Thanksgiving Down Under

Hello all.  I imagine many of you are living on leftovers and wiping your mouth on your sleeves and remembering a great Thanksgiving as you read this.

We, on the other hand, spent Thursday hugging our grand boys (age 4 and 5) goodbye and moving into a new apartment where we plan to stay until we finally settle into our house in a few months.  I believe I saw a roast chicken in the pile of luggage, but there was no celebration except for……

Everything!

November 21st Kylie had the third boy, Micah Neal Woods, in just 30 minutes.  8 lbs 6 oz, 22.4 inches, all boy and all healthy and beautiful.  In the week that has followed, she’s come home (thank goodness) and Isaac and Ezekiel are very good if not a bit too affectionate big brothers. Daddy Nathan has a few weeks off, so we were able to leave them to it.  I don’t think I’ve ever come across such a trouper as Kylie. She’s amazing.

We continue to ‘settle in’, getting delivery of our new car to pair with the one that was practically given to us.  We’ve decided to call them “Hoot”, which is how we feel about the surprise gift one, and “Nanny” because it seats 7 and we hope to take our boys out and about often…….Together they’ll be “Hootenanny” which anyone our age remembers  once meant “a good time”.

Our health improves.  The Aussie doctor told Tony he does not and has never had Type II diabetes, which is a praise point.  I am almost back to normal……  wrestling with babies will do that to you.  Thankfully we’ve both began to take off some of those pounds as well, but we’re a long way from the goal with a beach Christmas looming near. We probably will be very quiet about our progress! ha

Our apartment is TINY.   I thought things were tight in Japan but this one is about 1/2 the size of our Tokyo one.  We were here for a day when I said, “Where’s the table?”  There is none, but I can’t complain as it’s just what we need, and the pools, exercise room/jacuzzi and BBQ areas will compliment our life here in the area known as “Surfers Paradise”, just minutes from both kids and the church.  Who knows? We may just stay here and skip the transition into the rest home!

Another praise point, our FREIGHT from Japan has cleared customs and will be delivered to storage this next week.  We can’t open it until we move permanently so we have to keep going to the store for all the little bits and pieces.  Tony just decided to wrap some presents while I write this, but realized we have no tape! ha

We have loved catching up with our church as well. Today we had our annual meeting and are encouraged to see that growth thru evangelism seems to be the goal.  While we’ve been gone these last 8 years, the church has not only held its ground but has grown and prospered.  We are happy to slip back into ‘home church’ responsibilities even as Tony has been accepting preaching opportunities and of course renewing all of our Japanese ministry contacts.  It almost feels like we’re not retired……..

So as you can see, we’ve been FILLED with THANKS all week.  This next week will be so busy with Christmas programs (both grand boys)  two churches with their Christmas events, etc. I may not get a blog out to you next week, but I imagine you’ll be swamped as well.  Isn’t Christmas a great time to fill your heart with love for our Savior and the God who shared Him with us? Because of this great love, we can spill it over to our families, near and far, as well as all of those who don’t yet know the story.

Talk to you soon!  Marsha

Joy in the Journey

It’s true that we’re living in paradise.  The Gold Coast at the beginning of summer can be and has been this week beautiful beyond words.  We’ve been in a timeshare while we wait for a more permanent housing solution.  It’s overlooking the beach. What’s not to like?

Unfortunately, paradise that it might be, I recently had to say to Tony, “When are we going to be able to RELAX?  Every day we have to put on our ‘big people’ clothes and rush out to the banks, realtors, phone companies and medical services.    Relocating isn’t a picnic, as I’m sure many of you know! In fact we’re thinking of our friends the Morgans who are closing down 20 some years and moving out during this time. And of course Tony continues his online seminars for his doctorate that has him pretty well consumed.

But then while I’m complaining about living in paradise, the world is in mourning, not just for Paris, but for the situation we’re in worldwide…..

Last Tuesday I attended with my daughters and a couple of friends a ‘Sisterhood’ evening sponsored by Hillsong, a name you may recognize as the largest evangelical church in Australia.  The Sisterhood-themed evening was packed out with mostly ‘beautifully’ dressed women of all ages.  We were met at the door by bow-tied young men serving canapés and fizzy drinks. Smiling women descended upon us offering hand massages and foot spas.  Words like ‘opulence’ and ‘luxury’ came to mind.  Much later we were ushered into the auditorium where we sat down to participate in a two hour long worship extravaganza from Hillsong leadership.

What I walked away with (after all that pre-pampering) was the compelling exhortation, impressed on me over and over…. “Girls, we’re not finished yet”.

