Good morning all,

Today it’s beginning to feel like Autumn here, but I refuse to put the heavy quilts on the bed yet.  As so many of you are experiencing early summer where you are, we here Down Under have to look forward to a nice winter. Australians have it all worked out to 4 three-month seasons and winter isn’t officially here till June 1st.  Fortunately our winters are like summers in some of the places you live, so we just have to put on a sweater and maybe some socks.

I got an interesting letter from an aging missionary a few weeks ago. It basically said, “I’m old and dying but wanted to say ‘good bye’ to you all before I go”. That’s certainly an attention grabber.

He went on to reminisce about his many years in Japan.  I began to well up with tears as he talked about all of the good and the bad times. And then he said this,

“For me the amazing love and power of the Japan Baptist Mission family began the first summer of 1952 at Mission Meeting in a hotel in Kyoto. The meeting ran for almost a week from Monday until Saturday morning. Friday evening, Marion Moorhead led the group of almost a hundred in a time of sharing and prayer. The sharing was deep and loving and trusting and kind. Finally, we all stood in a circle for the last prayer. After the ‘amen’, and the eyes were opened, Luther Copeland looked toward the whole crowd and voiced an expression.  He said,

‘During the prayer time I voiced what I was speaking to God at the time. I asked that He reveal Himself to me. Immediately He spoke to me saying, In all the faces around the circle, you see Me.

That was such a blessing and at the same time a shock that it has remained with me for the rest of my days and reminded me that we are part of God’s family and are brothers and sisters of each other.”

And the letter was signed, Ralph Calcote.

How often have you said to yourself, “I’ve seen the face of God in my friends”?  Isn’t the bond we have just beautiful? And wasn’t Ralph Calcote just wonderful to let us know how he has lived life and been grateful?  I got word this morning that he’s had a stroke and passed away peacefully. I am SO SO thankful that I also took the time to jot him a brief ‘thanks and goodbye’ letter.  I don’t know if he got it, but he’ll know about it soon enough. Along with his friend and brother in Christ, Luther Copeland, tonight they are together, seeing God face to Face, as are many others who stood in a circle and prayed together that night.

And then as if I needed yet another example, let me leave you with an experience I had this morning at church. I was complementing a lady about her pretty outfit, and she said, “Oh, I got this in the mail from my friend in England just this week.  She remembered it was my anniversary (even though her husband has been with the Lord for many years), and thinking I might be sad, she quickly made this blouse and mailed it to me!”

I told her again how beautiful it was, and she directed my attention to the lovely sweater she was also wearing and said, “The same friend also gave me this sweater many years ago.”  It too, was a perfect match to the beautiful salmon pink of the blouse.

Faces of God; all around us; opportunities for worship; chances to love and be loved.

Life is precious, take time to reflect on it……….. and show God to each other every day this week.

Oh! And Happy Mother’s Day!!


Somethin’s Buzzin

A friend of mine said recently, “So this so called ‘Blog’ you do…….. it’s like a diary sort of thing, right?

A part of me wanted to be offended; after all, these weekly offerings are supposed to be history-changing gems of inspiration! But I’ll have to admit, in most ways he was right.  It’s just me and my observations. And who knows? Maybe I’m just talking to myself. This week, a friend is going to help me put a counter on the www.mywoods.net site to see if anyone is actually listening to me ramble on. If you do go have a look at the site, by the way, don’t bother with the “Comments” section; it’s been inundated by literally thousands of what’s called “bots” offering me everything from property in Florida to help with my itchy scalp. I’m really sorry if there are some genuine comments among the teeming hordes, but the way it’s set up now, I just delete them every few weeks without reading them.

But back to that part about “inspirational gems”, let me tell you about the new “addition” that came into our home this week. Later, I’ll get back to sharing about our recent trip to Israel.

