DEAR FAMILY AND FRIENDS,
What does Pearl Harbor, Juneau Alaska, WW2, and City Cafe have to do with the true meaning of Christmas? Please read on and I hope you will see connection. But first you will need a bit of history. Let’s begin back in the year 1900. My grandfather, Shonosuke Tanaka, was just 19 years old when he immigrated to the USA to work the railroads from Montana to Washington. After this he was a cook’s helper in Seattle, Washington. Gold was discovered in Juneau 1880 and maybe he followed the prospectors there, but instead of gold he used his cooking skill to establish his restaurant in 1907 called the Star Cafe on Front Street. By 1912 he moved the restaurant now called “City Café”, moved to South Franklin Street. In 1922 he went back to Japan to marry my grandmother, Nobu Fujita and returned back to Juneau. There were only two Japanese families settled in Juneau at that time: Tanakas and Fukuyamas and both were well liked and active in the life of the town. With Japan bombing Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and USA entering WW2, all Japanese were under suspicion, even in Juneau. On the day following the bombing, the FBI searched both families’ homes and arrested both my grandfather and Mr. Fukuyama and a handful of other Japanese men. My dad, John Tanaka, was 17 years old at the time and told me that when he returned from school, his dad was gone. His mother told him that the FBI arrested him and as he was taken away he instructed my grandmother to tell my father to close down the restaurant. As the oldest of 5 children, my dad carried much of the family responsibility.
On February 19, 1942 United States Executive Order 9066 was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorizing the deportation of Japanese Americans to “internment” camps. In April 1942, my grandmother and their four children board an army transport ship to Seattle and later sent to Minidoka Internment Camp in a desolate area of Idaho.
My father was the valedictorian of his high school class and because of the evacuation he would not be able to graduate along with his class. His high school actually held a special early graduation ceremony for my father. The Juneau High School gymnasium was packed and according to the story about it: “There was not a dry eye in the packed gymnasium.” During the official graduation ceremony, an empty chair was placed where my father would have sat. That “Empty Chair” has taken on continued significance as this summer Juneau will host an official “Empty Chair” installation- a larger-than-life bronze replica of the chair and wooden gym slats in Capital School Park. It is a symbol not so much of my dad’s absence but Juneau’s recognition of the injustices suffered by the internment of the Japanese and hopefully a reminder to all of us so that future injustices do not occur.
In 1943 the 442nd Infantry Unit, comprised of primarily Japanese men, was formed. My dad wanted to enlist, but without my grandfather around he felt obligated to stay. My grandfather’s return in 1944 freed my father to enlist. He served in Italy until the war ended and later returned to Juneau to help his family get the City Cafe back on its feet. This took four years. He had plans to become a doctor after a doctor saved his life by performing on him an emergency appendectomy which had ruptured. He began everything 8 years later- beginning college at age 26, 4 years of medical school, one year internship and then residency 3 years. Life was not easy and even after the war my Dad and Mom experienced prejudice and discrimination. At age 52 he was diagnosed with colon cancer and just 4 months later he died.
Was my dad a bitter man? Not at all. He loved his country and wanted to show his loyalty by serving in the army. The 442nd was the most highly decorated military unit in US history. Was he a proud man? Not at all. He never volunteered to talk about the war. When questioned, he said, “I was just doing my duty; the real heroes never returned.”
Now you may be asking yourself- what does have to do with Christmas after all? I will try to explain. As a father of 9 children, I am beginning to see how important fathers are in the lives of their children. I believe that there is a God- hole in each of our hearts. Deep down something tells us that all of this amazing creation and even our own bodies did not somehow get here through billions of random chances any more than somehow our cell phones or computers somehow just got here by some random chance (any our bodies are infinitely more complex). My view of who God is was influenced by my view of my father and likewise my children’s view of God is influenced by their view of me. If I am harsh and angry and unforgiving then they will have difficulty seeing God as kind, merciful and forgiving. My dad could have easily used his internment, war and post-war experience to become a bitter man. He probably would be justified in doing so, but he didn’t. He did not go down this path. How did he do this? When any of us are wrongly treated, it is similar to being robbed of money. We want that money back or at the very least somehow get back at that person. After we are robbed, e can’t say- nothing happened, shrug our shoulders and walk away. If I don’t demand payment from the robber, then only way to treat that same robber as if nothing happened would be if I ripped that “IOU” and paid it myself. Whenever we hurt or sin against someone- there is actually a transaction taking place. If we don’t pay it ourselves then we force the other person to pay by not talking with them, treating them harshly or actually forcing them to pay. Following this route- the relationship is damaged. The only way to preserve the relationship is to forgive the offender and pay the debt ourselves. I saw my dad doing just that. The US government who placed him and his family into internment camps despite being US citizens, is the very government he would serve by enlisting. He paid down that debt and then was free to be a grateful citizen even after the war.
