Patch Patch Patch

Tony has an aunt who is always saying, “At our age it’s just patch, patch, patch.”  I quoted this cute phrase to a nurse as we walked Tony into shoulder replacement surgery a number of years ago (Australia, no gurneys there, you are tough and just walk yourselves into the ‘operating room’……….). When I said this, the nurse smiled and quipped back, “And add to that a couple of ‘dodges’ as well!”
As I’m writing you this tonight, I’m happy to report that we’ve both ‘dodged’ the bad stuff successfully for another year.  Earlier in the year, I’d had a couple of week scare with the prospect of stomach cancer, but was told after extensive tests that while they didn’t know what was wrong,  I was alright. Tremendous relief and praise to God.

We’ve just completed our annual physicals here in Bangkok where we chose to come for ‘vacation’.  (you know you’re getting old when your vacation involves probes and needles) They examined the test results I brought with me and determined that they were illegible, but did everything over again and decided that I just have a ‘tricky valve on my parathyroid gland’ and that everything ’should be fine’, so I am once again grateful.

Now Tony wasn’t quite as fortunate.  While he’s in robust health, he continues to battle with his inherited arthritis and it appears that the other shoulder will have to be replaced if he wants to go back to moving his arm.

To that end, he will have surgery about 12 hours after you read this.  It’s in one of the best hospitals in the world so we’re confident both in the doctors and the care.  We’ll let you know how it turns out.  I will have another week to enjoy all my Japanese friends here in the city, while “rooming in” with the patient, at least until one of us can’t stand it.  Our mission has a guest house that I may use if necessary, so I feel blessed.

We would certainly appreciate your prayers, for thanksgiving that we’re both healthy, and more specifically for surgeons wisdom as well as a speedy recovery.  We NEED to be back in Japan as soon as he can travel so that we can again leave the 13th of April for a much anticipated visit to all of you (and especially our kids and grandkids)  in Australia.

Talk to you soon, Marsha

Sunday’s Comin!

This last week has been a busy one.  When I sent out the blog last Sunday, we had just returned from several days in the north.
Probably an ‘unusual’ few days in that we visited the Oshika peninsula, showing my visiting sister some of that which was most hard hit by the tsunami.  I commented to Tony that just ‘remembering’ what all had happened and everything that we’d been involved with made me tired again……….
Then we went from that sadness directly for that we perceive to be ‘one last visit’ with Noguchi Sensei, our friend who has the bad cancer. He will preach his last sermon to the combined churches of Sendai on March 30th and then return home to his roots and remaining family in southern Japan. His new bride also has family there, so while we understand the wisdom of the move, it still makes us sad to see him leave the place where he enjoyed so many fruitful years.
After that gut wrenching time, we visited two of the churches we had, over the years, some influence in starting, Taitomi and Yoshioka.  Unfortunately Yoshioka will have to be ‘retired’ for some time because Noguchi Sensei was the pastor and there’s no one at present to fill his shoes. Taitomi, on the other hand is looking forward to calling a new pastor and starting a new chapter, as everything in Japan rotates around an April New Year.
Then we went on to Chomei ga Oka church where the pastor is the best friend of our son, Trevor.  We all held Trevor’s urn, took some pictures, then after greeting several old friends, took one in particular to lunch.
Keiko and her husband were saved right after we got to Sendai 35 years ago. They’re about or age and some of the best lay leaders we know, and have always been good friends. Last October he was carrying some folding chairs upstairs in his home, lost his balance and he fell backwards the entire set of stairs.  It was the same weekend Tony fell and broke his ribs, but Tsutomu wasn’t as lucky. He literally ‘broke his head’.  Now after 5 months, his body is healthy but there’s nobody home.  He doesn’t know his wife or kids……….nothing.  Just sits and smiles.  A few weeks ago he had a few dramatic enough seizures to land in a specialist hospital 70 miles away indefinitely. Our heart breaks for Keiko, his wife, who says she’ll be strong and doesn’t blame God…….Please pray for her.
So much sadness around us.  So many things we don’t understand.
But on a ‘happier note” as you are reading this we’re boarding a plane for Bangkok for a week of catching up with friends from the Japanese church, and while we’re there checking in for an annual physical that’s worth going 5000 miles for. Unfortunately no one pays our way to go there, but since we’re both due for that little examination that civilized countries anesthetize you for……….(not Japan who considers pain to be character building)…..we’re happy to use our frequent flyer points! ha.  The other reason we’re going so far to see a doctor is that Tony’s ‘other’ shoulder (he had the right one replaced years ago) is really acting up.  One friend described the pain and immobility as ‘becoming a T-Rex”).  Depending on what they find, he may have to have surgery, so I hope you’ll be praying about that as well.
After we get back from that trip, we’ll run around here getting Tony’s discipleship course up and running in several churches, and then in a few weeks head for 10 days in the “land down under”……again touching base with churches and Japanese friends but most importantly bouncing my baby boy grandsons on my knee.  We haven’t seen them in the flesh for 14 months and that’s WAAAY tooo long.
Tony has just read this and said it’s ‘way too sad’…….But in my defense, as we think about this season of Lent, I wonder if some of our life isn’t a teeny bit similar to what Jesus went thru.  I realize that’s a bit presumptuous to compare ourselves with Christ, because I don’t plan on dying on a cross or anything, but really…….How busy was Jesus in those days leading up to the Crucifixion and Easter?  He must have been happy to fellowship with His disciples at the last supper, or perhaps was encouraged while explaining to them the future of things, etc.  But on the other hand wouldn’t He have had a feeling of sadness as He knew they would betray him and run away, and of course this is not to mention the whole physical horror of dying on a cross. Such mixed emotions.
That’s the analogy I’m trying vainly to make.  We are wracked with sadness over the eminent death of Noguchi.  He is so ready it humbles us……Tony told him we are still expecting a miracle to which he laughed and replied, “If I live it’ll be a little awkward… I mean, everyone has said goodbye so thoroughly!” We also grieve in advance about the ‘death’ of our friend Tsutomu’s existence and happiness with his wife and family. Such heavy hearts we have.
But as a famous pastor from yesteryear once said, “Friday’s here but Sunday, she’s a comin!
Bless you all as we prepare to celebrate the joy of Easter, even though it may be busy and complicated right now.