Actually, it was more like 7000 additions, according to the breeder who set us up.   Yeah, we’re not talking about your traditional pets, those darling little furry creatures who sleep on your pillow,or maybe that stately equine that costs you more than your house or car but gives you a thrill when you gallop across the “Little House on the Prairie” meadows.

Our home, or at least the deck out back is now graced by a bee hive. But before you conjure up a picture of us in white hazmat suits armed with smoke pots, these particular bees are an Australian anomaly known as “Native Stingless Bees”.

The “girls” which most of them are, I’m told, have settled in nicely and have done everything by the text book. When we set them in place and removed the plug keeping them inside, they ventured out, flew backwards all around the hive to set their GPS coordinates, then headed off in all directions in search of flowers. Others stayed behind to do a little housecleaning, tossing out dirt, unwanted pollen and even occasionally, their dead.  Now we’re seeing the scouts come back with their little ‘saddle bags’ loaded with pollen, soon to be miraculously transformed into honey. The honey these native bees produce tastes different from the traditional stuff. There’s a slight wood flavor, and it’s definitely stronger. In fact, some folks refer to it as “medicinal honey” and they only produce at best a cup of honey a year, so I doubt if we get fat on the stuff!

We’ve put them right out on the deck where we enjoy eating, feeding the birds, visiting and “being retired”. After all, we think, if we’re going to have em, might as well enjoy them!  It was a little disconcerting at first since we (and by “we” I mean Tony) have a rather checkered and painful history with bees of all kinds. But we got over the fact that we were afraid of them and more than that, wanted to swat them because they looked like flies. Now we watch them and cluck over their little antics.

Today was the ultimate test; we pushed our grandkids right up close and said, “Don’t worry! They don’t sting!” then took a step back to see if that was really true.

And it was. The kids had a ball, watching them come and go, climbing over their fingers and doing their thing.

And what a thing it is! Isn’t God’s creation mind-boggling? Science can describe what we see happening in the lives of these tiny critters, but there comes a point when even the scientists have to step back, scratch their heads, and say, “I don’t know how they do it.”

The bee breeder has wisely strapped the hive shut so that we cannot interfere with them for a whole YEAR, giving them time to settle in. All we can do is imagine what’s going on inside in terms of hive building, queen management, care and feeding of about 300 babies born daily, food production, defense systems, etc.

When our year is up, and we know by weighing it that they’ve multiplied, we’ll split the box into two hives.  There’ll only be one queen still, but whichever side doesn’t have the queen will know they need another one and voila’, they’ll all get together and ‘feed one up’ so she’ll be the queen for about 10 years.  Isn’t this stuff just fascinating?  Hopefully after our winter (and their hibernation), I’ll have some stories to tell you.

God is good to us to let us share in the fun.  I hope you’ll remember that He knows everything that goes on in His universe, from a molecular level right up to you and me. And He not only knows; He has a personal interest in us.

I’m sure as you’re reading this you’re thinking of so many Bible verses but here are a few that I can think of off the top of my head,

Psalm 8:4-6,

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet”

… or how about Matthew 6:26,

“Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns–and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Have a good week, and rejoice in the fact that God is the Master, even over the small things.  Hope your Sunday will be as great as ours was.


Wearing Your Faith

I began a couple of weeks ago sharing about some of the impressions we experienced from our recent visit to Israel. Those impressions were underscored today as news of the tragic synagogue shooting in southern California spread around the world. So so sad, and even more so as we remember all that these “Chosen People” have endured over the centuries. As Christians, we pray that God’s peace will be among them, and that through their grief, their hearts and minds might be turned to the Messiah they wait for even though He has already come.

Among the things we observed in Israel, one thing resonated especially in our hearts, and that is the traditions the Jewish people observe which make their faith “up close and personal”.

I’ve mentioned before that we stayed in the King David Hotel, the first time 35 years ago and then again on this trip. It was refreshing to see that the hotel has not changed in all that time. They still keep the old décor, doing only enough to keep it maintained without suggesting a “new look”.