Forgiveness is best illustrated in the life of Jesus. Jesus did no sin, forgave us and took on Himself the punishment meant for us. This is recorded in the Bible in the book of Isaiah:
“Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
He did not open His mouth.
By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.
The familiar Bible verse: John 3:16 ““For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” This is followed by some harse realities: Verses: 17 & 18 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
Jesus came to save us from ourselves. There is something in each of us that doesn’t want to acknowledge that we can’t do it ourselves and we never want to ask for help. That is not just a man thing, but I do believe that the pride that is in all of us that is difficult to overcome. How often when we’re asked: “Do you need help?” We quickly respond with: “Ah, it’s alright.” Let’s be honest. We are not ‘alright” and we really do need help. You see we have all offended God, a perfect God (holy God). The punishment is high- eternity in @#!*% . What? I thought God is love! He is, but He also just. Evil, sin, wrong thought, word or action deserves punishment so God if He is “good” He can’t just overlook bad.
The good news is that God can be fully loving and fully just! How can that be? God paid for our punishment Himself, when He sacrificed Jesus on the cross. If there was any other way to get to God, then Jesus died for no reason. There was no other way other than sacrificing His own Son, Jesus. Now that is love! Since we have all sinned and are under God’s judgment - does God save everyone? God has provided the way and He does allow us a choice. Many choose to not follow Jesus. “Wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” (Matthew 7:13) “What must I do to be saved?” Repent of your sins (confessing that you are a sinner and turn from your sins) and place your trust in Jesus’ death on the cross as full payment for your sins allowing God to direct your life. That doesn’t mean that you will not struggle with sin in your life, but it does mean that you are free from the punishment of sin. You will have true freedom, where you can actually have victories over sins that you have struggled with. Sin actually holds people in bondage, so that you are unable to please God apart from Jesus. It would be my honor to meet with you or talk with you more about this as your response has eternal consequences. All of my children, as far as I can determined, are saved. I would like to help you make this most important decision. God said, “Today, if you hear My voice, harden not your heart.” God knows that there is a time when our heart is open to accepting of God, but if we ignore it long enough then then our heart gets hard. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” May this Christmas be a celebration of Jesus visiting your heart and making it His.
Now the up-close-and-personal: let’s begin with the youngest first:
Jairus - 7 years old - no longer a baby and unfortunately he suffers from the “Youngest-Child Syndrome.” This means that he has it the easiest of all the children and as a result he has more words than work. Don’t worry it is curable and he can actually accomplish quite a bit when he puts his mind to it. Just how to help him to do that, we have yet to discover. When Jairus was young (younger), he used to have a ‘mad-scientist’ hairdo. This fit his personality of being an inventor, however an inventor is supposed to be 90% hard work and 10 % creativity; Jairus didn’t read the book and he got this backwards. He is learning to read and this opens up a whole new world for him. It seems that when we take turns reading from the Bible (currently in the Old Testament) Jairus invariably gets all the long, difficult names to pronounce. He does just as good as any of us, who are breathing a sigh of relief that they did not have to struggle through those names. Jairus wants muscles but he doesn’t stick long enough with a task to build up muscles. He would probably be labeled as having ADHD. When outside it seems that he is more interested in the spiders, ants, slugs than getting dirty and sweaty. He is getting better though and he won’t leave this home without learning the value of perseverance and hard work. After a hard day of work in the yard, I often take Aaron and Jairus down to the corner gas station for a treat. Their favorite is getting a two liter bottle of root beer and placing two plastic straws together so that they can reach the bottom and we sit around “our” table and drink it as fast as we can; slowing down only for a few “quiet” burps or was it “belches”. Either way- somehow it makes all the hard work worth it.
