Snakes in the Attic

Good Morning.

As most of you know, we immigrated to Australia about 18 years ago (while keeping our American citizenship as well). I can’t believe it’s been that long, but then we haven’t really lived in Australia all that time, since for the last 8 years, our missionary work has taken us to Thailand and then back to Japan. But now, at last, we’re “home” … well, at least our Australia home; and we’re loving all the adventures and challenges of settling in.

Well, most of them, anyway. You’ve probably all seen those nature documentaries that outline in gory detail all the things “Down Under” that if given the chance will bite you, sting you or squeeze the life out of you. And I have to say, within a few miles of where I sit, lie the natural habitats of just about every poisonous snake known to man, spiders that are the stuff of nightmares, and at the beach we can enjoy box jellyfish that can kill from just yards away, tiny irukandji jellyfish that like to get up close and personal, and the blue octopus whose sting is painless, but deadly within an hour or so. Our Aussie friends’ reply? “Aw, she’ll be right, Mate! The sharks or the crocs have eaten most of those already!”

But let me assure you that we don’t cower in terror around here, mostly because those things don’t want to be around us any more than we want to be around them. I’m told that the deadly brown snake seen on several occasions in our back yard is just a timid soul, who would never think of biting me, unless of course I offend him. When I point out that if I were to step on him in the dark, he would most assuredly be offended, Aussies just laugh and say, “She’ll be right, Mate!”

I could almost accept that attitude … until we discovered a python in our attic.

Let me clarify.  It’s the house our son Nathan rents from us.  It’s a two-story house with a roof and attic commiserate with something that size.  I have almost never really gone up there since we don’t have storage needs, and besides, it’s hot up there!

However, Nathan was recently installing solar electricity and doing some replacement of the down lights in the living room. You can imagine his SURPRISE when he popped his head up thru the rafters and found himself looking at two eyes, equally startled at seeing him.

A hasty retreat on both parties was affected and we’re happy to say, life goes on.  As I’m sure you remember, Pythons squeeze but seldom bite.

Actually, they (whoever “they” are) say they have pretty good evidence that there is at least one Carpet Python in one of every three attics in Queensland (the semi tropical, humid place we live).

I may have shared with you the story of a church member who was visiting a friend one evening. As they sat around the kitchen table, my friend remarked casually, “You know there’s a snake on your fridge, right?”

“Oh yeah,” the man replied. “That’s Wally. He likes to come down every so often and enjoy the heat from the top of the fridge.”

When Nathan asked if he should call someone to remove the Python in his attic, he was told, “Why would you do that, Mate? Who’s gonna keep the mice down then?”

And so instead of being afraid, Nathan and the family are searching now for an appropriate name for the houseguest. Any suggestions? We’ve all checked to see that there are no obvious entrances to the living space and Nathan won’t be going up there very often. We all hope the snake can go about his ‘business’ without disturbing my grand babies.

I guess I’m saying that in God’s big beautiful world, there are some perceived “dramas’ that just need to be left alone.  We’ve had to deal with our own “personal Python” the last few months, as we’ve struggled to sell one house and buy the one we plan to retire in. If you keep up with the blog, I’m sure you’ve heard just about all you want to hear about it.

I can’t count the times when everything seemed to fall apart, and we felt the all-too-familiar squeeze of worry and frustration coming on. Last week, it got so debilitating that Tony and I decided to get in the car and drive north (something we can do, since we’re retired!). Finding a place in the beach town of Hervey Bay, we committed ourselves to less Facebook, less fretting, more prayer and more quiet time.

That was really working well, until the bank called to say that they now needed our passports and permanent residence visas immediately or else the whole deal might fall apart. After we called them and reminded them we’re CITIZENS and don’t need or have visas, we threw everything into the back of the car and raced home, all the while imagining “scenarios of doom” that began again to slowly choke the life out of us.

Long story short, everything worked out fine, and barring any more unforeseen circumstances, we’ll be moving into our new home next Tuesday. We’re “over the moon” as the Aussies say, thrilled that this ordeal is nearly over.

