Joy and Liberty

Tony and I have recently been reading the autobiography of C.S.Lewis, “Surprised by Joy”.  It’s interesting, albeit sometimes difficult to read with all his 20th century Irish colloquiums.  I thought it particularly interesting what he had to say about his father, an ageing widower raising two boys:

“When he opened his mouth to reprove us; he no doubt intended a short, well chosen appeal to our common sense and conscience, but alas, he had for many years been a public prosecutor.  Words came to him and intoxicated him as they came.  What actually happened was that a small boy who had walked on damp grass in his slippers or mislaid his notebook, found himself attacked with something like Cicero on Caitlin or Burke on Warren Hastings; simile piled on simile, rhetorical question on rhetorical question, the flash of an orator’s eye and the thundercloud of an orator’s brow”.

For some reason this made me laugh inwardly (not a good idea to laugh out loud now, even though I’m reminded of some of the things I read in my new Doctor  husband’s dissertation).  I also thought of some of my blogs, which even to me seem to go on and on about nothing.

So much so that from some of my loyal audience I got several surprised comments because of last week’s succinct yet true comments.  I guess some of you have become accustomed to  pulling up a chair and a blanket, preparing yourself for a allocution, often written by myself, drunk on her own words.

But something I wanted to comment on last week but unfortunately got caught in the ‘edit’ department, was a phrase I came across in the aforementioned book, by a 14th century poet, Edmund Spencer,

“What more felicity can fall to creature,

Than to enjoy delight with liberty”

I think we can all apply that to the Easter Story.  Christ and His sacrifice gave us the salvation and freedom from the wages of sin……..so that we can ‘enjoy delight with liberty!’

If you need a little reading to back up what I’m talking about, check out Hebrews 9:15,

“For this reason He [Christ] is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”

And then in verse 28 he continues, “So Christ was sacrificed once, to take away the sins of many people: and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.”

It’s turning towards fall here in Australia, a welcome relief from a record breaking hot summer.  In 8 days we’ll be heading to the West Coast for a couple of weeks to see my sister and family as well as a few friends, but mostly we’ll be there in order for Tony to be able to waltz across the stage and pick up that LAST degree.  We’re excited.

Happy Trails, Marsha

He is Risen!

Good morning everyone.

He is Risen!!!

I wanted to pontificate on this fact with my newly conferred Doctor of Ministry husband, but I found that I could no longer keep up with all his new big words, so let me just say,

He is Risen!!!

Those three words say it all.

Aren’t we thankful to be His children?

Happy Easter!

PS, I’ll go back to my own musings next week…….after we’re done basking in all the good news, including……

He is Risen!!!

Marsha

Sunday’s Comin’

Today is Palm Sunday.

On an unrelated note (or is it?), I heard an interesting story this week. It’s about Lassie, the famous Collie you must have known and loved at some time in your life. I heard the other day that his original name was “Pal” and was based on a story written by Elizabeth Gaskells in 1859. Eventually it was re-written by Eric Knight and launched into 7 different movies that were filmed from 1943 to 1951.  I’m not sure if I ever saw one of these movies, as I was only born in 1950 and VHS or DVDs were unknown back then.

But I do remember watching the TV program “Lassie” all thru my elementary school days.  The program seemed to be on every week and if the fates (aka: my parents) aligned, I got to see it.

But what I find really interesting about this story is what happened when the Hollywood people decided that Lassie had passed her prime. Pal and his owner were given their walking papers and offered $40,000 in total for the combined royalties that the movies had incurred.

Wow. I remember looking at a brand new house with my mother when I was about 8.  It was listed at $13,000 and my parents felt they couldn’t afford it.  (Childhood scar # 1?)  My point is that $40,000 in the 50’s was a LOT of money!

But back to the story…… after turning down the equivalent of 2 houses, Lassie’s trainer and owner, Rudd Weatherwax, passed on the generous royalty offer and instead garnered a deal for all rights and trademarks of the “Lassie” name  from MGM studios.  I’m sure the room full of suits figured, “Lassie is yesterday’s news; we just saved ourselves $40,000. Woo hoo!”

But as I’m sure you know, Lassie was far from finished. Another tv show spun off that would run for the next 19 years. Another Big Screen movie was made, which generated enough interest for yet another tv series in the 80’s. I’m not sure what the final tally would be for Lassie-related royalties, but I have an idea it’s more that $40,000!

