Grandma Lily

Grandma Lily was perfect for all 6 of us PNG Howards.

She always opened her home and welcomed us with special touches. For son Reggie, the special touch was always the biggest available box of Wheat Chex. For daughter-in-law Susan, it was French Vanilla Creamer in the fridge.

For the kids, starting with Jodie, it was brand new pajamas, socks and so much more. 

When 3-year-old Icey was coming, she asked him over the phone, “what do you want when you get here?” His immediate answer was, “Grandma, I want a pet giraffe.” And rather than say, “that’s impossible” (like us parents did), [1] she sewed up the most beautiful stuffed giraffe a three-year-old could ever ask for. It was waiting on Isaiah’s bed when we arrived.

While we were away year-after-year across the Pacific Ocean, she often sent her love through personalized care packages. Oreo cookies (every new type that became available), M&M’s, Kool-Aid, and too much more to list here. One time she asked 3-year-old JJ, “what would you like me to send you?” he quickly answered, “Grandma, I want some snow.” And, rather than say, “that’s impossible” (like us parents did), she said “Ok, I will send you some snow.”[2] This brilliant grandma found a hand-cranked “snow cone” maker at the local store and sent it in the next care package. With ice cubes and a bit of cranking, JJ got his snow!

When Hada came the first time, grandma wrapped her arms around her and said, Welcome to the family, you are my 13th grandchild. You are most special.”

We miss mom/grandma so much, but our hearts and minds are full of precious, special memories that we wouldn’t trade for anything.

She is fully alive now; with her Living Savior, her parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, big brother, “bestie” Russ, and so many precious friends; singing, dancing, praising, and thanking their/our Glorious Father, our/their Lived-Died-Rose-again Savior, and myriads of saints and angels.


[1] This kid believed his grandma 100%, and we were sure he would be heart broken when he saw that grandma could not get him a pet giraffe.

[2] We hoped JJ would simply forget about this impossible promise, but…

Political Turmoil

By a local political analyst.

The year is 640BC. Judah is a small nation surrounded by three greedy superpowers. Assyria to the north, Babylon to the northeast, and Egypt to the south are in an on-going competition to acquire land and to tax foreigners, and to just outright bully people around.

The 10 tribes of Israel to the north were forcibly dragged away to Assyria 80 years ago and remain there as slaves (2 Kings 17:20). This leaves Judah exposed and extremely vulnerable, caught in the middle of these superpowers. Just a few years earlier, Assyria captured King Manasseh (who had been king for decades) and dragged him away in hooks and chains, bringing shame to the whole nation (2 Chronicles 33:11). Sometime later, Manasseh was allowed to return and rule again. But he was a crippled leader ruling a desperate nation. He served for a total of 55 years and upon his death his son Amon was crowned king.

Amon lasted only two short years. He was so evil that his own officials assassinated him inside the palace walls. This desperate deed cost them their own lives. Yes. His own trusted officials put him to death and they in turn were killed for treason.

Amon had no brothers to take over the throne. They had been killed by their father as sacrifices to the “protecting father,” the god Molech. (2 Chron. 33:16).

Talk about political turmoil!

This tiny nation, surrounded by superpowers, is torn by intrigue and assassination and now the only heir to the throne is an 8 year old boy!

Assyria

This is the superpower that defeated and destroyed the 10 tribes to the north some 82 years before. Josiah’s great-grandfather, Hezekiah, was king of Judah at that time. He paid a huge amount of money to the Assyrians to send them away happy. It was “more than eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold” (2 kings 18:14). But, this did not satisfy the hungry lion, Assyria wanted more and they turned to attack Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:17). But God caused 185,000 of their soldiers to die in their sleep (1 Kings 19:34-37) and the whole army ran back to Assyria to hide.

They did not stay away for long. They came back when Josiah’s grandfather, Manasseh, was king. They placed a hook through his nose and dragged him away in disgrace and placed him in prison. He cried to God and God was merciful to him. Somehow, Assyria allowed him to return to Jerusalem as king. But, the Assyrians were still around and creating fear and anxiety among the people of Judah.

