Dear Family and Friends,
One of my all-time favorite TV shows growing up was Charlie Brown Christmas. Maybe it was growing up Japanese in a predominately white culture, always feeling a bit different and not quite fitting in, but I often felt like Charlie Brown. My favorite scene is when Charlie Brown throws back his head and yells out, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” The silence is broken when Linus quotes Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth. Today, I doubt that the Bible would be quoted unashamedly during prime time. I am afraid that there are fewer and fewer people who know what Christmas is all about, and even fewer who actually believe it. Our beliefs are based on our worldview. Our worldview shapes our priorities, our goals, our hopes and dreams. What is the origin of your worldview? I pondered this question and was amazed at how it gets to the foundation of your worldview.
Many people today would say that everything began with a Big Bang. I guess evolution does not require a god’s existence unless you had to answer the question, where did all the matter or energy come from? No one seems to answer that. Either matter always existed or matter was created. When I went to Cambodia this year, I talked with some of our translators, who were taught that the world evolved by chance and time. I asked them if they could differentiate between things that people made and things that people did not make- a flower, a Coke can, a rock, a cell phone. I asked then how they knew that a cell phone was man-made. They told me that How about - a flower: man did not make; a Coke can: man made; a rock: man did not make; an cell phone: man made. Why do you say a cell phone man made. They told me that you can take picture, call people, send e-mail and post pictures on Facebook. Then I asked them how a baby, which is infinitely more complicated than a cell phone, could be made by random chance? A baby is alive, growing, and can reproduce whereas a cell phone cannot. It is impossible for a cell phone to get here by chance, but somehow a baby can? “Dr. Rich, I never thought of it that way,” the translators told me. I encouraged them to use their brains to look around and see that the world screams that there must be a Creator.
If you are tracking so far, you might believe in the existence of “a” god. Remember Charlie Brown’s question? It is announcing the birth of Jesus, whose name means to rescue, deliver, and save. You may ask, “What do I need to be rescued, delivered or saved from? We all need to be saved from sin in our lives. God is a just God, and every sin needs to be punished, otherwise He would not be just or good. It may not be obvious, but sin has a death grip on you. I ask my children: “Can a drowning man save himself?” “No!” “Can a sinful person make himself clean again?” “No!” In both cases, he needs a savior who Himself has conquered sin and death. You see Jesus did not come to earth just to show us how to live, but ultimately to “give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Love and justice met together at the cross of Jesus. Jesus showed His love by willingly going to the cross, and God’s justice was demonstrated when God the Father sacrificed His only Son on the cross, the innocent dying for the guilty. Jesus is called the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) Jesus, unlike us, lived the perfect life as “One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) What must I do to be saved? God’s Word say, “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) When you acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, you surrender your life to follow Jesus, turning from sin in your life to a life wanting to please God. When you “believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead,” you acknowledge that you are unable to save yourself and fully trust in God to save your soul just as He raised Jesus. When you died your body dies, but your soul lives on. When God saves your soul you will spend eternity in heaven with Jesus.
Why doesn’t God save everyone? God gives us a free will. The largest obstacle between us and God is our pride. God has done all He could on His side to make it possible for He is like the Prodigal Son’s Father who hoped every day that his son would return. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20) God likewise is waiting for us to come to Him in repentance and faith (trust) and He will forgive and welcome us into His kingdom.
