What could we do?  With ‘little people’ like that, you’ve got your work cut out!

I guess God loves it when people do His bidding. And I have to admit, we felt pretty good about being part of something bigger than we were.

On that note, nine days from today we are boarding another “LCC”, this time Tiger Air; headed for Thailand. It’s a place we love, and even more so, since Tony will have a chance to introduce his Anagaion course to a couple of churches there. It’ll be a great time, meeting up with old friends, and looking around again at the place where we spent over two years, chipping down barriers and planting a few Gospel seeds. Who knows, maybe we’ll bump into our little Korean enthusiast again!

Our pastor said recently, ……………….”Faith can move mountains, but don’t be surprised if God hands you a shovel!

Have a happy Easter week and we’ll try to get a blog to you next Sunday,

Marsha

The Good Wife

Good morning all,

We’ve been enjoying a beautiful Autumn here Down Under. The mornings are getting a touch of ‘crisp’ in them, with none of the muggy heat that we’ve endured for months now.

I can sense the same thought process at our church lately, as we’ve begun a series on thriving and not just surviving………

And at the same time, I just finished reading a biography called “Mrs. Oswald Chambers, the Woman Behind the World’s Bestselling Devotional”.

Many of you who are reading this will immediately recognize the daily devotional book by Oswald Chambers called “My Utmost for His Highest”.

Tony and I have several copies of this and have read and marked our way thru the different versions over many years.  We particularly like his style, as it’s not ‘gentle’ or ‘condescending’ but continually calls us to live in Excellence for Christ, no matter the cost.

But do you want to know the ‘real story’?

Oswald was of English and Scottish descent, born in the late 1800’s where he grew up in a devout family who helped him have an intense dedication to the Lord’s work.  He was taken to see the great preacher-theologian Charles Spurgeon when he was a boy.  There, he gave his life to Christ, but came away underwhelmed and confused when all that the great man said to Oswald was “Look to Jesus”.

Later he came to understand that this one phrase was really the key to everything.

After university he married and soon moved to North Africa, taking his wife and young daughter to become a YMCA chaplain for the English and Australian armies, operating out of Cairo.

After several successful years, he came down with appendicitis and with barely a goodbye, there in a rudimentary military hospital in 1917, he abruptly died.  He was buried and mourned by all, but left a widow and small child behind with neither pension nor insurance.

Out of necessity, she returned to England, where she dedicated her life to recording his work, using the volumes of shorthand notes she had kept over the years of his daily sermons and teachings.

She and her daughter Kathleen took up residence in a borrowed back garden shed with no water or heat, (in England!) living on vegetables, eggs and anything else the landlord gave them. There they laughed and loved and typed.

Ten years after her husband’s death she managed to edit and compile 365 of his best works into a book she named “My Utmost for His Highest”.

However, not unlike today, she struggled to find a publisher who would risk the venture.  “Who would read something from a long dead author and certainly not every day?” they said.

Finally in desperation, and with a little help from a friend, she became the world’s first Self Published author and printed off 600 copies. She gave these away, and as word spread, sold enough to replenish her costs. Before she started though, she had vowed to herself never to use any money she made, but rather reinvest it in publishing more of his works.

Well, things went from that situation to today (with her moving into slightly better digs along the way) and from 1927 to the present, “My Utmost for His Highest” has never been out of print!

Mrs. Chambers could have just survived, given the circumstances, but instead, with God’s help, she chose to Thrive.  Her daughter later found written in her mother’s diary on one Christmas, “Dear Jesus, I give me to You.” She passed away on Jan 15th, 1966 at the age of 82. Her daughter Kathleen, who never married, was at her side, and then carried on the publishing business until she died on May 30, 1997 at age 84. Both felt extremely blessed by God.

I got so much encouragement out of this biography, I hope if nothing else, it will spark some interest in you. The book constantly reminds us that God is in control and, (at the risk of sounding trite) He has a plan for our lives. Tony said again in a sermon this morning, as long as you have a pulse, God has a job for you!