Two houses?  Just a drop in the bucket. I wonder if even Mr. Weatherwax had the foresight to realize that he had set himself and his descendants for life when he left the office that day.

So what does this have to do with Palm Sunday?

Well, I’m no theologian, but I was thinking about all the falderal accompanying Jesus as He was entering Jerusalem for the last time. He certainly knew what He was doing, and how the week would play out.  But what were the people thinking that day?

Were they all shouting “Hosanna” because they had seen His miracles and knew he was ‘special’?  He’d even talked about His “kingdom”, after all. Were they thinking earthly kingdom out from under the Roman thumb?  Yeah, if that happened, their problems would be over. Life would be good.   What would something like that be worth? Maybe something like $40,000 would have sounded to Lassie’s owner?

I don’t know, but I think we’re all guilty sometime of focusing on the short term, when we should be looking ahead. With the gift of hindsight………what DID happen back in Jerusalem was something those crowds (with maybe a few exceptions) could not have imagined in their wildest dreams.

When I think of all that Christ accomplished so that I could enjoy a lifetime of joy, followed by an eternity with Him, I try to imagine comparing all that to, say, a couple of ‘ole houses.

Nope…no comparision.

As we look to Easter and this Holy Week leading up, let’s try to remember that sometimes “Sunday’s worth waiting for!”

A Rose By Any Other Name

After last week’s “Bloom Where You’re Planted” story, I promised you some more “blooming” thoughts. So here’s one about some roses of mine.

Soon after our firstborn died, someone gave me a beautiful potted rose in his memory.  Not knowing much about roses and still grieving, I hastily plunked it into a corner of the garden, up against the wall under the kitchen window.  I didn’t mind that it was out of sight or mind, as looking at it always just sent a sharp pain of sadness thru me.

But the sadness was multiplied when my second son Nathan had some friends to the house for a sleep over.  Being 11 yr olds, they didn’t think it strange to have a spontaneous game of hide and seek outside one early spring night.  I could hear them laughing and screaming in surprise and it was a balm to a hurting heart.

At least until the next morning when passing by the window, I casually noticed the “Trevor rose” had been stepped on, crumpled and broken. It was not quite, but almost destroyed, still clinging to life in that forgotten corner which apparently had been a perfect hiding place.

I wanted to rail at Nathan for being so careless, but my mother’s heart stopped me.  He was adjusting to his new life, all the cares of being a younger brother now tossed into a world where he was alone….. and I was glad to see him  finally playing with some amount of abandon.

He saw me wipe a tear as I dug up what was left of the plant and when I explained what he’d done, he gave me a sweet hug and apologized.

“It’s OK,” I said, “I don’t know what I was thinking when I planted it there in the dark. How about we move it over here near the fence?”

He agreed heartily and as he helped me replant it with more care this time, added, “If this is so important to you, I’d like a rose with my name on it too!”

“What a great idea!” I said.  “We could use some more flowers around here! “ So off we went to the local DIY store to buy him a rose.

Of course, you’ll remember this is Japan, and roses are sold as bare stock with lots of unintelligible (at least to me) writing and maybe, if you’re lucky, a picture.  We picked (without reading) a pretty one, with a tiny picture of a pink flower.  Taking it home, we planted it a few feet away from Trevor’s rose.

Time passed and both roses grew.

And then we adopted Nicki.  Nathan, who is the sentimentalist in the family, said almost immediately when we brought her home, “Oh Mom! We’ve got to get her a Nicki rose!”

Believe me that was the last thing on my mind at that point as I wondered if she’d ever stop yelling at us in Russian and trying to eat the dog’s food, but we headed for the store.  She tore unbridled down the aisles and with our help ‘selected’ a yellow one.

It grew and grew and …… grew.

And then I began to laugh at God’s clever sense of rightness.

Without reading a word of instructions or descriptions, we now had:

The “Trevor Rose”:  Perfect cut flower type, producing single long stemmed beauties, in a rich salmon pink, which was his grandmother’s favorite color although the lady that gave it in his honor would have never known that.

Then there was the “Nathan Rose”.  It was a hybrid tea bush, with hundreds of the friendliest most inviting perfect blooms all over it all the time.  It made you smile just to look at it.

