"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Monday, January 31, 2011

Holy Spirit or Madison Avenue? (1st of 6)

The Story of Flying H Youth Ranch   

     "We are experiencing a severe financial crisis. If you can enclose a special gift of $25 or more--"  It's one more appeal from one more Christian ministry. You already give to some; you don't even remember asking to be included on this one's mailing list!
     As your hand hovers over the wastebasket, frantic words underlined in red catch your eye: "We need to hear from you! Even $10 will help."
     Reluctantly, you put the letter back on your desk.

     What methods are Christian organizations using to raise funds? Those of the Holy Spirit--or Madison Avenue? What motivates us to give to these organizations, God or guilt?
     What would happen to a mission which actually let the Holy Spirit move people to give when and as much as He willed, without any human arm-twisting?
     In 1962, G. Allen Hires, a minister with a wife and eight children, agreed to help Youth for Christ set up a week-long camp for delinquent boys in the mountains outside Yakima, Washington. They ended up establishing the Flying H Youth Ranch, a year-round ministry for boys who are referred to them by welfare agencies and juvenile halls.
     It was the policy of the staff never to tell anyone but God their needs nor to solicit funds. Faith had worked for George Mueller, who founded an orphanage in England a century ago. But--here in America in the 20th century? Allen and Freeda Hires determined to find out.
     Here is the account of that experiment as told by the Rev. Hires:

      Freeda and I had only $50 and no prospect of more when we made an offer on a beautiful dude ranch in the Cascade Mountains. The Lord brought in the money for the first month's rent the night before it was needed and continued to supply until we were able to purchase the property.
     God gave us the ranch and the State of Washington gave us teenage boys. How they gave us boys! Years later they told us, "We gave you the worst delinquents we could trust to be out in the community and sat back to see how you would make out."
     We started with 15 boys. Bit by bit we began to see the deeply hidden anger in these young men who had been rejected by family, school, authorities, and society. Many of them came to my office to talk. Often a boy and I would cry together as he finally faced the fact that he was not wanted by those closest to him. When by myself, I would pray that the children would know they are wanted by someone besides the police!

(To be continued)

Today I am thankful for good foster homes.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

TWO beaks!

There's not just one new hummingbird in our back yard--but two! (Who is This Man, (5th of 12) JESUS: HIS CHARACTER follows this post)

JANUARY 14  I noticed a hummer nesting in our back yard, not in the nest Hummy and Hummus hatched in (see the Hummy series, His Scribe, 6-14 to 7-6-10) but in the vacant Allen's nest in the tree next to theirs.  I think this is Hummus, the second generation. We had heard that hummers recycle nests. Hummus refurbished this thumbprint-sized one, added a second story. (It's twice as tall as before.)
I believe this is Hummus, one of the Anna's twins who hatched last June.
JANUARY 24  When Hummus was away, I could see something infinitesimal, white and rounded in the nest. Hummingbirds usually lay two eggs but we couldn't see into the other half of the nest to tell for sure.   
Two beaks!

JANUARY 27  I could see a bit of broken shell, then caught the flap of a tiny brown wing. When Hummus flew back to her nest, two tiny golden "V"s popped up to greet her. I watch her insert her beak into each one twice. When the beaks withdrew, she settled down on top of them.  
Every twenty minutes this miracle repeats.

JANUARY 30  Today I took these pictures. Jerry named this pair Humberto and Humberta.
(Who is This Man, (5th of 12) JESUS: HIS CHARACTER follows)

Who is This Man? (5th of 12) JESUS: HIS CHARACTER

                           JESUS: HIS CHARACTER

            Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd,
               "I can't find this man guilty of any crime."
                           Pontius Pilate, Governor of Judea

      We have looked at some of the things Jesus said and did. How did his contemporaries evaluate his character based on his words and works?

1. Jesus was brought before the Judean governor and the King of Judea, accused of what crime? Luke 23:1-14 esp. verses 2, 5, and 14. Punishable by what sentence? Luke 23:22
      What did each of these contemporaries of Jesus say of his character? 
     a. Judas Iscariot (Jesus' disciple who turned him over to be killed), Matthew 27:4a
     b. Governor Pilate's wife, Matthew 27:19
     c. and d. Governor Pontius Pilate and King Herod, Luke 23:13-15
     e. Thief crucified next to Jesus, Luke 23:39-41

     These opinions all refer to Jesus' innocence of criminal acts for which he could be prosecuted. Now let's go further. What about his moral character?

2. What did the religious leaders say about Jesus' character?  (A sinner is one who breaks God's laws, as given in Scripture.) What was the response of those who had witnessed or experienced his miracles? 
    John 9:16 
    John 9:24-33, esp. verses 30-33

3. What did Jesus say was his relationship to the laws of God? Matthew 5:17

4. What did Jesus challenge the religious to do? John 8:46a  "Sin,"or hamartia in Greek, the language in which the original manuscripts of the New Testament were written, literally means "missing the mark." We have all acknowledged this basic truth when we say, "Nobody's perfect.")

     In response what two things did the religious leaders accuse him of being? John 8:48 Note that neither of these things qualifies as "sin." (We'll  look at their other accusations in a later lesson.)

5. What do the writers of the books of the Bible reveal about the moral character of Jesus? Look for references to him such as unrighteous/righteous,  sin/no sin, sinner/sinless or without sin, holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners.
     a. Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21
     b. Apostle John in I John 3:5
     c. (Simon) Peter in I Peter 1:18-19, I Peter 2:21-22 and I Peter 3:18
     d. Anonymous author of Hebrews in Hebrews 4:14-15 and Hebrews 7:26.

6 By contrast, what does the Bible say about our righteousness? Are we sinners?      Isaiah 64:6 (New Living Translation says, "We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.")
     Romans 3:10-12
     Romans 3:23
    According to this verse, have you sinned and fallen short of the glory of God?

7 What standard of righteousness does Jesus say God requires for us to enter His kingdom? 
      Matthew 5:20
      Matthew 5:48   

8 Can we become perfect by keeping the Law (Ten Commandments)? Romans 3:20

(New Living Translation says: "For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.")

9. What is the penalty for breaking God's laws? Ezekiel 18:4 and Ezekiel 18:20

We have a dilemma here. Our own consciences confirm that we are not perfect, yet we have to be perfect--more righteous than the religious leaders, perfect as God is perfect--if we are to enter the  kingdom of heaven. Let's put our dilemma on hold until Lesson 10, JESUS: SAVIOR. For now, just focus on the contrast we see here between Jesus' moral character and ours.

According to all these verses, in what one way is Jesus unlike all other human beings?
Based on this lesson, WHO (or what)  IS THIS MAN?

(BONUS QUESTION: In light of what we now know about Jesus' character, why do you think He replied as He did in Mark 10:17-18?)

