has it really been eleven years since Australia!?

Dr. & Mum Matzko hosted an Australia Team Reunion. Has it really been eleven years!? It's a fellowship with simple barby and fresh veggies/fruit, continuous cricket induction, and testimonies--reflections from years gone by/advice to this year's team.

But it got me thinking, and you know how you can only say a few things & your brain doesn't quite pull it all together? (I've been using the young mom excuse a little too frequently these days...) But I have to trust God knew what I needed to say then b/c he better knows the people on this year's team than I. But ... it got me thinking, so I thought I'd post a reflections journal-type blog, just to share the memories in my heart.

Some of what I said:

Australia broadened my experiential understanding of how big our God is. You know He's God everywhere, at least in your head, but one of the sweetest moments I remember from my time was just an ordinary Wednesday night prayer meeting at Bro. Tracy & Sis. Debbi Minnick's church. I'm sitting in a circle of ladies and I remember praying and listening to these dear sisters in Christ talk to Him--that God Who they knew as I, that God Who was and is so personal. Unhampered by time zones and cultural differences, He is their Friend & Father too. I just remember it really striking me, like the truth I knew that God is God everywhere became alive! It may sound trite, but it was powerful in my heart.

One of things I remember was the lack of facial reaction as I spoke. As a special ed major, though very green at the time, I staked everything on response. Just like I was determined to know my students understand my lessons, I was determined those in the churches I got to share my testimony at understood what I was saying. When I didn't get any visible feedback, I'd reword or repeat what I said, hoping for a better ... or at least some response. I remember Dad Matzko challenging me just to say what I planned to say and trust that they get it. As I've reflected on it over the years and had some recent speaking opportunities, I've realized that it's ultimately trusting God. He puts the words on my heart and promises to work through me, but it's His work, not mine. It doesn't matter how many times I say it, how loud I say it, or what further illustration I implement. He is the one speaking and making those who will understand, to understand. Okay, I won't keep going on trying to make sure I expressed this clearly. I think you get my point.

And the last thing I said was how just having been to Australia binds us together. There are multiple others from years different from my own that over the years I've intersected with, and that bond is there. It's special. And wonderful. And I'm so thankful for it.

Some of what I didn't say but could have:

Even as I shut my mouth and sat back down, I had thoughts flooding back in. There's so much more I could've said. I could sit down & share for hours with these college students the experiences and lessons, sip on a cuppa tea. Not that their experiences would be the same, but it'd be so much fun. In fact I did sit with some former team members (Becca Martin, a fellow SpEducator, and Katie Diachenko, a former neighbor and on her way back to Australia with her family) and we caught up.

Tonight I shared with my kids part of my story. They loved it!

  • We talked about the trip over--how our team leaders missed their flight connection winding me & team member Chris Hartfelder in Tokyo on our own; 
  • we talked about what Religious Education is--how it works first-come, first-serve: so if a true believer signs up first, they get to teach for however long they're willing to, but if a Catholic gets their first, or another group, it's all the same to them (at least this is how it was as I remember; not sure if it's still this way, but); it's just religion to them; they don't get that there's only one way to heaven, through faith in Christ alone, no other name, and by grace alone, no works of my own. 
  • Then I reminded them of not calling cinnamon-sugar biscuits (cookies) "snickerdoodles": "snickerdoodles" are what doggies leave in the yard. Oops, my bad. 

One of the girls from another team said "you learn more the longer it's been." And I think she may actually be right. I'm thinking I learned a lot about culture. I know, for one, imitating the Aussie accent (attempting to), doesn't really gain you ground with an Australian. (No, I didn't try this, but a teammate did.) They want you to be yourself, even if that means American. They want to trust you explicitly, and where we were that included leaving the makeup off.

From the outset, I requested to stay in the homes of missionaries/pastors for a week at a time so I could see how their families worked. Sure, I missed out on some of the tourist attractions down South, but I did get my purpose fulfilled. I saw normal families living day-to-day, working together as a team, surviving, fixing meals, doing school, playing games, loving one another, and learning as they went. I saw them getting up early to spend quiet time with God. I saw them prepping for SS lessons and RE classes. I listened to them pour out their hearts for their children. I played with their children, went on walks, talked with them. And they included me. I learned that missionary biographies often highlight the mountain tops and leave out the long narrow climbing stretches in between (maybe with the exception of Isobel Kuhn, whose books I love). They were real. And my heart was nit to theirs. I saw missions as something I could do, by the grace of God, not something elite or romantic.