And not to be forgotten: there on the end, the “Nicki Rose”.  We would drive into the driveway in the dark, and there it would be, arms outstretched, heavy with flowers and waving with ambitious abandon.  You see, it was a climber rose, and with no wall to cling to, it was happy to wave to everyone passing, not only warming your heart with welcome but making you actually laugh out loud.

And now I’ve introduced you to my kids. “Beautiful”, “Friendly” and “Welcoming”. There’s a verse in Proverbs (22:6) about ‘training up a child in the way he should go”; I have to keep reminding myself that the verse is referring to the way the child should go, and not necessarily the way I think he should go. My kids have illustrated that truth very well, each growing in his or her way: a way set by God before they were even born. I’ve been given the task of planting them in good soil, caring for them as best I can, and praying every day that their way and God’s way will never conflict. And for my efforts, I’ve been given the precious privilege of watching them grow and blossom into all that God created them to be. And what a joy to know that one day, as I stand before God to give an accounting, I’ll be surrounded by a beautiful, friendly welcoming bouquet. God knew these kids before I did, and if it was a garden he had in mind, then they are certainly testimonies to His success

Have a great week!  Marsha

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Good Morning,

Here we are just a few weeks before Easter!  How the time flies. Sadly Australia is a very secular country and there’s little attention given to the real reason for Easter, but a trip to the shops reveals all the chocolate for sale, a sure sign that the bunny’s on his way.   They don’t dye eggs here because all the eggs are brown.  Believe me, they don’t come out very pretty, no matter what you do, so we just have to focus on lots and lots of Chocolate……

For most of you in the north, you may be starting to think about Spring and all the beauty that brings.  Here Down Under, we’re finally getting some relief from the heat and enjoying the cooler evenings.

There are very few deciduous trees here, so we have to travel away from the coast to see the autumn colors…… what few there may be. It’s begun to rain torrentially, which is a blessing, actually turning everything a beautiful ‘spring green’, just in time for the nearly imperceptible winter.

But as we’re all thinking of changing seasons, I’d like to share this little tale with you.

As you more than realize, we’ve been sorting and moving our stuff around yet again, hopefully for the last time for a LONG time, but you never know. I glanced back over my blogs and realize I’ve been whining about this settling in for over a year…….my apologies!

But as I worked through boxes the other day, I came across a little plaque, almost unreadable now. It’s been a part of our family almost as long as we’ve BEEN a family, and it’s a pretty good representation of the hippie environment of the time, with the simple slogan, “Bloom where you’re planted”.

Ironically, the first time I began to realize the significance of that little plaque was when we were in Japan, in the early years.  I hung it over my washing machine, where with a preschooler and a baby, I certainly felt that I was ‘planted’……. there in the laundry room.  I wondered if I could ever escape, but fortunately the words reminded me to ‘bloom’ instead of look for the door.

Time passed and the plaque was hidden away in a box for a couple of moves, until the time when our kids were 17 and 8 and we pulled up roots and headed thousands of miles here to Australia.

Oh my goodness, did my son Nathan struggle with that move!  He was so unhappy to be yanked from everything he had grown up with, friends, language, everything ….. and then to add insult to injury, the Australian school system has a different calendar, so he had to be put BACKWARDS in school because of the 6 month difference from Japan. To add to his sufferings, for the first time he now had to wear a school uniform replete with a necktie, starched shirt and heavy black oxford shoes. One unhappy camper, that’s for sure.

As we unpacked the “Bloom where you’re planted” plaque, we decided to make this thing earn it’s money, moving it to a “trophy status” of sorts.

We gathered the family one night and announced that Nathan would be the recipient of the now famous badge of honor. Along with the presentation were a few words of encouragement like, “Display this with pride until such time as you feel like you’re able to start to blooming!”

Sure enough, it seemed to bolster him a bit, and over time he did finally settle. And boy, DID he!  Realizing that now he was half a year older than the rest of his class at school, he found his peers looking to him for leadership. He was the first in his class to get a drivers license, and then when some Japanese homestay kids needed support, he was asked to translate for them. It wasn’t long before he was an indispensible addition to every soiree.