Babylon

During the time of Hezekiah’s reign, an envoy from the north arrived in Jerusalem. Hezekiah welcomed them and showed them all the nation’s treasures, the gold, the silver, the weapons and everything. However, God was not impressed with this attitude and sent his servant, the prophet Isaiah, with a message. In 2 Kings 20:16, Isaiah prophesied that one day all these treasures will be looted and carried away to Babylon.

This was to happen during the reigns of Josiah’s sons and grandson,2 Kings 24: 8ff. Babylon at the time of Amon, and then Josiah, was one of the three superpowers and gathering momentum.

In just 11 years these fears will prove to be real when Judah and Jerusalem are attacked by Babylon and then finally falls to their army commander. Another 11 years later King Nebuchadnezzar will bring this Jewish nation to an end, never to be the same again. 2 Kings 24:10; 25:1ff.

Egypt

Egypt was the cunning fox from the south. They knew they could not defeat the other superpowers on their own, but, if Babylon and Assyria fought each other, and if smaller countries would join with Egypt, then Pharaoh could become the most powerful man in the world. This was his ambition.

Judah stood in-between Egypt and the two other superpowers, and they suffered at the cruel hands of all three. It was Egypt’s king, Pharaoh Neco, that fought against Josiah and Josiah was killed (2 Kings 23:29). Neco was simply passing through Judah in order to help Assyria fight against Babylon, but Josiah tried to stop him and lost his life in the process 2 Chron. 35:20-25.

Is there any hope for Judah’s future? The whole world is laughing and talking behind our backs.

Judah’s Location God gave the land of Canaan to the descendants of Abraham. This land is rich and fertile. It is also the place where the great continents meet. Africa, Asia, Europe meet at the land of Israel. It was God’s plan that they live at this centre-point so that all nations could learn about the true God and be blessed by Him (Gen. 12:1-3). However, because Israel constantly rejected their God, they have had enemies on all sides even up to today.

N.B. This book is available at all CBM bookshops in PNG, and anywhere in world the through eBook sellers.

Josiah – Chain Breaker, Dedication

This book is dedicated to a special man. Just as Josiah, the main character of the book, was taken so unexpectedly from his people, so also our dear friend and brother, Auwi Muki, was suddenly taken from us.

Auwi made great contributions to this book as a co-author [He is in the middle of this picture]. He was particularly interested in 1. The political turmoil, 2. The “Mount of Corruption,” and 3. The life lessons to be learned from Josiah.

The Lord chose to promote Auwi from earth to heaven before this book was printed.

We especially remember Auwi’s beloved wife, Martha, and his two special children, Stacey and Sefton. May the three of you experience courage, strength, and grace from the Lord each and every day.

This book is available at all CBM bookshops in PNG, and anywhere in the world through eBook sellers.

More posts will follow in the days to come, parts of the book will be quoted.

Josiah – Chain Breaker

This book was written by a team of authors. Well researched, it seeks to be accurate in the details, while also telling the Bible story in a creative and interesting way. It is an example of what is called “creative non-fiction.” The chapters are written from different voices or viewpoints. Our hope is that the powerful message of this Bible story will “come alive” and “grab you” in a most enjoyable way.

This book was not written in a normal manner. Most books are written by individuals working on their own. Instead, the five authors of this book chose, studied, planned, and wrote it together as a group project.

One reason they chose Josiah is because they were reminded of so many young people who are drifting aimlessly down dangerous and destructive paths. No one needs to do this. No one should! Life is good. Life is beautiful. And any person’s life becomes good and special when it is given to God.

Josiah is an outstanding example. Out of a horrible beginning [are you aware of this?], he serves as proof that the True and Living God loves people. He loves to take the injured, the disadvantaged, the battered and bruised and clean them up, restore their dignity and strength, and make them shine in all that is good and right. He is ready to do that for you.