While we may be privileged to have what we can call a ‘good life’ here in this place, our JOB…our CALLING is not finished until we’ve reached outside of ourselves to the entire world and they have heard the gospel message. The closing prayer was a prayer of salvation for anyone who had visited and wanted then and there to become a believer and get busy.

What really resonated in my soul as we left was that no matter how lost and unsettled I may feel at the moment, and while it’s true that my day JOB may be finished; my circumstances may be different……. essentially nothing has changed. I still have the work I’ve always been called to do which is to SHARE CHRIST.

The Gold coast might be a ‘pretty’ place, with more than enough pizzaz,  but my son the cop can attest to the fact that there are plenty of folk here, in all walks of life, who need the Lord.

This morning we heard an excellent sermon talking about David’s prayer in Psalms 51:2 to ‘restore to me the JOY of your salvation’. It’s not our SALVATION that we’ve lost, but maybe in these trying times worldwide, do we still have the JOY? Are we sitting around being ’saved’ and forgetting that there are countless passages in the Bible about ‘working out our Salvation” as well?……something for me to think about.

We look to the future with a renewed sense of joy and of responsibility to keep fighting the good fight.  We don’t know what that will look like, but God does.  Tony’s already got a lot setting up for us, with preaching and teaching and of course we’re expecting grand boy #3 any minute…….

I’ll blog as long as God is speaking to us, but next Sunday we’d appreciate your prayers and patience as we go to Brisbane for the day with the Japanese there.  Tony will be introducing his “Anagion” course. ( www.anagaion.org )  We’ll probably get back too late to touch base with you all, but stay tuned!

We’ll keep you posted!

Marsha

Live from Down Under

I can’t believe it’s been a week since we landed in Australia. Tony and I are still in shock, not really sure if we’re actually here. The journey began 6 months ago when we packed our bags and said goodbye to Japan. Now after more miles than I care to recall, some precious opportunities for ministry up in Maine and the bittersweet experience of time with family and friends all over America, we’re finally here in the beautiful Gold Coast. Aussie friends keep asking us, “So how long are you here for?” to which we reply, “Til the Lord takes us home!”

I have so many things I want to share with you, but I think I need another week to sort my life out a bit. In the meantime, may I send along the same blog I sent last week? We were in Bangkok with “iffy” internet connections, and I’m not real sure it even sent out. If you’ve read this already, please forgive me.

More to come next week. Love ya all,

Marsha

From last week:

About 5 years ago we were in Bangkok, having a wonderful life and ministry when suddenly, quite by surprise, we were recalled to Japan.  We cajoled and pleaded, but the answer was still Japan.

I’ll never forget the last night before we boarded the plane, having packed up and with nothing to do, we walked to the nearby park for one last stroll.  There, we heard a beautiful voice across the night, someone singing the song from Les Miserables, “I had a dream”.  In a unified gasp of hopeless self pity, Tony and I sat down and bumbled thru tears.  The words, “I had a dream, and now the dream is gone” echoed in our minds as we faced an uncertain and a seemingly unwanted future.

Well, as most of you know, as soon as we had settled into Tokyo life, lips still a bit stuck out, the Higashi Nihon Dai Shin Sai, or Tohoku Great Earthquake with the resulting Tsunami hit on March 11th.  It happened right in our ‘home town’ of Sendai.

Immediately we looked at each other and knew that we were the natural choice to be on the scene because of our history, and the transfer had indeed been a ‘God thing” all along.  The mission related as we left last May that in retrospect, they have no idea why they felt it necessary for us to return, but we were able to say WE knew.   We had our work cut out for us for our last years on the field.

And now, as you’re reading this, we’re on a plane to Australia.  We are due to land at 6:00 PM tonight and be met by our kids and begin the life or Riley, or should we say ‘retirement”?

While you were entertaining all the ghosts and goblins at your doors last night, the clock ran out on our career.  We haven’t been ‘unemployed’ since college days, but are thinking it might be kinda nice, at least for awhile.  On Nov 2nd Tony will have another three-week long seminar working on his doctorate, hopefully moving him towards the anticipated graduation soon. We pray that the timeshare we’re staying in for the first few weeks until we find a place to rent will have internet.

But speaking of emotive songs, we heard another one recently……maybe we were able to hear it this time with a bit more positive, befitting our current attitude

A few weeks ago we were able to participate in a reunion, not of family per se, but of a family of young missionaries that went out together in 1973 to serve 2 years, planning to change the world.  We were called “Journeymen” and we made bonds (largely during our 7 week ‘boot camp’ like training) that have lasted these 43 years.  I can’t tell you how much fun we had for three days, telling stories, often on each other, and generally reminiscing.  We’re for the most part 40+ years worn, fatter and balder, although some of them have kept their outward youth in amazing ways.  Sadly we’ve all reached the age where the requisite percentage of us have gone on to Glory, so we remembered them as well.  There were a lot of tears shed, both happy and sad, in those three days.

