Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Finding the Restaurant

One day this last week, I was sitting with the grandkids looking through an old photo album. Soon we came across a picture of their parents (son Nathan and wife Kylie) sitting and smiling, at what appeared to be a Japanese Restaurant.  When they asked about it, I laughed and told them the story that goes with it..

It began when Nathan was about six years old. Along with his older brother, Trevor, we were vacationing in the beautiful mountains west of Tokyo.  We came across a particularly lovely hotel/restaurant about 5 miles across the lake from where we spent many a memorable summer, and even much later, two whole years leading up to and during the 1998 Winter Olympics. But back to the story.  We ordered breakfast and I said with a sigh of contentment,

“Ah, boys, someday you’ll bring your brides here!”

That’s when I realised the underlying stress my little Nathan was under.  He was the only foreigner in the Japanese school near our home, and I realize now that being bilingual and having lots of friends wasn’t enough to give him true “local” status. Instead of smiling along with his brother at this acknowledgment of impending maturity, where he’d have a bride to show around, he dropped his head into his hands and, looking up to us, cried, “I don’t know how to get here!”

I had to laugh when I read from John 14 this morning. Jesus had just pronounced some of the most comforting words in the Bible. “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, I would have told you. And if I go to prepare a place, I will come back and take you to be with me ….. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Dear Thomas speaks up in a future echo of Nathan’s own fears: “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5-6)

I’m going to guess here that Thomas was also carrying a heavy load of anxiety.  Just read back a few chapters and it’s not hard to imagine. Maybe Thomas’s fragile heart wasn’t too evident until he made this comment.  Fortunately, his fears were put to rest; and I’m happy to add that Nathan also experienced a happy ending.

Twenty years after that fretful time, Nathan was able, without anything more than a sturdy car and a GPS, to bring his bride back to that lovely restaurant, a personal fulfilment of my prophecy.

We live in uncertain times, that’s for sure.  When we do decide to watch or read the news, we don’t feel better.  We feel lost.  We feel unable to figure out how we’re going to find that celebratory restaurant or that elusive dream or that pathway to peace…….. But we can rest in the promise that Jesus HAS gone before us and prepared a place for us, and we WILL know how to get there when the time is right.

This morning we attended the dedication of our littlest grandchild, Jeremiah Nathan.  Of course it couldn’t have been any sweeter than to see two parents, aunt, uncle, cousins and four grandparents all together with the church, praying that this precious baby will know a life of peace and joy, purpose and fulfilment. We hope that Jeremiah will never experience stress, but when he does, we know that he will never be far from the One Who gave him life, and a great family and an even greater future.

Bless all of us and give us courage,

Marsha

Surprises in the Snow

Last week I talked about three great men who impacted our lives for the good: Steve Metcalf, Eric Liddell and David Hayman. This morning, just for a break, I’d like to tell you, as that late great news commentator Paul Harvey used to say, ‘The Rest of the Story’ about Steve. Tony and I had heard this story a number of times back when we knew and often worked together with the Metcalfs, but we still shake our heads in wonder.

After being released from the POW camp in China and being reunited briefly with his family, Steve went to Japan in 1952 to be a missionary.  This was to the people he had hated so much from his wartime internment camp, but thanks to his friend and fellow prisoner Eric Liddell, had learned how to forgive.  He was single, and so attacked Japanese language school with a fervor given to those who were not encumbered with family.

I look back on my own language school experience, and it still makes me tired!  We had a family, and we found that learning what one 16th century Jesuit missionary called “the devil’s language” was a real strain.  We attended a Catholic language institute, which by Tokyo standards, was an ‘easy commute’ of only 90 minutes each way, and I remember leaving school every day, envying the priests and nuns who could go home to a prepared meal and a quiet contemplative evening.  Of course, the evening for them continued in Japanese, since it was the only common language for these folks who had come from all over the world, and it was no surprise to discover that they learned their lessons much faster than I did.