Nathan never looked back. Now he’s a senior constable with among other duties, responsibility for keeping the occasional Japanese tourists in line. He’s married into a lovely Aussie family from the country, the father of three adorable Aussie boys growing up on Vegemite sandwiches and living the dream.

A few years ago, the time came when my Mom needed to move into a retirement home.  It was not going to be a pleasant experience for any of us, but as I prepared to make the journey back to the States to help her, Nathan came in and pulled the plaque out from behind his back, carefully wrapped with a little note…….”for Grandma”.

I presented it to my Mom, and she read out the note.  “Grandma, this helped me to remember that I’m not alone in my struggles and I want you to also remember that we’re behind you and praying for your difficult adjustment.  We love you! Nathan”

I can’t say she ‘bloomed’ as well as Nathan did. Instead of being set free, she pretty much lost both her drivers license and much of her freedom…… but she made the move and was able to remember that she was loved by all of us and by God.  When she passed away, we found the plaque displayed in a prominent place, and several fellow residents testified that had indeed blossomed into her new surroundings. My sister and I had to smile when we realized that she’d never given into us to let us know that she had…….but the important thing is, she had.

Now the little plaque has come back to us, to be put in a box and forgotten again ….. until the other day when I unpacked it once more.  I chuckled to myself as I wondered if I need to hang it somewhere to remind myself again of the wisdom it proclaims!

Stay tuned next week, I’m going to write about some other ‘blooms’ we planted!

Marsha

Mud and Blood

Well, it’s been a painful week, physically, but also a week full of real joy; and no, no one close to us has had a baby! Let me explain…

As we anticipated last week, the renovations on the house have finally been finished, owners and builders both smiling with a few remaining tweaks here and there. Finally it’s come to the point now where we can begin to move our “stuff” into the new rooms. It’s an exciting time, because a lot of that stuff has been in storage since our crates left Japan nearly two years ago. At last, we can dust off the books, clothes and knick knacks and talk about where to put them. It’s been fun.

It’s also been a time of gruesome discovery, to see that we’re not quite as steady on our feet as we used to be, evidenced by the fact that Tony and I both (on two separate occasions) fell off ladders this week. But in all fairness, it wasn’t really our fault! In Tony’s case, he was climbing up to get to the top of his new office bookshelves…. without checking to see that the ceiling fan was turned off. Suddenly he found himself on the floor and bleeding, thinking he’d been shot. I have to thank him for adhering to the “no blood on the new carpet” rule and after a quick trip to the emergency room and three stitches, the only thing that still hurts is his pride.

And in my case, I didn’t really fall until the step stool I was balanced on decided to shatter. That brings up a whole new topic of why it broke under my perceived featherweight lightness that I’d rather not go into…. No blood, but some pretty impressive bruises. Unfortunately, they’re in places where only Tony is allowed to see and be impressed, but he will confirm that they’re pretty awesome.

We might have wanted to milk the events for more sympathy, but they were quickly trumped by the great news we got the next day. Some of you will remember our house where son and family are living, paying rent against the purchase and raising three boys who are proof positive that perpetual motion can be observed. We’re assured that it was torrential rain and not their energy that caused it, but a little over three years ago, while we were still in Japan, there was a landslide in the back yard of biblical proportions, transferring several tons of dirt into the Crown land below. The city council decided to get involved, and three years and $100,000 later, we were beginning to think that our kids would not be inheriting anything after all. There were even hints from those in-the-know that the final bill could top half a million dollars which would have bankrupted us all.

………to save you a long gory story, we prayed, we whined, we gnawed on our arms, all the while trying  to keep our perspective.  We reminded each other that nothing had changed with our love for each other or the Lord, but eventually I even changed several of our passwords to say “God is faithful” just to remind me that He was actually in control as we worked, all four of us, on this problem.  Anything that could have been done by us we did: cutting, hauling, shoveling, planting, watering etc, all the while siphoning out money like a fire hose on engineers, retaining walls ,heavy equipment diggers, inspectors and more.

And praise God, last Tuesday, after yet another inspection by council-appointed geologists, the back yard has now been certified as repaired and safe to go back on to! It was a tense moment, as the visit was preceded by yet another deluge that threatened to wash the rest of the yard away, but Kylie, who is such a sweet charmer, handled the inspectors like a pro, and before they left they announced,  “This looks perfect” as they signed off.