Lily (9 years old) Can our little girl actually be 9? How time flies!! When in Minneapolis, I bought Lily a tee-shirt covered with ladybugs with the statement: “Sweet as a Bug”. That actually is a great adjective for Lily. I actually can’t think of the last time I heard a mean word from her mouth. In fact Lily often has sweet words from her mouth, like “Do you want a foot massage? Here I brought you all some lemonade. Can I get you more food? Do you want a pillow? Can I help you make breakfast?” God has given her such a helper spirit. To see a need and to actually take steps to meet that need- many of us adults haven’t learned that yet. This quality is such a blessing to not only our family, but to everyone she is around. Lily and Jairus both share a writing class and have a great teacher- Amy. After supper we may be blessed with some of their poems, or Haiku, stories. We have a “Thinking Chair” (all of you Blues Clues fans may know what that is) and it is so nice to see Lori with Lily on one side and Jairus on the other reading some book.
Noelle (11 years old) When she was younger, she was the only Tanaka with curly hair. It was not only cute, but so different that we would actually fluff it up more to exaggerate it. As she grew up, the curls disappeared. What makes Noelle stand out now? Most obvious is her bright clothes she loves to wear. She doesn’t seem to like neon (thankfully) but she does like bold. She is also loves anything fun, is quick to make friends and is never afraid (well almost) to try something new. She loves to receive letters and she has found out that if she writes more letters, then she may receive more letters. I have also found out that if I write her a note, then I may receive a note also. God has given her good insights into the Bible and her contributions to the discussions add much. Having Noelle around makes even a fun thing, even more fun. This spring was no exception when most of our family was able to go to our all time favorite museum, the Creation Museum, located near Cincinnati, OH. I believe it is the only museum we have been to that upholds the Genesis account that God made the heavens and the Earth in six 24-hour days as the Bible records. Can all that we see truly be explained and can the Earth be less than 10,000 years old rather than billions? I challenge you to visit this museum and “be ready to believe.” Another highlight was staying overnight in a turn of the century bank near the Creation Museum. Being around Noelle makes even the exciting things more exciting. She got to sleep in the bank vault. I am amazed that she was able to sleep with all of her energy and excitement. Noelle, you bring that to our family- we need that- thanks!
Aaron (13 years old) Oh no- not another: “teenager”. As the children were quite young they heard stories of “teenagers doing this and that” so they actually said, “I will not be a teenager!” Aaron is going through a growth spurt. He passed up all of his sisters and now he is after Jonathan and me. I wouldn’t mind if he passes me up, but he has genetics going against him as him mother in less than 5 feet tall. He loves to challenge me to an arm wrestle- he is getting there. We have a big pan we call “The Big Banana”. It has a huge lid that has a central handle so it looks like a shield. Aaron came at me with this lid and so I punched it and he came again, so I punched it again. Unfortunately the lid swung up and hit Aaron right on his two front teeth, breaking them off near their roots. Ice and a trip to our favorite dentists, Brian and Jenny Thornton; then two root canals and a cap and now his smile looks back to normal. That sure made me feel bad- that is such a bad feeling- to hurt someone you love. After apologizing multiple times, Aaron reassured me that he forgave me. What a relief! Aaron loves the outdoors and rough and tumble and almost any challenge. Snowboarding down our hill or toboggan run doesn’t scare him. I have learned over the years that No Pain: No Gain slogan left out then ending: No Pain: No Gain: No Brain. Without Jonathan around, Aaron has had to step up and help with much of the yard work. He is a great helper and is not afraid of hard work and bad weather. Aaron and I along with close friends went on a Father: Son backpacking hike, up 4,000 vertical feet to Upper Lena lake. Not only had great time of fellowship but us fathers were able to teach our sons from the Bible what it is to be a godly man and some of the dangers in this world. What a wonderful time! His love for God and His ways is growing. I challenge him to search the Bible for God’s truths and when there is discrepancy between popular ways or opinion, his own desires and wants, what others are doing: then choose God’s ways. Amy and Aaron went in together and purchased their own telescope. The true challenge around here is the almost constant cloud cover during the Winter, the best time for viewing. They are still learning how to use it. That is exciting to be able to see thousands of stars that the naked eye can’t. Psalm 19:1 says it so well: “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”
Kristi (15 & 1/2) has been so patient with me. Normally, when one of our daughters turns 15, I take them on a special date to the Space Needle. I have been looking forward to this also, but life has been so busy. I was hoping for things to just settle down, but they haven’t, so I’ll just put this date on the calendar. This always is such a special date. Kristi, don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten. This year she shares a room with Lily. Their room looks like an art studio and it is rubbing off on Lily as she has she own art display. About a year ago Kristi picked up the cello. She has really progressed with the cello and this adds such deep balance to the violin music. She is also teaching and encouraging Jairus and he has taken up the cello. Something new this year for Bethany and Kristi. They are taking an online class together where they can earn college and high school credit at the same time. It is nice for them to work together. You can really see their personality differences as they take on this challenge. They can learn from each other’s strengths and it is nice to see them encouraging one another along.