But back to Steve, he was single, as I said, and with all the distractions of language and culture learning, wasn’t all that interested in the opposite sex; that is, until he met Evelyn.  She was an Irish redhead who was 100% dedicated to her ministry.  She was a couple of years behind Steve in school, and for the most part wouldn’t give him the time of day in any language.  Steve tried writing her a couple of times, but was rewarded with a reply absolutely devoid of compassion saying firmly that he was barking up the wrong tree.

As is often the case with ‘forbidden’ things, the more he thought about her, the more he felt that she was the one.  But now he was scared. So scared that one day, when traveling in the North of Japan with two other missionaries, he chose to suffer rather than be brave. It began to snow, as it only can in Northern Japan, and finally the train was overwhelmed and stopped.  This was not uncommon, but in this case especially awkward, since the only refuge in this particular little village was the home that served as mission headquarters ……… and where Evelyn herself lived. It had been 4 months since she told him to take a hike and he hadn’t seen or heard from her since.

When they arrived at headquarters, Steve, in an act of self-preservation, chose to sit out on the front porch in the blizzard, rather than risk being discovered and accused of making the weather get bad enough to stop the train. As he sat shivering, the door opened with a bang, and out popped Evelyn, obviously intent on some errand as she pulled her collar around her ears. Then she whirled around to see him and stopped dead in her tracks with what can only be described as a look of horror. While Steve was looking for a place to duck for cover, she said in a loud, accusatory voice, “We have to talk!”

Meekly, he followed her into a warm dry room, and as he prepared himself for another final rebuttal, she said, “I guess I need to have a word with you.”  She went on to explain, even though Steve already knew the words to this story, but listened patiently while she reminded him that she was committed to God and needed to concentrate, etc. And then she continued, “Today, as I was praying, I had a picture of your face and, no matter what, I couldn’t get you out of my mind.  In the end, I told God that if He wanted me to marry you, I would need a sign ……. He would have to bring you here to this house …. this very morning!”  And, the rest is history.

Isn’t it amazing when sometimes God just does things?  Steve and Evelyn married soon after that encounter. As a couple, they went on to accomplish a world of great things for God amongst the Japanese. They had five children and were happily married for 57 years before he went to be with the Lord in 2014.

God has blessed us with great friends, with great stories to inspire us, and at every turn in the road reminding us that a life given to Him is the greatest, most productive and rewarding life we will ever know. In our case, it didn’t take a snowstorm to get Tony & Marsha, Inc going, but we can add our “amen” along with folks like Steve and Evelyn, who never underestimate the power of prayer.

I believe Steve mentioned on one occasion that his favorite Bible verse was James 5:16, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

Gotta work on that. Join me, will you?

Marsha

Pressed, Shaken and Running Over

With all that’s been going on the last few weeks, it’s amazing that I’ve had the time to read a book, but I think it’s been therapeutic. Especially the one I just finished; it’s called, “In Japan, the Crickets Cry”, and it was written by a friend and fellow missionary, Stephen Metcalf. If I could pull out the “takeaway” from the book in one sentence, it would simply be this: “Stuff happens to us all, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t there”. “Crickets Cry” is the story of three men. Two of them we had the privilege of working with in Japan, and all three are very definitely “Heroes of the Faith”.  Their names were Steve Metcalf (the author), Eric Liddell and David Hayman.  Steve and Eric were incarcerated together in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in China. David came along much later in Japan as a friend and collaborator. All three of these men are now in Glory.

Steve was a school boy of missionary parents, living and working in the remote town of Taku, deep in the mountains of China. His grandfather had gone there in 1906, and two generations later, Steve was born.  According to missionary policy, children of school age were sent to boarding school; so in 1934, 6-year-old Steve said goodbye to his village friends and was taken 2000 miles (and a week’s journey) from his home to a mission school in the city of Chefoo. There, he joined his older sister, who had been there a couple of years already.

Three short years later, the Japanese invaded, took over the school and ‘captured’ all the inhabitants, about 120 in all.  Many nearby expatriates were added, increasing the number to over 400.

At the beginning, things hardly changed, and the Japanese were considerate and polite, allowing them to hold school and worship as usual. But then, as the war drug on, things became more like a prison. The Japanese began to restrict activities and enforced the rules with increasing brutality.  Provisions began to run low, and life became more and more intolerable.