THANK YOU LORD, the burden has been lifted. (We sang at church this morning, “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free” ….maybe a touch out of context but you know)

Thank you precious friends, for being there to hear us both when we cry and when we rejoice. We remember you as well, and pray that all your pains will be little ones, and all your joys too big not to share!

Love ya,

Marsha

Renovations and Rebuilding

Well, as I’m writing this, it looks like we only have another few days until our renovations (expanding a bedroom and adding a bath) will finally be drawing to a close! We moved into this house almost a year ago and with one thing and another, it’s been “dust, dust, and dust” for all this time.  We’re excited.

But did you know that renovations tend to cost about twice what it costs to build from scratch?  I didn’t either til this ‘little adjustment’ began.

First you have to “undo” the old……hence the dust.  Then and only then can you begin anew.  Note to self, next time buy a lot and build!

As you may know, for several weeks, Tony’s been busy teaching his doctoral theses, the “Anagaion course” (basic Bible study, ‘know where you came from and what you believe, etc) to several groups as our church has decided to begin the new year with it’s focus.

And to our surprise, teaching this for the first time to seasoned Christians, we’re facing some necessary ‘renovations’.  A lot of old understandings about the Bible and personal faith are being challenged through this study. Tony’s not “tearing down the walls” exactly, but he is helping folks see their Christian beliefs in a new light, separate from long-held traditions that don’t always come from God’s Word. For some, I suppose, it’s not unlike starting from scratch.

As I daydreamed thru another potential minefield the other day, I thought of our first convert in Japan, a little student named Yukiko. I’m sure I’ve talked about her before.

Once a week she would come to the house to argue with me about the Bible.  She was/is a smart little thing and she wasn’t going to let me get away with anything!  We would diggle back and forth about the miracles, virgin birth, resurrection, etc until we were both exhausted.  Then she would leave til the next week.

One week she appeared and we settled in for the battle.  I opened with, “So…..what’s your problem today?”

To which she beamed at me, and said, “No, I think I’d like to believe in Jesus today!”

Wow.  I’ll never forget the joy mixed with fear as I called up our Japanese pastor and whispered frantically, “Get over here!”  (I was a fledgling in the Japanese language in 1981 and wanted to make sure I was understanding things).

She prayed, she lived, she raised 4 kids who are all in the ministry today.  Even her husband accepted Christ after 25 years and they’re ‘living the dream’ as we speak.  One of our happiest stories.

But what she told me some weeks after her conversion has stuck with me all my life.

“Marsha” she said, “What I didn’t understand before I accepted Christ I either totally understand now, or if I don’t, I have the faith to accept that God knows what He is doing.

Jesus said this too…….. several times, I believe.  Some things just can’t be understood and we’re wasting our time and our dedication trying to ‘build up’ theories.  Heaven forbid that we have to tear those apart later just to get back to the basics. I seem to remember Jesus getting impatient with His disciples who wanted to argue about the present or worry about the future, where they’d be sitting, etc.

Here’s some of his advice to all of us in John 14:26, It was true then, and it’s true now, Just like little Yukiko almost 40 years ago.

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Have a good week!

Marsha

The Original One-Armed Bandit

The other night at church a Mongolian missionary dropped in to share his vision with us. As he took the podium, he tested his audience by asking if anyone had ever been to his country, Mongolia.  Well, we raised our hands, of course, not wanting him to be disappointed. But really, Mongolia is not a place that comes to mind when you’re sorting through travel brochures.

But this young man grabbed our attention. His vision, we learned, is to put a short wave radio into the hands of every Mongolian. He’s gotten off to a good start, having already distributed over 3000 little credit card-sized solar powered radios pre-set to one channel: their Christian station, naturally.

It’s a great plan, considering the fact that 30% of Mongolians are nomadic, meaning that they’re hard to reach, moving with the changing seasons. He also mentioned that in the 25 years that Mongolia has been open to the world, they’ve gone from practically zero Christians to about 90,000 today. And oh yeah, they’ve managed to send out 20 Mongolian missionaries to surrounding countries.

After the service I mentioned our visit to his country, and the chance we had to see one of ‘our’ missionaries, who lives 4 hours away from Ulan Bator, where his ministry is based.  It came as no surprise that he knew the lady well.