But even as I brush off the dust and make lists and dream of renovations with Tony, I can’t help but think, how much of my scenarios of doom and “what iffing” never came about? How much easier would my life had been if I had refused to let the python wrap itself around my neck? Jesus said something about that, didn’t He? “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26)

Why indeed. Thank you for bearing with me through all this. I promise to do better. Let’s pray together, shall we? Let’s determine to let go of the real or imagined creepy things in our lives and let God take care of them. Who knows? Maybe we’ll find ourselves with less mice in the attic as a result!

She’ll be right, Mate,

Marsha

Surrounded By Love

Pulling the freshly washed clothes from the dryer today, I was alarmed to find my Fitbit in a pocket.

In case you don’t know, a Fitbit is one of those marvelous electronic gadgets that you clip onto your clothes to measure how much you’re exercising.  Lately mine’s been acting up, ‘forgetting to log my progress’ and never sending me the cheerful ‘weekly updates’ that fuel my competitive nature to do better next week.  As “he” (I should give Mr. Fitbit a name) becomes laconic, so do I, and I guess instead of clipping him on my waistband as I usually do, he was thrown in a pocket and forgotten.

As I teased him out of my freshly dried pocket, he was so hot I could barely hold him, and I was thinking, “another gadget bound for the trash. But as I turned him over to look at the view screen, I read the LED message, “Need a Hug?”  I had to laugh at his indefatigable cheer.

Further investigation revealed that during his workout in the dryer, he logged 2.35 miles and 57 flights of stairs.  Maybe after that the question he gave me was a suggestion for his own needs.

…..So that’s sorta how our week has gone. I remember my grandmother saying she felt like she’d been ‘drug thru the wringer’.

Last week I told you I am a chicken.  Now I know why.

While we conscientiously did everything required to the best of our knowledge to purchase this house, calling the bank and the lawyer uncountable times, we continuously received no response……finally Friday afternoon at 4:30 we were told that WE had not proffered the correct paperwork and we would have to extend the settlement date of our purchase for a  ”week or two”.

Keep in mind that we are totally innocent, and have the email backups to prove it, but the bottom line is ‘we ain’t moving soon’.

In Australia they have a phrase called “Spitting the dummy” (dummy” being the common word for a baby’s pacifier).  If any of you have had babies who have used pacifiers, you know what they’re talking about, and well, that’s what we did.

Since we’ve been burdening our friends’ hospitality for the last week and maybe will be back to haunt them again, we extricated ourselves from any and all immediate responsibilities and got in the car and took that road trip we’ve been talking about ever since we arrived here 5 months ago.

Today as I write this, we’re in the little town of Hervey Bay, a personal favorite of ours.  The locals pronounce it “Harvey Bay”, and it’s a lovely northern beach enclave here in Queensland, more tropical and beautiful that even where we live.  Summer holidays are almost over so we’re going to enjoy some down time as summer wanes and temperatures are a bit cooler.

We remind ourselves that no matter how frustrated we are, no matter whose fault it is, it’s not the end of the world. Nothing is really hanging fire, Tony’s doctoral studies are at a lull as we wait for the next approval to come through, our kids and friends are all doing fine, etc.   Hopefully we can show Christ’s mercy and not vengeance that we’ve been put out and thank GOD that we can afford a tank of gas and the time to just get away!

And then, just as a verification of God’s love, we visited the little “Hervey Bay Baptist Church” that we’ve seen from a distance on other trips.  We weren’t expecting much; after all it’s a small town.

People were nice, the pastor preached a good sermon, even causing me to underline a couple of spots in my Bible.

Then the clincher came.  Unbeknownst to them, whoever picked this particular song gave God the ability to send a message straight to my heart.

The song was that old favorite of the 90’s “The Power of His Love”.

In a heartbeat I remembered 20 years ago, driving somewhere in Japan and me bawling out blurry tears as I listened to those words ……… “Hold me close, let your love surround me”…..

You see about 20 years ago we were facing another life changing event, moving lock stock and barrel to Australia.  We had two children whose lives would be changed forever, as would we. If my son could have left the family he would have at that point, feeling his life at 17 was ruined.   I knew as the time to depart grew near, there was no going back and nothing I could do would prepare us.  All we could do was depend on the “Power of His Love”…..

Of course within months, we all knew that we’d been led to the right place and time.  Our kids are now happily married to Aussies, we’ve made lifelong friends and seen God at work over and over.