By1945, Steve was about 16 and was doing his best to keep morale high amongst his fellow prisoners, especially in the area of their faith in God. One day an older man named Eric approached him and said, “I hear you’re one of the youth leaders, and also a runner. But I’ve also noticed that you’re running barefoot.  If you can use them, I’ve got an old pair of sneakers you can have.” The two became friends. Eric led a Bible study, and Steve came along.

If you’ve figured it out by now, Eric was Eric Liddell, the great Scottish runner who swept the 1924 Olympics. He was known back home as “The Flying Scotsman”.  If you saw the movie, “Chariots of Fire”, you’ll remember how he refused to run his allotted 100-meter race because it was to be held on a Sunday. After much discussion, including a face-to-face encounter with the Prince of Wales, Eric was switched to the more grueling 400-meter race. He won it handily, but I don’t want to give any more spoiler alerts. It’s a great movie.

One part I remember especially is the “argument” Eric had with his sister, who felt that he should be more serious about his commitment to ministry, as opposed to doing sports. He said, “When God made me, He made me fast; and when I run, I feel His pleasure”.

It was not only in the sports arena that Eric’s faith was challenged. During the war, he kept insisting, “You must pray for the Japanese. When you hate, you are self-centered.  When you pray, you are God centered”.

Eric Lyddell died in the prison camp at the age of 43, a victim not of Japanese brutality but of a brain tumor. Fortunately his wife and three daughters had been sent back to Scotland a few years before, so they were safe, but it was sad that he was without them.

Eventually, Steve Metcalf was released, had a brief reunion with his parents (they had been separated for seven long years), and then taking to heart the words of his friend Eric, he returned to Japan as a missionary, along with David Hayman, who had also gone to Japan from Australia.  Tony and I were so blessed to know both of these men in their later years.  When asked to speak about Eric Liddell at a memorial service, Steve said, “Eric gave me two things for which I will always be grateful: his shoes, and the understanding that there is great power in forgiveness”.

Words to live by, don’t you think? Let me leave you with some precious words from Jesus, taken from Luke 6:37-38, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.”

Have a blessed week,

Marsha

Living in the Age

Good morning Everyone,

My Australian calendar says so; it must be true: Spring has officially begun. While you folks in the Northern Hemisphere are think about packing away the BBQ, putting the swimming pool into hibernation, and in those extreme places, installing the storm windows and stacking an extra cord of firewood, Down Under, we’re changing our long-sleeved shirts for sleeveless slip overs to go with our board shorts. I think I actually saw a hint of frost last month in the back yard, so I’m still recovering from that bit of trauma. And so with the signs of spring come signs of hope. It’s also Fathers Day here, so the home stores are sold out of power tools and everyone’s doing their best to get together.

Some days, it feels like winter is still lingering, and I’m not just talking about the air outside. The sadness of Dawn’s “graduation” last week, while most of the family remained isolated and unable to be near, remains in our hearts. And then as if to rub salt in the wound, Lyle got a phone call from the police back at his home telling him that in his absence, their entire house had been badly burgled, with just about everything either stolen or broken. He had to fly back home, meet with the police and all the while trying to find a quiet place to grieve with his family.  We are more than thankful for their wonderful church and their people who have worked endlessly to put things back together.

As we speak, I think he’s safe and sound and hopefully on the road to recovery, but it’s been a hard week. They all need a lot of prayer.  Time like this, I’m often tempted to throw up my hands in disbelief and cry out to God, “Ah, come on!” But even as I do, I feel His arms around me, certain that God knows what He’s doing. And I believe Lyle is resting in that same assurance this week. Please remember to lift him and his family up once in awhile, okay?

A friend sent me a copy of some thoughts by C.S. Lewis that speaks right to my heart, and to all of us, as we only seem to hear bad news.   It’s in a book he wrote in 1948, long before things like Polio, the Vietnam war and you name it, and yet it still rings true. I don’t believe I could add anything, so I won’t try. Just have a read, and remember that this man was yet another real “Hero of the Faith”. He writes:

“How are we to live in an atomic age? I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of chronic pain, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”“In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways.”“It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty”.“The first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb, when it comes, find us doing sensible and human things — praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts — not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about death. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

Well said, Mr. Lewis. Well said indeed.

