Don’t Monkey Around

On a recent trip to extend our visa, we went on an excursion of sorts.  On the way, our driver announced that we were going to stop and feed the monkeys.  Excuse me, what?, I thought.  You probably think that sounds like fun, right?  Well, please don’t imagine a zoo with cute chimps playfully swinging on vines, jumping around, and sticking out their tongues for laughs.   Nope. We’ve had experience.  These are free roaming and aggressive monkeys. Something more like Planet of the Apes.  They are completely unafraid of people and will grab your bag, your phone, or anything else they can get their hands on.  Why are we doing this again?, I wondered.

Pulling off the road, I immediately saw dozens of monkeys sitting on a fence and strolling around a parking lot.  An older man was there with a large bag of leaves.  He encouraged us to take some.  Okay, I’ll play along. Grabbing a big handful of leaves, I reasoned “They seem harmless enough.  How bad can it be?”  Suddenly, I was surrounded by swarming simians all screeching, jumping, and grabbing at the leaves.  I was shocked at how quickly things were out of my control, if I ever had control.  Before I knew it, I had a monkey on my back, one on my shoulder, and another one on my head!  They’re incredibly strong, and all of them were grabbing at the leaves in my hands. More and more monkeys came and gathered around us in a feeding frenzy.  Then, as soon as all the leaves were gone, they lost interest and scattered.  It ended almost as quickly as it had begun.  Well that was fun and terrifying, I thought.

Thinking about it later, I realized I had learned a powerful lesson.  Like those monkeys, sin can seem harmless and fun.  We convince ourselves it’s not a problem.  We’re in control.  Until we realize we’re not and perhaps never were.  Before we even know how it happened, we discover we’ve got a “monkey” on our back, on our shoulder, or on our head!  

The experience brought to mind a verse of scripture:    

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”  Galatians 6:7-8 NKJV

So, the moral of the story?:  If you don’t want a monkey on your back, don’t feed the monkeys!   

Apply where needed.


Peppermint Projectiles

What’s all that racket? It sounded like a new family had moved in upstairs, a family that had lots of kids…, or dogs…, or both!  I envisioned several playful children running back and forth chasing their adorable new puppy.  Suddenly, my illusions were shattered when I realized we weren’t hearing puppies and children at all.  We were hearing rats!  Not just any rats, these were Rodents of Unusual Size!*  Night after night we heard them romping around back and forth above us. At one point, they were so loud, I thought they would crash through the ceiling, or pop their heads out of a light fixture and say ‘Hello!’  This had to stop.  It was time to call the building manager.

He arrived the next day with several small cloths and a bottle of peppermint oil.  He then began to unscrew the ceiling light fixtures and toss the oil soaked cloths up into the attic like little bombs of freshness.  What’s this strange ritual?, I thought.  Where’s the traps?  Where’s the poison? Do you have anything stronger than peppermint projectiles?  He told us that the rats don’t like the smell of peppermint and so they should be gone in a couple of days.  Really?, I wondered, how could something so refreshing to most, be so repelling to rats?

The incident reminded me of this passage of scripture: “Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?”  2 Corinthians 2:15-16 NLT

Who is adequate indeed?  So, I had to ask myself:  As I go about my day, whether at home or out, does the fragrance of Christ emanate from me?  Am I a breath of fresh air to those I meet and talk with?  Am I living in faith, hope, and love?  Or, does the stench of selfishness, cynicism, or pride swirl about me? Hmmm…  

As followers of Christ, we cannot always control how others may respond to us, that’s true.  And, there are simply times when we blow it and say or do something that’s a lot less than Christlike. (uh-oh, there’s that stench seeping out again!)  It happens to all of us.  But I’m encouraged when I  remember:  

 “Great is his faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.”  Lamentations 3:23 NLT

Oh, and in case you’re wondering… the peppermint oil did seem to work, strangely enough.  So, if you ever have rats in your attic, try tossing a few Altoids up in there.  🙂


A Blessed Existence

It was a peculiar email.  Not so much the request it contained, but the closing.  She wrote, “I’m so blessed by your existence”. That’s odd, I thought. I don’t think anyone has ever told me that before. Living in this part of the world, we’re used to things not translating exactly into English. She probably meant “I’m glad you’re here”, or “I’m glad you’re in my life”.  Still, there was something about it that I couldn’t stop thinking about.

In the classic Christmas movie ” It’s a Wonderful Life” (you probably know the story) George Bailey has hit hard times and thinks it would be better if he never existed at all. But, over the course of the movie, an angel shows him how many lives he’s touched and what a real difference he has made in his community. 