(To be continued February 6)

Today I am thankful for daffodils in the front yard and a new baby hummingbird in the back yard.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

HOW TO BE RICH - (3) Be generous

     In some missionary magazine--World Vision, maybe--I read about a banquet held for their supporters which I have never forgotten. The evening was festive, the attendees dressed up and expectant. Efficient servers poured from the kitchen with steaming plates of chicken, vegetables and rice, salad, and a roll and placed them in front of every third person. Then they disappeared back into the kitchen.
      Those who had been served waited politely for those next to them to receive their plates. But as time went on, those without food urged their neighbors to go ahead and eat, while the food was hot. Some did, some offered portions of their dinner to those next to them, some continued to wait.
     Finally, after about 20 minutes, the servers appeared again. This time they carried smaller plates. They put these plates before those seated to the right of the ones already served.
     These plates had only rice and beans on them.
     After another 30 minutes, the last third of the guests were served. They were given bowls of thin gruel.
     When people had had time to take in the disparity, the speaker for the evening rose and addressed them. He pointed out that one-third of the world had abundant food to eat every day. One-third of the world had adequate food, nothing fancy and little variety, but enough to stay alive. And one-third of the world went to bed hungry every night.
     He pointed out that when the hungry are sitting right beside us, our natural reaction is to share what we have with them. It is because we are separated by countries or continents that we can ignore their need.
     "Give as freely as you have received." One evening, years ago, my husband and I invited another couple to a church potluck. Because they were our guests and because their family of five lived off the husband's income so the wife could be a stay-at-home mom for their three teenagers, we did not ask them to bring anything. We brought two casseroles.
     At the end of the evening, each of our dishes were still about half-full. My husband put the covered dishes in the trunk of our car and we started to drive the other couple home.
     As my husband drove, God nudged me. I've felt His nudges before and I knew this was Him. He nudged me to give the leftovers to the other couple. I knew the wife, especially, had enjoyed the rare opportunity to eat out, eating food she didn't have to cook. She had exclaimed with pleasure over the casseroles.
     BUT--I didn't want to. I wanted to keep them for us.
     So we dropped the couple off without mentioning the leftovers and we drove home.
     The next morning I realized my husband and I had both forgotten to take the casseroles out of the trunk. The food in them was highly perishable and we didn't dare eat them.
     So instead of one couple enjoying the food and the other enjoying sharing the food, nobody enjoyed them.
     Because I closed my heart to the needs of others.

Today I am thankful for inhouses (as opposed to outhouses).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Note: Just added new ending to "THIRD CULTURE KID: Champon" (Jan. 25)

     Go to Champon. Scroll down to new paragraph beginning, "I was so homesick--" Everything from there on is new.

HOW TO BE RICH - (2) Be obedient

    There are lots of paradoxes in the Bible: die to live, put yourself last to be first, put others first to have your own needs met. Here's another: "Seek first the kingdom of God and what has His approval. Then all these things will be provided for you," Matthew 6:33.
     In context, Jesus is talking about the necessities of life. Only one woman had the foresight to send along with her little boy a lunch when he went out in the hills to listen to Jesus. Five little buns and two small fish. It was enough to feed the boy and that's all. But when he gave it all to Jesus, it became enough to feed him plus thousands of other people--with left-overs. 
     It's like that with everything we have. I heard somewhere of another little boy who, when the offering basket was passed to him in church, put it on the floor and stepped into it to signify that he was giving himself to God.  It's the principle of constant self-emptying for constant sufficiency. Jesus first called people to himself and then sent them out from himself to others--with food, with healing, with the gospel.
     Start with a tithe (10%). Make it the first 10%, take it off the top. Give God your best and trust Him for the rest: "'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,'" says the LORD of Heaven's Armies, "'I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!'" Malachi 3:10, New Living Translation.
     I've shared how this worked for my mother in The King's Treasury and I'm going to share in a couple of days how it worked for a couple who started a boys' ranch in Naches, Washington. If you don't give what you have to God and let Him tell you how you spend or use it, there won't be enough even for you, much less others. I'll give you an example of that from my own life tomorrow.
     Giving to God and watching him work miracles with your pittance can be habit-forming. Some people--Texas philanthropist R.G. LeTourneau (with wife Evelyn) and Pastor Rick Warren (with wife Kay) come to mind--gave Him 90% and lived, thrived even, on the tithe.

Today (I'm not sure why) I am thankful for the versatility of fingernails, for such things as scratching hard to reach places (and my husband's back) and tightening screws.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

HOW TO BE RICH - (1) Be grateful

NOTE: This starts a series, Faith and Finances, which will include three posts on "How to Be Rich" and six on "Holy Spirit or Madison Avenue?" which may offer more personal help to you than you think in struggling with your financial priorities.

Three Biblical principles will ensure you will always be wealthy.

Principle #1: BE GRATEFUL
     The United Nations defines "rich" as "having more than you need."
     How much more? According to Mr. Micawber in Charles Dickens' novel David Copperfield, "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery."
     Being rich is an attitude, a choice. It is seeing yourself as having enough. The Bible talks about godliness with contentment being great gain, 1 Timothy 6:6-7. We can be content with what we have when we realize that we have Him and He is enough. (People I know and people I have read about who have been stripped of everything but Him verify that fact.)
     Clarke's Commentary, in commenting on verse 6 (scroll down to Parallel Commentaries for several good ones), says, "So, if a man have the life of God in his soul, and just a sufficiency of food and raiment to preserve and not burden life, he has what God calls great gain, an abundant portion."
     I am not an expert at being contented but sometimes when I walk through a store I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude that I don't need anything in it.

Today I am thankful for curly fries.  They're cute as pigs' tails and fun to eat and they taste good. I'm also thankful I don't need them.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

THIRD CULTURE KID: Multnomah School of the Bible

     I was a seven-month-old baby Christian when I started Multnomah School of the Bible (now Multnomah University). Everything was new to me. We took a Bible knowledge quiz when we enrolled and we took it again at the end of the three-year program to see how much we'd learned. At graduation (39 graduates) I got the prize for "most improved."
     That was the easiest award I ever won. I could hardly have known less when I started. I even flunked the sample question on the cover of the test: "What are the first five books of the Bible called?" I'd never heard of the Pentateuch or the Torah.
     I came to Bible School as a pacifist. I challenged one of my Bible teachers with "I can't see Jesus carrying a bayonet!"
     He shot back, "Ever read the book of Revelation?"
     Before coming to Multnomah, I had given away my two prom dresses, although I would have liked to keep them, and I had my hair cut short, although--because--I felt pretty with it long and wavy. I think I was expecting Bible school to be more of a nunnery. (My future husband, who entered Multnomah the next year, had the same misconceptions. He saw a motorcycle in the college parking lot and judged the rider as "carnal"--only to declare upon getting to know him he was "the most spiritual student in the school.")
     I came to Bible school with the simple, unquestioning faith I talked about in my post, "I prayed for a cat." Most of Multnomah's students came from Christian families and had grown up in Sunday School. The zeal had worn off--or had never been there. Once in our after-dinner devotions, someone called out exultantly, as if making a great discovery, "God is still on the throne!" and I thought, Of course He is. Where else would He be? I judged the solid, long-term faithful believers for not being more emotional and evangelistic about Jesus.
     When we paused for grace before meals it meant--for me--an interruption in the constant dialogue, or at least monologue, I was having with God. It went something like, "Father, please help Marie get over her cold and--excuse me, Lord, time to thank You for our food--and help Jack to master Greek."
     I hung out with other first-generation, newly-saved pagans, like Genie Lombard, who had also become a Christian in Japan, and Dennis Miller, who came to the Lord after breaking his neck in a fall from a trapeze.
     Everyone had to pick a "Christian service assignment." I picked the rescue mission. I'd go with a small team who would present a mini-church service to homeless men slumped in pews before they could have their free meal. (I was so gullible one man talked me out of my own lunch, going off with three of my room-mate's Tupperware bowls which I had to replace.)
     Only guys could do the preaching. (An unofficial motto for Multnomah men was "Be prepared to preach, pray, or die at a moment's notice.") I wasn't interested in becoming a preacher but I did take homiletics and after my first year of Greek the school hastily ruled that girls could not take two years of Greek, lest they end up with a degree making them eligible to preach.) Girls could "give testimonies," help with children, and sing.
     One evening I went with a group which teacher Tom Stanwyck was leading. I was the only girl on the platform with him, the only girl in the room. When the song leader asked everyone to open to hymn whatever-it-was and we started singing, I heard the most beautiful soprano voice--and realized with amazement it was coming out of my mouth! Not only that but I had total control over it. I could vary volume and dynamics, hit notes I was surprised to hit.
     I've never been able to sing well, before or since. I was eliminated during solo try-outs breathed shyly into the ear of my second grade piano teacher. Humiliating. Once while swinging and singing alone on a playground I heard a nearby window slam and thought maybe it was personal. I slunk away ashamed.
     Now I was caroling with the joy and freedom of a lark. I knew it wasn't me. It was God, gifting me temporarily for His own purposes. I heard later that one of the homeless men--a young one who was new to the mission--came to Christ that night. I assume that was God's purpose for the gift. It was not for me; it was for him.
     We also, as a student body, went out once every semester, to take the gospel to our city. We would go door-to-door, two-by-two, with literature. I didn't mind this--I am not saying any of this to criticize the school; I am very grateful for the Bible foundation I received there and have been building on it ever since. I was taking the gospel to every creature I met anyway.
     But one semester, as my partner and I passed a house on our way to the blocks to which we had been assigned, I saw a young mother struggling to carry a basket of wet laundry to the clothesline in her back yard. I wanted so much to forget my assignment, go help her hang up the laundry and be her friend. I didn't but I have never forgotten that tug in my spirit and I have given in to similar tugs many times since then.