Marsha

No Words

This morning it’s with a sad heart to tell you that my nephew’s wife, Dawn, succumbed to COVID last night as her husband Lyle sat by her bedside. I want to say a big thank you to all who have remembered us over here in Australia, unable to travel, during this emotional roller coaster. Dawn was a much-loved wife, mother and friend, and I know that we are all better people for having known her.
I know most of you are no strangers to such painful partings, and you know as well as I do that it never gets any easier, even when all those around are brothers and sisters in the Lord. It’s hard to accept sometimes that our plans and God’s plans are not always the same. But accept it we must, and rejoice in the knowledge that He loves Dawn and knows why He let her be healed only in Heaven.  We also know He loves us and feels our pain as well.

With a recent newborn in the family, I can’t help but remember the comment made in Tony’s “Letters to Schnicklefritz” (written in anticipation of Grandson Jeremiah’s pending birth). He said, “Keep in mind, kid, that what you’re about to experience will seem like death to you. Your world is going to come tumbling down around you, and you’ll find yourself in a whole new world of unfamiliar sights and sounds. But keep in mind that your tears of grief will be more than matched by our tears of joy. To you it will seem like the end of everything, but all the while we know, Schnicklefritz, that your world is just beginning.”

I think death, for a child of God, is a little like that. A few hours ago, Dawn passed from “life” as we all know it to something altogether different and better. While we sat around and wept, the angels in Heaven were rejoicing to welcome her into what, so far, we here can only dream about. Knowing that, and accepting it by faith, we can rejoice along with the angels, looking forward to that time when we will be together again at His feet.  Dawn, my Mom and Dad, Tony’s parents, our son, Trevor, and so many others will be there to cheer us on.

Nephew Lyle got a tiny glimpse of that last night as he talked and prayed with Dawn. She was in a coma, but we all felt certain that she was aware of his presence. Finally, he told the doctor to “pull it all out” and let her go. “It only took two minutes,” he said. “She was more than ready, and felt no pain.” Dawn is a woman of the rugged west, so I think she can understand the words of the old Indian, remarking on a trapper’s encounter with a grizzly bear, “It was a good death.”  But it’s the living I grieve for today: a loving husband, two fragile young boys and family scattered all over the world and unable to come give them a hug.
Please pray for the family, who thankfully are even now reaching out to God for His comfort and wisdom.

My own measure of comfort came this morning at church, when we read from John 14, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, I would have told you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that where I am you also will be.”

Hugs,

Marsha

Living a Life Worthy

Good Morning Praying Friends,

I have good news this week.

The last few days have been particularly hard for us, wondering each day if my nephew’s wife would live or die.  I’m happy to report that, and with thanks for your many prayers, there is some cautious optimism on the part of her doctors. Underscoring that, here’s a little vignette my nephew sent me about something that happened this week. These are Lyle’s words:

“A couple of weeks ago, when Dawn was so sick with Covid that she had to be airlifted to Casper, I tried to call the hospital but dialed a different number by mistake. It went to voicemail. I started talking, explaining that I was trying to reach my wife in the hospital.  Before I finished, a lady picked up the phone, explained that I had dialed the wrong number, and told me straight away that she would be praying for my wife. I apologized for misdialing and hung up. This morning, I felt led to call her number again to apologize and to thank her again for praying for us all. I had suspected that she was screening her calls, and sure enough, about halfway through my voicemail message, she picked up. The lady’s name is Sarah and I got to tell her Dawn’s name and how it was just a blessing to know there are still people like her in this world. I’m going to stay in contact and when Dawn gets out I’m going to see if we can go meet her.”

Think about it: what are the chances that a wrong number would lead a grieving husband to a prayer warrior? And then as if to add his “amen”, our pastor this morning preached from Ephesians 4:1-6. It reads like this:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Living a life “worthy of the calling”; now there’s a message straight to heart! We know nothing about Sarah, except that God used her to bring comfort to a family spread out all over the world, each of us praying for Dawn … each of us praying (if you’ll pardon the obvious connection) for a new “dawn” to bring us out of the dark valley we’ve been struggling through.