But one thing that really ‘grabbed’ me was the song book someone had thoughtfully put together.  We sang with the gusto of the young fresh youth that we once were.  Our chests pushed past the arthritis and belted out the words……The songs were the ‘old’ songs that were popular back in the day.  Songs like “People to People” and “Here is my life” as well as “If I had a Hammer” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

But the most poignant by far was a song I’d completely forgotten.  It’s called “All of My Tomorrows”.  Unfortunately, I can only find the Frank Sinatra and Colt Ford versions on google, and those songs are a bit cynical, but the Christian one is good, maybe some of you remember it, here are lyrics of the refrain.

All of my tomorrows, I bring to You today

All of my tomorrows, I gladly give away

Giving of self and giving of love as You have given me

All of my tomorrows, I bring them all to Thee

How fervently we believed this when we all went out…….little knowing that some of our ‘tomorrows’ would be adventures and griefs that in our 20’s we were incapable of imagining.

And now…… Tony and I are facing what we might call ‘the Biggest Tomorrow” that being….. the rest of our lives.

We are happy to report that after a week here in Bangkok being poked and prodded in our favorite hospital,  we have BOTH been declared to be in robust health, although we heard the “fat” word more than once.    For those of you who have followed my dramas since last May, I’m sure you’re relieved to know the debilitating virus I contracted is long gone along with most of the damage.  That’s the verdict we most hoped for!  Now I need to have a lot of “grandparent therapy” to work out the rest of the kinks.

“All of my Tomorrows”…..  Who knows what that may be?  Today I thought about this journey as Tony read from Oswald Chambers.  He says that sometimes we think we get the rewards by trusting God, but actually it’s only walking by faith that we can see His Character.   Only God knows our ’tomorrows’, He who holds our hands and leads us in green pastures.

We’ll check in from time to time, so stay tuned!

Marsha

Still There

When Tony’s Dad died in Texas year before last, we had the sad job of gathering up all the memories he and Mom had accumulated over the years, sorting them carefully and the either (1) shipping them to our home in Australia, (2) giving them to friends and family here in the States, or (3) throwing them away.

It was a joy to wrap up so many things that had been “them” and handing them over to those who treasure them for years to come. I have to say, I was especially happy to part with Dad’s elephant foot! I hear it’s been consigned to a glass case  at a church where a group of boys and girls had sat through hours of his tales of life in Africa. We really had no choice, since Australia would not allow it in, and in fact we might have been looking at criminal charges had we tried! No matter that when Mom and Dad had served in Rhodesia, there was no such stringent laws on animal parts and ivory back then.

Tony was a little sadder to say goodbye to Dad’s 18-foot python skin, but as Australia customs put it, “You can’t bring it in, and if it looks like you tried to hide it, you’re looking at jail time.” Oh well, I think Cousin Kim is going to make a saddle out of it.

Yesterday, we had a chance to visit their house at Holly Lake, Texas. What a flood of memories, to visit the place where so much love and joy had abounded! The house had been bought by a friend, who had completely remodeled it with the intention of selling it for a profit. When I say, “remodeled”, I’m not exaggerating! Driving up to the place, I though at first we’d gotten lost and come to the wrong address. It was a different color, different shape, and bigger! The friend took us through the house (it’s still for sale), and I was astounded. The living room had expanded into an adjoining bedroom. The kitchen had pushed out into the hallway, which had in turn stretched into the carport. Dad’s office had become a garage, and part of the back yard was now an extension, allowing for another bedroom.

“It’s not here anymore,” I exclaimed. “Dad’s place is gone!”

“Not entirely,” Tony said, heading for the new pantry door. Opening it up and moving some cleaning supplies aside, he pointed triumphantly to the breaker box, still where it had always been. “They couldn’t move that without a lot of building code revisions. And if I’m not mistaken,” he said, moving across what was left of the hallway, “the water heater pretty much has to be here.” And sure enough, it was still in the same place, happily heating water for any and all.

That started me thinking, and I went back to the bedroom. It had been completely revamped, but opening the closet, I saw the old dark wood paneling Mom and Dad had been so proud of. It had covered the whole house, but now could be found only in this one place.

