Things that go bump in the garden

Hello friends,

As you’re reading this, Tony and I will be sitting in a performance of Handel’s Messiah.  I don’t know where we got culture, certainly not from our humble beginnings, but give me a seat to see Les Miserables or the Messiah and I’m in High Cotton!!  I must say though, I wilt at Opera.

And so today, we realize that we only have 3 more Sundays til Christmas, with not much time really to contemplate the season the way we’d like to.

Of course we’ve all heard that the Son of God was probably not born in cold December, as the story goes, but Tony was reading the other day about how Jewish culture leans towards counting a child’s ‘birthday’ as when he/she was conceived. The is true in fact among many Asian cultures, including Japanese. This adds an interesting discussion point when we read in John 1:14 that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Our Asian friends point out that Jesus didn’t “become flesh” when He was born, but rather when He was conceived. I’ll leave that to the theologians, but then we don’t have to the know the WHEN; only THAT He was.

But today I want to tell you another story.  It sorta has a thin connection to Christmas

We’d been in Japan several years when we got some new missionaries.  This couple and their two boys were unstoppable.  In particular, the wife clearly had a musical ear, leading her to have a real gift for the languages. I tried not to be jealous of her prowess.

And then one day she dispelled any jealousy I’d had by telling this story on herself.

It was the Christmas season. That’s when we missionaries would crank into gear and take every opportunity imaginable to show Christ to Japan.  After all, materialism had appeared soon after the war was over and most Japanese understand that Christmas is coming, even going so far to seek out churches and other venues in the hope of some ‘holiday cheer’.

Mind you, most have very little idea to this day of WHAT Christmas means, apart from gift giving to children  and eating Kentucky Fried Chicken with your boyfriend on Christmas Eve. I’m not making this up, you can google what an incredible marketing ploy the Colonel pulled off some 60 years ago!

And so this new missionary invited some ladies to her house for Christmas tea.  There, to the tinkling of fine china, she shared with them about Jesus, why He was born, etc.

Just as they seemed to be losing interest, she announced that next week, she’d like to have this time together again. They smiled and nodded in agreement.  Then they all sprung to startled attention when she continued,

“And I want you ALL to go into your gardens this week and gather up as many cockroaches as you can find!”

Seeing their faces, she thought to herself, this is a bazaar request, so she elaborated,

“You see, next week we’re going to PAINT the cockroaches and decorate our houses with them!”  More jaw dropped stares.

As the ladies were stumbling over themselves in horror, bowing and making excuses that they’d left a pan on the stove or it looked like rain and they needed to get home, she fought back tears of defeat and tried to understand how she’d offended them so.

Her best friend, the last to leave, but leaving all the same, asked, “I wonder what you’re trying to say?”

Later that afternoon, as she was cleaning up the penny dropped. She’d been saying “Go-kiburi” which is the word for  cockroach, when she had been meaning to say, “Matsu-bokuri”.

If you say these two words quickly, you can see how similar they are.  Cockroaches and Pine Cones.

I’m  happy say she sent a runner to tell the ladies about her mistake in the language, and the group grew and many were blessed.  This family stayed many years, grew in the language and culture and influenced many for Christ.

Be we’ll never forget to be careful what we say for it has to power to terrify people!

This last week I heard a good sermon.  It was filled with hope, and relative to the season. Ephesians 4:29 was included, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.”

We have the POWER to ‘Change the Narrative” in people’s lives. Our words can make them raise up and find life, or as in the story above, run in terror.

Guard the ‘story’ you tell this season, both in words and deeds, to those around you.

Happy decorating!


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