Till next week, Marsha

Listening Ears

I was reading a book the other day about tipping. Yeah, I should probably be reading more important things, but it’s something I picked up on Kindle for 99 cents, and hey, since there’s NO tipping in Japan, and not much in Australia, I figured I should be ‘informed.’

It was an interesting read, and one particular passage jumped out at me.  The author (Steve Dublancia) is talking about a bartender he encountered in LA at a restaurant called “Musso.”  Apparently it’s famous, catering to the rich and famous.  Maybe that’s why I don’t know about it! ha

The bartender’s name is Manny, and he’s been working there for 25 years.  Here’s what the author writes:

“As I sat there sipping my drink, I realized something: while Manny was talking to me, I was the only person in his universe. Even though I was fresh off the street, he was lavishing as much attention on me as he would have on any movie star.  He had a great gift: the gift of being present. And this is an ability not too many people have.

“We’ve all talked to people who pretend to listen to us only so that they can think of what they will say next. They might be right in front of us but mentally they’re checked out.  Not Manny, He was all there.  Two men walked into the bar, and Manny went over to take care of them.  For just a moment I was jealous that he was being taken away from me.  But after he set them up with their drinks, he came back to me, fully present again. In the center of his world, I felt surrounded by a warm sense of well-being.”

Now don’t get worried, I’m not going to write anymore about bartenders, but Manny reminded me of two individuals that I know.

The first one was a missionary to Japan, Evelyn Owen.  She died last year in her 80’s I believe.  She had quite a story; from what I can piece together, she was a bit of a modern day “Lottie Moon” who left riches and a sweetheart to go board a boat for the mystery that was Japan.  There she labored for 40+ years. Granted, she could be a bit spacey, as in the time she was driving on a Japanese freeway and forgot to bring any money. Having to deal with a foreigner in the first place was particularly daunting, then add to that the challenge of filling out all the forms required for such a situation, the poor toll taker was turning apoplexic.  Seeing his shaking hands, Evelyn offered to collect the tolls for him while he did the paperwork, and before he could protest, she stepped up to the window and began taking money from the shocked drivers!

But her 65th birthday had to take the cake – literally. She had a simple retirement ceremony at the church she started, and the next day, with a different dress and flowers, she married her sweetheart from college (now a widower) who’d come to Japan for the occasion. They served together as missionaries for another 10 years before finally returning to the States.