Their policies haven’t changed either, insisting that, as an international hotel that has hosted kings and presidents from all over the world, they remain “Switzerland”; refusing to take political sides, no matter how strongly they may be felt. The hotel staff is a dramatic example, made up of Jews, Palestinians, Christians and Moslems, people who in normal circumstances might be considered mortal enemies, but inside the hotel walls they are meticulous fellow employees who seem to enjoy each other’s company.

In spite of their neutrality, however, the King David has not compromised its Jewish customs. If you happen to be there on the Sabbath, you’ll notice that the elevator moves automatically from floor to floor without passengers having to engage in the “work” of pressing a button. Coffee is still available from room service, but guests are reminded that it was made the day before and put into thermoses.

Another thing you’ll see both inside and outside the hotel are men wearing Teffilin or Phycateries tied onto their foreheads.  These are little black boxes with pieces of Scripture in them.  I wanted to take a picture, but frankly I was a little intimidated.

And the reason they do this comes from the Book of Exodus and then also in Deuteronomy. God tells the people,

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8).

The other day, we went up to Brisbane to see our daughter and son-in-law’s new house that they’re building.  It makes us proud of their initiative and I suppose a little sad to know that they’ll join the ranks of other young ones with a lifetime of mortgage. But I guess that’s life, and I’m thrilled that they’re getting started on stability so young.

Anyway, to add to the excitement, our kids invited us, the parents and in-laws, to ‘Write these things on their hearts” and onto the bones of this new house.

Both Chris and Nicki were raised in Christian homes (one lovely and one crazy… take a guess), and they thought up the idea on their own. We were impressed, and honored to be a part.

It was a great day, walking through the newly-framed house, stopping in each room-to-be and writing appropriate verses of Scripture on the two-by-fours. I’m sure if you give it some thought, you can probably think of the verses we recorded, from the kitchen to the bedroom to the study and even the bathroom.

By now all those verses are hidden behind sheetrock and plaster never to come to light again until such time as the house is torn down. But we know they are there, and they serve as reminders that God’s truth is real and unchanging; whether you can see it or not.

Wasn’t God good to give us these admonitions to remember Him, to commit Him to each new endeavor, to teach our children and to THINK of Him as you ‘walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up”?

I think the kids were smart not to try to tie these blessings on their heads, but they will certainly remember them as they walk thru their new home.

What can you do today to make your faith real and tangible? You could tie a Bible on your head, or tattoo a Scripture onto your arm, but I think there may be other ways that are just as effective. Let me know, okay?

Love ya,


“I’ll Be Back”

He is Risen!

Happy Easter for all of you in the Northern Hemisphere!  For us down here, we’ve already celebrated Sunrise service on the beach, followed by countless folks being baptized in the surf, including 7 or 8 from our church!   My hat’s off to the those pastors who risk life and limb to wade out into the waves that threaten to take all the participants straight on to Heaven. It’s all in the timing.
After a brisk gathering on the sand (which by the way was blessed with no rain and a beautiful sunrise, in spite of the huge storms we’ve had all week, including most dreary forecasts for this morning), we made our way to church and a full house where we enjoyed great music, great preaching, and great chocolate!
Today I’ll keep this brief, since many of you are scurrying around with your own celebrations. But I just have to share a little tidbit I picked up when we were in Israel recently.

Remember the words of Matthew 28:2-6? “Suddenly there was a great earthquake because an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and rolled aside the stone and sat on it.”  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but this is the only mention in the Bible of an angel “sitting”. After all, they would never sit in the Presence of God. And I think it’s yet another illustration of what has just happened in that empty tomb. The angel is sitting, and his message is, “He’s not here”.

And then, if that wasn’t enough, the angel went on to say to the women in verse 6,  “He is not here! He has been raised from the dead just as He said would happen.  Come see where His body was lying.”