And then came the amazing thing.  I mentioned that we’d befriended a church member there who only had one working arm. The young man KNEW him and called him by name (which of course, being Mongolian and 30+ letters long, I’ve forgotten again).  I told him of our wild ride to a national park with this church member showing us some impressive one-armed driving across the trackless tundra. The missionary was not so impressed, though. “Ah he’s fine,” he said, “it’s an automatic.”  They grow em’ tough in Mongolia.

Let me tell you about this man.

It seems (he told us thru the missionary as of course English is not a big language there) that years ago, his ‘profession’ was going into Russia and stealing high-end cars for the Mongolian Mafia. He would then drive them non-stop the 3 or 4 days back to Mongolia and sell them on the black market.  Apparently, this was a thriving business, taking him sometimes as far west as Germany.

One night, though, he’d had a little too much of that Russian elixir, vodka, and had a terrible accident, losing his only asset (the car) and severely damaging his arm.  Of course he was immediately out of work, abandoned and languishing in a makeshift Siberian hospital for months on end.  He got no better, in fact his arm was now much worse, so he finally cut his losses and headed home.

With a still attached but completely nonfunctioning arm, he was unfit for any work, so his family was edging near ruin when some foreigners came into the neighborhood and asked (thru an interpreter) if he had a room to rent.

He didn’t, but saw an opportunity to survive, so a room was quickly made available and a couple of our short-term missionary college kids moved in.

Over the months, they learned some Mongolian and he learned some English. But what struck him the most was their happy outlook on life.  They didn’t have much, but they brought joy and laughter, and more importantly, open hearts, to the home. Gradually they began to open the Bible to him, and the rest is history.

Today, this man is not only surviving, he’s thriving, as are all of his family, some of whom are now grown and married,……all in the ministry, spreading a message of love and hope to all the ‘tough’ Mongolians out there.

Life can throw us some curves, but our prayer is that we can weather them with grace and style, remembering that God has, thru Jesus, given us a reason for the kind of “happy outlook” that spoke volumes to this man.

So how’s your “H.O.” today? Have you had a chance to put it to use?

Keep smilin,

Marsha

Love Locks

This is the last Sunday in February, Valentine’s Day is behind us, but I just wanted to say something about LUV……..

I’ve been thinking lately about “Love Locks”.  You know, that thing couples do now instead of carving their initials in a tree since they’re probably all about the environment and don’t carry pocket knives much anymore. In order to make a lasting pledge to each other, these days young folks fasten a padlock with their initials on it to some permanent structure, like a bridge. The most famous would have to be “Pont Neuf” in the City of Lights and Love, Paris.  Years ago, Tony and I left one there, as well as one for each of the kids and their spouses, hoping that some day they could come and acknowledge them and perhaps relocate them with the keys we gave them.

But alas, the City of Paris beat us to it. In 2015, about 3 years after we were there, the bridge authorities estimated the total accumulated weight of the locks came to about 45 tons… way too much for the oldest bridge in Paris, which dates back to the early 1600’s. The trucks and the hacksaws backed up and our ‘luv’ was gone……

Sigh. However, it seems that the lovers haven’t given up, with evidence of new “Love Lock Places” sprouting up all over the city.  I’m thinking maybe they should consider something a little more substantial than a bridge next time, although Pont Neuf is filling up…..again.

A few months ago, we were talking about this with a friend, and he mentioned that a few ‘love locks’ had started appearing on the back fence of our church!  My eyes welled up with the sweet thought of young lovers, seeking some sort of verification of their love at, of all places in this highly secular land we live in, a church!

I raced out to see them, but alas, my friend, who is also a pragmatist, hung his head and when questioned, admitted to cutting them off.  “We don’t want that kind of thing to get out of hand”, he mumbled.

Yeah, that was sad, but understandable, I suppose. But then the conversation turned to other examples of young couples in love, and I remembered a story that is truly nothing BUT sad.

Many years ago in Japan, actually right after we’d arrived…….…… two promising intelligent university students had fallen deeply in love.  They had hoped to be married, but knew there would be a problem. Apparently the girl was of Royal blood and the boy was just a commoner.  At the time (1970’s), about 80% of all marriages in Japan were carefully arranged by parents using professional matchmakers. The figure today is still around 50%, by the way.