Among her many talents, Evelyn had that gift that the bartender did. She was ALWAYS tuned in to you, and ALWAYS AVAILABLE. If you caught her in the middle of something, she’d drop everything and sit down with you and listen, as if you indeed were the only person in the universe. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons she left behind so many who had found the Lord when she finally retired.

The other “Individual” with that gift is (you guessed it) Jesus.  Wasn’t it He who said, in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” And later in Matthew 28, “and surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

That’s what I’m thankful for today… people, and a Savior, who listen to me as if I matter.  There is so much “healing” that takes place when you find a genuine listening ear. I pray that I can be that kind of friend to everyone God sends my way today.

And speaking of answered prayers, a good friend of ours who has been battling cancer has just gotten some encouraging reports. Good on ya, Babs! Good on You, God! Thank you both for your hearing ears.

Marsha

Morse Code

Last week I mentioned our friend and mentor Noguchi Sensei (if you’re confused, the word ’sensei’ just means Rev or Teacher, but somehow I can’t say his name without this moniker).  Anyway, I told you the sad news that he’s sick; but today I wanted to share something with you from his book .
Many of you have read his story in the book, ‘Sacrificed” (buy it on Amazon today, don’t wait!  It’s written by Noguchi himself but Tony did the English bit so it’s under Tony’s name). This is the tale of how he was commissioned into the Japanese Imperial army at age 15 to become a Kamikaze pilot.  There were many twists and turns in his story, some quite noteworthy.
Last year while we were in the States, I had a chance to talk with the Executive director of our mission. He commented on how impressed he was reading Noguchi Sensei’s book, and then having the privilege of meeting the man himself.  I stood back with a prim smile, getting ready for him to recite some of the better passages my husband had written. “I’ll never forget one section,” he continued.
“It’s the part where they taught Noguchi Sensei Morse code,” he said.  My face fell, as that was a rather boring part. I thought to myself, how could that ‘impress’ anyone?
“You’ll remember that they only taught him to RECOGNIZE the bips and beeps,” the leader continued.  “We would naturally think that he should learn to send messages as well, but when he asked, Noguchi was told, “Oh no, you don’t need to answer back. Just obey what you hear.”
My jaw dropped.  Why was my boss of all bosses impressed with this small passage? Fortunately, before I embarrassed myself with the question, I understood.
This man is a leader.  He gives ‘orders’ all day long.  In his perfect world, we would be the ’soldiers’ who take his instructions and don’t talk back. Unfortunately (for him especially, I’m guessing), our mission is a democracy and there’s all manner of feedback to be dealt with.
I remembered a familiar passage in Matthew 8:8-9 where Jesus had some interesting things to say about the Centurion who came to Him and asked for just a ‘word’ to save his servant. Jesus was impressed with this soldier’s authority, and the faith it gave him to accept the healing without insisting that Jesus go personally. Maybe our boss was so touched because he longed for us missionaries to be so confident in the chain of command that we’d stop whining!
I realize my nature is to beg and plead, argue and cajole when I don’t like my ‘marching orders’.  I would have made a lousy Kamikaze.  Right now as I type this, I’ve had several unsolicited conversations with God about why it’s in everyone’s best strategy to let Noguchi Sensei live another 15 or 20 years.  I find it hard to bow my head and say, “Of course, Your will is my command.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could abide in Christ and trust in His decisions, with no sass back?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if just once I could impress Jesus with my unquestioning obedience?
Y’all stay warm.  We northern hemisphere folks are finding that hard lately, what with all this ‘global warming’!
Marsha

Old Friends

This last week we were saddened to hear of the passing of Jackie Sherwin.  Many of you who read this blog know who I’m talking about.  She was my father-in-law’s Godly widow ‘lady friend’ who lived next door, first while Mom was alive and for about 16 years after Dad became a widower.  I believe, if I’m correct, Jackie was almost 98 when she died.