Getting excited as we prepare ourselves for Easter,

Marsha

An Anniversary to Remember

Good Morning Friends,

I hope all is well with you.

Usually I crank out my thoughts for a blog early in the week, waiting with anticipation (and Tony’s kindly grammatical edit) to post it to you on Sunday.

This week has been different though.  I have procrastinated all week.  No, it wasn’t because of our deck building project. That actually got ‘put aside’ more than once lately because of a week of cyclone related rain So, if anything, that gave us more time.  (But Thanks Be, we’re only hours from finishing it, I’m happy to say!)

No, this problem, I began to realize, was purely emotional.  Emotions that I had largely forgotten.  Being the emotional lightweight I am, I would have just as soon left it that way.

You see, 7 years ago today, March 11, 2011, the great “Higashi Nihon Dai Shinsai Jisshin” earthquake struck Japan, in the early afternoon, logging in at 9.1 on the Richter scale.  That was bad enough, but what followed on the heels of the earthquake was a tsunami that broke every record and hopefully will never be repeated.

When it happened, Tony and I were having a ‘nostalgia’ day, retracing our footsteps to the city of Yokohama, where we’d lived in language school some 30+ years before.  We’d just stepped out of a coffee shop onto the street when I felt a wave hit me, like nausea. I blinked my eyes and tried to get my bearings when I heard people start screaming, and then buildings began rocking and bouncing off each other.  It took me about 3 seconds to understand what was happening, maybe seeing the pavement rolling and the cars bouncing helped.  I don’t ever want to feel like that again.

And it didn’t end there.  I clutched Tony’s arm harder and harder, thinking all along, “This is what I’ve dreaded all the years we’ve been in Japan and now I need it to stop.”  I don’t think I was so scared as it was happening than I was soon afterwards, not knowing if it would get better or worse.  (there’s a whole sermon in that).  People began to scream for God in Japanese.  I clutched Tony harder, but by now it was simply to remain standing as people around me were falling.

All in all, the original quake was almost 6 minutes long.  That’s more than the length of a really bad country western song and a LONG time to wonder if you’re going to die.  As soon as it was over and I let go of him, Tony texted both kids in Australia to say we were OK. It’s good that he did, because a few short minutes later, all telephone service was cut off, along with internet and most electricity. That condition remained for days.

We didn’t know it at the time, but while we going through our own crisis there in Yokohama, the epicenter of the earthquake was happening, just offshore of the town of Sendai, 400 kilometers (250 miles) to the north of where we were barely standing.  We had lived and worked for 20 years in Sendai and.days later, when electricity was restored to Tokyo, we were able to watch in horror as helicopters filmed the tsunami, sweeping away people and cars as if they were nothing. I’ll never forget the sight of the huge wave bearing down on a highway where people were headed for safety, not knowing they were already doomed. At that time we had no idea where our best friend was, who had been out on business and was still missing.  (he was finally able to contact us hours later)   In places the water would rise over 40 meters (133 feet) deep coming through at lightning speed, even sweeping away the “safe zones” where you were supposed to run if a tsunami was coming.  The force of the water, combined with the earthquake itself, managed to physically move Honshu, the main island of Japan, 2.4 meters (8ft) closer to California and dropped it down about the same (around 8 feet)  in altitude.  If you’re not impressed yet, how about this?  The earth’s AXIS actually shifted by 10 cm (4 inches).

The fourth worst earthquake in recorded history.  Because Japan is a middle class well-established society, only 15000+ people died, with another 2600 still missing.  Six years before that, a 9.1 earthquake/tsunami in Indonesia wiped out 230,000 souls, but that may have been largely because people there were living in much humbler dwellings, mostly on the beach.

And then there’s the nuclear threat because of the damage to a plant nearby in Fukushima that is still very real today.

OK, so that’s got you up to speed as to what happened on that day.  What boggled my mind the most, and even still now, is this:

Many of you will remember we were living happily in Thailand from 2009-2011.  The life was easy, the food delicious and we’d even learned a little bit of the language to get around.  We loved working with the Japanese business people who were living in Bangkok, and because there are only two Japanese language churches the ‘fields are ripe” and many of the 80,000 in that city are very open to the Gospel. We had enough work to keep us busy for a century and pictured ourselves living there till retirement.