The publisher, Christian Books Melanesia, has been promoting the development and training of PNG Christian authors. Each author of this book has benefitted by attending a CBM Writers’ Workshop. Then, they gathered at Wewak for a more advanced workshop. They chose to study and write about the life of Josiah, and this book is a result of their efforts.

It is available at all CBM bookshops in PNG, and anywhere in the world through eBook sellers. More posts will follow in the days to come, and parts of the book will be quoted.

The Aftermath


Perhaps you can relate. [i]

Do you feel battered and bruised? Perhaps splintered? Like you are dragging half of yourself behind you as you “will” the other half to slog forward? Do you feel smaller, weaker, clumsier, dumber, slower than you did 12 months ago? Out of 62 years of life, 2020 was easily my most difficult.

Many of us experienced irretrievable loss – death of family and friends.

Some of us suffered new physical difficulties: Losing two senses–taste and smell–for the first time ever, wondering if/when they might return.[ii] Also, aches and pains in the joints that last for months, and still not sure they are gone.

Then there are the inner battles, the mind, emotions, our inner “soul and spirit” battling discouragement, fatigue, doubts about ourselves and are abilities to cope going forward. Mental health issues are more real and immediate and consequential than perhaps we had seen before. Welcome to this side of life!

And the struggles are far from done. Battles rage on. So, calling this the “aftermath” is not so accurate. But we also need to trust, to believe, that we are moving toward the end of this storm.

Can I suggest that this is a good time to Hear Divine Words?

Quite the nice promise here:

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the LORD always, for the LORD GOD is the eternal Rock.” Isaiah 26:3-4 NLT.

Perhaps it is hard to picture solace or peace as a genuine possibility. Negative, debilitating thoughts have moved in and set up house. Dark questions, waves of doubt, have clamped down and are difficult to dispel. Mental fatigue has become the norm. What can be done?

If you haven’t learned this yet, it is time to learn it now: No human being can be healthy and well “in and of themselves.” We are not fashioned to be self-sufficient, to waltz happily “on our own.” Human beings are designed by our Masterful Creator to need one another and to need HIM. Dependance is not weakness. Needing others and being needed by them is the only way to thrive.[iii] It has taken me many decades to really see this.[iv] 

Jacob in the Bible is a case study on learning dependence. His encounter with God (Gen. 32) left him limping, but on the right trail.

Deity promises “perfect peace” to all who depend upon Him; to those who “fixate their thoughts” on Him.

Let’s encourage one another on this path and rejoice together with the results. “Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Phi. 4:6-7 NLT.

N.B. The picture is of the “farmers market” in our town of Wewak, Papua New Guinea. Come for a visit when travel opens up again!


[i] But aftermath is not the correct word here, because we are clearly still caught in the “math.”

[ii] If you don’t know what this is like, be thankful. Here you are, chewing your favorite food and “bang” the realization comes. You know what it should taste like, but your taste buds are mummified. The only sense left in your mouth is the sense of touch. Your tongue and cheeks can “feel” the food, but that is the only “enjoyment” you can grasp for. Texture and perhaps temperature is all you feel, meal after meal after meal.

[iii] In all the stories about Jesus, in the Bible he depended on other people to meet his needs for food, shelter, etc. See Luke 8:3.

[iv] There is a book with a strange sounding title that I would like to read but haven’t been able to afford it, the title is Jesus and John Wayne. It must deal with things like this.


.

That ????? 2020

2020 is a most inexplicable year for members of the human race. Neck deep fighting a world-wide killer. Hearts feeling fears, anxieties and questions – deeper and stronger and longer than ever experienced before. Many have lost loved ones without the closure that comes by being with near as they pass. No gathering for a funeral service. No burial. Human hearts are being bruised and battered – north, south, east and west. What do we do about our hearts?