She and Dad had a little routine: every morning about 10:00, she’d call if she was “ready” (That’s southern talk for your hair is done and your makeup is on).  Then Dad would splash on some MORE “Old Spice” and toddle across the path for coffee, which most mornings would linger on well past noon. This conversation may have been a bit one-sided. If you knew “Uncle Buddy”, then you know how he loved to spin a good tale. But Jackie would sit and nod and smile, always edifying him about whatever he was going on about. I think they enjoyed the chance to share each other’s company, so much so that I think she may have even ridden in the car with him…….but only once!
When we were in the States for furlough, that 10:00 coffee date became all consuming for myself, Tony and Dad as we would hop skip and jump over there most mornings just to see her smiling face and break the monotony of the three of us living together.  When she was able to get a word in edgewise, she shared about her life as a musician, painter, airplane pilot and a tough and Christ-committed Oklahoma farmer’s wife and mother.  What an interesting woman!  Reading her obituary today I realize that I left off, “Real estate agent, and wood carver!”  What a legacy she left………..37 grandchildren and another 37 great grandchildren.
I guess I can best describe how Dad felt about her one morning when I was out shopping and called back to the house from the grocery store.  It was about 10AM and Buddy answered the telephone with all the sugary syrup and adulation he could muster, “Helloouu?” he crooned.
I was surprised, but said, “Oh! Hi, this is me”, to which he responded with a crisp and perhaps a bit embarrassed, “Oh! It’s YOU!”  I laughed all the way home to find him over there next door regaling her with yet another one his stories.  They really did ‘love’ each other as two old friends, lost in a world that once was.  I remember a song by Simon and Garfunkle about “old friends, who “sit on their park bench like bookends.”
Actually when I think about it, that song is sort of sad, while Jackie and Buddy were anything but forlorn “bookends”!
When Buddy died in 2012, Jackie said to her daughter with some agitation, “When I leave here (the aged care facility she had gone to) and get home, who will I play with now?”
I know what the Bible says about there not being husband and wife relationships in Heaven like we have here, but aren’t we SO THANKFUL for each others’ company here on earth: those priceless commitments that make our days so rich and happy.
Rest in Peace, “Jackie” Ruby Mae Sherwin……..Thank you so much for making our ‘journey’ so much more pleasant.

Tony and Marsha, and of course Buddy, who I’m sure she’s catching up with now.

Doctorates and Bridges

Many of you have figured out by now that husband Tony has gone and started a Doctor of Ministry degree.  He went off to the States and came back with piles of notebooks, flash drives, dates scrawled on calendars and a glazed look in his eyes.  Right now he’s so into this ‘project’ that I fear that I may be filed somewhere and forgotten.
We’ve been asked the obvious question by friends, “Why now? Tony’s 66, his brain ain’t what it used to be, you’re retiring soon, so what’s the point?”
This morning we were reading from “The Road Rising” (Is it OK to read your own devotional?).  Anyway, look at what January 19th has to say, or if you have the Kindle version, it’s day 50.  Below I’ve copied what it says, and even though Tony wrote these words years and years ago….. I think it pretty well sums up what we’re feeling as we enter into this project:

The trail continued through orchard country today, and although no one seemed to live here anymore, there were signs of their work everywhere I turned.  Then as I descended a hill and approached a stream, I came upon a sight that made me stop in wonder: a covered bridge stretching over the water.  The roof was covered with shingles made of cedar wood, carefully split and laid so that not one drop of rain water could find its way into the interior of the bridge.  The road bed sat upon two monstrous logs which must have been felled some distance away.  Along each side of the bridge was a railing of three rows, set in an “x” pattern which required much more wood than a single rail, but sufficient to prevent even the smallest child from accidentally falling through.  Each end of the railing was anchored to a hardwood post, buried deep and showing no signs of loosening it’s grip on the soil.  The top of each post was covered in copperplate to prevent water seepage, and into the plate had been engraved a series of intricate designs.
I crossed the bridge in awe of its strength and beauty, and then had to turn around and cross it again, just to fully appreciate it.  Pausing in the centre, I leaned on the sturdy railing to look down into the stream and was puzzled.  Why was such an elaborate structure built over such an insignificant river? I appreciated it, to be sure, but, looking at the placid waters below, realized that I could have gotten over it without too much trouble.  Even wading across would not have been a major ordeal.  Building this bridge must have taken months to complete and I could only guess at the expense.
Running my hands over the engravings, I began to feel something of the heart of the builder.  He was more than a practical person.  The copperplate alone would have ensured that the posts never rotted, but instead he chose to add a touch of beauty.  This bridge was for him much more than a means for crossing a stream.  It was an expression of his soul; a desire to make something beautiful as well as lasting.  In a way, isn’t that like God? This world is full of things that work; but moreover, they work beautifully.  Like a master Craftsman, He produced His pride and glory, made in His own image and imbued him with a love for all things beautiful.  And here at this stream, a long time ago, a man poured his heart and soul into this bridge, and then stood back and said, “That’s Good!”