It’s a beautiful home. It was beautiful before, but in a different way. I can’t help but think of a verse in Samuel where the Lord says to him, “……man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart”.

Here’s to looking beautiful inside and out.  Have a great week!

On another note, I’ll probably be unable to blog for a week or two, don’t worry, I’ll be back in a while.  We’re stepping into the funnel of our departure (to Australia and retirement) and the whirlpool may get pretty strong.

Into the Wind

This last week I actually found some time to be bored. Tony’s working almost 24/7 on his doctorate in preparation for the next big seminar, so that leaves me to entertain myself.

I was sitting outside on this beautiful clear day. There was a slight breeze blowing…..all was well. That is until along came a spider.

She landed on a leaf near me, carried by a gossamer hang glider made of spider web. I immediately went into a ‘little Miss Muppet dance” until I realized that she had no intention of involving me whatsoever. She was on a mission and I was merely an observer. Still, I kept a careful eye on her, reminding myself that I could dispatch her at any time with a flick of a shoe or send her on her way with a good whack on the branch she sat on. Instead I chose (since I was bored anyway) to watch her.

The first thing I noticed were several strands of web that must have come with her.  Or maybe she came with them. I batted them away from my face and kept watching.

I never could figure out exactly what she was doing with such great determination, but she continued running up and down the leaf, working feverishly.

Suddenly, she and I both noticed a shift into the wind. She turned into it while I kept watching.

Then, without as much as a nod of goodbye, she seemed to ‘cast’ some silk into the wind, and the next thing I knew she was being drawn up and away, finally gliding out of sight.

….leaving me in wonder. As I sat there, a couple of things occurred to me

She came, she worked, and she went.  I could almost be certain that she didn’t spend a lot of time being confused, scared or catatonic with introspection. Whatever she was doing, it seemed to have an intentional purpose and she succeeded in her next ‘leap’ with all the grace and style that left me confident that she had no qualms whatsoever.

I had fun imagining that maybe, thanks to spider instinct, she (1) knew who she was and what God given gifts she had, and (2) trusted in God, along with His wind to take her on her next juncture.

As you may know, Southern Baptist missionaries have very recently been given a “challenge” from our Mission Board.

Due to continuing financial shortfalls, the Board is asking that at least 800 of the older and wiser will consider taking this opportunity to ‘retire’.  And to make the “offer” clear, they have until sometime in early November to decide before the parachute incentive packages dissipate into the wind.

If you’ve ever prayed for we missionaries, please do so now.

Before you worry about us, be assured that we are just fine. After all, we’re 65 and 67 and have been planning this step for some time now. The Board has been very good to us over our almost 40 years of service and we’re looking forward with great anticipation to the next chapter in our lives.

No, we’re praying for our fellow missionaries in their 50’s and early 60’s, most who have the language and culture and many of whom are finally starting to see some fruit from their labors.

We rest assured that God is not in the business of letting people down. He knows what’s happening and is in control.  We all know that.

And today I want us to pray that like that spider throwing her silk into the wind, these folks are going to be able to know who they are, know their gifts and have the encouragement and faith to let go and let God take them where He will.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee” (Isa. 26:3)

Have a wonderful week,

Always, Marsha

Too Much Help

Have you ever driven anywhere with a cat in the car?  If so, then maybe you can relate to our journey these last couple of days across the endless miles from Maine to Michigan.

You see, we had the unlisted help of four ‘ladies’ in the car. We’ve named our various GPS systems “Nelda”, (the original Tom Tom model we bought when we landed in America), “Stephanie” (the onboard one installed in the rental car,) and two unnamed iPhone apps. I think they would be great, except that they don’t work just anywhere since they no longer have a phone service connected. That means we have to stop somewhere and hook up to the internet before they’ll talk to us.

Stephanie set us out on what she considered a 14-hour route to get us to Michigan before Tony was due at an online seminar (for his doctorate) and then will be preaching as you’re reading this (in Japanese). Two easy 7-hour driving days. No problem.

We left the parking lot bolstered with courage, but there were already issues between the girls.  One wanted us to go left, the other wanted us to go…….you guessed it, right.  Of course most of these devices are very lady-like in that they won’t show you all their secrets until you stop, find an internet, promise them something and then find out what they intended to reveal about their ultimate plans, assumably later.

Eventually we found ourselves on an ever-narrowing dirt road somewhere in Vermont. I will admit that the scenery was breathtaking, but we needed to stay on task.  We retraced our steps to the pavement and found a diner with a kindly waitress.  “Oh, GPS’s don’t work here, too many trees”, she said as she used an archaic tool (her hand) to point the way.  Off we went, full of blueberry pancakes and hope…….again.