We are mandated by our Creator to take care of our hearts. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Pro. 4:23 (NIV). Such a thing was neither natural nor intuitive with me. “My heart is to be crucified, not fed,” I said, “There is a great commission to fulfil, who cares how I’m doing on the inside!”[1]  So, over some decades I have learned a few things that I want to pass on about “guarding our hearts” during this difficult time.

1. Be honest with yourself. We talk to ourselves all the time, an inner monologue from morning to night. Listen in. Examine it. Look for half-truths, minor twists of reality, or even outright lies within your monologue. Many of us possess a negative bent that is not helpful to ourselves, and not honoring to our Creator and Lord. Time to clean up our inner monologues.

2. Feel what you need to feel. Don’t criticize yourself for how you feel. Hear that? Give yourself a break – a hundred breaks a day. Feelings are human, the mechanisms are built-in by our Creator Himself. They are a result of what is happening within and without. When we find ourselves down, down in the depths, feel it, but don’t take it out on yourself. Own it, but realize that it is temporary. You are not defined by, nor locked into these feelings.

3. Seek help. If you can’t physically be with the people you need, then pick up the phone, get them online, connect with them however you can. Connect with a trusted friend or family member or professional counselor or pastor. It is OK to bawl our heads off with someone on the other end. Do this when the occasion calls for it. But let this be a part of something bigger. Seek help for healing. Listen to ones you trust. Let them help you with your inner monologue. Let them correct your skewed assessment of yourself. Face the fact that you are loved. That some people might be willing to give their lives for you.

4. Let your heart lead you into the arena of the spirit. Feelings of loss, loathing, loneness, and despair might seem to come from the depths of your being. It indeed feels that way. But you are more than body and soul. Everyone is more than a body plus a soul. There is a core nature residing in us, deeper, stronger, and truer than our hearts or souls. Every human is a physical, social and spiritual being. This spirit creates a connection with the Spirit of spirits, the Creator Himself. Let the troubles warring within us lead us to HIM.

How can this happen? How can we “know” an Eternal, Invisible, Spiritual Being? Please consider these following 4 things.

1. He who made us is repeatedly summoning us to meaningful relationship with Himself. This may not make logical sense. It may go against what you have come to believe and how you feel. But perhaps your reading this far is part of His summoning you to come. Can you be open to take a few steps in His direction?

2. The Creator gave humans such great power and responsibility that from the beginning, the health and future of this universe was placed in our hands.  Yep. You read that right. God is a generous delegator. He created the living, breathing, growing masterpiece of our universe and handed over ownership and management to the first humans (Gen. 1,2). Those humans did the absolute worst thing [outright disobedience] and things went downhill from there. But don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

3. Every good thing you see, acts of kindness by yourself and others, acts of forgiveness, people like our health workers who serve above and beyond their occupation. The beauties of our natural world all around us, if we simply take an honest look. See these signposts showing us the original design of the Creator, and what is in His heart. He is a Being of love, imagination, beauty and generosity.  The deepest needs and longings of our hearts will find their answer in Him and His people, but how is this possible?

4. There is something in the Bible called “the mystery of the gospel”, “the mystery of Christ.” It is something everyone needs to hear and consider. If you know some Christians that you trust, please talk with them. Ask them to help you come to Christ. If you would like to respond to this post please feel free to do so. I can be reached directly at ReggieHowardAuthor@Gmail.com.  Let your heart lead you deeper, lead you to discover the Spirit side of life.

There is more to life than we have experienced yet. More to this life on earth that God has planned for us. During these difficult times, listen to your heart, search for the Spirit, come to connect with the True and Living God. I will close with a most popular greeting. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”[2]  


[1] This has been called “worm theology” (based on a misapplication of Ps. 22:6). It denies the effectiveness of Jesus’s death for today. It denies the Fatherhood of our heavenly Father. And it denies the cleansing, renewing and empowering work of God’s Spirit within.