And so now…. I know you’ve listened to me go on and on for the last year, and for that I’m sorry.

This last week just about ‘did us in’ but it’s my fault for forgetting to remember that over and over God has been there to shelter us in His wings……..

Please do pray for the lawyers, bankers, sellers and buyers to somehow come to the same page tomorrow……or, as I said above, for us to show grace and style while we wait!

Happy trails, Marsha

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Well, those of you who know me may know that I’m a bit of a chicken.

I’ve never skydived.  Never bungee jumped.  I remember about 15 years ago hanging by my hands for a very long before I squeezed my eyes shut and let myself fall about 30 feet into a pile of foam at a science museum.  I’ll have to say that once I let go, it was magic, but…..

I’m a chicken.

So……..you’ll be happy to know we took a HUGE leap this last week and sold the ‘big house’ that we bought over a year ago while we were still in Japan.

You may remember how we deliberated over buying this huge display home, throwing out fleeces to God willy nilly and looking for every sign that it was the right thing to do. We felt that it was, and enjoyed a year of ridiculous high rent income from the home builders (towards the loan, unfortunately, but still) who continued to use it as a display home.

Then when we arrived home here and looked it at it for the first time, we had a sinking feeling, much like the Beverly Hillbillies may have looked at Los Angeles when they arrived.  It just wasn’t ‘us’.  WAAY too posh, way too many things to worry about keeping up, starting with ‘appearances’?  One friend nailed it when he said “so you don’t want to have to “dress” for breakfast?’

While we give credit to God for directing us to buy it, we began to wonder if He had in mind us being able to profit enough to get ourselves into a better situation for retirement?

So we put it up for sale and after a month of wringing our hands, and ‘scenario-ing’ ourselves into idiocy, we sold it for the right price (we hope), enabling us to move on and take possession of the little place that we bought, winning the bid when the Dutch owner heard that our son’s middle name matched his own. (see recent blog)

So now we’ve done it.

Were praying fervently that the buyer brings the money to the settlement tomorrow,  and then……., hopefully, within a few weeks we can move into our new (to us) house and finally settle. One half of our lifetime junk has been in storage for 8 years and the other half, from Japan, we haven’t laid eyes on for almost a year, so you can understand why we wander around with vacant stares.

Tomorrow we also have to vacate paradise here at the furnished apartment that we’ve been living for the last 4+ months.  Tony and I had a last swim this morning.  Alas…..now we’re scrabbling around frantically cleaning high and low hoping to get our bond back……reminds us of college days!

I guess the theme recently is our knowing that God is Faithful.

Sorry for talking in circles; I’m just a little flustered this week, but the great thing is that God keeps bringing me back to terra firma. This morning at church, we sang that old hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”, and it nearly made me cry. So true. In the midst of all the excitement and uncertainty, I was reminded today that God is still here, still loving and guiding, and still very much a part of our lives every day.

With the American election looming, our only hope is God………and now he’s directed us into green pastures, as he always promises, even when we wonder if we’re walking in mud.

Praise God and have a great week!  We’ll keep you in our loop.

Marsha

Ode to a Pole

He Is Risen!

As I write this we’ve just gotten home after a 4 service day, beginning with a sunrise service on the beach, followed by 5 baptisms! It doesn’t get any better than this.

The below blog was written a few years ago, so some of you might remember it, but it still says what I feel when I think of the cross and the resurrection.  Hope you have the best Easter ever!

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 masquerades 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 1980.

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 together trying to learn the Japanese language. 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, after all this 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 the day,

Marsha

Baptism

Sunrise on the Beach

Gone But Not Lost

Good morning,

As you read this, many of you will be leaving for your Palm Sunday service.

Palm Sunday represents Jesus’ “triumphal” entrance into Jerusalem heralding what would become known to the world as “Holy Week”. Little did anyone know that the ‘triumph’ they expected would play out just a bit differently than they expected.  Jesus knew what the real triumph would be, but His disciples still just couldn’t get it.

For the last 50 days (7+weeks) we have been closely following the saga of a heart surgery gone wrong in the life of a 15 yr old son of two of our friends.