Today I am thankful for God's gifts through us to others.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

THIRD CULTURE KID: Champon (no, not "champion") and Chambara

     Seven years in Ohio, 6 years in Japan, 4 years of miscellaneous international travel, 3 years in Hawaii. By the time I got to the mainland United States again, I felt like a gaijin.
     It's called being a "third-culture kid"-- a person raised in a culture not his/r own. They have distinctive traits, strengths, and weaknesses. Often they're bilingual. And adaptable. They can feel at home anywhere--yet not really feel at home anywhere.
     For me, my first impressions of my own country after having been raised for 13 years outside it (if you include the Territory of Hawaii) were negative. They call it reverse culture shock.
     It was too much. Everything was too loud, too fast, too artificial, too bright, too brittle, too in-your-face. Japanese women in their sixties wore drab colors, walked or knelt gently, arms and legs together, spoke softly. At LAX, I cringed from permed seniors bulging in hot pink jogging suits, showing too much cleavage and too many teeth, talking too much, gesturing too much. Sugoi deshita.
     For some reason I noted that every container, every box, soda can, bottle, had to have specific directions on it explaining how to open it: "Lift here. Slide tab A under Tab B. Pull out. Fold under." Dooshite ka na? I wondered. As if Americans were all small children and couldn't figure these things out for themselves.
     I missed Japan. "Hoh-oh-moo-sheek-oo," as my Japanese friends would have laughed sympathetically, fitting the English word into the distinctive cages of pronunciation provided by katakana, their alphabet for foreign words.  I had missed more than a decade of American culture. References to I Love Lucy, Andy Griffith, and James Dean didn't have any context for me. My favorite movie star was dashing chambara hero Kinnosuke Nakamura, who battled other samurai (each of whom politely waited his turn to fight him) on behalf of his lady love. Their love-making consisted of intense, yearning looks.  
     When I set foot on campus, I instantly lost half my vocabulary. In Japan and even in Hawaii, we young adults spoke what we called "champon" (in Hawaii, pidgin is thrown into the mix, too). Now I could not exclaim "kirei des' ne?" when I saw a pretty sunset or "tsukareta" when I was tired.
     Not and be understood. I had to stop, sort mentally through the available descriptives and pick one in English. When I stubbed my toe and "itai" came out of my mouth I had to translate: "Ouch."
If I didn't know something, "shiranai" would leave the person I was talking to just as blank as I was.
     There were words for which I could not come up with an English equivalent: muchakucha, onegaishimasu, genkan, tokonoma, and others which were English to start with but came out Japanized, like "homesick" above.
     I was so homesick I would stop any Asian-appearing stranger on the street and ask, "Nihon-jin des' ka?" But they hardly ever were. Sometimes they were part Japanese or second or third generation Japanese but more remote from the culture than I was. I addressed what turned out to be my last desperate attempt to a teenager filling his gas tank.
     "Nihon-jin des' ka?" I asked.
     He looked at me blankly so I translated. "Are you Japanese?"
     "I'm Mexican," he said.
     I never dared try again.
     But just becoming acclimatized to American culture was not my only challenge. I was also trying to acclimatize to Christian culture.

Today I am thankful for Squeak, a little startled mouse we found in our garage, although I will be more thankful if he took advantage of our leaving the garage door up for several hours to find his way out.

Monday, January 24, 2011

THIRD CULTURE KID: Two girls and a Greyhound

     America was a foreign country to me when I flew alone from Japan to Los Angeles at the age of twenty. Even though I am an American citizen and had grown up in an American family, I hadn't lived in the United States for well over half my life. The only person I knew on the mainland lived in Ohio. 
     I boarded a Greyhound bound for Portland, Oregon, sitting toward the back of the bus on the left. Just before we pulled out of Union Station, a girl my age (we called them girls then, not women) climbed on and took a seat a couple of rows from the front on the right. She's alone, too, I thought as the bus hissed and began backing out. I wonder where she's going. 
      Burbank. Bakersfield. Fresno. Modesto.The girl was short, like me. She had curly brown hair and a sweet face.
     I wonder what her name is, I thought. I'd like to get to know her.
     Every hour we stopped but couldn't get off, every two hours we stopped and could get off to stretch and buy snacks out of a machine. Every four hours we stopped and were forced to get off, to mill sluggishly around a featureless bus station until our bus had been serviced.
     At the next stop I'm going to try to catch her eye and smile. I did. She smiled back. Then we both looked away, embarrassed.
     Hour after hour we rode. Like me, she read, she looked out the window, she dozed. We crossed the border. She was still there.
     Maybe the girl was going to be starting Multnomah School of the Bible, too! I was disappointed when, only about an hour from Portland, she got off the bus and didn't get on again. We'd ridden almost 27 hours "together" and never said a word to each other. I didn't even know her name.
     In Portland I found a phone booth and telephoned the Bible school. "I'm here," I said. I expected them to send a car for me. Instead they suggested several city bus routes.
     Suitcases and all, I found my way to 8435 N.E. Glisan Street and into two-story, white-columned Sutcliffe Hall, the administrative building fronting the street. There I registered and was assigned to my dorm room upstairs, one of the dozen or so providing overflow space for the new women's dorm.
     I went into the room, unpacked and met my roommate. Then it was time for dinner. I emerged from my room just as the occupant of the one next to me emerged from hers. We glanced at each other.
     We were both too shy to stare or let ourselves look startled. We blushed and said hi and that was it. Nothing about, "Wow, what a coincidence!" or "Oh my gosh, you were on the bus from LA!" I think that single "Hi" may have been all we said to each other for the entire year we were classmates. Then she got off the bus and disappeared again. Rumor had it she was leaving to marry a Brit.
     At least I knew her name now. Judy.
     Years passed. I graduated, moved to LA, married, had two children. It was time for my 25th college reunion. I wrote the alumni office asking if they knew of anyone who wanted to carpool from Southern California. They said someone from Arizona did.
     This time we drove. This time it was just the two of us. This time we talked. We  reminisced about Bible college, compared notes about what people we had known there were doing now--about what we were doing now. Judy had become a nurse. She and her Brit lived on the border between Arizona and Utah. Judy worked with WIC, providing nutritional care for women and children, many of them families of polygamous Mormons.
     She said the wives were undernourished from so much child-bearing but they didn't seem to mind all having the same husband or the fact that he was principal of the one elementary school and father of all the children in it. They liked being able to split up the chores of cooking and childcare according to their own skills and interests. 
     When the state of Arizona tried to make them obey the laws of Arizona, they claimed residency in Utah. When the state of Utah tried to get tough with them, they claimed residency in Arizona.
      I would liked to have helped Judy write a book about her life among the Mormons. She loved these women.
     I kept thinking about it and wanting to but it wasn't until the trip was half over (we must have stopped and spent the night in a motel, I don't remember) that I found the courage to bring it up.
     "Can you believe we rode 27 hours on the same bus to end up at the same school, right next door to each other?"
     "I know," she said.
     "And we didn't even mention it the whole year we were at Multnomah together? We didn't even talk to each other?"
     We laughed.
     "We were both so shy!"