Bethany (17 years old) has such a heart for people. If she could have her way she would love to spend every day talking with people- especially the lonely or hurting. I see her going up to someone sitting alone and beginning to engage that person. Balancing this love to interact with people, with all of her school and home responsibilities, she has shown such great improvements this past year. Occasionally she has actually finished all of her school work and chores early, freeing up her afternoon so she can do what she loves best- talk with others. Probably Bethany’s worst punishment would be to stay in her room-alone. Since infancy, Bethany has struggled with fears. Incidents like her getting separated from us at age 2 didn’t help. Her greatest victories come when she places her trust in God alone. I have seen her faith grow as a result of these fears. We have prayed for years that God would take this away from her. I truly believe that God is allowing this to remain to keep Bethany trusting in God alone for her strength. Not too different from Paul in the Bible when he wrote: “to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 7-10) I have changed my prayers for Bethany that God would continue to use her fears to show her His strength and that her faith would grow as a result. I believe that we too often ask God to take away pain and suffering without even considering how God is planning on using that very thing to make us more like Him or strengthen our faith. Maybe a better prayer would be: “God may Your will and not my will be done in my life. Don’t take my struggles or suffering away until it has accomplished all that You desire in my life.” Bethany, your faith in God is growing and that is not only good for you, but for us to witness. Thank you for those reminders.
Stefanie (19) often prefers to be a helper, but also God has helped her come out of this. Last year she was a helper with providing nutritious lunches for about 150 homeschool ‘string-instrument’ students. This year, on her own, obtained a food-handler’s permit, and with help of moms- she actually took charge of meal planning, labeling gluten/non-GMO/lactose/ etc. You never know where this may lead…food catering business? Some days our house looks and smells like a bakery. Baking and the laundry, Stefanie has these down to a science. Whatever she does she puts her whole heart and mind to the task. She spent a whole Saturday cleaning and organizing the shoes in the garage. She even bleached the floor. Even our car gets blessed with Stefanie’s special touch. This year has been very busy for Stefanie with taking online college courses. She is doing excellent in her writing class and this will help all of her other classes. She has many passions- let say school is not one of them. Two years ago Stefanie wanted to try playing a harp, so we have been renting a harp. She has mainly been self-taught. We are still looking for a local harp teacher. She still loves to play the harp and we all love to listen to the soothing music. Stefanie eventually wants to be able to bless others with this gift. When Stefanie and I can find the time, she still needs to get her driver’s license. That will require many hours driving around our house and there really are not a lot of good roads to practice. It would always be nice to have another driver around here.
Jonathan (almost 21) finished a six month internship with the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC) last December. After coming home, he began planning his strategy for getting into law school. In January 2013 he wanted to attend the San Antonio Film Festival, as all of the interns would be there. I told him that he could go but his purpose should not be to just get together with the interns. I recommended that he should keep his eyes open for God directing his life. While there Mr. Scott Brown, the head of NCFIC offered Jonathan a one-year job. God did have something new for him. Jonathan just had a few obstacles in his way.- he didn’t have his driver’s license yet and he was to begin as soon as possible. Not only this, but he needed to find a family to host him for a year, and get a vehicle there with insurance. With just two weeks and almost no driving experience, our only option would be to teach him ourselves, have him take the test within one week and prepare to drive our minivan across country in 2 & 1/2 days.
Jonathan found such a nice family willing to take him in for one year- the Burkes. They have 10 children with the 11th on the way. Their home is full of love for God, each other and others around. Our entire family was so blessed by their hospitality as we stayed three days at their home on our way to Lori’s father’s memorial service. They made us feel so welcome- just like family. No longer an intern, Jonathan’s new title, at least attached to the end of every email is: “Jonathan M. Tanaka | Vendor Hall Coordinator, Research Assistant & Graphic Designer” He has had many opportunities to travel to various cities across the country. In North Carolina there is bit a Southern accent. Doesn’t seem like Jonathan is picking that up but they seemed to have converted him to the confederate side. They also have other things like sweet tea, Cracker Barrel and Chik-Fil-A. While our whole family was visiting Jonathan, I decided to go to the Chik-Fil-A restaurant. I was impressed by the friendly service, so decided to get the biggest burger and fries to see if they really live up their reputation. With 11 of us, anything times 11 is expensive. What happened next will keep me coming back. They found out that this was our first time ever to their restaurant and said, “Your first time here is on us.” Wow!!! Chik-Fil-A, we will be back- soon!