I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but we gradually developed a routine: Drive about 2 hours, look at all the beautiful scenery, stop and find a place with internet and then have a consultation.

Attending the battle/travel planning meeting were our three “GPS Girls” while built-in Stephanie remained stuck in the car, pouting and plotting.  We would of course ask her opinion when we came back to the car, but she claimed to have a “safety feature” that refused any discussion as long as the car was moving.  So she said.

So off we’d go for another 2+ hours, craning our necks out the windows in search of moose or anything else of note. We did see a lot of trees and lakes……

Finally we came upon an Alfred Hitchcockian motel, complete with a set of “nere-do-wells” lounging in the dark along the railings.  I went straight for our room, slammed and locked the door behind us After checking the shower while whistling the theme from “Psycho”, I collapsed on the bed. We’d been on the road for 13 hours and weren’t half way there.

Bright and early the next morning we dashed down to the office to check out the “free continental breakfast”. The “nere-do-wells” (who it turned out were some very nice middle-aged bikers trying to rediscover their youth) were already lined up, but we managed to grab a roll and a cup of coffee before hitting the road again. The sleep had renewed our resolve to ‘get this done’, and since Lake Erie was lapping to our left side, I didn’t think the GPS girls could squabble any today.

Wrong.  Nelda insisted we were 7 hours from the goal, Stephanie? 14.  The iPhone cheerleaders backed up Nelda, so we followed her lead.

Before the day was out, we had gathered BOTH our laptops, both phones and Nelda into the rest stop for a final summit meeting. Canada has lovely rest stops called ‘Enroute’.  They’re clean, predictable, decked out with fast food and tourist information, and a real comfort when you’re going nuts.

All the girls agreed, except of course for Stephanie, who kept insisting that we needed to circumnavigate Lake Erie, adding about 700 miles!  We’ve came to the conclusion that she’s all looks and no brain and we’ll be glad to send her back with the car when the rental is finished.

After just under nine hours, we arrived in Detroit, found the motel we’d booked online, and Tony managed to log into his seminar on time. While he was pontificating, I called our Japanese friend and found out that he was still in Kentucky, having missed his plane home from a business trip! Hopefully we’ll see him and his wife tomorrow, at least at church if not before.

So it seems getting from “point A” to “point B” is not always a simple matter. It often comes down to where you put your faith. For this trip, we were “loaded for bear” with a total of two GPS units, two iPhone map apps and two laptop computers. As I think about it, I believe we would have had better success if we’d found more friendly waitresses along the way to ply us with pancakes and point us in the right direction.

When the writer of Proverbs tells us, “By wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Pro. 24:6), I don’t think he had GPS devices in mind. There are those whose counsel is good and helpful, and those who if given the chance will take you down a dead end dirt road. We need to know whom we can trust, and who will lead us in the right direction.

Jesus said it well: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). If we’ll follow His lead, and the lead of those He provides, we can’t go wrong. Let’s keep our eyes on Him, read His Word and listen to His counsel.

And speaking of the journey, some Aussie friends are going to sell us their old car for $2000! I’m hoping at that price it doesn’t have a built in GPS!

Happy Travels, Marsha

Lovin the Light

I still remember the first time our family experienced New York City.  It was about 1996 or so and we’d wandered across the States as far as New Jersey.  We could see Manhattan across the water from the cheap motel we were staying in, but frankly we were a little shaken by the bullet proof glass in the lobby. Then when the manager said it would be best to drive the one block to Dennys because walking could be dangerous, we went to bed, clutching each other and realizing that visiting the ‘city’ might be a bridge too far.

But the dawn came and we awoke unscathed, so I suggested to Tony that if I promised to navigate, could we please please just drive up one of the main streets a little while and have a look?

With fear and trepidation we maneuvered our little beat up Subaru onto Manhattan Island and started the gauntlet up 5th Ave.  After a few minutes, 15 yr old Nathan piped up from the backseat.  “Wow, this is cool and we haven’t been shot at yet!”

Call us country bumpkins, but this was our image of NYC in the 80s and 90s.  And we weren’t alone. Checking the internet, I read now that from 1970-1990, 31 people out of every 100,000 were murdered annually in the downtown area.

And yet…….

Last month we spent a glorious 5 days in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.   We walked the streets day and night, rode the subway often, wandered thru Central park and ventured into Brooklyn on one of the city’s many free tours, this particular one to experience a plethora of ethnic food.  I guess we could say we basically had a ball.  Yes we were still country yokels, but what a wonderful and welcoming city we found, complete with polite and charming people!