But God had other plans.  In late 2010, our mission contacted us and said we HAD to move back to Japan.  We begged, carried on and demanded answers, but finally gave up to their supposed wisdom and packed our bags. We arrived in Japan 6 weeks before the earthquake to find that the ‘job’ that was so important that we fill didn’t even exist.  We visited our former churches and friends in Sendai and then went to work trying to settle into where we’d been assigned in Tokyo and figure out what we’d be doing for the next several years.

And then the earthquake struck.  When we collected our wits, and especially when we heard about the tragedy in Sendai, where we’d been all those years, we looked at each other and said in unison, “This was GOD who brought us back!”

And so we were able to do relief work for the next 5 years.  A LOT of emotions there……….so many that thinking back on this 7th anniversary almost makes me weak in the knees.

But out of the terrible grief came great gain for Christianity.  People saw first hand the kind compassion of Christians, coming from all over the world just to help, just to be there to hold a hand and cry with them.  So, so many memories we have of people who ‘saw’ Christ at work.

And of course our churches in Sendai were not long in loading up and getting out to the tsunami zone every week to be salt and light to these people, taking food and clothing, but more than that, befriending and building relationships that will last for a lifetime.  Some became Christians, many have a new regard for Christianity that will remain for generations, changing the foundations of Japanese thought.

Last week, the churches had some ‘goodbye’ events, because driving 3 hours each way for 7 years does wear everyone out.  Watching on Facebook the record of these happy and sad times made me stop and thank God that we could be a part of it.

In the ‘final analysis’ we have to say that Japan will never forget what Christians did for them.  Very few other volunteers came, only the Christians.  Why is that?  Because we have a God Who cares.  This will not be forgotten and will, just like many other Christian warriors of the faith in Japanese history, will be woven into the fabric of who they are as a nation. Pray that someday they’ll put it all together and realize they are deeply loved and cared for by God.

There are many things in life I believe,  that forge these kinds of emotions.  I remember childbirth.  I thought to myself, “Yes, I want to do this again, but not tomorrow!”  That’s the way I feel about the tsunami.  I thank God that He gave us the experience of seeing His hand on everything, His love for the Japanese and us, and for giving us the opportunity to see it all coming together……….but I don’t mind sitting here in boring ol’ Australia either.

I wonder what emotions you’ve been given that you don’t particularly want to revisit, but when you do, you can see God’s hand in it all.

I’ve been chatting a bit with a friend on Facebook this week who has just buried her mother and then her husband within a couple of months.  Many years before she’d buried her only son.  I can’t imagine the emotional avalanche she must feel, and yet, she soldiers on, confident in her Sovereign God and His purpose in her life.  She’s a woman I want to emulate.

And there are so many others of you out there who could probably top this list.  Tony preached this again today and I maintain that God has a plan and a purpose for each of us.  Even though there are valleys to walk through, there is the witness to God’s faithfulness that we can show to others, exactly like what happened in the earthquake/tsunami 7 years ago today.

Hope you have a great week in the Lord,

Marsha

Oh, I also hope you woke up an hour earlier……or is it later?  We don’t have Daylight savings here; guess they thought we’re not that good at math.

Have You Made it to the Wall?

In our bedroom, and in fact for many years now and in many bedrooms, I have always had a small part of the wall dedicated to what I refer to as my “Cloud of Witnesses”. Most of you will the recognize words from Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us …”

Today, my “Wall of Witnesses” is located across the room at the foot of the bed, and I like the fact that I can wake up and see these people looking down with loving admonishment every morning. It sort of makes me stop and think, “What would they like me to do today?” (OK I realize that this is out on a limb theologically, but you get the idea).

There on the wall are 15 people who over the years have helped make me who I am.  Of course there are many others, including some who are reading this blog. But what you see here is more of a “cross section” of the many whose Godly influence has had such an impact on us.