Now, I learned in Israel about a Jewish tradition that I believe many of us today also practice without knowing where it came from.  We’re told that if they leave the table during mealtime, to run an errand or whatever, they FOLD their napkin so the host knows they’ll be back momentarily. In other words, “Don’t take my plate; I’m coming back.”

Can you see where this is going?

Jesus was already GONE before the stone was rolled away. Opening the tomb was not to let Him out, but to let us in, so that we could witness what had happened.    And just so there was no mistaking His intention, Jesus took the linen napkin that had covered His face… and neatly folded it.
Something to think about as we continue through this wonderful day.  He’s alive, and He’s coming back!


As Those Who Have Hope

Good morning,

Today if you’ve checked your calendar, you’ll notice that it’s Palm Sunday.

As it turns out, Tony and I have just “Walked where Jesus walked” (or in the words of an exhausted lady in our tour group, we ran where Jesus walked), but the experience was definitely life changing, there’s no doubt about that.

In the course of our tour, we retraced the steps that Jesus must have taken as he entered the city that fateful Sunday when people laid down the palm leaves and their cloaks to welcome him into the city.

Of course it was an emotional experience for us, to think about that day, and the days to come that make up the entire ‘Holy Week’.  On Palm Sunday, His entrance was triumphant. He was their Messiah and they were pretty sure He was going drive out those Roman infidels and save them. And save us He did, although it didn’t really play out the way the crowds had hoped for at the moment.

But what an experience, to realize the MESSIAH came into the city, did everything that was necessary to fulfill prophecy and then died and was resurrected, with the promise of coming back someday!  I knew that, of course, but standing on the road where that week began brought it home to me with new eyes. And if that wasn’t enough, we continued into the city that day and stopped at the Western wall of the Temple, colloquially referred to as the “Wailing Wall”

And why is it called the “Wailing wall”, you ask?

Because this is the ONLY place where contemporary Jews can approach what’s left of their temple.  It’s maybe 100 feet long, divided between the men and women and that’s ABOUT it.  If a Jew wants to really pray, that’s the only place they can go.  They cannot offer sacrifices like they used to in the Old Testament, because that would require going to the one site designated by God, and which unfortunately for the Jew, is now occupied by the Muslim “Dome of the Rock”.

I think this is just SAD on so many levels.

The Jews do not recognize Jesus for Who He was, and so they continue to wait and pray and yearn for a “Messiah” to come and save them. They cannot worship the way their traditions and their Torah tells them to, so they have to resort to crowding into a small chunk of the remaining wall and try to voice their prayers there. The picture that is attached (if you’re getting this by email) spoke volumes to me.  You see a mother, her head bent in prayer while her child sat in the stroller.  On the back of the stroller, there hung a bag with a happy Mickey Mouse cartoon on it.

Most of you out there reading my blog know and have experienced, as we have, the love of a parent for their child. Part of that love is the HOPE for a future that is filled with life, opportunity, the peace of God, and maybe a bit of fun.

What tugged at my heartstrings that day was the sight of this young mother, tears in her eyes, her hands outstretched to the temple wall, praying as those who have no hope …. And her child looking on from a Disney-decorated stroller.

Thank you Lord for the hope that is ours because of Easter. May that hope and joy and peace reach out beyond borders and into the hearts of people everywhere.

Happy Easter!


As Luck Would Have It

Hello from Sunny Australia,

We arrived home on schedule April 1st. We’d had another great flight, this time on Singapore Airline’s spin-off economy carrier, “Scoot” which was as nice as any plane that’s brand new.  It has absolutely no frills (nothing like a meal or a blanket or a movie) but it’s cheaper than flying “staff” with Qantas so we were happy to use it.

This whole week has been spent ‘digging out’, or more specifically “wading in”. Apparently it rained and was stinking hot the whole time we were gone.  The weeds are legendary and right now as I’m writing this, I’m procrastinating between getting out there in the lingering heat and working or……just taking another nap.