Just like the prodigal son experienced the love and forgiveness when he returned home, we can likewise experience God’s love and forgiveness when we return to Him. But how important is it to answer God’s call? The Bible talks about responding today, “"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15), because none of us know our time. “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14) Sickness and death have hit close to home. Just over a year ago, my aunt was told that treatments for her cancer were not working and there were no more options: she was dying. I had the next day off, and I wanted to visit her and hopefully share the love and good news of Jesus. I took three daughters, who played some soothing music and read her a card. Her caregiver noticed that I was carrying a Bible and asked if I was a Christian. I told her I was. She shared that she was a Christian and that my aunt became very afraid when she found out that she was dying. She asked her caregiver what it is like to die and told her that she was afraid of dying. The caregiver thought a bit and answered, “If you are going to heaven, then it is a good feeling. In heaven you will be with Jesus, and there is no more pain, tears, cancer or suffering.” “How do you get there?” my aunt asked. The caregiver explained how get to heaven and from then on my aunt was no longer afraid. We noticed this change in the hospital and during our last visit. Everyone else also noticed her peace and lack of fear. It was such a testimony of the power of getting right with God. We must realize that our greatest enemy is not death itself but sin and its penalty. Victory is found in Jesus alone. “"And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) The fear of death is the punishment of sin, but when the penalty of sin has been paid for, then there is no longer any fear in death. ““Death is swallowed UP in victory. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:54-57)
Our family also experience another loss this past April. My mother-in-law suddenly became short of breath and she taken to her doctor. A chest x-ray revealed a mass, and a CT scan revealed cancer that likely had spread. Lori and Kristi flew out Monday to accompany her to her oncologist appointment on Wednesday. The news was bad. Even with aggressive treatment, the best Prognosis only gave her an extra 3 months of life, 12 months rather than 9 months. Years ago, she had placed her trust in Jesus to forgive her sins and save her soul. She accepted that this was her time, and she knew that heaven awaited her. With this realization, she accepted the poor prognosis with amazing peace that surprised even her doctor. Thursday night I received a call from Lori that her mom was short of breath again. I felt that God wanted me there, and He provided a three-day weekend. “Lori, call 911. I will be there. I’ll take a red-eye flight out- with..... Bethany.” I got off the phone and asked Stefanie to book two tickets and I told Bethany to pack her bags, as we will be leaving for the airport in one hour. I had some work that I needed to finish, then would be free to leave. We left for the airport to caught a 1 a.m. flight. We arrived early Friday morning, heading straight to the hospital. Mom was in good spirits and said that with the oxygen she was feeling well. She said that she was not afraid and had no pain or shortness of breath. Lori was arranging hospice care, hoping to take her home early next week. We prayed and read from the Bible and just talked all that day. I told her that I would be back early Saturday morning. That morning we enjoyed praying and talking and I read to her from the Bible. She told me, “Rich, I am going to heaven today.” I reminded her that the oncologist just a few days ago gave her 9 months, but she insisted that today was the day. I told her that she looked fine to me and we both laughed. I drove back home as Lori met with the hospice team. Barely an hour later I received an urgent call from Lori who said that Mom had stopped breathing and almost died. Bethany and I took a taxi back to the hospital. Now Mom had an oxygen mask on. I recommended that Lori’s sister and her family come as soon as possible; something has changed from that morning. All of us were around her bed, Mom was in good spirits and even laughing and joking around. While we were all around her, Mom breathed her last. No fear. No pain. No suffering. God was so merciful and His timing so perfect. Mom was surrounded by family when she went to be with Jesus. God provided the opportunity for us to be there with her during her final days.
Remember how I began with Charlie Brown’s poignant question: “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Christmas is about God intervening into this world, bringing hope where there was no hope, bringing forgiveness where there was only condemnation, and replacing fear with joy. “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” I know we don’t like to think about death, but unfortunately it is inevitable, no matter how much we try to fight it. Will we face death with joy, hope, and peace? This only comes through Jesus. We only have this time on earth to make those decisions about where and how we will spend eternity. It would be my joy to help you make this most important decision. Christmas will never be the same. You will be able to answer Charlie Brown’s question with new hope and confidence.