Today I am thankful for spring, especially in winter.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Who is This Man? subject to changes (even retroactively)

     On January 2 and succeeding Sundays I have been running a Bible study called Who Is This Man? I put it together years ago and am revising it as I go. I presented it to you as an 8-week study and it has expanded to 12 weeks. (Today's lesson was originally going to be "3rd of 8"; now it is "4th of 12.") That is confusing enough, I know. But I am also going back and making what I hope are improvements in lessons I have already posted. What can I say? The Lord just keeps teaching me more.
     If you want to print it out, I suggest you wait until the series is finished (March 20?).
     Thanks for your patience. I hope you will be blessed by it even during the re-construction.

Who is This Man? (4th of 12) JESUS: HIS WORKS

                                            JESUS: HIS WORKS
                               They were terrified and asked each other,
                       "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"
                                                                           Followers of Jesus

     We've looked at some of the things Jesus said, the so-called words in red. Some astounding things came out of his mouth--but anyone can boast. While he was making these outrageous claims, let us look at what Jesus was doing, especially with his hands.
     Jesus seldom called them miracles or signs, though other people did; he called them "works."

1. What "works"did Jesus do? Matthew 9:35 What are some examples of his healing "every disease and sickness?" How did he heal in each case?
     a. Mark 3:1-5
     b. Mark 7:32-35
     c. Mark 8:22-25
     d. Mark 1:40-42
     e. Mark 5:22-24 and 35-43, esp. 22, 23,35, 41 and 42.

What else did he do and in what way?
     a.  Mark 1:23-26  (Note that casting out demons was also referred to as a form of healing. Note too that he did not touch demonized people to heal them.)  
     b. Mark 6:34-44, esp. verses 41-42 

     c. John 5:19
     d. Matthew 14:22-27
     e. John 2:1-11 and Mark 4:35-39

BONUS: Go through the words in red in the gospels and pick out other examples of things Jesus did (like overturning tables and writing in the dust!) 

2. By what power did he claim to be doing these things? John 5:19 The son can do nothing of himself, unless it is something he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the son also does in like manner.

3. What did Jesus claim was the purpose of these works?
     John 5:36
     John 14:11; John 10:37-38
     John 13:15

4. How well did he claim to be accomplishing this purpose?
     a. John 8:29b
     b. John 14:31 I do exactly as the Father commanded me.

5. How did people respond to these works? What conclusions did they come to about him?
     Mark 6:2-3
     Matthew 13:54
     John 7:12
     Luke 7:16
     Mark 1:25-27
     Mark 2:12
     Matthew 9:32-33
6. Did his enemies deny the fact of these miracles?John 11:47

    What conclusion did one religious leader come to as a result of seeing Jesus' works? John 3:1-2
    How did other religious leaders respond to his works? Mark 3:6

7. If you had seen Jesus do these things, what conclusion would you have come to about him? Based on this lesson, WHO IS THIS MAN?

(To be continued January 30)

Today I am thankful that when Jesus went back to heaven, he gave us authority to do the works he did: John 14:12.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

SANCTITY OF LIFE: A tribute to our family's moms

    Some women in our family chose to give birth to babies in spite of circumstances they could have used to justify abortion. Today I want to honor them.
     Some women in our family had abortions and I want to stand with them in their grief. I grieve the pain of the empty womb and the pain of the emptied womb.

     When Jerry's daughter Julie was 17 he had to rush her to the hospital in severe pain. Emergency staff whisked her away and he waited. And waited. And waited. He went up to the counter and asked, "Where's my daughter? How is she?" All anyone would say was, "She's being examined."
     This went on so long he finally walked out of the waiting room and wandered down the hall looking for her. He finally found Julie lying on a gurney down the hall from X-ray. She was crying.
     He told her he'd been waiting quite a while and no one had told him anything. He asked what was happening.
     She said, "I'm pregnant. I thought you knew and you didn't want to see me."
     He held her and let her cry and told her he loved her. Then he sought out the doctor and demanded to know what was going on.
     "It could be a tubal pregnancy," the doctor told him. "It's so small we can't find it but if the Fallopian tube bursts, it could be life-threatening. Something needs to be done right away."
   Jerry had the distinct impression that the doctor intended to cut him and her mother out of their daughter's life before they had a chance to find out about the pregnancy, at the moment of her greatest need. Julie agrees. "They would have (aborted the pregnancy) if I had wanted that. Dad would have never known."
     Julie signed permission to have a laproscopy done to check the Fallopian tube and Jerry took Julie home that afternoon. He told her, "We'll stick by you, whatever you decide."
     Eight months later, Jerry was his daughter's partner of choice in the delivery room.
Cheryl, on her wedding day, hugging birth mother Julie.
     The pregnancy wasn't  tubal. It was Cheryl.

Today I am thankful we will meet the unborn members of our family in heaven. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

I am ABSOLUTELY pro-choice. . .

      I am absolutely pro-choice when it comes to abortion--as long as the victim is the one who gets to choose.
     A pregnant woman has other options. She can raise the baby herself or offer him/her to a dozen eager pairs of arms. But the baby in the womb has no other options. Let's see, climb out and run away?