Of course represented on the wall are our parents, and a grandmother as well.  Add to that people from every “chapter” of our lives.  All of them (I’ve always felt) had our backs, kindly watching over us and teaching us, occasionally chiding or exhorting us along the right way.

At present, 10 of the 15 have gone on to heaven and 5 are still alive.  Maybe you know who those people are.  Whether they remain here or are over there, either way, they continue to influence us.

So I’m thinking you might assume that these ‘witnesses’ are spiritual giants, legends in their own time, great people.  I mentioned Billy Graham last week and then just today, I had lunch with an 82 yr old grandmother of Chinese descent. She comes faithfully to our church every week and mentioned in passing that her entire family was brought to Christ three generations ago somewhere in Asia, thanks to a Billy Graham crusade .

But no. The people on my wall aren’t the “Billy Grahams” of this age. The fact is, I don’t know any of those giants of the faith kind of people… at least not personally. My Wall of Witnesses is filled with regular folks whose “greatness” stems from my respect for them on a personal level.

Oswald Chambers, that famous theologian from the early 1900’s, who I plan to blog about later, said this,  “We are not giants of the faith, often even opposite, but we bear witness to the next generation”.

My prayer for you today is that you are on someone’s wall. Somewhere in the world, I hope someone can point to you and say, “That person made me better than I was.” I would love to think that somewhere along the line, my/our life made a difference in someone else’s. But wait… I’m not fishing for testimonials, honest! I can be happy just knowing that maybe someone found me faithful.

In the meantime, have a good week being light and salt and hopefully an encouraging word for someone who needs you.

Marsha

Hasten the Day

I remember watching the ”Hand Over” of Hong Kong back to China on July 1st, 1997. The scratchy images coming thru on the TV on that rainy night made my heart sad.  I remember thinking, “I feel like Dorothy and we’re not in Kansas anymore”.

Now you may think it’s crazy to feel that way, but we’d lived in Hong Kong, have a lot of friends there and knew that from now on their lives would never be the same because of the increasing influence of Communism.  The first hints of change came when we heard that the international school in Hong Kong would now be required to include “Loyalty” classes in their curriculum. A little scary, it was as if some of my carefully arranged world was being taken away.

Last Thursday (Australia time), Billy Graham died, and I felt those same emotions washing over me again. Say what you will, he was one of the ‘rocks’ in my perfect world, a man who remained faithful to the end of a long and productive life.

It rained all day here, and we were forced to “stand down” from our deck-building project. Actually the rain had nothing to do with it, but on that day one of us threw out his back and was unable to stand up. So after some thought, we just decided to take a ‘personal day’ and read news clips on the internet and think about one man’s legacy, thanking God for the huge influence he had on so many.

Just about everyone I talked to, and I’m guessing some of you, were affected by Billy Graham’s life and witness. Thankfully the media, even here in Australia, has been very generous in sharing so many things about him.  But personally, we also have many memories, as I’m sure do you.

Where to begin?

We attended several of his crusades, including two in Japan (1980 and 1994) and a very poignant one in Russia in 1992 as we were adopting Nicki.

My stepsister, who was tragically killed in an auto accident when she was 24, had recently gone forward in the Denver Crusade in the mid 60”s.

Our good friend here in Australia, as it turns out, gave her life to God in a RADIO broadcast!

The list goes on.

Not long ago, I was reading the book, “Unbroken”, the story of  Louis Zambarini, an Olympic runner, who spent many years as a POW in several terrible Japanese prison camps.  He was finally freed at the end of the war and spent all of his time planning his revenge, particularly on one Japanese prison guard referred to as “The Bird”.  Louis’s PTSD was so bad one night he woke up with his hands around his wife’s neck trying to choke her to death while dreaming it was the Bird.  Following that, his wife insisted that he go with her to seek help from a Billy Graham crusade. He went against his will, and on the third night there in Los Angeles, he was leaving during the invitation, feeling nothing but anger: at his wife, at God and at The Bird. Suddenly Billy’s words reverberated over the speakers, piercing his heart as he said, “I would ask anyone who is leaving right now to stop where you are and give your problems to Jesus.” The invitation was so personal and spot on, Zambarini did just that.