Harrison was a miracle to begin with.  He was not expected because his parents couldn’t conceive.  Then he was born a month early missing something important in his heart in a country that wasn’t his own.  We were working with his mom and dad during the 2000 Sydney Olympics; dad headed up all the evangelistic outreach there, and did such a fine job, he ended up taking on the responsibility again and again in the years to follow

Because Harrison could not sustain life without major surgery, in just 3 days, a permanent resident visa for Australia was miraculously obtained which enabled government coverage for the $80,000 surgery to happen. Thus is something which usually takes 2 years or more, so we all rejoiced at God’s providence.

Everything went smoothly for 15 years, including 2 more surgeries to replace the replacements as Harrison grew.  Finally at age 15, it was determined that one more repair job would set him for adult life.

That was mid January.

The surgery seemed to go well, but then things started going wrong. One thing and then another malfunctioned, and the decision was made to put him into a coma to protect his body as the doctors started to work. Thanks to Facebook, the whole world was able to pray thru each ‘drama’ as every organ had its own issues. Each morning, I would begin my day checking for the latest post, then check again several times during the day

This morning (our Sunday) the report came in and it looked good. The heart was basically working well and now the lungs were responding………but there was some concern about a tiny brain bleed.  By now we were so confident that we hardly gave it more than a brief prayer and went on to church.

At noon, the post read simply, “Harrison is with the Lord”.

Everything within me was screaming WHY!!!!

I made it thru the rest of the service and then we relocated as we often do these days to Japanese church.  I was feeling sad but thought I was handling it OK

Then the songs began.  First, “Blessed be the Name” talking about ‘every blessing He pours out I’ll turn back to praise”……….well, I struggled a little, because of the situation, and then the familiar refrain, “He gives and takes away, and still my heart will choose to say, blessed be the name of the Lord”.

Uhm, this is getting harder, but I soldiered on to the next song.  Wouldn’t you know from somewhere they resurrected that OLD chorus, “Our God is and Awesome God”!

I pride myself for my ability to stay cool and never display emotion but I just couldn’t sing…..

You see, about 24 years ago, we sang that very song at OUR SON’S Funeral!”

Fortunately I held it together till the sermon began and I was able to tune out and into myself (tell me you’ve never done that) and think.

WHY did we play that song at Trevor’s funeral? Apart from the fact that 20+ years ago it was fairly popular and one of Trevor’s favorites……….I think even in our perishing grief we knew in our heart of hearts somewhere that the words ARE true.  God is an awesome God.

Again, I had to remember God’s words in Isaiah 55:8, “My ways are not your ways”.  It’s taken me a long time to begin to realize that truth.

As the tune opened the floodgates of memory, I remembered that at the time, I felt that God had forsaken me. Then I realized that I was feeling that again today, after all, we prayed so hard……… these are GOOD people, leaders in the Christian world…… Why God? Why?

And then I remembered that this is Easter week.  2000+ years ago, Palm Sunday made everybody think they were going to get their way and have what they wanted, a king……. but they hadn’t realized yet that in the end, God is Sovereign.

How must God have felt to see his own Son going for a gruesome and unmerited death?  But He knew the plan………..for His Son and for our sons.

A lot of people still say about us “Oh they lost their son to cancer”.  I always correct them with “He is not Lost”; he’s just separated from us for a little while.

Trevor’s gone.  Now Harrison is gone.  But we want to remember that our Savior also ‘lost his earthly life’ this week so that we all could be reunited according to God’s purpose someday.

Please pray for this family.

Love ya,

Marsha

Out of the Rubble

Good morning everyone,

On Friday this last week, we marked the 5th anniversary of the great earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

I’m guessing most of you who are reading this barely remember it at all.  Some of you may remember when a couple of years ago a Japanese man’s crated motorcycle, name and address intact, drifted onto the beach somewhere in Canada.  Doing some online research I’ve found that out of an estimated 5 MILLION tons of debris that went into the water March 11th 2011, there is still about a million tons floating around in an area of the Pacific estimated to be larger than the state of TEXAS and will not arrive on the West Coast of the Americas for three more years.  Recently they found parts of a ship still floating and colonized by a school of Yellowtail Jackfish, native only to Japan.  Talk about a cruise!