     I have a friend, Stacy, whose mother didn't try to abort her but whose choice amounted to the same thing. She decided to kill herself while Stacy was in her womb, apparently back at two months when she found out she was pregnant. Stacy's father found her in time and rushed her to a hospital, saving both their lives. As a woman in and out of psychological therapy all her life and diagnosed borderline, Stacy asked her mother about that choice.
     "Why did you try to kill yourself?"
     "I didn't know what else to do."
     "What about me? Didn't you think about the fact I would die, too?"
     "No," said her mother lightly, with a dismissive gesture. "Why would I think about that?"
     Stacy and I spent hours and hours and hours together, seeking God's healing for her. She also met with prayer teams. She talked about feeling unloved, about people always cutting off relationships with her, about failure in job after job. She began to realize that when she stepped out into a friendship, she would begin to fear the other person would reject her, so she would pull away; when she started a new job, she would lose confidence and let it unravel.
     As she talked and I listened, I also prayed silently. God, help me to understand. Help me know how to help.   
     On the phone with me, she would get angry when I had to say goodbye, no matter how long we had talked. She would cling harder, want more. She could have sucked all the life out of me and it would not have been enough for her.
     Yet even then I really liked her. She is a bright, enthusiastic, creative person with a sense of humor, lots and lots of talent.
     Where the therapists would have told her that her 50 minutes was up, I let her keep talking. When she wanted to lay her head in my lap, I let her. When she wanted me to stroke her hair and tell her she was beautiful and I loved her and was glad she had lived, I would mother her. I didn't mind.
     Gradually, after some months, the Lord took her back to her mother's womb and I got to stay with her as, shaking, she relived the terror and grief. How could a fetus, an embryo, a zygote, know and feel the things she was experiencing? (How could the 6-month old fetus John-who-would-be-called-the-Baptizer, leap for joy in his mother's womb when his cousin, the Savior of the world, walked into his house?)
     I don't know. But I do know Stacy was really screwed up, pretty much non-functional, for 40 years and when we went back to the Catch-22 she'd faced in the womb, it all made sense--and God healed her.
     Based on my limited experience with women diagnosed borderline, I believe borderline personality is a matter of being stuck in an equal-and-opposite, lose-lose situation which prevents trust and bonding and includes a lot of anger. (I've ministered to only one other but the pattern was identical and the process of healing similar.) "My mother chose death," Stacy would say, sobbing. "I needed her! I didn't want to die! If I chose to die with her, I would die. But if I tried to fight it and choose life--I would die anyway!"
      "Stacy," I would say. "You didn't have a choice then but now you do. Do you choose life?"
     At first she wasn't sure, then, briefly, she would try choosing life. Finally, now, she is choosing life daily and living it. I don't hear from her all the time any more. When we talk on the phone now I don't have to pray certain things a certain way to make her feel safe. When I say, "I have to go now," she is fine with that. Sometimes she's the one who says it. She doesn't cling. She is a functioning adult now, a friend and equal, not a victim.
     She has a choice and she chooses life.

Today I am thankful for every pregnant woman who chooses life.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Make that "Jessica Shaver Renshaw"
     Pro-life activists accuse pro-choice activists of not really caring about women. Pro-choice activists accuse pro-lifers of only caring about babies.
     This book cares about both.
     Compelling Interests has been called "the War and Peace of the abortion battle." Many of us are passionate about this issue though we may be on opposing sides. We are so polarized we aren't listening to each other.
     I have compassion for women with unplanned pregnancies and their babies, as well as for women whose abortions have been traumatizing. So in this novel I attempted to get inside the hearts of people on both sides. By trying to accurately and sympathetically portray both views I hope pro-choice and pro-life people will feel heard and will risk hearing the hearts of those on the other side.
     I am convinced if both sides are presented fairly, the pro-life side will prove the more persuasive. 
     Against a backdrop of 70 years of contemporary American history, Compelling Interests presents the drama and complexity of abortion from before its legalization until sometime in the future when Roe vs. Wade may be overturned. It follows the lives of women and men branded by their experiences who try to change the future in very different ways:

Cecile Tucker-Thomas, whose own illegal abortion drives her to make abortion legal, whatever it takes,

Supreme Court Justice James Weatherill Weiss, struggling with whether to vote to legalize abortion or not;

Gwen Nakashige, who flies to Japan to bring babies rejected by their mothers to adoptive homes in the States,

Joan Andrews, a pro-life activist imprisoned for her persistent nonviolent protests at family planning clinics,

Dr. Julius Guy, a millionaire abortionist haunted by his dreams,

Mariana Hernandez, mother of four who takes pregnant women into her own home to help find them an alternative to abortion,

Stephanie, a teenager who nearly dies from a legal abortion, and

Noel, the fellow college student who loves her.

Note: Joan Andrews is a real person and everything about her in the book is taken from interviews with her and published with her permission. Everyone else in the book is based on real people or composites of real people. 

This book is in the hands of a Christian producer, at his request. I'd appreciate your prayers for God's will. 

Today I am thankful for all the heroes of this second Civil War, especially those who are still determining how it will come out.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


     Focus on the Family has just re-released Gianna: Aborted and Lived to Tell About It, first published in 1995. I want to call it my book because I wrote it but it is really Gianna's book because it is about her.
     Gianna was born alive in an abortion clinic to a girl 17 years old and seven months pregnant. Since January 22, 1973, late-term abortions like these are legal throughout this country.
      She is now 33 years old with a singing and speaking ministry all over the world. Of her mother's attempt to end her life before birth, Gianna says, "I just came into the world in an interesting way." She has forgiven her mother, recognizing that she was a teenager who felt desperate and did not realize she had other options. Although Gianna survived the abortion, lack of oxygen during the procedure has left her with lifelong cerebral palsy.

The former cover is above and the new cover is to the right:

Today I am thankful Gianna survived.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

UNPLANNED by Abby Johnson

     UnPlanned is the just-released insider report by former Planned Parenthood leader Abby Johnson on what abortions do to the women who have them and the women who help perform them.

     CHERYL POKED HER HEAD INTO MY OFFICE. “Abby, they need an extra person back in the exam room. Are you free?”
     I looked up from my paperwork, surprised. “Sure.”
     Though I’d been with Planned Parenthood for eight years, I had never been called into the exam room to help the medical team during an abortion, and I had no idea why I was needed now. Nurse-practitioners were the ones who assisted in abortions, not the other clinic staff. As director of this clinic in Bryan, Texas, I was able to fill in for any position in a pinch, except, of course, for doctors or nurses performing medical procedures. I had, on a few occasions, agreed at a patient’s request to stay with her and even hold her hand during the procedure, but only when I’d been the counselor who’d worked with her during intake and counseling. That was not the case today. So why did they need me? (Read rest of chapter 1 at UnPlanned)

     You can purchase and read Abby Johnson's entire book at UnPlanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line.

Today I am thankful for you.