The change that began in his life that night was nothing short of miraculous. He soon began an evangelistic association himself and continued in the tradition of Billy Graham, winning even more to Christ.

With our world going the way it is today, I feel like another truly “good” thing has been taken from it.  Oh I know that Billy himself, in his last hours, proclaimed again that he was just a sinner saved by grace and that nothing about anything he actually did mattered a whit in the big picture, but only Christ crucified.  And that’s true…. But I can’t help but thank God for using a man like him to turn people like us back to the truth.

In fact, many of you may not know there is a ‘Billy Graham Law’ that he (obviously) instigated and that most evangelicals in ministry are constrained to follow.  Simply stated, it is that no ‘opposite’ sex will be alone with another unless they are married.  Good advice, as we saw it prove true with Billy’s life.  We even heard that the last years of his life he always had two nurses with him to ‘avoid scandal’……..and he did.

Last September when we were at our missionary reunion in our Southern Baptist encampment center, Ridgecrest, in Asheville, North Carolina, there were so many of us that some had to be billeted a few miles away at ’The Cove’, a conference center owned and operated by the Billy Graham Evangelistic group.  We were impressed with the facility and then going a few miles farther down the road, we had a chance to tour his childhood home and visit the museum there. It was amazing to see what humble beginnings he came from, then to see how far and wide his ministry has stretched over the years.  But that’s what happens when a person gives himself or herself to Christ. The outworking of a life in service may not be as obvious as that of Billy Graham, but I feel pretty sure that everything done for the Kingdom will bring absolute praise from our Father.

I’m guessing that most of you who are reading this have already given your lives to Christ.  That’s a good thing, and encouraging to think that for us oldies it’s just a way of life that’s become as natural as breathing. But back to where I began; our world is changing, and not always for the better. For those of us who have enjoyed God’s blessings for so long, the changes seem especially painful. Yeah, I realize that the “good old days” weren’t all that good, if I’m honest with myself… but there’s so much going on around us today that makes those bygone days seem like Heaven on Earth.

God promises us a new heaven and a new earth, when every tear will be dried (Rev. 21:1-4), but before I join Peter in praying “hasten the day!” (2 Peter 3:12), I have to remember all those who have yet to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Those were the ones who drove Billy Graham to a lifetime of service, always reaching for one more lost soul to be won for the kingdom.  I think maybe God left him here on earth to be a light in the darkness for those 99 and a half years.  Can I do any less?

Thanks for traveling together with me, Marsha

How Firm a Foundation

So after last week’s discussion about the “big leap”, Tony and I jumped right into a project that may have been just about as ill advised as Mr. Govett’s horseback cruise off a 600 foot cliff!
We’ve been “fixing up” our downstairs bedroom/bath into a little apartment.  We’re waiting for you to come and visit, but in the meantime, we’re hoping to rent it out during the Commonwealth Games that are being held here on the Gold Coast in a few weeks.
We decided that a deck would just finish it off, and also stop mud and dirt from tracking in, so we asked a guy to come by and give us a quote.  It’s only little, about 8X20 ft, but nevertheless, he looked at the space and quoted us $2000!
We looked at each other and nodded, silently clicking our tongues while we ushered him to the door.
When he left, we euphemistically slapped each other on the backs and said that famous Aussie phrase, “Tell ‘em ee’s dreamin!” and sat down to draw up our own plans, supplemented with lots of YouTube instructional videos.
“Simple!  This should be fun, we can knock it out in a couple of days!”  And off we went to the building store.
That was Monday.
Now it’s Sunday and Tony and I are creaking around gingerly like two very old people.  Everything hurts. We may be broke, but we don’t know because we’ve lost track of the expenses.  The receipts are all in a drawer waiting to be calculated, but we’ve begun to notice that the store employees are now greeting us at the door every time we stagger in. On one of Tony’s solo visits where I had to stay back to hold something up at eye level till he returned, a clerk took one look at him and said, “Having a bad day?” Tony said he got a lump in his throat and almost burst into tears!
It’s not clear if we’ll finish this week……..or maybe next……or?
But we have learned a lot.
My sister texted me yesterday in response to my despair.   It’s seldom that I take to heart things she says, but this one resonated with me.  I’m thinking of cross-stitching it and hanging it on the wall.
Here’s what she said: “I’ve done a fair bit of this stuff and the foundations are the most difficult part.  Just wait till you get to the decking, it’ll be worth it.” In the quiet moments before the sun comes up and we scurry out to work, hoping to beat the heat but already wiping sweat, I’ve been soldiering thru my Bible readings, right now in Leviticus.  Not to be disrespectful, but some of this stuff is just flat boring, “Don’t eat this, don’t do that, this particular thing makes God happy, etc”
But then, coupled with Sherry’s advice, it dawned on me, “This is like so many things in life!” Rules; Confining, Boring, Unexciting…..
It’s all about FOUNDATIONS.  The Bible is absolutely full of ‘suggestions’ for a good start.  Very few seem like a walk in the park, but we are promised over and over that the effort will pay off.
I think right away of the many many years most of us spent in child rearing.  Some days were diamonds and then many were just stones, as John Denver sang.  It was tough but we did it because we all know a firm foundation pays off….and it has.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it”.  (Proverbs 22:11)