As we continue to bask in the summer sun down here in Australia, we reminisce about our time working in the disaster, the struggles we suffered trying to help the people who were beyond hardship, as well as so many blessings.

If you’ve been on Facebook this week, you have a whole buffet of film clips to watch.  Tony and I tried to watch one this morning and all the old feelings of gut wrenching tragedy surged back with the pictures of the tsunami…….we had to stop.

But what I want to share with you on this 5th anniversary is a short note from one of our dearest ‘daughters’ in Japan, Yuu Chan.

She wrote: “Hello, Hope you are all doing well, I wanted to tell you that Mr. and Mrs. Hiratsuka came to Taitomi (Church) today. They attended worship and then stayed to eat lunch.  We decided to have a special fellowship afterwards and asked them to share their story.”

Their story includes the fact that they are a couple who lost everything but each other in the tsunami.  He had a stroke many years ago and is practically immobile, but they share a rare love for each other.

When my friend Gail and one of her group of volunteers first met Hiratsuka san, she was working in a shop amidst the rubble of the “tsunami zone.” As Gail and the volunteers shared what they could with her, she invited us all to set up a base from where we could continue an on-going ministry to disaster victims in the area. Over the next several months, Tony and I visited many times, often leading volunteer teams who would come with crafts or games, or simply to visit and encourage those who needed God’s love so badly.  The visits continue to this day.

And now, 5 years later, the Hiratsukas made their way into Sendai and our own Taitomi church! It would have taken them over an hour to get there, using roads that are still damaged and in some places impassible.   What a testimony to the love and appreciation they carry for the faithful folks who have given so much of their lives to helping the Hirastsukas and hundreds like them. We rejoice, knowing that the efforts of the folks at Taitomi Church have not been in vain.

In addition to this good news, Yuu Chan also visited one of our very special friends even further out on the “Oshika Hanto”, the peninsula closest to the earthquake’s epicenter, and inhabited mainly by small fishing villages. Most relief efforts were very slow getting to this area, because of the unbelievable devastation in the nearby city of Ishinomaki. It was for that reason that Taitomi Church chose to concentrate their efforts here. Yuu Chan visited Miyuki san, our dear friend, and was delighted to see that they have rebuilt their home, higher up from the shoreline, and are continuing their fishing business. God has used Miyuki san in awesome ways over the past five years, as she has worked so hard with us to find and minister to victims in the area. Now pray that God will work a special miracle in her heart, and lead her to a genuine faith in Christ.

Japanese take a long time to ‘process’ stuff, and maybe that’s why these two rays of sunshine are so special to us, just another affirmation that God is in control, even when things don’t happen fast….and even when we are far, far away.

Bless you as we all prepare for Easter. It’s a time when we give special thought to the resurrection of Jesus, and are reminded that by the power of God, even death has no victory for those who love Him. The earthquake and tsunami was by far the most horrible experience Tony and I have ever had with large-scale tragedy and suffering. And that makes it all the more glorious when we see evidence of life coming from the rubble, in the lives of people like the Hiratsukas and Miyuki.

Thanks again for your prayers, and know that we think of you and pray for you often.

Marsha

Potato Masher Mystery

Good morning,

As part of our “get to know our new country” plan, Tony and I  have been walking around our neighborhood.  This is not the neighborhood we hope to live in eventually, but the trendy zone for the rich and retired, or else the drunk and stupid, depending on the day.  What I mean is, this is “Surfer’s Paradise”, one of the top beaches and tourist spots in Australia.  We’ve been renting a tiny “bed sitter” near the beach while we settle into retirement and get all of our ‘ducks in a row’.

This morning’s stroll took us south away from the hype, looking for a ‘cheap breakfast’.  One place wanted $17 for an egg and bacon wrapped in a tortilla.  Move on.  Finally we came upon a “Bowls Club”.

Now you know that this does not mean that people sit around and admire cooking equipment.  “Bowls” is an important sport for well….old people.  They dress very properly in ‘Whites’, and obey strict protocol on the Greens. We noticed this morning that many of them also carry their own bowling balls in stylish personalized bags (on wheels for the older folks), and sometimes come with fancy pinchers to pick up the ball off the ground.

It appears to be a team sport, involving a whole lot of “bowling” and conferring with each other in whispers as they make their way around on a perfectly groomed green field.  We have yet to understand the strategy, but it looks serious.