Monday, January 17, 2011

We Never Heard Them Cry

     Seventeen years ago, seven men decreed that a group of Americans who have the legal right to inherit property, to sue for injuries, and to receive Social Security benefits do not have the right to live.
     Seventeen years ago, they decided that although cessation of heartbeat and brain waves means life has ended, onset of heartbeat and brain waves does not mean life has begun.
     They ruled that a woman's body extends to that tiny separate being that depends on her for sustenance and life.
     And since that day 17 years ago, unheard, unseen, over 24 million of our children and our neighbors' children have ceased to exist.
     How can we miss them? We never heard them cry, never watched them wriggle and wave in their bassinets, never shared their mothers' delight.
     They never entered our kindergartens, wide-eyed and freshly scrubbed. They never played in our back yards with the other kids. They never complained about having to eat vegetables or teased the dog or left a bathtub ring. 
     So why, as I think about them, do I feel such a sense of pain and loss?
     Those who spoke with authority assured us that the Roe vs. Wade decision would reduce child abuse. Yet in these past 17 years, instances of reported child abuse have escalated. Is it possible we actually have contributed to the number of incidents of child abuse by reducing the value of a child's life?
     They said we had no right to punish women whose lives are endangered, whose children may be defective or who have become pregnant as the result of rape or incest. I don't want to punish anyone. But those reasons apply to only 3 percent of the abortions performed. What about the other 97%?
     They said women have rights. But which women? Don't the little girls denied life today have rights as tomorrow's women?
     I do not want to accuse. I do not want to argue or defend. I just hurt. I hurt for the mothers who deny their own flesh. I hurt for the guilt this causes them and for the denial of that guilt, which hardens them. I hurt because in denying guilt they are denying themselves healing.
     I hurt for doctors, for what it does to them as they turn from delivering a baby to destroying one.
     And the unborn? I hurt for them, too. Where does one go to mourn the unborn child? Where does one lay a wreath? They are not in graves, these 24 million.
     I cannot throw myself in front of every woman entering an abortion clinic and beg her to reconsider. I cannot hold back the doctor's arm as s/he switches on the suction that will tear a living baby to pieces.
     I can only grieve and dedicate myself to helping reverse the ruling that made all this possible.

"We Never Heard Them Cry," Virtue, October, 1990

As of this coming Saturday, it will have been 38 years.

Today I am thankful for babies.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Who is This Man? (3rd of 12) JESUS: HIS WORDS

                                JESUS: HIS WORDS 

               "No one ever spoke the way this man does!"
                                               Roman officers sent to arrest Jesus.

     From our first look at Jesus, he seems like a perfectly normal person. He was born, he got tired and slept, got hungry and ate, wept, got angry and distressed and grieved. He had a flesh-and-blood body like anyone else. People in his hometown of Nazareth described him as "the carpenter's son" or "Mary's son" with brothers and sisters they knew by name.
     In other words, he was fully human.
     BUT--something was different about him. Let's look at some of the things he said.

1. What did Jesus claim about his origin?
     a. Where did he claim to have come from? John 6:38a 
     b. Who did he say had sent him? John 8:42
     c. What did he claim was this person's relationship to him? Luke 2:49 (when 12 years old); John 2:16.   (Both verses are speaking of the temple in Jerusalem)
     d. For what purpose did Jesus say he was sent into the world? John 6:38 
     e. What did he claim was the will of the one who sent him? John 6:40  
2. Whose words did Jesus claim he spoke?
     a. John 7:16
     b. John 8:28b 
     c. John 14:24

3. What did Jesus claim about himself?
    a. John 6:35
    b. John 8:12
    c. John 10:9
    d. John 10:11 
    e. John 11:25
    f.  John 14:6
    g. John 15:1

4. How did the general public react to his words? Mark 12:37 (One translation says "The common people heard him gladly.")

5. What did he call the religious leaders? John 8:44 and Matthew 23:27-28 How did they react to his words? John 8:58-59

6. Why were people so affected by his words? Matthew 7:28-29

7. List some of the subjects he spoke with authority about:
     a. The future Matthew 24:3-14 (actually all of chapters 24 and 25!)
     b. Heaven Matthew 25:31-40; John 14:1-4
     c. Hell Matthew 25:41-46
     d. Eternal life John 17:3 (in prayer to his Father); John 10:28

8. What would be your reaction if one of your friends or relatives made these claims about him/herself? Based on this lesson, WHO IS THIS MAN?

(To be continued January 23) 

Today I am thankful for the "words in red."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Burning of a Small Library - 3

"The death of an elderly person is like the burning of a small library." (Author unknown (to me)See His Scribe for Burning of a Small Library - 1

     Recently I had a couple of weeks of palpitations--not just like a small bird fluttering in my chest but like a dove-sized bird flopping frantically to break out of it. I have mitral valve issues and had had a treadmill test some time before that was inconclusive so I was referred to a cardiologist, a new one.
     He made me feel right at home because he was part-Japanese and had an aunt from Hiroshima. He had a round, jovial, middle-aged face and smiled and nodded a lot. I described my symptoms, explaining that they got worse when I lay down, when I lay on my left side, when I got up, and when I climbed stairs. I said they kept me from sleeping and if I fell asleep, they woke me up. I talked about several other medical concerns. I found myself telling him, insanely, "I just don't want to drop dead of too many things at once."
     Without examining me, he leaned back in his white coat, crossed his arms casually and began to talk about life. He pointed out that I am 66: "You can't die prematurely. When you were young your children depended on you, you needed to help pay the mortgage. Now life will go on." He said it was time for me to relax and enjoy what life I have left. 
     He said palpitations were common, that if we asked the person ahead of or behind us in line at any check-out stand we'd find out they all had palpitations. He said he'd had them himself for a couple of decades and had never had them checked out. He said "People with MVS are at no more risk of dropping dead suddenly than are people wearing black sweaters."
     He said he could order tests and more tests and I would end up in the hospital--and what was the point of that? Forget about your cholesterol, he said. Don't worry about clogged arteries. Don't worry about anything.
     As he spoke, I heard his words and I did feel myself relaxing. At the same time I was aware of a disturbing undercurrent of meaning to them. He's part of an HMO and isn't that what HMOs are all about--talking the patient out of having anything done that costs them money? Don't ask, don't tell? And wasn't this the whole culture of death people have been warning us about, the devaluing of life at both ends of the spectrum, the dismissal of seniors as expendable?
     But I was attracted to the idea of not pursuing answers for every medical question I have, not pursuing treatment and especially not landing in a hospital, where so many of our friends have contracted staph infections. I'm old, I'll have aches and pains, why not ignore them best I can and enjoy the rest of what time I have.
     I told him I agreed with him and he beamed, nodding enthusiastically. Then he strolled over and listened to my (still abnormal) heartbeat and re-iterated his prescription to stop stressing about it.
     Somehow I knew he was telling me I am old and useless, I've lived my life and now it's time for me to die. But somehow, just as they did when my granddaughter said them, the words were strangely comforting. I can relax now and enjoy life, however much of it I have left.
     Abnormal heartbeat or not, my heart has felt fine ever since.

 Today I am thankful for truth-tellers.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Burning of a Small Library - 2

"The death of an elderly person is like the burning of a small library." (Author unknown (to me)
See His Scribe for Burning of a Small Library - 1

   Once, with several family members within earshot, our then three-year old granddaughter Kate asked me  (business-like), "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
     "A mommy and a grandma."
     "You are a mommy and a grandma." Astonished.
     "So you're done." Pause. Bewildered: "Now you have to die!"