Maybe you’re wondering the same thing, if who you are and what you do matters to anyone at all?  Yes!  The Bible tells us we were created in the image of God Himself (Genesis 9:6). That means every human being has innate value as an image bearer of God without doing anything at all.  In addition, may I tell you that you have made a difference in our life personally and in the kingdom of God. 

If you have ever taken the time to read our little blogs, sent an encouraging word or prayed for us, you’ve made a difference!  Many of you have raised funds, colored pages, given generously and supported us in so many other ways.  You have made a difference. You have enabled us to do what we do. 

Because of you, there’s people on the other side of the world who have heard the Good news, who have been encouraged in their faith, have received treatment for addiction, or training for a new vocation.  There are folks on a faraway mountain who have a new community learning center, their leaders are being trained in oral Bible teaching, the children in the village have new warm winter coats and hopefully soon, a new well will bring fresh, flowing water to their village.. 

Yes, you are valuable and have made such a difference in the lives of so many.  Please accept our humble thanks. 

Oh, and just in case no one has ever told you this, let us be the first to say… “We are so blessed by your existence”!  

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you”  Philippians 1:3 NKJV


What’s the Hold Up?

My alarm went off at 4am for an early morning flight to Saigon. No time for coffee, I just wanted to get on the plane, sink into my seat, and close my eyes. I was in no mood for delays. 

At the airport, I was annoyed that we had to get on a bus that would take us across the tarmac to our plane. Crammed in like sardines, it was standing room only.  Finally, the bus stopped, but the doors didn’t open. Then, our driver got out of the bus. Where is he going?  Is he asking directions?  What’s the hold up? I continued to complain to myself as we waited and waited. I suspected that we were waiting for some VIP to get on board before the rest of us underlings.  I began to get more and more resentful of this individual, whoever they were.  After several minutes, the doors finally opened and we burst out of the bus. I never did see the person we were waiting for.  

We finally made it to our seats. That’s when I noticed a wheelchair being rolled away. Suddenly, I was ashamed of myself.  I wondered, had we been waiting for someone who needed a little extra assistance to board?  Someone with a handicap of some sort?  Hmmmm…I hadn’t considered that before.  I had only been thinking of myself.

Like my impatience to board my flight, I sometimes get impatient waiting for the Lord’s return. What’s the hold up?  How much longer do we have to endure this turmoil? Get me out of here!  There are days that I just want peace and rest. I’m ready for the heartache and struggle to be over.  Ever feel that way?  We must remember:

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  2 Peter 3:9 NKJV 

Every person is a VIP to Christ. The Lord was patient with me as I finally got to the end of myself and turned to Him.  If He is not willing that any should perish, then we should not be willing for any to perish.  

Who are you praying for, waiting for, to come to faith in Christ?  Reach out to them again.  Maybe they just need a little extra assistance to get on board. 


The 3 Chopsticks

While washing my dishes recently, I noticed three chopsticks sticking out conspicuously amongst the other tools in my utensil caddy.  Why do I have just 3 chopsticks?, I wondered.   What am I supposed to do with that?  A pair, and a spare?  Where is the 4th stick?

I thought of the joke that Jerry Seinfeld used to tell about chopsticks and the people that use them.  He would say, “They’ve seen the fork, but they’re staying with the sticks”.  It’s a great joke, but I’d like to come to the defense of this ancient and often scorned utensil.  

Consider this: The graceful motion of two slender chopsticks picking up one morsel of food at a time can be quite elegant.  Eating this way slows everything down, aids our digestion, and enhances conversation around the table.  Acting as an extension of our fingers, eating becomes more deliberate as we choose each bite, somehow increasing our appreciation of the meal. On the contrary, stabbing our food with a fork seems so barbaric, doesn’t it?  And the way some people scoop up their food using a spoon like it’s a shovel is quite unbecoming.

As with everything, there are exceptions.  For instance, if a person is using chopsticks to slurp noodles from a bowl, although common, it is an audio/visual assault and possibly hazardous to those sitting nearby.  In addition, I don’t recommend eating Jell-O with chopsticks.  I’ve tried that and it didn’t end well.   Of course, I’m just having fun with all this.  Thank you for indulging me.  Now here’s what I’m pondering: 

When followers of Christ join together, like those two chopsticks, they can become a very effective instrument in His hand.  Working in tandem, doing His will, His way, it’s a beautiful thing.  Yes, we can still accomplish things by working alone.  But, like trying to stab a noodle with one chopstick, isn’t it easier to put two together? 

“Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor.” Ecclesiastes 4:9 NKJV

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1 NIV


Discern the Concern

There it was, staring me down like a defiant toddler.  Stubborn.  Ungoverned.  Refusing to yield, or go along with the others.  This was concerning.   What should I do about it?, I wondered.  What is this anomaly?  What does it mean?  Do I have a nutritional deficiency?  Am I suffering from a hormonal imbalance?  These were my thoughts as I discovered the singular silver-gray hair in my right eyebrow. I’d better do some research. 