So what happened since the 1990s?  I can answer that in one word:

Light.

In the book, “The City That Became Safe”, author Franklin Zimring explains some of the things that were implemented that resulted in an 89% drop in crime.

Of course the police cracked down, specifically on the ‘open air drug markets’ that filled Times Square and surrounds. Apparently Times Square was only safe on New Years Eve, and even then it was iffy.  The famous 42nd street was labeled ‘the most dangerous street in America’.

But the key to reclaiming the city was to turn on the lights.

I think there’s a verse in the Bible about that……

In the case of New York, Mayor Giuliani had some meetings with the Disney people. They agreed to come to downtown NYC, renovate the theater area and supply constant Lion King genre shows and what not …. IN EXCHANGE for the city agreeing to light up the place. To seal the deal the city made several square blocks of the Midtown area mandatorily lit up 24 hours a day 7 days a week for the NEXT 99 YEARS.

The bulk of these lights are called “Fascinators”…….just imagine the neon cataclysm of dancing and descending 2 and 3 story neon light cascades that are virtually everywhere.  You have to stand and search for that little icon we call “Times Square”.

What’s the result?  No drug deals in sight, very little crime. No dark alleys. (Tony would say there’s a sermon in that)  Thousands and thousands of gaping tourists gawking around, flashing cameras and spending money on hot dogs, trinkets and designer everything.  The experiment is thriving.  Tony and I sat in the open air of Times Square just enjoying the parade of nations wander by. Several on-duty policemen chatted with us and even gave us a special badge to pass on to our Australian constable son.

And then to punctuate my euphoria, we met one of our precious Japan missionary kids and her husband who actually live there. Through their work, we were treated to a Madison Square Garden spectacular.  Christian singer Chris Tomlin and several other very high profile singers and speakers held the first ever “Night of Worship”.  The stadium holds almost 20,000 people and it was packed out.

How do I describe it? Suffice it to say that we were blown away. Tony said he had a lump in his throat from the first chord to the last amen 3 hours later.

But what really brought crusty ol’ me to my knees was the song,  “God of this City”.  I’ll enclose the link if you’d like to listen and shed a tear of hope with me:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEFGr1S8SkA

Light.  Light can change the bad guys (perhaps turning them into tourist touts) and Light can save the world!

God IS the God of NYC and He’s the God of your life and mine. Miracles can happen when we walk in the LIGHT.  Couldn’t say it any better than our friend John:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

Lovin’ the Light, Marsha

PS:  On a housekeeping note, this next week is our last one in Maine.  We will be so sad to leave, it’s been such a great experience.  We want to thank all the “Main-ers” that made it unforgettable…….especially Ann and Keith Lawrence who are the directors of missions here.

On Thursday at dawn we will begin the ‘race’ to the next stop in Michigan.  There Tony will have another doctrinal seminar online most of Friday night (this has been going on for some time now), and be preaching his first sermon in Japanese in the last 4 months, so IF you don’t get a blog next week, just say a prayer that the words will flow from his heart and the people will understand.  Who’d ever thought that the USA could be a mission field!

Kindred Spirits

Hello everyone,

I hope you got my blog that we sent out from a parking lot somewhere in northern Maine last Saturday.  The internet is a wonderful thing unless you are “out of range”.

We’re happy to report that we spent last weekend with a lovely bunch of people from a little church in Baring, Maine, which is pretty far north….and east, right on the Canadian border.

We were told that we’d be staying at a ‘camp’ and so we prepared accordingly.  Imagine our dismay and delight to find that a ‘camp’ is just a Northeastern word for what we call  ‘cabin’.  Apparently if it’s on “saltwater”, it’s referred to as a “cottage” as was FDR Roosevelt’s little 37 room place. (which we were also able to tour).   But if the structure is “lakeside” it’s referred to as a ‘camp’ and this camp was as lovely as the even lovelier couple, who have summered there for the last 40 years.   They regaled us with such wonderful stories of adventure, excitement and love of each other and the Lord. It was so interesting we all sorta staggered to church in the morning! Such fun, such a beautiful setting, such a sweet church.

Last week I mentioned that I was a bit of a tomboy. I remember pressing my nose on the ironing board as I stood on tippy toes supervising my mother as she ironed Davy Crocket logos on my frilly hankies…….

Alas, Davy and I never met, but I may have finally found a kindred spirit in Anne…….of Green Gables.

We visited Prince Edward Island after our church responsibilities were finished. The locals refer to it as “P.E.I.” and as the ferry pulled into port, I knew I was not going to be disappointed.  Every direction you looked just had a picture book wonder to it.