What Sarah did was no more than any of you saints would have done, given the opportunity. But praise the Lord for giving her that chance to join us in prayer, and by so doing to life a life worthy of the call she’s been given!

May we all have that kind of faith, and courage, and willingness to be used in whatever situation, even if it’s a wrong number!  Let’s spend the week being a “Sarah”.

Have a great week in the Lord,

Marsha

Sacrifice of Praise

Good Morning Friends,

Today I’d like to talk to you about a guy named David.  He was definitely a ‘Hero of the Faith”.  In fact he’s featured in a lot of the Bible and personally wrote several of the Psalms himself.

There’s one particular story that really hits me every time I read it. If you’re not familiar with it, let me fill you in.  It’s in 2nd Samuel as well as a couple of other places.

David, again, had jumped in front of God’s will and carried out a census, even though his prophet Joel, cautioned him against it.  One reason I like David is that he so often jumps ahead of God in his enthusiasm, and then pays the price, much like some of us.

When he confessed his error to God, he was given three choices of ‘discipline’.  He picked the option of a three-day plague over Israel.

When it was over, David was fully repented. Then on a Divine command from the prophet Gad, he set out to build an altar on a nearby threshing floor, and there to offer a sacrifice.

He approached the owner, Araunah, and told him he’d like to buy it.  But Araunah insisted that he would just give it to the king for free. That’s when David said these famous words,

“I will not sacrifice that which has cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24).

I think I’ve talked about this passage before, but bear with me.  I came across it this last week (and what a week it’s been) and thought to myself, this stuff never gets old; it bears remembering.

Let’s think about what David said. When was the last time you’ve been able to praise God right from your heart, even perhaps with no particular reason? Of course we all have … but what about those times when your heart just isn’t bubbling over with thanks? Those times when praise, and maybe even acknowledging God’s goodness comes at a price.

Covid grinds along over here.  I admit it; it’s a real stretch to feel, much less express my thankfulness. As I mentioned last week, my nephew and his family have all been very sick.  I wish I could report to you that things are going well and we have much to praise about, but truthfully, things aren’t good at all.  While there’s been minuscule recovery on the part of the others in the family, the wife is in a coma on a ventilator now, fighting for her life. We wring our hands (in two different countries and four different places, all of us unable to travel).  In the dark hours of uncertainty, I’m guessing we sometimes ask God if He’s even there, knowing the truth, but still feeling alone.

I hope and pray that soon real rejoicing will come from the heart.  I look forward to that time of wanting to “build an altar and light a fire”.

When our son died, we didn’t have a song in our hearts.  However, at the time, there was a chorus going around saying so happily in that 90’s glib sort of style, “He has made me glad”.  Well……… I couldn’t say that or sing that.  All I wanted to say was, “He has made me mad”.

Years later, another chorus came into vogue and it said, “We bring you the sacrifice of Praise….into the house of Thanksgiving.” That spoke to me. After years of healing and I hope some growth, and because of this verse in Samuel, I have come to realize that sometimes PRAISE comes as a real sacrifice, but that too is the praise that God sometimes wants from us. Sorta like the marriage vows, “For better or worse”.

Now that I’ve made us all sad, let me leave you today with a cute video that’s going around.  It’s shallow, but nice to remember, that were ALL in this together and hopefully we’ll ALL be able to praise God soon.

https://enchantmentathamilton.org/20200601ForTheLongestTime.mp4

God bless us all,

Marsha

Enduring Love

Good morning all,

I hope you’re all coping with the continued conditions. We’ve had a long week’s worth of lockdown and are hoping to see the light soon. My sister’s son and family have Covid, so that’s been keeping our prayer life alive. The latest word is that perhaps they’re on the mend.