This week, that verse brings to mind those 20 cement-filled footings we dug out there, whose cement now extends to the screen door, the side of the house, and…..my hair and my blouse.

Or how about the Ten Commandments………. Maybe that’s the joists?  Get those things straight and level and the rest will fall into place (although we don’t use the word “fall” around here lately).

I’m sure you can think of many other references. The list is endless but the message is the same, “Foundations are difficult, slow and unrewarding but the product is worth the effort”
I’m sure you Americans out there reading this are thinking a lot about the foundations that are supposed to be holding up our society, and wondering like I am, where did things start to fall apart? Let me just say that there are a lot of Australians here who are thinking the same thing, and not in a reproachful way. You never have to look far to see crumbling foundations. But we remind ourselves that God is faithful and is still there, and there are still a lot of good things happening.
Stay warm, or in our case, cool (record heat wave here). I’ll tell you how this next week goes, when hopefully we get thru the tough part.  We’re ‘bonding’ if that’s possible after 48 years of marriage…….and looking forward to a good result!  I”m pretty sure it’ll be SOLID!
Till next week, unless Tony inadvertently hammers me into the structure somehow, Marsha

Govett's Leap

Hello everyone,

Today I had a great story for you, but I thought I should do some research first, just to make sure I’m not making this stuff up,  and wouldn’t you know (and those of you who use the internet WILL know) that my story may indeed be just a myth. Mind you, the locals tell the story as gospel truth, and they even have a bronze statue to honor the guy in question.

I’ll try and include  a picture of the monument, and tell the story as fact, because after all there is a good point here we can all take away!

OK.

Many years ago in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, Australia, there was a young man who went by the name “Govett”.  No one knew exactly where he lived, as he kept to himself and had no friends.

Very occasionally, he’d wander into the town pub in the evening and have a drink, sitting alone and never talking to anyone.

Now this was in the gold rush days and folks spun yarns about him, imagining that he was sitting on a secret claim and probably had a lot of money stashed somewhere.

He also was known for keeping a leather satchel close by his side at all times.  What could be in that thing? Everyone wondered and gossiped.

Well, one night Govett sat there alone drinking his one pint as always, his satchel by his side, and when he got up to leave, several men in the bar decided the time had come to corner this guy and find out what he was hiding.  They hustled out the door in various stages of inebriation, to mount up and pursue this quiet man.

Turning back and noticing that he was being followed, he spurred his horse on its way.  The chase heightened and the fever pitch of clattering hooves rang out up and down the countryside.

Until that is….. until everything went silent.

There in the darkness,  Govett and his horse sailed off a cliff into eternity.  The cliff walls at that point are over 600 feet tall, or roughly the height of a 54-story building…….straight down.