Now, my favorite: Up Close & Personal:
Jairus (10 years old) It is hard to believe that our youngest is already ten years old. It is not easy to be the youngest in our family with eight older siblings, your parents, and all the other authorities in your life. I only had one older sibling and that was hard enough. It was not always pleasant between me and my older brother, as there was always a lot of competition. Io be fair, I was not an easy older brother either. If life was a talking competition talking, Jairus would be the winner by far. He loves to talk and has a comment on just about everything. He will often talk even when there is no one listening. It may not always appear that he is listening, but he actually takes in a lot of information without even writing it down. He actually remembers things that happened years ago in vivid detail. He has a very creative mind too. If you run into a problem, he can often think of a solution. Try asking him: he may surprise you with a solution that you never considered. He is the inventor and he is not afraid of failure or just trying something. I’ll give you one example from early this year. As you know it rains here alot, and when the ground is saturated, there are little trickles of water running all around, something that most of us never even notice. Well, for Jairus, this is free water available to whomever can harness it. He went to work on our hillside with dams, pipes, and tunnels. Before long, water was dripping down, little waterfalls, into a dam, through a pipe, through tunnels, and eventually into a large rubber future Koi pond. Wow! Jairus had an online cello teacher for a few years. The teacher was quite nice, and he learned quite well, but he had no recitals and hands-on help. Jairus decided to switch to viola and now takes lessons from mrs. melin, wo also teaches the other children. The children’s musical skill comes from their mother, not me. This summer, I tried to arrange an overnight backpacking trip with some of the young men at our church, Well, no could make it. Aaron suggested a father:son backpacking trip instead. We already planned a strenuous hike to the Lake of the Angels. According to the reports: 3400 vertical feet, poorly marked trails and goat trails (basically the shortest way up) something called “stonehead”. I accidently called it headstone, when talking with the boys. We all made it, and was it ever worth it: One of the most beautiful place with an ice and snow field (great for sliding), a crystal clear lake with fish (next time we will bring our fishing equipment), star-filled skies with meteors, and plenty of mountain goats, which left us alone but attracted hundreds of horse flies. What a fun time!
Lily (12 years old) She may be the youngest violinist in our family, but what beautiful music she makes! She makes it look so effortless, but that comes from diligent practicing. We never have to remind her to practice; she reminds us that she needs to practice. It is so nice to have music filling our home throughout the day. She likes to do things outside without even being told: raking, cleaning out the ditch along our road, or just picking up around the house. She is still my faithful kitchen helper for Sunday morning breakfast. Whatever she does, she does well and rarely complains. What a servant heart. She often asks what she can do to earn some money. I find things for her like stapling handouts for my work. Before I know it, the job is finished. You would think since she doesn’t have much money, that she would spend it on something for herself. Whenever I shop with her for a birthday present for her siblings or her mom, the cost seems immaterial. She is generous and generous with God also. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her slip a large bill into the offering plate. No one else noticed, but I had the privilege and this gives me a window into her love for God. “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” (3 John 4) This year I am teaching human anatomy and physiology to the youngest three. It is actually a college textbook with some very difficult topics and materials. She takes good notes and studies hard. It has been a long time since I took these classes in college and medical school. “I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14) It is a joy to teach her.
Noelle (14 years old) Just next year is our father: daughter date. Wow, how time flies! ! This summer I took all of the children on a two-night backpacking trip to Mildred Lakes. I heard that Noelle was having second thoughts about going. She said that she enjoys indoor things more than outdoor things. That is fine. I reminded that this may be the last time with her 7 other siblings and is a time to build family bonds and memories. With a little coaxing, Noelle decided to go. I had gone on this hike with Aaron about 5 years before this. I remember it being difficult, but this time I couldn’t believe it. That was probably the hardest hike I’ve ever hiked, I was sad and surprised to need Aaron and Stefanie to help carry some of my stuff the last mile or so. What a nice place. Noelle had a great time on the lake. We floated on our air mattresses and swam. Noelle is like a fish; she really likes the water. Friday night’s menu was zucchini, rice, and fish (if we caught them). Noelle likes to fish and contributed to the dinner. Overall we caught 22 rainbow trout. Amy’s idea to use the fish heads to attract all of the flies away from our camp worked, and we were able to eat in peace. For her birthday, Noelle wanted to go ice skating, first for Noelle and most of her siblings. Although others clung to the wall or had some amazing wipeouts, you would have thought Noelle had done it for years. Noelle is not afraid to try something new and makes the ordinary fun!