This is really only a sampling, but these are some of the thoughts that have gone through my head today, chanelled through my heart and leaving it very thankful and reminding it to pray more often for my fellow believers who are serving our great God in "the land down under."



Proverbs 5

My seven-year-old leaned over to me one Sunday night during the sermon and asked, "What is 'sexual immorality'?" (Eek!) You know they're going to ask one of these days, but you really hope it's not today. But since it was during the sermon, I said, simply, "We can talk about it later." I didn't bring it up on the way home. And I was a bit relieved he didn't either. He'll know soon enough.

Perhaps I've been avoiding this post too. Proverbs 5 includes some "sensitive" topics. As a parent or early elementary teacher, the question crosses your mind, "It's Scripture, should we avoid that?" There are for sure ones who would answer that question in a variety of different ways (probably very emphatic about their position too). My preference at this point is to boil it down to the principle and acknowledge that we'll get there soon enough.

Here are a few key points re: discernment:
  • "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable...." -- unquestionably.
  • Yet -- just as unquestionably -- God expects us to use discernment. Not only for our own lives but also on behalf of our children as they learn discernment.
  • There are respectful ways to deal with sensitive topics.
  • There are appropriate places and times for such discussions.
  • There are things we do not need to have the answer to just because the question came into our mind, or that we do not need to know "now" just because the question "just now" came into our mind. (Thanks for introducing this South African-ism to our family. See December WFM post to understand.)
  • Scripture contains a wide array of genres and material. There are some passages that read much like news reports that you would most certainly mute or change the channel on if it were to be being broadcast across tonight's television screen (think Judges where every one did what was right in their own eyes).
  • Children mature at different rates. You know your child, or at least are striving to, and God will give you a sense of what he or she is ready to deal with.
  • Historically, some Jewish communities did not permit the guys to read Song of Solomon until their bar mitzvah; some, not until they were thirty or had gotten married. So, in keeping with our historic, Judaic religious heritage, we're in good company if we choose to carefully address these specific passages.
Proverbs 5 starts out with the instruction for a son to listen to his father, interestingly to learn discretion from his father: "My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge." Right here, even within this text, we see a parent being the introducer of sensitive topics to his young person.

That he says, "that your lips may guard knowledge" even says to me that it was important to this dad how his son talked about these things. We deceive ourselves if we think lewd speech is only typical of today's generation.

But he then plays off the words "lips" and starts discussing what he calls "a forbidden woman." "For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edge sword. Her feet go down to death... listen to me... keep your ways far from her." 

It's important for our kids, however young, to know that certain things are "forbidden." The whole story of Scripture started with forbidden fruit, after all. But it's also important for them to get that those things are not forbidden to keep something pleasurable away from them; they're forbidden to protect them from what will be harmful to them.

As I let this passage marinade in my brain, I thought of God's power to redeem such a forbidden woman, and I thought of the honey and the oil and the bitter taste of vinegar (in place of wormwood). And I thought of a marinade my mom taught me for London Broil that illustrates these ingredients being blended together (with garlic and soy sauce) and redeemed for something delicious, similar to this recipe for Flank Steak. I love edible illustrations for biblical truths. Anyway.... 

So the first two-thirds of the passage deals with the forbidden woman, and the first half of the final third delectably describes the what's worth waiting for before finishing up with the "Why would you want anything else!?" challenge. 

You may choose to insert other words, or summarize a verse here and there like this family. But the point is: a godly marriage is a beautiful thing and it's good for Mommy & Daddy to enjoy each other. (Insert children saying "Ew!" and turning away as you kiss, peeking, "Are they done yet!?")

In summary: 
  • There are things that God forbids ... for your good. (Keep far away!)
  • There are things that God gives for you to fully enjoy, at the right time. (Why would you want anything else!?)
  • God is always watching, so choose wisely.
  • Enjoy your London Broil & your discussion. 

Grace & peace,
with love,