For the next few weeks I’ll probably be reviewing some of the interesting thoughts that came to us along the way.  Of course, Israel was the real ‘thinker’ with so many very important things happening there.

Our guide, Sam, was a wealth of information. He was a young Christian Egyptian who knew and loved the Lord and also loved his job, leading our group and teaching us about where Jesus walked. Tony kept telling him he should be a preacher, but he said humbly that he felt his calling was to share the history of the Bible and Christ with those who came his way.

And so as we passed down thru Galilee, we came to the most probable place where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, (Matthew 5:1-7). Sam pointed out interesting things we might not have thought of. For example,  by standing at the top of the hill with the people below (as noted in the Scriptures) the lay of the land accommodated the projection of His voice so that all could hear. What they heard that day has come to be known as “The Beatitudes”.

Sam went on to explain that in the language of the day, Aramaic, the word “Blessed” or “Ashari”: can actually be translated with any of the following three words: blessed, happy and lucky.

I had to laugh to myself because I have a very conservative Christian friend that always chided me whenever I said I was “lucky”; reminding me that of course that with God, there are no chance happenings … only those things predestined to occur. Therefore nothing was left to luck.

And yet here was the Son of God saying “Blessed, happy and LUCKY are you who……….”

And that sums up our feelings about our whole trip.  We returned with full hearts, “Blessed”…….and “Happy” and having felt very “Lucky” on several occasions!  God is indeed good to us.

Till next week, Marsha

Joy in the Journey

Today as you’re reading this, we’ll be pouring ourselves into our very last day of this two-month adventure.  We will start with Tony preaching in Japanese, and then leading the last session of his Anagaion study course.  That’ll be about the 10th time he’s presented or led it on this trip and are hearts are full to see how it’s already working, changing lives around the globe.

Then when the last hurrah has ended, we’ll head for the airport and spend the night on “Scoot” airlines … similar to riding on a city bus, but at least it’s new and dependable, and did I mention, cheap?

Tomorrow, April Fools day, we will arrive home with happy hearts.  In fact our “hearts” have swelled so much on this trip, I think that can explain our added girths as well.  At this writing, I can say we haven’t have a single travel glitch. We lost NOTHING, never fell down and disgraced ourselves and I suppose as frosting on the cake, had not a single drop of rain on our heads!  (well, there might have been a drop or two in the space of 5 minutes in London, but we don’t count that).  God has been immeasurably good to us.

But enough about us, I’d like to tell you a little story about the first Prime Minister of Singapore,  a fellow named Lee Kuan Yew.

Singapore was ‘founded’ as an important British port in the early 1800’s under the leadership and vision of Sir Thomas Stanford Raffles.  Most of you recognize that name for his legendary 5 star hotels located around Asia.  Sir Thomas had a plan, and made a city based on ethnicity, made up of Indians, British, Muslims etc.

Fast forward thru WWII and the Japanese occupation to the surrender, when the whole peninsula of Malaysia, Borneo and Singapore became a British protectorate and then achieved complete separation from Britain in 1965. Seeing as how I was 15 that year, it seems like only yesterday!

On the eve of complete independence from Britain, word came from Malaysia that they wouldn’t continue including Singapore in their federation.  Lee Khan Yew, the prime minister of the island of Singapore had about 24 hours to decide what to do.

The other day at the National Museum, we watched a broadcast of Lee speaking to a “Meet the Press” episode, and it spoke volumes to me.

He said, “Our only resources are our people.  We have no water, no electricity, nothing but YOU, the people of Singapore!

And today, after an almost seamless 50 years, we can see what the giant city-state of Singapore has become. People have often commented on the ways their laws are strictly enforced, referring to Singapore as “Disneyland with a Death Penalty”. I think they may have softened a bit over the years, although Tony narrowly missed a $500 fine on the train the other day for taking a sip of water to control his cough. The guy with the badge and ticket book was on him instantly, but I guess he took pity on the fact that he couldn’t stop coughing.