Today lets talk today about the Japanese.  As most of you know, they’re a very sensitive and spiritual people.  When I say ‘spiritual’ I don’t mean Christian, but they are deep thinking and artistic.  They especially like poetry and have several styles from Haiku (short) to longer Tanka.  I’m going to tell you about someone who wrote a lot of Tanka, but first I must share a Haiku that my son wrote in the third grade.  He was in Japanese school and I feel that he gave it his best shot, clearly showing the sensitivity and sophistication of the mind of an 8 yr old.  Here it is:

I like the smell

Of the big orange pumpkin

Rotting

And so on that note, I’d like to say that because of lockdown, I have been able to read quite a few books, one of which I read many years ago, written by Japan’s foremost Christian author, Ayako Miura.
It’s called “The Wind Is Howling” (“Michi Ariki” ????), and it’s basically her biography. It’s a beautifully written story of how she went from a very disillusioned nihilistic atheist to become the amazing woman she was till she died in the late 90’s.  It’s a love story and I loved reading it. If you get interested in this true “Hero of the Faith”, it’s for sale on Amazon but I must warn you, it’s quite expensive.

So, Ayako was a young impressionable 17-yr-old teacher during WWII. She loved her students and felt that she was making a difference in their.  But when Japan was defeated, so many things were different.  One of the most alarming, at least to her, what the fact that the American Occupation forces required the Japanese state authorized textbooks to be corrected in order to convey more of the truth about Japan and where it stood in the world. (The Emperor was not God, for example)  These corrections were to be conducted in the classrooms, supervised by the teacher.

Defeated by the Allies, told to change textbooks from what she believed to be the truth only because she was Japanese, hurled her, first to contemplate suicide, but then into what was to become a huge journey, searching for the Real Truth and with it hopefully a reason for living.

She resigned her teaching post and almost immediately came down with the postwar malady, Tuberculosis.  She would be bedridden, in and out of hospitals, facing archaic surgeries and treatments and occasionally near death for almost 13 years, 7 of those in a full body cast, which rendered her completely helpless.

During that time, the real “hero of the faith” appeared.  He was a childhood friend, Tadashi Maekawa.  They had been neighbors and friends as children but his family had moved away and they lost track of each other.  Then she was appointed secretary for the TB association in the hospital where he also was a patient so the acquaintance was happily rekindled.

A friendship grew, and she discovered he was a Christian. It wasn’t so much what he said, but his gentle nature and what he did that got her attention. Although he was sick himself, he would go out of his way to bring her a sweet, or a flower, or such.  In fact, he often brought the same for her ward mates, which in post war Japan was very rare. They began talking for hours about life in general, the death of his younger sister to TB and how she and her Christian family faced it, etc.

Years passed and he continually cared for her, showing her love and respect.  He always had an intriguing answer for all her criticism of Christianity (that of it being a ‘Western religion’, a common belief at the time although it had been in Japan for centuries)   He showed her scriptures from all parts of the Bible and even saved up and gave her a Bible so she could read it for herself.

Ayako was a deep thinker, and along with many other patients, including Tadashi, a writer of poetry, especially the longer Tanka version.  To our Western minds, her path to Christianity was not the one we would have taken, but Japanese tend to be very ethereal, introspective and non-logical.  Ironically, at least to our thinking, reading the poetry of Ecclesiastes was the most influential in converting her. She was amazed to read that Solomon, so wise and powerful, had the same questions that she did, only they were thousands of years earlier. That and because of Tadashi’s faithful and gentle, but unwavering, friendship finally, after years, she gave her life and all to the Lord.

Friendship grew into love.  She speaks of it in the book as a chaste Japanese would, the heart stopping rush of feelings of a brushed kiss on a cheek, or a hand touched in the dark…… There was talk of marriage, when they both got well. They faced the future with new found joy and commitment.

But then Tadashi, having some experimental and dangerous surgery necessary for him to get well, died. Ayako wrote this Tanka the day after he died:

You replace the quilt which is slipping

Off my bed, and go home

It is the last time

But that’s not the rest of the story.  As she grieved his loss (she was by now in a full body cast, in another hospital), Ayako felt comforted by her faith and strong enough to go on alone.  Then, by chance, she met someone else, and again, because of his gentle spirit and high intellect drew her (over many years again) together with him into an even more deep and abiding love for God.