Days later when the chagrined pursuers made it down to the foot of the canyon (This is the true part; the canyon walls are still there), they found the remains of the man, the horse, and the mysterious satchel.

They carefully opened the bag expecting to see gold ore pour out into their waiting hands, but to their surprise, all they found was a carefully documented notebook, hand-drawn maps and a few survey tools.

History will tell us that Govett was registered as a government surveyor.  What is not certain is exactly HOW Mr. Govett died, since the official reports of that night have been mysteriously lost.  But here’s the point as I see it: everyone NEEDS A FRIEND!

Someone who can vouch for you, who has your back when the gossips start up.  Someone to confide in and maybe even share a drink with (lemonade of course).

The Holy Spirit has not left us alone.  The Bible is full of admonitions about not being alone, my favorite found in Ecclesiastes 4:12,  “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
God means for us to be in family, whether it’s your brothers and sisters in Christ, your biological family or just you and God.  Don’t be alone!

Thanks for hearing out my tale, even if it might not be true.  What is true is that a fair share of unfortunates over the years have lost the battle with gravity along those cliffs. If I was one of them, I’d hope to at least like to have a good story to go with it, like our friend Govett!
Marsha

Born to Thrive

Hellooooo my ol’ friends!
I sit here today, I’m looking up at the big, but sagging  ’Happy 70th’ balloon languishing dangerously near the ceiling fan in the heat. It’s Sunday afternoon here, and all I want to do is take a nap.   I have to admit we’ve had quite a time since I last talked to you before the new year, taking off the month of January so that Tony could give you a daily message.  .  Hopefully you enjoyed that “Month of Prayer”,  that was our church’s idea to jumpstart everyone into the New Year.  It seems to have worked since we had a full house today.

But I have to say I’ve missed talking to you all.

We’ve had a crazy fun-filled summer here.  What with Christmas, the grandkids and most importantly Tony’s big 70th, we laughed and loved a lot.

My sister Sherry also came out, although only 2 weeks, and of course that was fun.  We’re glad we’re sharing our ‘old age’ together.  I think we were a bit slow paced for her, but then, it’s really hot here.

Back to Tony’s birthday party last week.  We took the opportunity to share a ‘secret’ that we’ve been holding onto for several weeks. Since we missed, by a generation,  the tradition of having a big ‘reveal’ when young folks announce the gender of their unborn babies, we decided to plan a ‘reveal’ of our own. It was a lot of fun, and we giggled like a couple of kids as we put it all together.

If you’re on Facebook, then you know already that  has Tony decided to keep BEES in this next decade of his life.  When our friends here heard, they smiled and stifled yawns. I guess you have to be tough to impress Aussies.

Or maybe they figured out that actually we’re going to put our hand to raising ‘Australian STINGLESS Bees”.  They are critical to our ecology, make about a quart of honey each year and most of all are reputed to make nice pets.  I can’t at this point, imagine that, but we’ll put our name in and ‘ava’ go when the next queen is ready to travel to our humble home.  Wish us luck.
But I’m rambling  (and on this auspicious first blog of 2018!).

What I want to share with you today is the good message I heard this morning.  Our church announced as their new theme for the year, the word, Thrive”. It’s taken from a quote (based in Scripture) from the music group Casting Crowns, and it says, “We must not just ‘Survive’ but ‘Thrive’.

Wow.  In a lot of ways since retirement, I’ve just been surviving. Finding my feet in my new home, new (again) church, new (again) friends, etc.  Specifically, I wonder if I’ve lacked a purpose really beyond just settling in.  Now, after this morning I want to really commit myself and my future to God…… that I do HIS will, whatever that is.  This week our home group is starting a new Bible Study, so that should be fun, but maybe there’s more? Stay tuned!

I want to thank each of you for your support, both in prayer and in spirit.  I know you’re out there even though sometimes I don’t hear from you.  I know you too are ‘thriving’, following God’s will and waiting to see what opens up!

Next week I’m going to tell you a story about a guy who maybe kept a little too much to himself……..and how that worked out. Prepare to be challenged!

Love ya like a sister,

Marsha