After scanning the internet (aka “research”), I was able to make a confident diagnosis…Aging.  I hadn’t considered that.  Admittedly, I will soon be entering into a new decade of life, but it never dawned on me that this was a normal occurrence.  I suppose any clear thinking person understands gray hair is a normal part of aging.  But an eyebrow?  Really?  Laugh if you will.  

I thought of what Jesus said to the Pharisees when they were asking Him to show them a sign. He said,  “Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.” Matthew 16:3b (NKJV)   They could look up at the sky and see that rain was coming, yet they couldn’t discern that Jesus was the Messiah and He was standing right in front of them!  His coming had been prophesied numerous times in scripture.  They were well acquainted with the scriptures.  They should have known.  Why couldn’t they see and understand the obvious?  Maybe for the same reason that I couldn’t see and understand the obvious about my gray eyebrow – I didn’t want to.  Hmmm….

When we look at the things happening around the world today, it is concerning.  And, we must be discerning.  I don’t want to miss what’s right in front of me. 

“Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV


“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:16 NKJV



We’ve been invaded by micro ants.  They are everywhere – counters, walls, floors, tables, chairs, and even our vinyl sofa.  When you don’t see them crawling on you, you still feel them crawling on you and they bite!  It’s maddening!  I feel no remorse as I spray them with the cleaning product that kills them instantly.  After all, this is war.

Their latest quest is my bottle of honey (the one shaped like a bear).  To protect it, I’ve put it in a bowl filled with water. The golden bear stands tall and secure surrounded by a moat that the ants can’t swim.  But, they don’t give up.  They swarm the sides of the bowl around and around and around in a frenzy.  Some dare to dive in believing they will be the heroes to reach the honey and defeat me once again.  Instead, they end up floating lifelessly in the water.  Silly little ants.  Occasionally, I empty the dish of their tiny carcasses and refill the water victoriously. Like I said, this is war.

Thinking about my ant-imosity, I wondered, Why did God even create them?  So, I did the scholarly thing. I “Googled” it.  Apparently they aerate the soil, carry seeds, pollinate plants, and help decompose other living things.  Blah, blah, blah. Here’s the thing, there’s no forest, soil, seeds, or things to decompose in my apartment (well, not yet).   In fairness to the ants, they’re just looking for food.  They don’t know the difference between a forest and my apartment. I get it.  But, they’re barking up the wrong tree, as it were, and they’re going to get wiped out, I guarantee.

King Solomon wrote about ants in scripture* teaching us that they are wise, diligent little creatures.  I agree.  They are definitely clever and no one could ever accuse them of being lazy.  They never stop night or day.

That is what got me thinking.  It seems like there is a lot of people like that. They scurry around from thing to thing in a frenzy trying to reach the proverbial golden nectar and may even drown trying to get it.  For what?  Hmmm…

In the Book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon describes his own pursuit to find meaning and satisfaction from various things in the world – wisdom, riches, unbridled pleasure, partying, hard work, higher education, and great accomplishments amongst other things.  In the end, he concludes that without a relationship with God, none of it has value.  It all gets wiped out.  Just like the ants circling my honey bottle.  

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” 

Mark 8:36-37 NKJV

*Proverbs 30:25 and Proverbs 6:6


Prop Plane to Paradise

The airport bus drove us along the tarmac. How far are we going?  Where in the world is our plane?  The bus finally stopped.  Looking around, we saw it.  Hidden behind the larger jet planes, was a little propeller plane.  I noticed there was no airline name or markings on it at all.  Just a bad purple paint job. Hmmm…This is going to be an Indiana Jones experience I can see.  We climbed the rickety stairs to board the plane and squeezed into our seats.  Ok, let’s go!

Flying in, we hugged the mountains on one side and vast rice fields on the other. The sea of green was a stark contrast to the smoggy gray city we had just left. Looking down, the “runway” looked no bigger than a one-way street. Ha! We’re going to land on that?  As the wheels touched down, I noticed a guy in a lawn chair with a beach umbrella sitting right next to the runway. Hmmm…curious spectator? Or, is that the traffic control “tower”?  Coming to a stop, the Pilot thanked us for flying and mentioned something about thanking Moscow for the plane.  Excuse me, what? 

An eager taxi driver grabbed our bags and we headed to the hotel.  Looking around, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful landscape.  So green and lush.  Seemingly idyllic, yet you will not find quaint cafes or beautiful hotels here.  There’s no Starbucks and there are no influencers promoting this on Instagram as the latest must see, must selfie location.  No, this part of the world is remote and seems forgotten altogether.  But I know better. 