Please pray for us as we tackle this huge job, yes, as a couple.  We hope the result won’t be just a means to get to the other side, but that it will be a blessing to many. We’re trusting God with the results, and will keep you posted.  We just want to do our best!

And all the best to you,

Marsha

Grief Work

This last week I found my head and heart bursting with what we refer to as “Grief Work”.  We did a lot of this when our son died some 20 years ago, but I guess I thought I’d moved on and was galvanized against it happening again, so you can imagine my surprise when I found myself wallowing again at the bottom of the pit.  It involves two different stories, so I hope I can communicate them in a way for you to understand.

A few weeks ago, someone recommended a book called “The Insanity of God” by Nik Ripkin.  I don’t usually go looking for quirky reads, but since I respect the friend who recommended it, I got the book and started reading.   It said in the first few pages it was written using a pseudonym for ’security reasons’ to which I clucked to myself, “yeah, sure.” What can I say? I tend to be a cynic.

Anyway, as I expected, it was AWFUL.  Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t poorly written, in fact quite the opposite. But what it said, and the fact that it’s a true story, was beyond awful. As it proceeded to chronicle the mess in one of those mostly forgotten countries we Westerners like to ignore, tears begin to blur my vision.  As I continued to plough thru it, something began to go off in my mind, just a nagging little ’something’ like a piano tuner working in the next room, insidiously creeping into my consciousness.   I kept feeling a ‘familiarity’ with this story.

The next morning as I lay in my pre-dawn stupor, a name popped into my head.  This, I was certain, was the author of the book.  I flipped to the table of contents and saw Chapter 16, “Death follows me home” and I knew I had my answer.  I contacted some people and verified my suspicion.

Why was I so alarmed you say?  Well…..we used to know these folks!  I’d like to say we were friends……… but then we drifted apart.  Now comes the ‘Grief Work’ stuff.  This week I began to realize that Tony and I had not drifted, but actually stepped away, fooling ourselves into thinking we were too busy, too important maybe, to give them much thought. Why, you ask? I’m not sure, but I suspect that because here and there when we’d touch base, we began to sense that where they’d been fun to be around in the ‘good ol’ days’, what they had going on in their lives was just too hard for us to take time to process.  For the first time this last week, I began to realize that we had truly abandoned them.

When Trevor died, only a couple of our ‘friends’ really abandoned us.  I forgave them almost immediately, because I understood that they were just too weak, or maybe too trivial, to want to walk with us thru our valley. Some people said to our faces that our ’story’ was hard for them and they didn’t want to be involved. I could see others step to the farther side of the room.  When we wrote our book, “Looking for a Lamb” chronicling Trevor’s death, they dropped their heads and said they just couldn’t read it.   Now I realized for the first time we’d done the same thing. If that didn’t hurt enough, I came to the horrible realization was that these folks’ valley was infinitely deeper than ours.  They almost lost their faith.  I remember what C.S Lewis said in “A Grief Observed”,  “It’s not so much that I didn’t believe in God, I just began to believe terrible things about Him”.   These people suffered beyond imagination only to have that exacerbated, maybe in part because of people like us……..
When I realized who this was, I wanted to jump back away again as if touching a hot stove because somehow knowing who it was made it all too real.   But I was already half way thru the book and somehow I knew I needed to give them some respect this time.  Besides, I’m cheap and had paid good money, so I soldiered on.

I won’t say it’s an easy read.  With every page I felt more and more unworthy.  I have long realized that I am terribly shallow, but now I had to add feelings of being unworthy of their friendship or forgiveness as well. And not just them and their story, but I felt unworthy as a Christian.   By the author’s reckoning, 70% of Christians worldwide take up their crosses daily, almost without a second thought. Some of the people he interviewed had no idea that there were Christians in the rest of the world: Christians who had it so much better (at least in our minds; although they might beg to differ).    I came to realize that my faith is “Western” and all about “God’s goodies” that He lavishes on me.  I don’t want to associate with any other ‘icky’ stuff that might occur in God’s world.  You who are reading this, know: the coffee lattes in the church foyer with the ‘welcome committee’, the ‘pleasing and trendy’ songs we pay professionals to present us with week after week, the myriad different translations of Bibles that grace our shelves back home…….We wouldn’t for a minute want to waltz into worship and face gunfire or torture!