Personally, we couldn’t be more impressed.  Singaporeans have banded together to build a beautiful city, spotlessly clean, amazing infrastructures, cordial and happy people who often stop and chat with you,  multi-races living peacefully…….need I go on?

I think my “take away” from this city is that sometimes you’ve just got to pull yourselves together and get on with it.

And I might add, the Japanese church here is no exception.  I have been so impressed with the strong work ethic we see in this church: people digging in, helping, attending these Anagaion classes, leading outsiders to Christ.  Last week a deacon told Tony, “I’ve waited my whole life for this study course”!  There is a strong group here of young adults (professionals) that every week bring in new people.  One fellow brought a Japanese young man to church that he’d met at a trade fair; it was his first time to step into a church. He got Tony’s very direct kick off salvation sermon right between the eyes and left saying that he wanted to know more ……… stuff like that.

Like Singapore, it may seem sometimes that all we have as Christians are people; but with God’s help and His strong Hand, that’s more than enough to get the job done!

CYA next week if we can find the computer!!  As I said on Facebook, “Thanks for travelling with us!”

Our friends James and Mary Tipps, whom many of you know, celebrated their 67th anniversary this week (It makes our own upcoming 50th look like a stroll in the park!).  I’ll never forget meeting them when Tony and I had just become engaged. Mary said, “If you follow God, you’ll have a wonderful marriage” …………. and she and James are loving testimonies of the truth of that.

Happy anniversary, you guys. Thanks again, all of you, for remembering us in your prayers. As the songwriter Michael Card sang, there really is “Joy in the Journey.”


Lines in the Sand

Good Morning!

Happy to report that we’ve made it to Singapore and Tony has already preached his first sermon at the International Japanese church of Singapore, launching a two week “event” with his Anagaion Bible Study.  We’ve been excited about this for a long time and are happy to be finally able to do it.

But let’s talk today about our visit to Beruit this last week.  I’ve asked a fellow missionary friend who lived thru the whole thing to help me with the facts, so I’ll add what she has to say here also.

I guess I spent the whole week in awe and wonder, both at such a beautiful city, and the terrible destruction that has been tearing stuff up here for centuries, most recently until the late 90’s.

My friend says, “Israel attacked Lebanon n July of 2006 –bombing bridges and other infrastructure.  It was a 34-day war that Lebanon calls the July war.  Israel calls it the Israel Hezbollah War.  All Americans had to be evacuated to Cyprus during that period.  Not only were our personnel evacuated, but there was a large mission trip group there.  Not a nice time”.

Now, thankfully, there have been no serious attacks (car bombs, etc) in the city for about 4 years, and they’re only averaging one or two suicide bombers a month.  It’s never in the news because no one in the world cares anymore.  People know where to go and where to stay away from, and I believe they were watching for us at the same time, that we didn’t try to do something stupid!

When my friend was a short term missionary like we were, but to Lebanon instead of Africa,  the population was about 60% Christian and 40% Muslim.  During the 1975-1990 Civil War, many Christians left if they had the money and a way to leave (i.e. a country who would take them).

She continues, “About 100,000 Palestinian refugees came to Lebanon when Israel became a country in 1948 and multiplied.  After the 1967 war in Israel, more refugees came.  In the early 70’s, PLO leadership made themselves undesirables in Jordan and were kicked out.  They came to Lebanon.  They began flaunting their weapons and power outside the camps in Lebanon, which finally erupted in the spring of 1975 into the civil war.  The civil war was much more complicated with many more players, but the first skirmishes were between the Palestinians and the Lebanese Falangists (a Christian private army).   Really, the whole Middle East issues are almost impossible to keep straight, impossible to get a handle on, and only the Prince of Peace will be able to straighten things out.”