Jonathan learned some lessons the hard way. He was trying to sell his Mac Air on Craig’s List. Jonathan not having much experience with selling on Craig’s List, met on the side of a building. The potential buyer wanted to see the power cord also and once he had the computer and power cord in his hands- off he ran through the woods. Jonathan made the wise choice- not chasing him and just watched the thief running away with $800 of his hard-earned cash. Although he missed our 4th of July party, camping trips, and friends’ visits. I recommended that he not contemplate all of the things that he was missing but focus on the many opportunities that he currently has. The internship and now this job have been such a wonderful time of spiritual growth through personal and church leadership training. He even had the opportunity to give a mini-sermon. One day, Lord willing, he will be married and have children where he would have to lead his own family.
Amy (22) For all of you chess fans: while Lori is like the Queen-the strongest most valuable piece, Amy is my knight. She may look like a cute little horse on the board, but is actually one of the most powerful offensive pieces. Amy may not have the height but watch out she has skills and abilities that can rival any. Where strength, size and physical endurance are not required, there aren’t too many things that Amy is not willing to try and master. She teaches her own online writing class, tutors siblings, teaches piano to neighbor girl. She is my personal computer problem solver. With all of the things that she is involved with, she often drops what she is doing to help me. What a blessing she is to me. In our home we try to study the Bible and discuss what we have read. Amy is an avid reader. Her insights into Scripture are so helpful and keeps me on my toes, not in a condescending way. Amy, Stefanie and I had the opportunity to attend a conference on Worshiping God in North Carolina. We had a long drive there and back so we had some wonderful conversations. It is not often that I have this exclusive time with my two oldest daughters. This was sponsored by NCFIC, so we also had some wonderful time with Jonathan. At the conference with over 2,000 attendees, we got to meet people from all over the USA and Canada. What a blessing! A few weeks after Jonathan got back from our missions trip to Cambodia, Amy asked me, “Dad, can you take me to Cambodia on a mission trip?” “Amy, sure we will make it happen.” I felt that 4-5 months lead time before our trip would be adequate to ensure us a spot on the 2013 team. I got my time off approved, as this was the first thing needed to complete. I called Mike, the missions team leader and said, “Mike, I got the time off of work and this year I will be bringing Amy, my oldest daughter.” There was a long pause... Rich, I got bad news, the trip is closed. Mike, can’t you squeeze just two more? Sorry, Rich, I already have a bit over capacity. Mike, Amy is going to be so disappointed. She already has a program to help her to learn the language. She has made and kept contact with a few female translators from the previous trip. Sorry Rich, maybe next year. Amy certainly was disappointed. I told her that God is in control and as Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” There was no way for us to know, but God knew that the very dates that we would be in Cambodia, Lori’s Dad fell and hit his head and Lori and Stefanie stayed in Chicago for three weeks. Thank you God for not giving us what we wanted! During ***** we will be serving in remote villages of Cambodia. It will be such a blessing to share this experience with her!
Lori (50) last year wrote how God revealed to her that her outside life (what everyone else sees) looked good, but her inside (where God sees) was not good. She had never repented of her sins and never put her trust in Jesus alone for her salvation. About two years ago Lori repented of her sins and put her trust in Jesus alone for her salvation. Since that time I have witnessed a genuine love for God, His Word (Bible) and desire to please Him with her life. Our marriage is getting a sweetness that only God can bring. We have been married for 25 years this past year and I can truly say that she is my best friend and I love her more today than ever.
Lori’s father wandered out the front door of their Chicago home and fell and hit his head. Lori had the opportunity to be at his bedside daily for 3 weeks and care for her father. It was a difficult three weeks but not without its blessings. Through those days as she ministered to her father, praying for him, encouraging him- a tender love for her father was demonstrated. It was during those days that doubts of her father not being saved were relieved (?). With his salvation secure in the God’s hands and he seemed stable enough in the rehab program, Lori left Chicago with peace. Two days after arriving home, she got the call that Dad had died. She grieved but as the Bible said about a believer’s death, “we do not grieve as the world does- without hope....” For believers- goodbyes are not forever, but “Til we meet again” in heaven with our Savior. The memorial service was a celebration. It was so nice to meet many of his friends and relatives and to share how God can save their souls also. Dad’s life was cut short by a fall. Life hangs in the balance. We need to make those important decision today while we have the opportunity as we may not have a tomorrow. Each day is one day closer. Each day is a gift from God. Repent of your sins and believe- your soul is more important than your body and it is only made for 70-80 years, but your soul is made for eternity. What are some of the things that Lori enjoys? She picked up a viola and now joins the children. It is so nice to see her accompanying the children and the viola adds a richness to the music. Now I am the only one who doesn’t play an instrument. Maybe I am not too old to learn. She also loves to swim. She gets to the Y as often as she can.