Now that I’ve got you in a bad mood and are possibly thinking of ‘unfriending’ me because I’m stepping where I shouldn’t, here’s the second story I was confronted with this week.

A man who’s been our mentor and friend for almost 40 years, Naoki Noguchi Sensei, is our lifelong pastor and whom we wrote the book “Sacrificed” about.  Last year at 84, he got married to a lovely widow. And now, this last week, he’s been given a death sentence of advanced cancer.  Even as I spoke with him on the phone, he was so upbeat and strong that I mistakenly thought that the diagnosis was for his new bride.  Once reality sank in, I fell into a deep despair, as I’m sure those of you who know this guy are doing right now as you read this. The doctors, who don’t know God, have told him not to plan for a whole year.   Of course, we pray for a miracle, but we know God will do what He’s going to do, and while we accept that, we see that valley of grief looming ahead.

But wait.  Did I learn anything from reading this book, “The Insanity of God”?  MOST of our world’s great Christians live a day at a time, with hearts full of gratitude for the mercy of God.  They don’t think about what might have been, or what might happen next week.  They just worship and share with others a SOVEREIGN and loving God who will ordain every day of their lives.  When the author of this book asked some of the ’survivors’ to write down and publish the details of how they had suffered for Christ, the response was quick and searing.  “When did you stop reading your Bible?  Those stories are OUR stories!  Nothing’s changed, who would we be to think we’re special?”

Yes, there were miraculous healings in the Bible, and we pray that for Noguchi Sensei. But then there were also terrible persecutions as well as heart wrenching deaths in the Bible.  Thru it all, those early believers as well as believers today, faced every day with grace and courage.  They didn’t abandon their friends to turn on the TV or escape to Facebook, as it is so easy to do these days.

My prayer is that I’ll be available. Already Noguchi Sensei has inspired me with his easy going confidence, that every day that he’s alive he’ll do ‘dendo’ (evangelism) because that’s what makes him happy. He refuses to let us cancel a large team of volunteers that’s coming in May to help him with his church plant.   Please pray with me for Noguchi and his wife Yumiko that they won’t feel ‘abandoned’ by anyone…..and that the Lord will send workers for the harvest!

For the friends we all have who face perishing deep waters, and the people we love who get what we feel are unfair and terrible diagnosis’s, we thank you Lord and pledge to try and stay tuned to Your ’story’.

Till next time, Marsha

Mending Nets

Dear all,
Well, I’ve been talking about other things for several weeks now, so you might not know what’s been going on in OUR lives and ministry!
As I sit here in a Tokyo Blizzard, I’ve been an ‘education widow’ for a week now.  Tony’s in San Francisco at Golden Gate Baptist Seminary beginning a Doctor of Ministry degree.  Hopefully he’ll tick all his p’s and q’s right and be back in Japan in 10 days, poised to start the ‘real work’. Of course I miss him, I’ve been feeding myself out of a can….(soup, not dog food yet).
There hasn’t been a whole lot going on in our lives since it’s deep winter here.  The Japanese tend to sorta ‘hole up’ during January, after having their big New Year’s celebrations and all…..We used to have some missionary friends that referred to this time of year as a time to “mend their nets”…..that’s so true.  Most of the refugee work we do in the north is battened down waiting for the spring thaw…..Add to that it’s almost the end of the school year, so there’s that ‘last push’ academically with lots and lots of kids testing for the new year/new school issues. True to Asian culture, many mothers are way more concerned about all this than the kids, but it still cuts down on our daily contacts for the time being.
After Tony left for the states last week, a friend from the neighborhood and I jumped on a ‘Jalpac” tour (imagine us following a flag) and went to the far north island of Hokkaido for 2 days for their annual “Snow Festival”.  Google it,http://www.snowfes.com/english/place/oodori/index.html it’s quite an event.  The main reason I went was to spend some quality time with this non believer who’s a good friend.  I prayed constantly, as did many of you, that we’d have the ‘right’ conversations about God.
I’m pleased to say that (for those of you who know me) we talked nonstop for 3 days.  When I came home and unpacked, I was still THINKING in Japanese.  Needless to say it exhausted me and who (God?) knows if our time was effective evangelically.  We did talk at length about how important relationships are with the Japanese, and after all the struggles of buffeting snow, finding directions and food,all while trying not to slip and break a hip etc. I definitely feel that we’ve bonded!  She and her husband were all excited about coming to church today (as they sometimes do) but because of the blizzard, we had to cancel. Maybe next time. You are welcome to continue to pray that the time spent will reap some real God things..her name is Sachiko.
So there you are.  Not much happening around here.  We DID finally sell Buddy’s house, which is a huge relief.  Fortunately it went to some friends who we know will treat it kindly.
It means so much to both of us that you care about us and pray for us constantly.  Stay tuned for something more interesting next week!