[2] 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phi. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 2 The. 1:2

Brief Words on Mother’s Day

I once asked an adult Sunday School class, “What is the saddest verse in the Bible?” A dear lady, Lucia Schwartz, quickly gave her answer, “Mother, behold your son.” I had something else in mind, but nor could I argue with her choice. Can we spend a minute thinking about Jesus and his mother?

Thoughtful beyond compare

Mary had been told that because of Jesus, a “sword” would pierce her very soul (Luke 2:34-35). The fulfillment of this statement took place as she witnessed the horror of her perfect son beaten, dirty, bloody, naked, nailed to a cross reserved for the worst criminals.  What could cause more pain!

“Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister … and Mary Magdalene” (John 19:25). 

Jesus, in the midst of exhaustion and terrible pain (let alone the utter shame and humility of being in such a position), was able to think of the welfare of his dear mother.

When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.”  And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home (John 19:26-27).

This shows at least two things: 1, Jesus possessed a strength of character that is awesome to behold. 2, Love was/is an inescapable part of His being – Even the worst circumstances anyone has ever faced could not stop Him from displaying acts and words of love.[1]  What a Man!  What a Son!

Let’s honor mothers, all mothers, especially today. They deserve it every day.


[1] It also shows how he valued relationships over “ministry”. John’s apostolic ministry would be restricted by this responsibility of caring for his elderly “mother.” But Jesus, and his Father, places top priority on caring for others.  It was proper for Jesus to place his mother in the care of his closest, most trusted and understanding friend (some friends stick close than a brother).

Beyond Geo-Centrism

Time for a Paradigm shift

1. Pre-science and anti-science earthlings might argue over whether the earth was flat, or round, or something else; but they would be united in the idea that the earth is a fixed point and the sun is the moving object. The sun obviously comes up on one side of earth and goes down on the other side. So, the earth is a fixed point with all the celestial bodies moving accordingly. This is Geo-centrism.

Geo-centrism made sense. It was a convenient and obvious way to envision our universe. It makes us very important.

2. A scientist, Copernicus, after considerable study, and with considerable opposition, “blew-up” this misconception and turned it on its head. He replaced Geo-centrism with Helio-centrism (Helio = Sun).  Astronomy clearly showed that the earth is merely one planet, among several others, that rotates around the center of our “solar system”, our mighty sun!

This understanding makes us humans seem a bit smaller, but at least things remain orderly, and we have a solid, fixed point that our daily routines revolve around. Whew.

Helio-centrism made our planet rather less impressive, but still left us a very easy and convenient way to visualize the universe. Our mighty sun, who welcomes us every moring, is the fixed point, the centerpoint of physical existance.     

This was perhaps the biggest, most famous paradigm shift in science. The movement from Geo-centrism to Helio-centrism was so big that it shook up science, philosophy, religion, and worldviews all over the earth.

A Greater Shift

3. But this obviously isn’t the end of the story. Astronomers continued their research and it became obvious that the Sun is not the almighty, fixed point that we might want it to be. Nope. There is a whole galaxy of suns out there, with uncountable moving parts similar to our mediocre sun and solar system.

There is a whole lot of movement out there. And, our galaxy is just a mediocre galaxy among billions of other galaxies.

What has this knowledge done to us as human beings?

We moved from:

  1. Kings roaming the magnificent center of a Geo-Centric universe. To
  2. Nobles on a great planet orbiting the grand Center of the Helio-centric universe. To
  3. Tiny microbes, clamoring all over each other, on a tiny spec of a planet, orbiting a mediocre star, in the midst of a bland galaxy, moving aimlessly amidst billions of other expansive galaxies. We hang out in the non-nil-nada-centric, incalculable, never-ending “fallout” from a huge, big bang.

This is certainly not ego-building material.

Indeed. Astronomy is a very difficult field of scientific study to live with.

Science tells us about our world, our physical make-up, and the physical ways and laws of this universe. But this is a small part of what us humans really need.

It doesn’t calm our fears. Doesn’t unite our souls. Doesn’t show any future promise.