And she goes on to report, and she should know, having married a Lebanese missionary and living there all these many years, exactly the thing I’ve been trying to say all week:

“Like all the Middle East, there is a surface of life going on as normal, but under the surface is a cauldron of gasoline and the smallest spark could set things alight.”
For us this week, we’ve seen more different nationalities and heard more languages in one place than I can imagine.  For our last night, we went to a fancy Lebanese restaurant for one last ‘feed’ and the sweet little girl there let us guess that she was Ethiopian.  We tried to relate but she didn’t speak English.  We mentioned towns where we’d worked in Ethiopia, but were met with blank stares. Who knows? She may have been born in Lebanon, maintaining her culture, for generations.

Walking home one night (we felt 90% safe most of the time, just more afraid of falling unnoticed into a gaping hole or tangling ourselves up in rusty barbed wire), I told Tony, “I feel like this city is a great ball pit like you have at McDonalds, so many different colors and nationalities, and all mostly fitting together and getting along”.

However, The Bible more of less indicates that we’ll never have peace in the Middle East. What I saw in Beirut was what they wanted me to see, the bustling shops, the beautiful lights along all the avenues at night.  I know there’s still deep strife here and it’s so sad that we can’t hold hands and sing Kum Ba Ya.  The recent Moslem shooting in New Zealand is a tragic example of this.

I wanted to see the cities of Tyre and Sidon, mentioned often in the Bible and visited by Jesus.  We were told that it’d be safe to go there, but not to spend the night because somehow, it’s too close to the border and deemed a trouble spot. It turned out that we couldn’t organize a ride anyway, so we just stayed put.   When we were in the Galilee area a few weeks ago, we were just 70 miles or so from these places, but that line in the sand kept us away.  Damascus, which has never been a ‘tourist option’ at least in the last memorable years, is only about 50 miles from Beruit, easily walked in a couple of days.

Speaking of the ‘lines in the sand,” we had some James Bond dramas coming into Beruit by plane.  We’d gone into Israel and Cyprus on our Aussie passports , as we usually do, and once the lady caught the “Jordan” stamp from a couple of years ago.  Well, she gave me the third degree about why I’d gone there, who did I see and what did we talk about. She finally bought it that I was a dumb tourist and didn’t have any nefarious plans, but it made me nervous.

So on a whim, I suggested that we switch to flying on our squeaky clean USA passports, even though I’m not completely sure what they think of Americans in Lebanon.

Checking in at the airport to fly over from Cyprus,  the first question was, “Have you used this passport to visit Israel?” to which Tony calmly replied, “NO”.  Absolutely true, we’d been in Israel on our Aussie passports.  Then when we were clearing immigration to leave Cyprus ( a country which I believe is neutral to all this infighting,) the agent couldn’t find our entry stamp.

Again, Tony, who could double as a spy as I’m wringing my hands and thinking of fainting or confessing everything, said casually, “Oh no, we used our other passport to come in”.  Again absolutely true but necessitating nerves of steel.  The guy shrugged, looked at us with palatable enmity and slammed our passports down, jerking his chin to the exit.

I’m too old for this.

And now two weeks doing what we love in city that’s not too shabby either!

More about that next week,


Paragoric for the Soul

Good morning, or evening….

Tony wrote this blog today, as explained below.  We’ve had another great week, leaving Israel, tired and full of inspiration.

Today finds us in Cyprus, so it’s only fitting that I talk about Barnabus: born and raised Cypriot, Church Father, missionary to the Gentiles, and friend and fellow worker with Paul the Apostle.

Together this dynamic duo traveled all over the land, bringing the Gospel and planting churches, sometimes accompanied by Barnabus’ cousin, John Mark. That fact led to a falling out between Paul and Barnabus in Acts 15 because of something J. M. had done. They parted company for awhile, but apparently were reconciled because the next time we see them mentioned is in Colossians 4:10. It’s a long story, but here’s the part that speaks to me today: we find Paul and John Mark, along with “fellow brother” Aristarcus together in prison, where Paul describes them as a “comfort”.