Aaron (16 years old) He is certain that he is taller that I am. Well with his hair all gelled up- he is. We haven’t actually measured ourselves. The other day, he challenged me to an arm wrestle. He also has a chin-up bar in his room and he has been practicing. Other than yard work, which is often quite strenuous, I don’t work out. It is hard for me to turn down a challenge. With everyone watching-no pressure right? Well, I was still able to beat him, but probably not for long. My Dad had one big arm and one normal-sized arm from his work. We used to call it his Popeye arm. In high school I did sports every season, lifted weights and wrestled. I thought for certain I could beat my Dad. Like Aaron I would challenge my Dad to an arm wrestle. Ready set go. “When are you going to start?” my dad would ask as my face turning red and my veins popped out of my arm. Once his arm began moving downward, there was nothing I could do until my knuckles hit the table. “Next time, Dad, you’ll see.” My children never met my Dad as he died when I was 18. Many stories about his strength have been circulating around our home. Some of them could be true, but no way to prove them now. Aaron volunteers twice a week at our local food bank called Fish Line. He sorts the donations and really enjoys it. It is good for him to give back to the community and to have some other authorities in his life and projects to work on. Aaron’s passion is soccer. He has been playing soccer for a few years, andthis year his whole team is much improved: his games are exciting to watch. Last year, his poor team ended the season without even one win. However their team did win good sportsmanship award. Being a good loser is just as important as being a good winner, although winning is nice. This year their team has a few wins, and his team’s cheering section is always the largest and loudest. Aaron is considering engineering as a career. He is taking online physics, math and CAD classes. I enjoy looking at his CAD (computer assisted design) projects. These projects are 3-D so you can rotate them and even look inside or take them apart to see how they work. Amazing! With engineering studies on the horizon, I realize that his time at home may be coming to an end and want to prepare him for the future, especially his spiritual life, by not only setting a good example but building our relationship in order to continue to speak into his life even after he leaves the home. “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” Proverb 23:26
Kristi (18 years old) Kristi and Noelle share a room this year. Both are artists, so their walls are covered with various drawings, paintings, sketches, and many different media. Kristi is taking online classes from Liberty University, mainly art and design classes. She and Bethany are also taking Japanese classes. Language seems to come fairly easy for Kristi. She may help me with my website and possibly help me turn the past 28 years of Christmas letters into a book, with pictures and drawings. For Father’s Day Kristi gave me such a precious gift, a book where you can personalize it with stories, descriptions and memories of favorite times. Kristi illustrated it with drawings. I just love paging through it and find myself laughing out loud: it can lift my spirits. As a student she has access to some pretty neat programs. It is fascinating seeing what she can design with Adobe Illustrator and InDesign. Kristi has an excitement about her that makes even an ordinary day, seem special. Even going for a walk along a beach or trail is fun with her. Kristi is usually involved if we need a slideshow for someone’s graduation or event. Kristi is still playing the cello at church. That deep rich sound compliments the other instruments. Kristi and I have had some good talks about her future; no two children are identical so it is a challenge to make individual plans for each child. We have had to learn lessons the hard way, signing up for online courses and having to basically start all over again. Kristi and I had different opinions, and we came up with a compromise for her education. I hope this works out well. So far so good. She and I keep each other in line because neither of us like to compromise or take the easy way out. Even though it is never easy to be corrected, it always feels better in the end. Thank you Kristi!