As expected, there at the club, found the cheaper cafe, requisite with the “nest” of bowlers.  It was still early, so they were gathered around the tables swapping stories and getting stoked up for the game.

As we dipped into our $5.00 brekky (with one cup of coffee for an additional $4.50), most of the bowlers began moving out of the restaurant and around the corner towards the bowls club.  We couldn’t help but notice one gentleman, however, moving slowly towards us.

He was your “Aussie’s Aussie”, complete with floppy hat tucked under his bicycle helmet.  Finally he had everything loaded on his “pushbike”, as they call them here. We were amused to watch him take his cane and feed onto the side along the wheel and around all his other equipment. Then as he stated to mount up, he stopped……. carefully retrieved his cane and came back inside.

“Forget something, Mate?” the waitress asked, to which the gentleman just smiled, reached over to his table and grabbed …. A large and shiny potato masher. As he went back outside, striding now with great purpose,  Tony and I tried to imagine what part a potato masher could play in a proper game of bowls? Was it used to smooth out the grass? Replace divots? What??

A few minutes later, the gentleman came back in, made his way laboriously over to the cash register, and set the potato masher on the counter. It was then we noticed the small key wired to the handle. I didn’t test it, but I’m pretty sure the key fit the toilet door outside.

The Bible is full of people like us who just don’t get it. They see the obvious, but fail to understand the real “key” to what they’re seeing.  I mentioned recently about the Disciples who were clueless to Jesus’ upcoming death and resurrection.  It just didn’t seem to be in their paradigm.

Paul added his “amen” to that later in I Corinthians 1:18, observing that, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” I could add something like, “Even potato mashers are mysteries to those who just don’t get it.”

Marsha

Love What Ya Do

Dear Friends,

I didn’t send out a blog last week, several of you commented, so I apologize.  It’s just that we were busy, but busy with the mundane stuff that leaves you scratching your head and wondering. Honestly I sorta felt that we had nothing uplifting to say.  Regrettably we still are struggling to find the new normal in our lives, but for the time being, I’ll spare you the details.

This week I wanted to share with you a bit of fun we had last night. We went to see the SEARCHERS!  Who of you out there are old enough to even know who they are?

Well, let me begin with Wikipedia’s comment.  “The Searchers are unarguably the second best band out of England…. after the Beatles”

Yup, you guessed it, most of you don’t know them because they were eclipsed by the Beatles.  There’s a sermon in that…..don’t be #2! ha

Six of us, ages 60-70 went to see them at a local concert hall.  We didn’t really know what to expect, but the tickets were cheap and the fellowship was good……

There were over a 1000 of us in there, and it was the quietist, best behaved audience I’ve seen recently!  We commented that they were tamer than in our church services!  The concert droned on at a very respectable non-threatening sound level for 3 hours.  The singers were clean shaven and wore suits.  Obviously we were experiencing a different generation.

Oh, but what fun we had singing along to their original hits, some of them like “Sweets for my Sweet” “When You Walk in the Room”, “Needles and Pins, and a favorite (which somehow we remembered EVERY word), “Love Potion #9”!

But I’m a funny thing.  I always find that I’m more impressed with the person than the performance and I have to say I was IMPRESSED by these guys.  The founder, John McNally  started the group in 1959, he is now 74, has been married to one woman for 52 years and as near as I can tell, has performed 4-7 nights and days a week, sometimes several shows, for the last 56 years!  His side kick, Frank Allen has been with the band since 1964, and the third singer, Spencer James, a ring-in when someone died, has been with them only the last 30+ years…….

Why, you ask?  Their answer was confident: “We love what we do!”

After our ‘big night out’ we had a great Sunday today doing ‘what we love to do” as well.  We cracked out early and went to Brisbane (60 miles north), picked up a brand new to Australia little Japanese girl who’s starting University tomorrow and doesn’t know a soul. (We’d never met her either but contacted her by email and arrived at her address to find her waiting.)  She’d never even been to a church.  We took her first to Aussie church (a great one!) and then across town to our monthly Japanese lunch and service.  She was smothered with love and already has several new phone numbers and is all set to go to the beach with about 20 other young internationals this next Saturday.