Later on, we learned that some of the big problems in the area aren’t lack of jobs, lack of food, lack of education, or poverty.  No. It’s alcohol and drug addiction.  Honestly, I wasn’t expecting that.  I primarily associate those problems with the inner city.   Yet, here we were, in a place where there should be organic farms and eco lodges only to realize that the people here are struggling with the same issues as the “developed world”.  How is that?  Why is that?   

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Even in the Garden of Eden, the most perfect environment ever created,  sin entered.  Truly, no people, no location, no matter how remote or seemingly idyllic, is exempt. It doesn’t matter where you live, what you look like, or what your socio-economic status may be, sin is universal to us all.    And, whether on a remote mountain or in downtown LA, the struggle with alcoholism and drug addiction seems to be everywhere.  

As followers of Christ, we should never take for granted that those around us are fine.  They may not be.  Don’t take for granted that they know there is a God Who sees them, sees their struggles, and loves them.  They may not.  So, with a heart of compassion, let’s go and tell them that although there is a universal problem (sin), there is a universal solution – that is Jesus Christ.   

Many people know and can quote John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”.NKJV)  Not as many know the verse that follows:

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  John 3:17 NKJV

Now that’s Good News!



Visiting a friend recently,  she mentioned that their apartment building has a silent smoke alarm. Apparently, they don’t want to upset the tenants. Excuse me?  Isn’t the point of an alarm, to alarm you?  Or, at least, startle you?  She went on to tell me that one evening there was a gentle knock on their door. It was the security guard for the building inquiring to see if they had a fire.  That’s odd, I thought.  If there was a fire, is a gentle knock the best approach?  What if they were incapacitated and couldn’t get to the door?  Would the security guard have just walked away?  Thankfully my friend was able to answer the door.  She was embarrassed, but relieved, to discover it was merely her “high spirited” cooking that had triggered the alarm.   

Laughing about it later, it occurred to me that as followers of Christ, we also have a silent alarm system of sorts. That is, the Holy Spirit.  The Bible describes Him as our Counselor, our Comforter, and our Guide.   He convicts us of wrongdoing. Not to condemn, for we know there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)  Rather, He desires to protect, direct, and to guide us to repentance.  He may tug on our heart with that still small Voice that says “Hey, you need to change course”, “You probably shouldn’t go there”; or, “That’s not a good idea, there’s no wisdom in that”.  

The Holy Spirit knocks gently, but persistently, and He doesn’t walk away, even if we are slow to respond.  We have His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:8) 

Of course, we can ignore the gentle knock.  We can wait until we are choking on the smoke of our own folly and hear the sirens blaring, but why wait?

“For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice:  “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness.” 

Psalm 95:7-9 NKJV    

Oh Lord, help us to hear Your Voice and follow.  Baaaaaaa!


The Huntsman

He walked through the door of the shop unnoticed by most,  but I saw him.  What is he doing here? I wondered.  Quickly, he began walking straight toward me. What are you doing?, I thought.  I don’t want any trouble here.  His beady eyes met mine and he paused briefly as if to determine his next move.  It was impossible not to notice his long, hairy legs, as he continued to stride proudly through the shop.  Clearly, he didn’t belong here.  Who was this ominous stranger?  Ha! He was a massive Huntsman spider measuring at least five or six inches across.  Frightening to be sure.  I kept my eye on him, making sure he didn’t make any sudden moves.  Yes, they make sudden moves.  They don’t just crawl, they run, and incredibly fast.  Some even say they jump.  Definitely not Charlotte, from Charlotte’s Web. He is called Huntsman for a reason.  True, he doesn’t normally go after people, preferring to hunt cockroaches.  But, they do have venom and they can bite if provoked.  That’s why I kept my eye on him.  Finally, he made his way out of sight and under a plant stand.  Threat averted, for now. 

I paid my bill and left the shop.  Walking outside, I was promptly bitten by three mosquitoes.  Tiny, little, annoying, mosquitoes.  The kind you barely see and rarely feel landing on you.  As the bites on my arm began to redden and swell, I began pondering…

Isn’t that just the way of it?  As a follower of Christ, I realized it’s usually not the big things, but more often than not, it’s the little things that trip us up and cause us to fall.  Here’s what I mean.  I may feel pretty good about myself that I haven’t murdered anyone, but have I despised someone in my heart?  Jesus taught on this in Matthew 5:21-22.  He went on to teach about adultery in the same manner (Matthew 5:27-28).  Little compromises.  The things we can’t always see in ourselves and rarely feel as they bite us.   It all begins in the heart.    

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

Proverbs 4:23 NLT