Finally the couple, after waiting for years and coming to no resolution, vowed to just run away and consummate their love anyway.  They rented a room in a Japanese inn about 2 hours from Tokyo, deep in the mountains and far away from prying eyes.

Ironically, or maybe Providentially, we have our Baptist camp nearby, Amagi Sanso.  You might want to google it to get an idea of what a beautiful landscape it’s set in.

After the couple arrived at the inn, they realized that anything physical would just trivialize their love, so reluctantly they decided that if they couldn’t be together in life, they would at least die together.  They bought the drugs and went for one last walk together.

Happening upon our camp, they noticed a small spring at the entrance.  Years ago someone had built rocks around it and attached a cup for travelers to have a drink of the pure water.  On a stone nearby, the verse was carved, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him, will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:13-14).

That night, before they went to sleep forever, the girl wrote in her diary about the spring they had found, and how they had stood for a long time, just wondering about it.  “What could it have meant, spring of water to eternal life?” she wrote.

Remembering that story made me wish I had another life to give to the Japanese. Whether it’s the back fence of the church or the fountain in front of the camp, people are searching for the truth, reaching always towards an unknown (at least to them) Savior.  I pray that people will be called who can keep telling them the mystery of the cross and I hope even more the Lord will keep sending you and me out for the harvest.

Romans 10:14,  “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?”

Have a good Week! Marsha

Bittersweet

Over the years as I’ve tried to plan out the rest of my life, I don’t think I ever pictured myself sitting flat in the gutter in our local tourist night spot. But there I was,  sitting beside our grandson while he held his head between his knees.

It all started with a birthday promise.

When Isaac turned 7 a few weeks ago, we gave him a necktie (and found out that what he really wanted a whole grown up suit). Along with the tie was a promise that, having now reached the age of perfection, he would be given the treat of a night out to a fancy sit down restaurant.  We were all excited.

Well, this part of Australia is currently in the middle of a newsworthy heat wave, so the necktie didn’t happen on either of the men, but we were all dressed ‘smart’ and were in pretty high spirits as we pulled out from his house.

Now for some time, our family slogan has been, “Make Good Choices”.  I think it came from the old movie, “Freaky Friday”, but it’s served us well as our kids have come through the tumultuous pre-teen, teenage, and are now within sight of their middle-aged years. We can say with a certain amount of pride, an extra dose of humility and a full cup of gratitude to God that our kids have turned out even better than we might have expected.

But alas, this ‘choice’ thing may have been where the whole plot last week began to digress.

There are very few ‘family friendly’ restaurants in Australia, apart from the fast food chains.  We wanted somewhere where he could order off a menu and sit politely till the food arrived. Believe me, given Isaac’s high energy level, we felt that this would be an ambitious goal to achieve.

We got suggestions from friends, searched the internet, and finally decided that a tram ride into the heart of Surfers Paradise to a place called “Pancakes in Paradise” would be just the ticket for all three of us.

Arriving in Surfers, we parked the car in a shady lane and strolled with grace and style to the tram.  Riding two stops we alighted into the hub of tinsel town (imagine Honolulu’s Waikiki district) and, gaping up at the 80 story buildings festooned with neon lights, we entered the restaurant.

If you don’t count the first choice of a pancake restaurant, the second choice of “menu” may have been when things began to cascade.

After carefully, and quite maturely I thought, perusing the menu, Isaac moved away from the ‘Death by Chocolate’ choice and announced that he’d have the short stack. He read his selection out carefully to the attentive waitress, who then asked if he wanted powdered sugar, butter, ice cream OR whipped cream. Beaming from ear to ear, he answered, “Yes!”. My heart swelled to see the little bit of American in him coming out.

Tony wanted the ribs, but a withering look from me convinced him otherwise. Thru secret hand signals, raised eyebrows and  whispered Japanese, I reminded him that we might want to hold off on the expensive choice, just in case our 7-year-old charge got out of hand, forcing us to leave the restaurant prematurely.  He nodded with a sigh and settled for a hamburger.  Of course for myself, being both cheap and not too hungry, I opted to get what Isaac got.

We sipped our included ‘soft drink’ options while we waited.  I had wanted coffee, but of course that wasn’t included, so I settled for diet coke while Isaac opted for the real deal. What is that, 12 Tablespoons of Sugar?