Somehow this place had caught my imagination when I was just an ornery little girl.  I can’t remember why, but maybe it was Anne and her pigtailed ‘tomboyishness’ that reached out to me.  I could certainly relate to the pesky boys like Gilbert harassing me in return for my distain for them.

As we drove along the coast, the scenery took my breath away….and THEN we got into “Anne-land” as our B&B host called it.

For two days my imagination was abducted into the world of fiction.

A lot of you know the story of “Anne of Green Gables”, but I knew nothing about the author, a woman by the name of Lucy Maud Montgomery. She wrote the whole series and several more spin offs in the early 1900’s. The “Anne” stories are fiction….. but are they?

As we went thru old homes, churches and museums, we realized that most of the stories she wrote actually seem to mirror the REAL life of Lucy, the author.

Lucy was almost an orphan (her mother died and the father couldn’t seem to cope so she was shuffled off to the grandparents at 22 months old).  She lived on a farm, worked hard, was taught to be thankful and respectful to her elders and God……..

And somehow thru that seemingly rough beginning, she was able to see the WONDER of it all.  She wrote about apples and frost and scampers in the forest and love and death and just everything.

And by way of her series about an orphan girl named Anne who came with nothing, but everything, she was able to capture our hearts.

As our visit drew to a close, I felt like I was leaving a good friend.  I wanted to stay in all the ‘loveliness’ of living a simple God-centered life on an isolated island.  Even tough ol’ Tony was seen wiping an eye as we sat thru the musical rendition of the story on our last night.

Lucy Montgomery once said, “I’m always hesitant to reply when people ask me if Anne is real……….because even though I made her up, she IS most definitely real”

And then I thought about our walk with God.  This last week I got a sweet message from a new friend who said, “I want to be a fragrance to others, I want people to look at me and see Christ.”

The character Anne Shirley is not real……….but God IS most certainly real.

And we learned so much about the author Lucy M. Montgomery because we experienced Anne. We could see and know Lucy thru Anne.

It is my prayer, as well as my friend’s prayer, that people looking and enjoying us can see through us to OUR author, God himself.

Have a great week, real or imagined.

Marsha

That’s IT?

Hello Friends, Before you pinch yourself and think it’s Sunday, be assured it’s only Saturday.  You’re receiving this blog a DAY early because this morning we’re headed off for a church many hours north and won’t have internet for a few days.

First we’re going to Baring, Maine, which, if you look at the map,  you’ll see that it’s very near the town of Lubec, which is the most easterly spot in the USA.  We’ve been promised a night in a Baptist camp, which the proprietor tells us is ‘like a tent’.  On Sunday Tony’s preaching in a little church in Baring and then we’re going on into Canada (we hope, with our rental car) to see Anne of Green Gables land for a couple of days. If you’ve seen the movie or read the book, then you can imagine our anticipation at seeing this beautiful place. I remember as a child dreaming blissfully about life on Prince Edward Island, although I don’t remember reading the book.  I think I was too busy looking for arrowheads and imagining I was Davy Crockett’s sidekick.  At any rate, I’m  looking forward to some great scenery.

I have to say, our sojourn here in Maine has been a real blessing.  It’s so rewarding to come across fine rock-solid Christians eking out a good and strong witness up here so far north.  Tony delights in asking the locals, “Does it ever snow here?” then watching the hollow-eyed stare that comes over their faces.  Last night a ‘Maine-er’ (as they call themselves) said, “We have 4 seasons; summer, almost winter, winter and still winter”.  We have greatly enjoyed this summer and are glad that the Mainers are sharing it with us.

The other day we thought maybe we’d take a day trip down south to see the famous “Plymouth Rock”.  After all, as Americans we must have had a relative out there somewhere who purportedly put his foot on this rock when he disembarked from the Mayflower back in 1620.

But after googling the map and then looking at the web site, we abandoned the plan.  Apparently we’re living 4 hours NORTH, which would make for an 8 hour round trip in the car.  That’s not un-thinkable for us, as I’m sure you know, but we read online that the most common remark  visitors seem to make is, “That’s IT???”……….hummm.  Looking at some of the pictures, we see it’s apparently only a few feet across, and has been moved and broken a few times. And actually, no one is really sure that anyone in history ever actually stepped onto it. We’ll pass.

On a another personal note, we had a (self imposed) gut-wrenching week, waiting on the FINAL decision from the Australian Town Council on this kafluffle with our property.  Most of you have heard me ballyhooing about it.  Long story short, building a required retaining wall could end up costing us more than our wildest fears and could have a serious impact on our retirement plans. We’re holding onto that promised peace of God, but it keeps slipping out of our hands.