Science is great, but it doesn’t deal with the biggest issues of life. Why do we exist? Who are we in relation to everything else? How is it that we study and conceptualize so long and hard and yet come up with very different answers? Is it even possible to know what life is all about?

Consider some Ontology

We know within ourselves that certain things are true. Such as, Human life has worth. If a leader wants to sacrifice the life of 40,000 people in order to save 200,000, we want to exhaust every possible way to save all 240,000 lives. We do this when humans are involved, but not if it is ants or fish or camels. This is who we are. We know within ourselves that human life has great, intrinsic value.

We know (whether we admit it or not) that life, in some form or another, continues after the grave. Evidence for this is found in the debate above.

The necessary shift

4. Individuals, families, communities, regions and nations of the world need to move out of the  “non-nil-nada-centric” understanding of the universe into the actual universe. The universe created by the most creative, intelligent, powerful, magnificent Being in existence.

God is GOD

He must be the center, the foundation, the focus… of any paradigm, any understanding of life, the world, the universe, human existence, past, present, future, etc.. We can pretend to live life apart from God, but such actions are the efforts of ignorance (Ps. 14:1).

  • “He is the Creator of everything that exists.” Jer. 51:19.
  • He is everywhere throughout the universe. “’Can anyone hide from me…? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?’ Says the Lord.” Jer. 23:24.
  • He is active in earth’s affairs. “I am watching, and I will certainly carry out my plans.” Jer. 1:12; “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” Jer. 29:11.
  • He placed mankind as the center of the created universe, because we have a connection with God that nothing else has. “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign…”.  “’Yet my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols! The heavens are shocked at such a thing and shrink back in horror and dismay,’ says the Lord.” Jer. 2:11-12.

He is a personal being. He is a social being. He exists in dynamic relationship from eternity to eternity. He always has been and always will be magnanimous, loving, and true. He wants you and me and everyone willing to live in dynamic, daily relationship with HIM.

Live and grow and enjoy living every day the GOD centric universe!

Unkempt Bill

His name is Bill. He has wild hair, wears a T-shirt with holes in it, jeans, and no shoes. This was literally his wardrobe for his entire four years of university.

He is brilliant, kind of profound and very, very bright. He became a Christian while attending uni.

Across the street from the campus is a well-dressed, very conservative church. They want to develop a ministry to the students but are not sure how to go about it.

One day Bill decides to go there. He walks in with no shoes, wearing his jeans, T-shirt, and wild hair. The service has already started and so Bill starts down the aisle looking for a seat.

The church is completely packed and he can’t find a seat. By now, people are really looking a bit uncomfortable, but no one says anything.

Bill gets closer and closer and closer to the pulpit, and when he realizes there are no seats, he just squats down right on the carpet.

By now the people are really uptight, and the tension in the air is thick.

About this time, the minister realizes that from way at the back of the church, a deacon is slowly making his way toward Bill.

Now the deacon is in his eighties, has silver-gray hair, and a three-piece suit. A godly man, very elegant, very dignified, very courtly. He walks with a cane and, as he starts walking toward this boy, everyone is saying to themselves that you can’t blame him for what he’s going to do.

How can you expect a man of his age and of his background to understand some college kid on the floor?

It takes a long time for the man to reach the boy.

The church is utterly silent except for the clicking of the man’s cane.  All eyes are focused on him. You can’t even hear anyone breathing. The minister can’t even preach the sermon until the deacon does what he has to do.

And now they see this elderly man drop his cane on the floor. With great difficulty, he lowers himself and sits down next to Bill and worships with him so he won’t be alone.

Everyone chokes up with emotion. When the minister gains control, he says, “What I’m about to preach, you will never remember. What you have just seen, you will never forget.” Be careful how you live. You may be the only Bible some people will ever read!

Note: I think I collected this story from Facebook many years ago. I would gladly give credit to the author if I knew who it was. Hope you enjoyed it.