Back to last night, for the last encore (there were several) of the Searchers, they sang, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. As I research the song, I see that it was written by Richard Rodgers for the Rodgers and Hammerstein play “Carousel”, but who knew that? Later it was adopted by several English Football teams as their team songs.

Apparently it meant a lot to the Searchers, so they sang it.

But in my little world last night I stood there realizing that this was the second time this week I’d heard this song and the goosebumps went up my spine. The other one was on the radio as I was just minding my own business.

You see, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was my graduation song from a tiny Christian High School in a much forgotten little nook in Kansas.  We marched in, accompanied by this exhilarating music, bolstered with courage and NO idea of what we were facing in the future. ..

And now almost 50 years later….., we face the same ‘future’ with no idea of how it’s going to play out……

I don’t know if you’re going thru a tough time now or not.  We’re not really having it tough; I suppose it just might be a little more complicated than we’d like, but as we near the Easter season, we all have to think of Jesus and what He must have been facing.  He DID know what was going to happen, but I doubt that it was any easier for him as he tried to prepare His rather dense to the situation disciples.  How did he feel as he began to ‘walk thru the storm’……..

Driving home this afternoon, hearts full of hope, even though we don’t know much about anything, we’re encouraged to have found 4 old guys who ‘love what they do’ and have found the strength to ‘walk on’…….and today seeing Japanese and Australians sharing Christ so enthusiastically……….and then, as if to top it off, this is what greeted us,  hanging over the Gold Coast where we hope to live for a long time:

Rainbow

Whose Identity Anyway?

Good Morning Friends,

As I write this, we’ve just arrived home from a full day of church. Today is my son’s 35th birthday as well as the 10 anniversary of him proposing to his dear wife, but alas, that celebration will wait as we were all in our churches and nobody had time for that!

At the first church we went to, we were blessed to hear from a young missionary family to Cambodia. It was fun and nostalgic to see all their enthusiasm and youth.

During the service, a visiting pastor from Japan was making a greeting to the church and Tony was called on to translate.  Even though we’d never met, the pastor ‘knew’ us well from praying us thru the death of our son some 20 years ago.  It choked Tony up to share about how this pastor is now, back in Japan, grooming Trevor’s best friend, Makoto, to become one of the next great preachers amongst Japanese Baptists.  What a small world. What a faithful God.

After a lovely ‘dinner on the grounds’, we took the pastor to the Japanese church nearby where he, as promised, preached for ‘under an hour.”  It was a good sermon and his Japanese was easy for us to understand, always appreciated.

But let me back up to this morning before church when I checked email before heading out the door. I came across a blog posted by a missionary friend of ours.

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that our mission has felt it necessary to “downsize” its numbers by about 1/4th or 800+ missionaries.  Most of these people were given the choice to ‘voluntarily retire’, but some didn’t even have that luxury and were summarily dismissed.

My friend was one of these.  It was no fault of her own or any lack of her obvious talent, but it was deemed that the division in which she worked was no longer a high priority.

What she wrote really struck a nerve and resonated with what I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about lately, and that’s simply dealing with one’s “loss of identity”.

She mourned a lot in the blog but thru some careful examination of Scripture and soul searching, found that she just had to remind herself (and me, in the process) that our identity does not lie in a person’s job description, status, race, gender or even respectability. Instead, it can be described simply in three words: “In Christ ALONE.

For Tony and me, this is recurring FACT that we just keep having to cling to as we step gingerly into retirement.

But wait…. come with me back to the Japanese church this afternoon. When the service was finished, an older Japanese woman came up to me and said, “You probably don’t remember something you said to me years ago”.  Of course I was smiling and nodding at her, all the while mentally wracking my brain, wondering if I even knew her, much less ever gave her advice!

“We were in a prayer meeting”, she went on,  “and I was sharing that I go to a little church nearby on Sunday mornings, but because I’m Japanese, I can’t understand anything. No one seems to notice me and I feel that I’m just wasting my time.”

Apparently, according to her, I replied to her with these sage words:  “Have you ever thought that just showing up every week is a real ministry of encouragement to all of those around you?”

Of course that was a long time ago. We moved away and I never heard another word and completely forgot about it until today.