The other big ‘if’ was my medical report.  WHAT virus hit me so hard three months ago that the effects are still lingering? More blood tests are due in any day now, which hopefully will confirm that Chikungunya has run rampant and has now run out. (they do agree that I’m on the mend!). But then the doctors always want to leave the back door open for other nefarious problems…  Tony tried to educate himself online, but concluded that the internet is NOT your friend when it comes to self-diagnosis.

As I try to be brave, I can’t help but think of Amanda Cook’s beautiful song and the lyrics that go straight to my heart:


I have heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace

You make me brave

You make me brave…

No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

So like Plymouth Rock, God must look at me and all my worries and say to Himself, “That’s it?”.  Yes, I’m confident today that the issues that surround us today will be tomorrow’s reasons to praise God, and ask forgiveness for ever taking it out of His hands.  He continues to be so good to us, and we can thank Him for the reality of  ‘non-eventful’ weeks, wasted in part by way too much time worrying about what might have been.

God bless and remember to hang loose!  Marsha

The Bonded Word

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It’s been a quiet week here in Maine. Tony’s had his head down doing doctorate work and I’ve just putzed around, doing some fiddly office stuff like figuring out our schedule for the last weeks of our time in the USA.

It’s actually quite warm……..we were told that a Maine summer was only on the 4th of July, but we’ve done better.  It actually got up to 90 degrees last Sunday and with the humidity we were thankful for the window A/C that had been given us a few weeks ago. I’ll have to admit that when we got it, I couldn’t imagine being that warm, but it’s really helped, especially at night.

Anyway, this week we were talking with our Aussie friends and mentioned that we’d been to see the LL Bean Store.  Of course to call it a store is sorta a misnomer.  I guess I should have called it a ‘town’. Our friends had never heard of LL Bean, and knew nothing of it’s history.

Until our visit to Freeport Maine, where the whole thing is, my association with LL Bean had been to order one rain coat from their store when we lived in Japan (where they have 19 stores, as well as 53 in China……..However all their merchandise is made in the USA).

The coat was so ‘heavy duty’ that I could barely move my arms.  Every time I put it on I pictured myself standing on the bow of a whaler, eyes shut tight against a nor’easter!  It just wasn’t a city girl’s well…….. “slicker”. I can’t remember what happened to it, maybe it’s covering a roof somewhere.  I can guess it’s still in the same great condition though.

But let me tell you about what I learned as we wandered thru several of the stores scattered around the center of Freeport.  A visit to wikipedia gave us the missing information:

It seems that Mr. Leon Leonwood Bean, was an avid hunter and fisherman……..from Maine, you could have guessed.  He invented a great product and opened a supply store in 1912.  And as they say, ‘The rest is history’

LL Bean is now a clothing and outdoor sports store, with an annual revenue averaging 1.5 Billion dollars.  It is still completely family owned and has been (get this) open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 64 years.  I can’t imagine any Maine hunter who’d need to shop at 2:00 am but I guess if you’re off to the hunt and need shoelaces, LLBean’ll be there for you.

He’ll be there for you.  Apparently his flagship item, what got him started was the ‘Bean Boot’. Something he’d dreamed up and created with a stout laceable leather upper and an encompassing rubber sole.  All of us have seen this shoe, We called them Sorrells in Colorado……. but I guess the first rugged rubber boot was  patented as a Bean Boot.

He sold a lot, but wait……….90% of them were returned!!  It seemed they leaked. As I look over these moosey Maine marshes, I’m guessing that’d be the last thing you’d want in a boot up here!

Give up?  Curse the gods and say it’s someone else’s fault? Ask the government to bail you out?

No…….he made good on every single boot and after a trip back to the drawing board, replaced them with watertight ones……  thus earning the love of the northeast.

As I heard this remarkable story, I was reminded of the verse in scripture that says, “Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).

I don’t want to complain, but it seems these days there are more answers as to why your boot leaks rather than what anyone’s going to do about it.  Recently we were told by our traveler’s insurance that the money we laid out for our Nepal trip (which obviously had to be cancelled) is not going to be reimbursed because it was an “act of God”……….seriously?  WHY do we have insurance; isn’t everything an ‘act of God” really?’.

Ah, but there I’ve got you in the wrong mood for this Sunday Morning. I’m so happy that, in the words of the ol’ Black lady of the 60’s “God don’t make no junk”….. and apparently neither does L.L. Bean!

Keep your Bean Boots Dry!

Marsha