The Greek word there for comfort is “paragorea”. Sound familiar? That’s where we get the word for “paragoric”. How many of you older readers can recall a time when your mother gave you a spoonful of that foul-smelling, worst tasting medicine? It was awful, but looking back, you’ll have to admit, it made you feel better.

The reference is especially meaningful to me today, because Marsha and I both have come down with the screaming banshee, head-bashing cold from the Other Side. It’s not often that we both get so incapacitated at the same time, and let me tell ya, it puts a damper on your travel plans! But God is good as always, and we find ourselves parked for four days in a rather tired yet quaint hotel with nothing we have to do, and nothing much of note to sight see in Cyprus, so we can just be miserable together. I’m so thankful this hit us now, and not next week, when we’ll be hard at it in Singapore, trying to introduce the Anagaion program to Japanese churches there.

And I’m so thankful that I have a little Paragoric here at my side. She’s as sick as I am and therefore not worth much, in terms of running at my beck and call, but she’s exactly what I need as I am hopefully what she needs right now: a comfort.

We leave tonight for a few days in Beiruit.  We’re excited about the sights there and hopefully we can finally see the “Cedars of Lebanon”, provided either Solomon or the war didn’t get them all!

Thanks for praying for us.  We’re flying standby from Beiruit to Singapore, so would appreciate getting on that flight!

Love you all, Marsha

Let us go up

Isaiah 2:3, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”

Hello from Jerusalem,

I’ve come to think that Jesus must have been very fit.

Did you know that it was a six to seven day WALK from Galilee to Jerusalem?  And just about anywhere else in Israel, for that matter.  We’ve travelled by bus, but each day we return to our rooms with 6 or 7 miles on foot to our credit.  That’s not counting the climbing and whatnot, and Jesus did it every day of his life.  WOW

This evening, after another 12-hour day, with half of us dozing in exhaustion, our bus pulled into a lookout on a hill outside of Jerusalem, and as the sun went down, they played that song I haven’t heard since George Beverly Shey days, “ The Holy City”.

Maybe you remember some of the words,

Last night I lay a sleeping

There came a dream so fair

I stood in old Jerusalem
Beside the temple there
I heard the children singing
And ever as they sang
Me thought the voice of Angels
From Heaven in answer rang
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem!
Lift up you gates and sing
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna to your King!”

What a taste of heaven awaits us! As we all sang along, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. I think I’m going to have to take some time to sort out all the feelings we’ve had this week, but suffice it to say, you’ll be hearing more about this trip.  Furthermore, I totally recommend it; do it now if you have any strength left in your earthly bodies!

I’ve got to sleep now.  Between hiking in Masada, swimming in the Dead Sea and just standing agape at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered; between all those and about ten other “Oh by the way” stops, we’re shattered.  In 10 hours we’ll pack another three days’ into one, then start packing for Cyprus, a place we’ve never been but have always been curious about since we were once asked to be interim pastor at a church there.

Let me leave you with something I heard today at Masada. If you’re not familiar with the story, please look it up; it’s such a heart-rending account of a small band of Jewish rebels and their families, making a last stand at one of Herod’s fortresses on the shore of the Dead Sea. For nearly three years, the Romans surrounded, laid siege to and finally built an incredible ramp up to the walls that would allow them to break in and make short work of the rebels.

The night before they breeched the wall, however, the defenders made a pact to kill their families, then kill themselves rather than let the Romans have the opportunity.

Today, Israeli soldiers come here on a regular basis to make what they call a “Masada Oath”. They vow that they will never give up the cause, fighting to the death before allowing their enemy any cause for victory.

Today God’s people face an enemy who would love nothing more than for us to roll over and accept defeat. The real tragedy is that for God’s people, victory is already assured… and yet we are so easily deceived, so willing to concede defeat.

Lord, make us strong and open our eyes to those who are “with us” (2 Kings 6:16).

Until next time,