They finally married, she got well and they lived a long and happy life.

That’s it?  NO.  Ayako Miura went on to become a hugely successful writer.  She published over 80 books, countless poems and other writings, along with her husband Mitsuyo Miura.  Because of her talent for telling a story, she was widely sought after. Japanese who’ve never heard of Christ or seen a Christian or a Church, know of her and have been touched by her life, and what she has to say. Her books are in demand even today.

Tadashi died without knowing her as a wife (as they’d planned).  He did not have any way of knowing how his influence on her would change a nation.  What an amazing contribution to Christ’s work there in the hearts of a broken hearted post war Japan, all because he let the Lord make him gentle and faithful….and never give up on her.

I just love Love Stories, don’t you?

Charming My Fears

Good morning all!

Our admin department just found a mailing list that somehow got replaced by the present one something like 6 years ago. Several of the folks on the list have gone on to Glory, but some are good friends who I thought were getting my weekly offerings all along. If you’re one of those, you don’t need to do anything; just look forward to a new blog every Sunday. If by chance you’re one of those who thought you’d gotten rid of me, you can (1) write and tell me to leave you alone, or, (2) mark the email as junk and direct it into your trash bin. I for one am super excited at the prospect of catching up with old friends from my past. If you have a chance, please push “return” and tell me what’s going on in your life since we last had contact.

In the past seven years, we’ve retired to Australia, beaten Cancer, had a couple more grandkids, you know, the usual stuff.  If you want to read ad nauseum, you can catch up, so to speak, on either mywoods.net or marshawoods.blogspot.com

What I wanted to talk about today is a slight deviation from the series I’m doing at the moment, “Heroes of the Faith”.  I’d like to address today that elephant in the room, and in the road, and in my face and just about everywhere:  COVID.

If you’re anything like me, you’re just about OVER this pesky pandemic that’s affected every one of us.  We’re down here in Australia where the national death toll is only in the hundreds, and here in our state of Queensland (which is bigger than Texas), we’ve only seen seven deaths (one or two because of the vaccine, it seems).  You may have heard in the news that our biggest city, Sydney, is engaging the military to assure that masks are worn. That may be over exaggerated; it’s not martial law yet, but the most irritating facet to me is the fact that NO ONE is allowed to leave the country. This applies both to Aussie citizens (which we are) as well as to foreigners (which we also are). We hang on the daily reports of new cases, accompanied by new “emergency lockdowns” where we have to stay in our homes except for absolutely essential business. It’s like a daily reminder of that evil geography teacher we all had who would announce pop quizzes on a Monday.

In fact, just to ‘rub it in’ so to speak, we got news yesterday that we had about 4 hours to be where we wanted to be for the next 3 days.  Fortunately for us, it’s our anniversary today so we don’t mind being locked up together, but still……

All that said, we are blessed to be safe and sound, within driving distance of both kids and supplied with plenty of food and sunshine.  But even with that, the fear monger in me is starting to pop up. “Will this never end?”  “What happened to our freedom to live as responsible adults without someone hovering around me?” “Why are my friends so cranky?”

I can see the fear especially in some of the churches we attend. The unconfirmed gossip insists that a church out there “somewhere” was visited by the compliance police “sometime” and fined heavily for some “unknown” infraction.  This leads to critical attitudes around church, and big discussions on how to love the sinner (ie, mask refuser, sitting-too-close person, the actually “SHOOK my hand” person or “was perceived to be leaning in for a hug” friend, etc). It seems a shame because attitudes like this can drive wedges between the people who need the church’s fellowship the most.

And then, in the middle of all this turmoil, I heard a familiar hymn that seemed like the first time.  Most of you will know it: “Oh For a Thousand Tongues”. It was written by Charles Wesley in 1739. That’s nearly 300 years ago and yet….. his words ring true.  If you don’t know it, google it, but spoiler alert, there are several tunes out there.  I actually enjoy the British one more than the American one, but that’s not the point.