When our meals came, we held hands and prayed earnestly and then loaded on the syrup even though they offered only one kind. What kind of ‘pancake house’ was this anyway?

Everything went well.

Then we exited the restaurant, with maybe just a bit of enhanced exuberance on Isaac’s part, we all leaped and skipped along the sidewalk, dashing here and there looking for a suitable souvenir for his little brothers, who had been left behind, not having met the “7-year-old” requirement.

Even Isaac had the discernment to know that his brothers probably had no use for clip-on Koalas or a t-shirt that said  “……and all I got was this t-shirt”.

Then we found what was possibly choice # 3:  a Candy Store!

After much deliberation he settled on a ‘Violet Crumble”.  A big one.

For you northerners, a Violet Crumble is honeycomb (aerated corn syrup?),  maybe an English or Australian invention, really yummy.  Of course it’s covered in a thick layer of chocolate.  Isaac graciously offered me a bite…and I took a BIG one.

By now, with the sugar high in full swing, we started walking back to the tram. Too late I began to see what was happening and kindly suggested that Isaac give me the rest of the candy bar for “safe keeping”.

It’s just that I was starting to get a disturbing mental image of Parental Wrath when we delivered the spinning top back home.

But boy was I wrong.

Like a spring gradually winding down, Isaac slowed his pace, came to a complete stop, then slumped to the sidewalk. I think the music even stopped.

“Quick! Get up silly! What’s wrong?” I cajoled.

One look into his glazed eyes told the tale……….SUGAR!

I ducked into a nearby convenience store and bought a bottle of water, and asked for a bag….. just thinking ahead.

No sir. He drank some water, but would not be budged from the middle of the sidewalk!  We drug him to one side and positioned him against a planter.  Resting a few minutes he started to rally, but then after only a few steps slumped down again.  Tony tried carrying him piggy back, but when both of us starting talking about the consequences of him throwing up down the back of Tony’s shirt, he got quickly dropped back onto the sidewalk.

Finally it was decided that Tony would walk ahead to the tram to get the car and bring it around.  It would take at least 30 minutes, but Isaac agreed it was the best plan.

While we waited, I had time to tell him a tale of my own youth when I found a box of chocolates hidden in my sister’s closet.  I was pretty sure she wouldn’t mind as I furtively yet gleefully ate thru the entire box.

I never had the chance to know how she would react, largely because I never told her. I did learn a valuable lesson, and while I didn’t experience the nausea that Isaac was feeling, I got the thrill of experiencing what later would be referred to by many as “The Missionary Two-step”!  Wow, unforgettable…..

Failing to see the humor in my well-learned lesson, Isaac continued to groan, “Mae (my grandma name), WHY did you let me eat so much sugar?”

I searched my mind for an appropriate answer and found none.

I did try however, to get him to remember how much fun we’d had up to now, all the while repositioning the plastic bag for quick access if necessary.

After about 30 minutes (me in a dress) sitting cross legged on the sidewalk, we got a phone call.

The tram was a relatively new experience for both of us, and somehow Tony had missed his stop and was now miles away from the goal.

I held the phone to my chest and asked Isaac, “Mate, can you walk to the tram now?  Gigi’s (Tony’s Japanese ‘grandpa name’), made a mistake and can’t bring the car for another hour”.

He nodded weakly and I gave Tony the instructions to meet us at the car.

Helping him up to a standing position, we both wobbled forward.  Remember I’d had exactly the same menu and wasn’t feeling too hot myself.  We caught the tram, got off at the right stop and made it to the car.

After a few minutes waiting at the car, Tony joined us and by then Isaac was recovering enough for us to laugh all the way home.

“Mae! Gigi!” he called our from the inky depths of the back seat.  “We had a really good time, but please don’t ever let me make such BAD choices again!”

This led to what we hope was a teaching moment for us all.

Sermonette: It may seem like a good idea at the time. It may be SWEET, but there are consequences.

We got home well after bedtime, and Isaac’s first words to his dad upon arriving were, ”I’m never having sugar again!”

We wondered what he might have been thinking the next morning, but wisely chose to relish in our “Grandparent of the Year” award and stay away awhile.

Memory verse (from Proverbs 18:17): “The one who first states a case seems right, until the other comes and cross-examines.”