All my love, Marsha

A Two-Edged Sword

A couple of months ago, I was trying to cut an avocado in half.  The Japanese tend to marvel at the fact that we foreigners know how to cut with a small paring knife, often pulling it toward us instead of away.  They prefer to cut with a giant Chinese meat cleaver, holding the object with their fist, knuckles near the blade, chopping away as hard as they can with fast strong strokes.  We often laugh about eating what we call (when they’re not listening) “chainsaw chicken”.

On this particular day I was feeling very deft with my fancy German forged steel paring knife as I pulled it toward me, struggling to get thru a somewhat unripe avocado.  Then, suddenly, it got thru the tough skin and flew thru the soft meat of the avocado right into and thru the soft meat of my thumb.  I felt it hit bone.

I guess I’d never make it in battle, because oh my goodness, that HURT!  I danced around making the kitchen look like a crime scene till I could elbow the water on and shove my hand under the stream.  Then it hurt MORE!  Fortunately the husband was handy (upside of living in a tiny apartment) and he came running.

Cleaned up and bandaged, comforted with acclamations of “Oh you’re so brave!” etc, I settled down to collect myself and then the REAL PAIN began…….

For a week my thumb throbbed. Some of you can relate, and some of you are probably saying “oh PALLEZE! GET a LIFE!”  Seriously, this was pain that I’d never felt before and you can call me a wimp, but it really hurt! Yes, I suppose I have given birth, but I saw that one coming!

Finally the day came and the bandage came off.  Then another kind of pain began.  Anything hot or cold would set it off, and just the pressure of using it involved  another trigger.  As I’m typing this, it STILL hurts.

What I noticed the most thru all this, was that every time I hit the space bar (since I type properly, not like my two-finger hunt and peck husband), pain SHOT up my arm.  Who ever noticed this repetitive movement of hitting my thumb over and over at 40WPM?

This blog does have a point, bear with me…….

This thumb thing reminded me of an ‘adventure’ I had few years ago.  I was feeling especially righteous I guess; anyway, I asked God to “show me my sin”.  I was pretty sure He’d have to look around a bit for anything.

That night I had a dream.  I was at a newly arrived fellow missionary’s house.  It was a mansion.  I was being toured thru all the bedrooms with baths attached, enclosed foyers and sun rooms, separate areas for laundry, and to top it off, the huge living room…….it was all so glorious.  Surprisingly, I felt ANGRY and didn’t know (in the dream) why.  Then I woke up, still a bit disturbed.  As I lay there wondering what it was all about, I felt a nudge in my spirit.  ”You ARE angry”.  I immediately countered, “Why would I be angry?  I’m so happy for their good fortune!”.

Silence….. then God really DID show me my sin.  I was angry.  And why? The house these innocent people had been assigned to upon arriving on the field wasn’t like the house in the dream, actually it was very similar to the house we were currently living in…….adequate but nothing special at all.  Then I realized the source of my ‘irritation’.  You see, when we arrived in Japan, we had a much more humble and confusing place for 10 years. (When I say ‘confusing’ I mean, our toilet was just that, a toilet only in sort of a separate closet just to the right of our front door, making for all sorts of awkward situations regarding various entrances and exits. The bath was attached to the kitchen, the heaters were in the ceiling so the heat was just a draft by the time it got down to where we were, and the living room was graced by a huge hole in the wall left unfinished and gaping in order to accommodate the placement of a god shelf……that kind of ‘confusing’ house)

It finally dawned on me that I felt these folks, as innocent and well meaning as they were, hadn’t ‘earned the right’ to a nice, understandable house and I was JEALOUS of their good fortune! This reality I SAW, to my horror, for the first time!

Back to the thumb.  Until I cut it wide open, I had no idea what it was doing over and over every day……..I could ignore that insidious pounding on the keyboard that it did without noticing, because God hadn’t laid it bare for me to see.

Sin can be that way too, I believe.  Unless it is somehow revealed, we never notice it.  It takes a child’s observation, or maybe a paring knife or heaven forbid, a gentle nudge from God to point out a place we’re letting get by…….