“I took your advice and just kept showing up,” she beamed, “and somehow I find that I’ve been there 10 years. The pastor died, the pastor’s wife moved into a rest home, and now people are looking to me for stability and fellowship.  I’ve been so blessed all these years by just SHOWING UP!”

I left church today thinking about my friend’s timely blog and wondering about my own identity………..in Christ alone.

I’ll have to admit I never was much to brag about. Nowadays I’m coming to grips with the fact that I may never live up to all those ideals I held onto in my youth, returning to haunt me again when I listened to the enthusiastic Cambodian missionaries.

But maybe, just maybe, in my newfound retired state, I can “JUST SHOW UP”……..and let Christ Alone tell me who I am.

Whadyathink?

Marsha

Whinging

Hello Everyone, hope all is well.

It’s been a rather quiet week after the craziness I talked about in the last blog settled down. Tony did a great job preaching twice today, in English and Japanese.  Part of his sermon topic was encouraging people to stretch their faith and keep moving forward, perhaps even by taking on his “Anagaion” discipleship course. The people at Golden Gate Seminary who are reading his doctoral thesis proposal about it are silent. We’re hoping the committee’s awestruck at its brilliance and not just dumbstruck!

We’ve made an offer on the house we like (Remember I mentioned it last week?), then we listed the other house to sell, which would be necessary if we were to buy this one. Things are quiet on that front, too, but it’s only been a couple days.

Actually, the only thing of any note this week is that I perceived something about myself. Something I hadn’t realized before, even though I’m rounding the corner on 66.

I’m hoping this ‘discovery’ isn’t something that’s been patently obvious to all you readers over the years and I’ll have to admit that the revelation is kinda spooky, coming this late. But before I lose heart, I remember my precious Grandmother talking about ‘how she was turning out’ at about 90.   I shudder to wonder if I don’t have more gruesome character traits to unearth before this is over!

That something I came to realize is that I have a bad habit of “whinging”. Sounds like “win” + “jing”.

For those of you who are not of British or Australian descent, let the dictionary program explain it to you: Whinge: to complain persistently and in a peevish or irritating way.  I guess in ‘American’ we’d say “whining”.

I think I’ve probably had this habit for a long time, maybe since I was a kid (Well, I was the baby sister after all). But even after all these years with Tony, who is both a really nice guy and perhaps doesn’t listen to me all that often, it never came to light. I began to get a hint about it this last summer when I had a different roommate than Tony at a girls camp in Maine.

Through the week, whenever we had down time, I carried on about this and that……. I didn’t feel good, I was fat, I couldn’t find such and such at the grocery store.  It was when she kept offering solutions that it sorta began to irritate me, but I chalked it up to it her personality and (I perceived) need to control……….

Then again last week, I had another ‘episode’ that sorta hit me between the eyes.  We were reconvening our weekly Bible Study (it’s been summer break here and everybody has been gone out and about for about 2 months). There was a large spread of tempting snacks, and there sat my measly contribution glaring out at us from the middle.

I commented to my friend, “Oh, I would have brought something nice but I’m in such a small little apartment I don’t have a baking pan.”

“Oh!” she said with pity and shock, “I’ll be happy to lend you one!”

Wham!  She got me!!  I don’t think she meant to point out my whinging. I think she was genuinely concerned about my need and wanted to offer a solution but……..I realized I didn’t want her HELP, I wanted her SYMPATHY!  Believe me, when I get my stuff out of storage I’ll have plenty of pans to bake in, but in the meantime I want to play the poor thing that can’t really be expected to contribute.

As I write this, I have to wonder how often I play that game with God. Reading in Exodus about the Israelites, they seemed to whinge/whine a lot to God via Moses.  But did they want to do anything about it? I’m guessing they didn’t. They thought the Mana was boring so he gave them a garnish of Quail, but no………they went right on whinging.

And so I have to ask myself…… Do I want to follow the advice from God about whatever I’m complaining about or am I looking just for Him to say, “Oh your poor thing”, smile down on me and excuse me from pulling my weight?

I’m glad I’ve discovered this…..maybe I can ‘grow up’ a bit eh?

Hope you have the best week of your life, after all, you’ve never been this old! (Was that whinging?)

Marsha