     Months ago I shared with you (on His Scribe) my feelings about being a small library. Now I want to talk about the burning part. Death.
      I think about death a lot. I thought about death--morbidly--when I was suicidal in my late teens. I wanted to be rid of myself but was scared to die. It seemed then as if life was too strong to destroy. Now I'm at an age where many of my friends try desperately to cling to life--and can't. Life seems so fragile. I think about death now, though, with anticipation and curiosity. Some of my favorite people are on the other side of that "veil."
     I've discovered that the things I have dreaded most, like flying, chronic pain, persecution, and death, may actually prove to be the very things I would embrace if I knew the joy God offers with them. I was always hung up on the dying but that only has to be done once so now I look beyond it.
     Firsthand accounts, in Scripture and in books like Don Piper's 90 Minutes in Heaven, assure me the afterlife, for those who are trusting Christ's merits not our own to get us there is going to be great! Colors that go beyond our known spectrum, music with harmonies more beautiful than we can even imagine--and the presence of the One who loves us and Whom we love more than anything in this world--literally!
     So what we call "death" must be absolutely, unbelievably, fabulously, marvelously delightful and fulfilling. "In His presence is fullness of joy and at His right side are pleasures forevermore," the Bible says. Pleasures! Forever! And productive things to do, like ruling cities.

     I don't mind the library burning but I want to transfer its contents to other libraries before it burns. I'd hate to have all that accumulated knowledge wasted.

Today I am thankful for hope beyond this life.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

When God says no (last of 3)

     One revelation at a time, as I could bear it, the Lord was weaning me away from Japan. The final painful break came a few months after our wedding. Two of my best friends, Americans like me who had lived in Japan, were coming to visit. One was Mary Stewart, the missionary who had led me to Christ. The other, Darlene Tetro Pritchard, a daughter of missionaries, had been my roommate at Bible college.
     I eagerly cleaned the house, brought out scrapbooks and memorabilia, put up pictures, set out Japanese snacks. These two girls were kindred spirits. They would understand my homesickness. If I blurted out a word in Japanese, I wouldn't have to grope with embarrassment for an English equivalent. If I covered my mouth and giggled like a Japanese schoolgirl, they wouldn't think me immature.
     The phone rang. My friends were delayed.
     I was disappointed, but I continued to adjust couch cushions and remember anecdotes to share. I could tell them about the time an American, speaking in Japanese, meant to address his audience as "you people--" and instead called them "you carrots"!   
     The phone rang again. They were both very sorry, but they'd been held up at Disneyland and it was too late to stop by. They weren't coming.
     I said it was fine, but when I hung up, I was devastated. Sobbing, I began to take pictures off the walls, put away dolls and fans.
     My husband tried to reason with me. "They'll come some other time."
     "That's not it," I cried. "It's Japan! God is taking Japan away from me!"
     I don't know how I knew. I just did. God realized it would hurt so He had prepared me a little at a time for four years.
     I had to give it up and I finally understood why. In all my volunteering, in all my noble and spiritual planning, I had made one "small" mistake. I hadn't asked God what He wanted for my life. 
     It didn't matter that foreign missionary service was a holy calling. It wasn't His calling. Not for me.
     What did matter was that I needed to let Him call the shots, as Multnomah Dean of Women Pamela Reeve had told us girls. He wasn't asking me to volunteer, I found out. He was asking me to obey.
     Once I had accepted that, He opened my eyes. Los Angeles was also a mission field and like it or not, I was already there. But now, I can affirm by my life that the only place to be really content and productive is in the center of God's will.

(Published in FreeWay, January 8,1989)

Afterword: It was 26 years (1990) before I saw Japan again. During our six-year marriage Jerry and I have provided short-term housing for numerous Japanese and American pastors and other members of JCFN, an outreach to Japanese college students in the States who will be returning to Japan.

Today I am thankful for God's will.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

When God says no (2 of 3)

    So here I was, my senior year, trying to get the very most out of what I was learning and prepare for the foreign field. I wasn't going to be sidetracked by anything.
     Then I met Eric (Rick).
     You can't trick me, Satan, I thought knowingly. You're trying to distract me. I'm not falling for it--or him!
     I refused to go out with Eric (I told him I didn't want to date until the Lord brought me the man I was to marry), but I didn't have peace about it. The more I tried to avoid him, the more disobedient to the Lord I felt. It was as if God were saying, Stop fighting Me!
     Me, fighting God? How could I be? I felt a little bit of the astonishment Saul felt on the way to Damascus when he thought he was defending God's honor and found out that he was standing in His way. When there was a conflict between missionary service and marriage, wasn't missionary service always the spiritual choice? I wasn't about to let my heart get in the way of my will, and as long as Eric wasn't called to Japan, I didn't want to marry him!
     Now I had to reevaluate my understanding of God's priorities. Maybe God wanted me to marry Eric. It seemed crazy to me. Here I was, begging to be God's instrument and God was turning me down. I was presenting myself as a martyr (which wasn't hard, since Japan was home!) and God was saying, No, go ahead and fall in love!
     Eric was as cautious as I was. We prayed before every date, "Lord, stop this relationship if You don't want it to develop."
     We continued to date throughout the end of my senior year and during the summer and fall after my graduation.
     At last we both recognized that God was in our relationship. At that point, our prayers changed to, "Lord, develop this relationship unless you want it to stop."
     We were married two days before Christmas. I still didn't understand why the Lord would actually direct me to be derailed from missionary service. I assumed it was only temporary.
     It had better be temporary, I thought, because Eric was from--guess where?--affluent Los Angeles! The next thing I knew, I was living in the one city in the world I had reacted so strongly against.

(To be concluded)

Today I am thankful for prayer.

Monday, January 10, 2011

When God says no (1 of 3)

     When the speaker asked for volunteers for missionary service, I was on my feet in an instant. Of course I wanted to be a missionary! That's why I wasn't dating this year, my senior year at Multnomah School of the Bible. I didn't want any romantic entanglements to get in the way of my going to Japan and telling people about Jesus.
     Standing up and going forward was really just a formality. I had already offered myself to the Lord for missionary service; I'd reminded the Lord of my availability numerous times.
     It was just coincidental that my family lived in Japan, that I had spent six years there, had come to know the Lord there, that I missed sushi, straw mat floors, misty blue outlines of tiered hills beyond the rice paddies, shopkeepers sprinkling water on unpaved streets to keep the dust down, men on bicycles, little girls jumping rope with littler girls bobbing on their backs.
     When I found Christ, I knew I needed to take time out to get to know more about Him. I would have gone to Bible school in Japan, but the Lord directed me instead to Portland, Oregon.
     This meant flying alone at age 20 from Tokyo to a country I had not lived in since I was seven. I remember approaching Los Angeles, looking down at all the swimming pools, and thinking, I would never want to live there!
     I knew no one on the entire west coast of the United States. In fact, the only person I knew on the mainland lived in Ohio. But I knew the Lord and that was sufficient.
     I had been at school several days when He began to pressure me.
     It's such a little thing, Lord, I said. So I still have my watch set to Japan time, so what? It helps me pray for the people I know there.
     The Lord kept convicting.
     But I'll be flying back at the end of the year, I reasoned with Him.
     He wasn't impressed.
     OK, Lord, I'll change it. I capitulated and then I knew why He'd insisted. He wanted me in Portland. All of me.
     He waited until I was settled and well into the school year before He gently revealed to me that I would not be staying one year, but all three. I was going to graduate.
      Graduate and return to Japan, of course, I thought. Where the Lord was silent, I filled in the blanks with my own assumptions.
(To be continued)

Today I am grateful for the Bible.