Needless to say, after that experience I haven’t asked any more to ’show me my sin’ …….and I’m cutting away from myself now.

Have a safe and insightful week!  Marsha

A Different Kind of Love

Today I’d like to tell you a story that has touched my heart recently.  It’s true and it happened to a young missionary nurse we were appointed with years ago.  Her name is Becky, and she served in Africa; in fact in the very hospital I visited as a young 22 yr old and fainted when I saw the horrible  things she dealt with every day.  So I guess I could say she’s tough. So tough that after her time was finished in Africa she married and had TEN kids!  Home schooled them all……..really a ‘hero mom’.
Several years ago, they finally had all the kids up and running. The youngest was three, and they decided to take the family on a ski trip. That’s where it all began.  Becky’s husband Vince, fell and broke his neck, surviving but paralyzed from the neck down. The family all pitched in to help, but it was a huge task as he needed 24 hour care.
When word got out about the accident, one of Vince’s old buddys from high school days surfaced.  Vince had kept up with him thru the years, always sparring with him about why he (Vince) had chosen Christ and this guy (Geoff) hadn’t.  Anyway, Geoff stepped in and volunteered to be with Vince on Wednesday nights.  It was a generous thing to do; he came every week for  several years, always enjoying the conversations. They kept a clear understanding that Vince’s life centered around Christ, while Geoff’s did not, but the bond was there.  Finally, after 13 years, Vince went home to be with the Lord.
This is where it gets weird: just a few months after Vince died, Geoff was hit by a truck while bicycling and ended up in exactly the same situation, paralyzed from the neck down! What could our widow friend do except to offer Geoff the same kindness? Even though she still had a number of children at home, she volunteered her nursing skills every Wednesday.  Goeff’s wife especially appreciated Becky’s expertise and experience, as well as her friendship.
And so ‘chapter two’ began.  At first she didn’t feel that she had the same rapport with Goeff as Vince had, but he seemed to want to talk. Well, maybe it would be better if I print it below, just as Becky said it:
Geoff never forbade me to discuss religion. In fact, I was surprised at his willingness to listen, and God gave me a boldness to share like I had never known. Early on, Geoff said, “I don’t know why I’m alive.” I responded with, “I don’t         know either, but let’s try to figure it out.” Later I was able to say, “Geoff, did you ever think God kept you alive so that you could know Him?” It was around that time that he asked me start reading the Bible.
“Where would you like me to start” she asked,
“Oh, I guess the beginning would be good!”
When Tony and I visited with her about a year or so ago they were ploughing thru Genesis, making little progress because Geoff seemed to have so many questions.  However as slow they went, he seemed to love it.  Time passed.
Then Geoff had a near death stint in the hospital, and on recovery, they both seemed to agree that they should skip on to the New Testament.   After just a few weeks, Geoff was able to say he truly believed the words of John 3:16, giving his life along with his wife, to Christ.  This came as a joy to all the prayer warriors that had been attracted to this situation.  Not a week later, he and a pastor met to plan what would soon be his funeral.
A few weeks ago, Geoff went to be with the Lord, a believer at long last.  I’m sure Vince was there to welcome him home. I’m also sure that Vince was very proud and thankful for Becky, who didn’t puddle down and call herself the ‘poor widow with 10 children’, but saw herself as God had created her, a beautiful vessel made to share the Love of Jesus wherever she could.
I can’t think about this without thinking of the verse “In as much as you have done it to these you have done it to Me”…………….Thank you, Becky for this incredible picture of how Jesus wants us to spend our time here on earth!
In the process of confirming the facts of this story with Becky, she has said the whole ‘incident’  of Vince and Geoff is best summed up in the words of Elisabeth Elliot in her series of “Passion and Purity”.  This is pretty heavy stuff for such a simple blogger as me, but do read thru:
“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering. The love of God is of a different nature altogether. It does not hate tragedy. It never denies reality. It stands in the very teeth of     suffering. The love of God did not protect His own Son. That was the proof of His love – that He gave that Son, that He let Him go to Calvary’s cross, though “legions of angels” might have rescued Him. He will not necessarily protect us     - not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.” (Elliot, Passion and Purity, 84)
My prayer for us all this week is that we can truly understand this life of sometimes suffering but never being alone in His love.
Till next time, Marsha