Singing it robustly last Sunday, I came to a surprised stop on the third verse.  I’ve sung this hymn thousands of times, but in the English version (not the Baptist Hymnal unfortunately) the words to the third verse are this,

“Jesus, the name that CHARMS our fears, that sets the captive free…….”

I don’t know about you, but to me “Charm” has sorta two meanings.  One is the ‘charm’ that engulfs me as I’m holding my newborn grandson.  The other one is what the guy with the flute does to the deadly cobra.

Either way, we’re rendered stunned, suddenly unafraid and no longer paranoid about stuff……….Then I wonder, can Jesus do this to me about Covid?  Can I let Him “Charm” my fears??

Jesus never changes.  Governments and rules do, but Jesus will be there to ‘charm our fears’ and keep us, dare I say, “Safe”?

Virtual hugs,

Marsha

“I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.” (Psalms 131:1-2)

Famous Last Words

Good morning friends,

Hope you’re all well and happy. Tony and I have had a great week, taking our government’s suggestion that we discover the sights close to home until travel restrictions are lifted. In an effort to comply, we took a little 3-day wander up into northern Queensland.  Even though it’s winter, the tropical nature leaves it chilly but beautiful and we’ve returned happy and refreshed. Up there in the middle of the north, you can find the stomping grounds of the late Steve Irwin, otherwise known as “the Crocodile Hunter”.  He had a T.V. show back in the 90’s that attracted quite a following.

Steve was known for his enthusiasm for wildlife and his daring encounters with them.  While filming “Worlds Most Dangerous Animals” in 2006, he closed in on a giant stingray for one of his classic shots; nose to nose so to speak.  I’m sure he was explaining with his trademark enthusiasm about how they are misunderstood…or endangered, or some such, but the stingray must have gotten offended and gave him a flick of his tail as he scurried out of the photo.  Unfortunately, the lethal barb pierced Steve’s heart, and he died almost instantly.

I’m not going to call Steve a “Hero of the faith” for several reasons.  I’ve just finished reading another book about him, and I, along with many Australians have to say, although theologically he was sort of ‘out there’, the guy was passionate about what he DID believe in, (saving wildlife), and went to the N’th degree to show it.  Actually he and his family have done HEAPS of good things, and continue to do so, for the long-term protection of endangered species in Australia and all over the world.

But what I want to say is more about “passion” and not really about Steve.  Another story popped up this last week that reminded me about passionate people. Many of you would have seen it, but I thought I’d give him a well-deserved focus since his passion went far beyond environmental issues.

His name was John Harper and he, as a Scottish Baptist minister, was all about seeing the lost come to Jesus. Many were the men, women and children who ventured within range and were awarded with the complete plan of salvation, right from the Bible. Perhaps some were offended by his zeal, but all that was forgotten the night John found himself in the icy waters around the sinking Titanic. After seeing that his daughter and sister were safely in a lifeboat, he began to swim to the hundreds of struggling passengers around him. Skipping the preliminaries, he would come up close and shout out, “Are you saved?” This elicited several responses, but among them were several who prayed to receive Christ.

One man refused his appeal rather vehemently, so John took off his life jacket and gave it to him, saying, “Here then, you need this more than I do,” and swam over to someone else.  Later he came back around to the man, and together they prayed a prayer of confession.

Eventually the numbing cold water took the life of John. Of the 1,528 people who went into the water, only six were rescued by the lifeboats, including this new Christian who was wearing John’s life jacket.  Four years later, at a survivors meeting, this same man recounted how John Harper had led him to the Lord.   He went on to share how he was one of the few who heard John’s last words, shouted out as he went down for the last time, “Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”

Thankfully for most, it doesn’t take a sinking ship to bring a person to Christ. The Good News itself, prompted by God’s Holy Spirit, is enough to remind most of us that we all need His saving grace.

Beyond that, we would all do well to remember John Harper, a real “Hero of the Faith”.

Whatever situation you find yourself in this week, be it a sinking ship or a CoVid-laced conversation, take the opportunity to offer the question in whatever words are appropriate, “Are you saved?”

Till next time, the Lord willing,

Marsha

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.”

(Ecclesiates 9:10)