NY TIMES: Dr. Reiss, Who Helped Ban Atomic Testing, Dies

For those of you who read my post on His Scribe about the Tooth Fairy Project or the various posts about our family's anti-nuclear protests on the yacht Phoenix throughout the second half of the 20th century, such as  Nuclear Weapons: The Bombs That Keep on Killing, you may want to read today's article in the New York Times: Dr. Reiss, Who Helped Ban Atomic Testing, Dies.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Who is This Man? (2nd of 12) JESUS: SON OF MARY

                                JESUS: SON OF MARY
"Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?"
                          Jesus' neighbors in Nazareth

Note: We're going to be jumping around the Bible, but hang on--it will be worth the ride! You can use the Table of Contents in the front of whatever version of the Bible you prefer--or use one of the online translations at Online Parallel Bible. We will be linking to New International Version.

     As we start our study of Jesus Christ, also called Jesus of Nazareth, we are going to look at his humanity. Was he fully human? Did he develop as we do, feel as we do, respond as we do? As you read these verses, try to avoid adding anything you already know or think you know about him. Also, for now, set aside references in the passages to angels, prophecy, wise men, anything supernatural. Just limit your answers to what these verses say, looking for clues suggesting that Jesus Christ was a real human being.

From the following passages, what words or phrases indicate Jesus was fully human?  

1. Was he born? Born to a specific woman? In a specific town? At a specific time in history? We will read about his birth from two accounts, one written by a tax collector named Matthew and the other by a doctor named Luke. For now, just look for facts like his mother's name and the place and time of his birth.
     a. Matthew 1:18 (Matthew chapter 1, verse 18)
     b. Luke 2:1-7 
     c. Luke 2:21
     d. Matthew 1:24
     e. Matthew 1:25
     f. Matthew 2:1

2. What responses (one or more) are displayed in the following verses? Which of these are emotional responses and which are physical behaviors?
     a. John 4:6; Mark 4:38
     b. Luke 4:1-2; Luke 24:41-43
     c. John 11:35
     d. Mark 3:5
     e. Mark 8:12
     f.  Matthew 26:37
     g. Mark 10:21a 

3. Find phrases in the following verses which indicate something about the humanity of Jesus. Which of these indications are physical and which developmental (or other).
     a. Luke 2:52
     b. Hebrews 2:14a ("a" refers to the first part of the verse)
     c. Hebrews 2:17a
     d. Hebrews 10:5b

4. Was he tempted to do wrong?
     a. Luke 4:2
     b. Hebrews 4:14-15 (Read both verses; then look for the answer to the specific question above in verse15)

5. Did he die? What evidences for this are given in
     a. Matthew 27:33-50 (esp. v. 50)
     b. Mark 15:22-37 (esp. v. 37)
     c. Luke 23:46 (esp. v. 46)
     d. John 19:17-35 (esp. vs.30 and 34)
     e. I Cor. 15:3-4

BONUS QUESTION: If he was not born in Nazareth, why is he known as Jesus of Nazareth? Read Luke 2:4 and Luke 2:39 to figure out your answer.

Just from this first lesson, what can we conclude about Jesus? Who is this man? We will be building up from this foundation.

(To be continued January 16.)

Today I'm thankful for godly role models.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

DOGS: Which one was the pit bull? (Part 2 of 2)

     Cecil helped Safeway put in new stores around Southern California. It was his job to talk every single homeowner within a certain area (a larger area than Safeway expected to need) into selling his/her house and moving out so Safeway could tear it down and move in. Cecil wasn't paid a cent unless he got 100% participation. 
     Often there was a little old lady who had grown up and raised a family of her own in a house she absolutely refused to part with. It would have horizontal pencil lines in a doorway marking the heights of generations of  kids and grandkids and she couldn't bear to move to Leisure World and leave all that behind.
     But Cecil would have made Dale Carnegie proud. He would befriend her and keep sweetening the pot until it was worth her while and she would accept his offer and let the deal go through. Then he would be paid plus he would also have first option to buy parcels of land around the new store which Safeway wasn't going to use. He would put in strip malls of his own with doughnut shops and hair salons or free-standing hamburger stands. (Once he had to decide which of two potential tenants to go with. He'd never heard of either one of them but he was more impressed with Rally's product so he turned McDonalds down.)
     Once he was at it for a year and a half and at the end the little old lady adamantly refused to sell. He and his wife Marjorie (Rick's mother) went out to dinner to "celebrate."
     They didn't go out to dinner if he did make the sale. "Why do we need to go out to dinner to cheer ourselves up? We made the deal!"
      Cecil and Marge never bought anything until they could afford to pay cash for it. They started out living in a single room--the back half of his small real estate office. They scrimped and saved, only moving to something slightly bigger when Marge was pregnant with Rick and couldn't squeeze between the stove and the refrigerator any more. (Also they'd stuck so much stuff behind the couch, it was in the middle of the room.)
     When they'd saved up enough money, Cecil bought a couple of acres in the exclusive, gated community of Rolling Hills. He oversaw the building of a ranch-style home--complete with swimming pool, paddle tennis court and corral, palomino, turquoise Mercedes-Benz, and a view from Catalina, which the smog did not obscure in those days. When everything was ready they leaped socio-economic levels in a single bound. They moved in just before Christmas and Marge bought a flocked Christmas tree and decorated it with pink balls and bows.
     Rick's sister Linda was nine, the age her dad had been when he was selling potato chips to employees in big office buildings all over Los Angeles, when his family of four suddenly started living like rich people.
     Those were the opportunities in California back in the days of the orange groves. That was what entrepreneurs could do with initiative and hard work. Even if they were only nine years old.
     So what I want to know is, when Cecil got bitten by the dog, which one was the pit bull?

Today I am thankful for people's stories.

Friday, January 7, 2011

DOGS: Which one was the pit bull? (part 1 of 2)

     Cecil Shaver, my first father-in-law, had the dogged tenacity of a pit bull. He had come out to Southern California when the oncoming Depression hit Idaho and his father's investments tanked.
     Even though Cecil was only nine at the time (1922), he set to work on his own to help support the family. First, he sold bags of potato chips door to door in residential neighborhoods and in office buildings He would take the street car all over Los Angeles by himself. We parents today would be appalled at the thought of letting our nine-year old roam around L.A. on his own.Yikes!
     But they let him. He didn't mind and he was extremely self-sufficient. One morning while he was on the Red Line and standing at the front of the car, a large lady climbed on. In getting her change out of her purse as the car jerked forward, she lost her balance and landed on top of Cecil's whole day's stock of merchandise.
     He didn't let that faze him. He sold every single bag of crumbs before he went home that night.
     Then he graduated to peanut brittle. He knew a man who made the candy and before long, he had mastered the recipe and was making it himself, cutting out the middle man.
     One day he was carrying his wares around a neighborhood and a pit bull dashed out of a front yard, leaped on him and bit his cheek just below the eye. (Cecil was a short man.) Not only bit him but hung on until the dog's horrified owner could run out and somehow persuade it to let go.
     "Let me drive you to the hospital," the man urged.
     Cecil stood there bleeding and needing stitches but he wouldn't move. "I haven't sold all my peanut brittle yet."
     The man could not persuade him to forget about the peanut brittle. Finally, he said, "Here, I'll buy it all! Now can I take you to the hospital?"
     Only then would Cecil let go. That was the kind of boy he was and that was the kind of man he became.

(To be continued)  

Today I am thankful for hospitals.