Rich (54) this past year I passed up my father, who died at age 53. Life has been so full with travel, work, and family. One thing I realize is that if I don’t prioritize my life, I will not place the proper time and work into the most important areas of my life. God needs to be first in my life. I begin the day reading His Word and with prayer. This gives me the proper focus to my day, especially as things get difficult or not go as I want. God has led my life since 1984 and will continue to be my treasure. After God, my marriage, my bride of 25 years is my passion. You don’t get to 25 years without some rocky roads along the way. Our marriage has not been the exception. We have been through many Bible studies on marriage, video series, listened to sermons. Every year God reveals something new. This year I heard a message by Mark Fox on 1 Peter 3. I have read this same passage many times before, but this time it finally sunk it. “Husbands live with your wives in an understanding way...” Understanding to Lori, means listening. Listening means asking questions and affirming what was said. This, for some reason, is such a difficult thing for me to do and do well. That keeps me humble and reliant on God to do what I can’t do. On December 18th Jonathan came back for two weeks. We spent the first two nights at Leavenworth. What a wonderful time- shops, sledding, hanging out, hiking. Sitting around the dining room table, I commented that it is so good to see each one smiling back at me. I have been so blessed with having all of our children being followers of Jesus Christ. 3 John 1:4 “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Mark 8:36 says, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” My greatest joy and responsibility is to encourage, train and lead my family in God’s ways. I try to lead my family daily in studying the Bible, prayer and worshipping God. Some days I do better than others. Our family has many traditions. Some traditions are quite unique. They help to bind us together. I realize that as they grow up that some of these may not be possible to continue. God has helped us to loosen our grip. A year ago an urgent need was presented to us, that God used to loosen our grip on family traditions. Could we open our home for one week to a family with 9 children to arrive on Christmas day? What would God want us to do? Wasn’t Jesus’ family in a similar situation? “No room in the Inn” It turned out to be such a blessing for our family and has allowed us to be more open to other opportunities, to share the love of God with those around. I have been at my current employment for almost 20 years. I have grown quite attached to my patients and begin to see them as friends. We have all grown old together. Helping them through life’s difficulties- what a privilege! It sometimes hurts as not all illness can be cured and some weaken or shortens one’s life. Even then I have had the opportunity to be there. Occasionally my family has been able to meet them in the nursing home to bring some company and music to their life. Occasionally I make house calls when they are no longer able to make it in. Over the 25 years of being a doctor, several times a week I pray with my patients and there has not been one patient who turned down a prayer. I have witnessed miracles- unexplainable cures only attributed by the work of the Almighty God! In just ** weeks Amy and I head off to Cambodia. I am so much looking forward this opportunity again and to share this with Amy. She will be such an asset and her love for God is already so strong. She and I will come back changed and see the world differently- I believe- more like God sees the world.
To summarize, my father was sinned against and the way that he was able to overcome this injustice without becoming bitter, was by forgiving the US government, the very entity that arrested his father and placed his family into camps and took away their property. My father showed that he forgave the US government by voluntarily enlisting into the US army and never speaking badly about what happened. We, like the US government, have done injustices, but we have not offended a person or institution, but have offended a holy God. God, like my father, actively moved to right this injustice. This cost not just 4 years, being harshly treated, or loss of property, but it cost the life of His Son, Jesus. Jesus entered this world in the most humble of circumstance; considered an illegitimate child, born in a stable, placed in a manger. During Christmas we celebrate this beginning of the most incredible demonstration of love ever recorded- sinless Jesus laying down His life on the cross to pay for our sins and take the punishment that was meant for each of us. Jesus truly is the Lamb of God, Savior and Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Prince of Peace. The Wise Men and the Shepherds searched for Jesus, the Savior of the world, and found Him. May this Christmas you do the same and follow Him. You will then truly understand the high cost of God’s love for you.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours,
RICH -- FOR LORI, AMY, JONATHAN, STEFANIE, BETHANY, KRISTI, AARON, NOELLE, LILY, AND JAIRUS.