Bethany (20 years old) Bethany and I will have the privilege to serve in Southeast Asia early 2017. We have aspirations of learning the language more before we get there and have found several good websites and YouTube lessons. We just need to make the time to study. Both of us like to talk and be with people. I just got laryngitis today, and it was the strangest feeling, not being able to yell at Aaron’s soccer game and not being able to participate in the discussion around the dining room table. It forced me to just listen, and this an important lesson that probably we both need to learn. Southeast Asia is a great place to push yourself out of your comfort zone and beyond your abilities. You may experience the most difficult two weeks of your life but also some of the most rewarding and faith-building weeks of your life. There is always the possibility of not coming back. Of course, this can happen in the USA, too. Their hospitals do not have all the resource that we have here. Preparing Bethany for this is my responsibility. She will be a great asset to have on our team, and I am certain she’ll make some new Khmer friends. I will have to make sure she gets proper sleep since she has a past history of seizures. God healed her several years ago, and she has been seizure-free off without medications. Bethany and Kristi are taking Japanese lessons online; it is great to hear them practicing even though I have no idea what they are saying. Both of them are dreaming and beginning to think in Japanese. Bethany was trying out her Japanese on our relatives. They understood her, and this made Bethany feel happy. This class is very time-consuming for Bethany, but i think she will learn much. Our family is thinking of reaching out to international students at Olympic College. Knowing Japanese may come in very handy. Bethan Co-leads a Wednesday night bible class or 4-5 year olds. It is a good experience for her. She uses my “Big Specials”(flannelgraph) to illustrate Bible stories. That is one thing that Bethany and I both like to do-tell stories.
Stefanie (22 years old) In February of this year, Stefanie’s fishing license was going to expire, and at that time, she had not even caught one fish. Well, we were going to do something about that. We drove to Kitsap Lake, which is open year around. I think half the fun is just being together. If you catcgh a fish, it’s a bonus. The bonus is if you caught a fish. Remember: we did not want to come back skunked. It wasn’t long before Stefanie had a fish on the end of her line. We caught a glimpse of it as it was getting closer. It was a good size. We forgot to bring a net so I was hoping that we would not lose it. As it got close to the dock, Stefanie raised her pole and the fish flew through the air. Once on the dock, we breathed a sigh of relief. It was 16 inches-long nice rainbow!. I put it on a stringer and securely attached it to the dock. We sat back down and went back to fishing. I heard a lot of splashing and said, “My that fish really came back alive. You better make sure it is still tied securely.” She pulled it out of the water and guess what was on the other end? An otter! Stefanie said that it hissed just before letting go. “Bad breath!” She place the trout back on the dock. Unfortunately, now it had no tail. Too bad about the trout, but it sure made for some good memories. Stefanie graduated with an associate degree in LIberal Arts. She then signed up for a CNA (certified nursing assistant) program. It was an intensive course and included knowledge and practical skills. Stefanie did very well. This is really up her alley since she has always had a loving and caring heart for people. She is our family’s resident nursing assistant. She graduated from this course, and this month will take her state exam so she will be able to work. She is thinking of working at a local assisted living facility. Stefanie also got her driving license. She has been busy and has a tender heart for God and His ways.
Jonathan (almost 24 years old) Jonathan and Emma’s wedding was on New Year’s Eve 2015 in Texas. Our whole family flew down for the wedding and helped with the wedding reception. I met Steve Hopkins (Emma’s father) several years ago, as Jonathan and Micah Hopkins did an internship together in Wake Forest, NC and became good friends. I have always enjoyed our talks together, not realizing that one day there would be a marriage between our two families. The Hopkins did a wonderful job with the wedding, and it was very special for everyone. I was given a part of the wedding,- giving a charge to Emma and Jonathan. It was so exciting and joyous to seeing Jonathan so happy. Emma is so sweet and a good match for Jonathan. They came over for a visit last summer. I thought our family was large with 9 children, but the Hopkins have 16 children. Jonathan is finishing up law school at Liberty University in , Lynchberg, Virginia. In the back of my mind, I would love to see them move closer to here, but I want them to follow God’s lead. I pray for them regularly, and I need to be more connected. The family set up a family blog on a website called 23 Snaps. I have yet to figure out how to access this. As you may have already found out, I am not good at texts, emails, Twittered, or Facebook. I want to get to know Emma more also. I guess with a long distance separating us, I will need to be more creative.
Amy (25 years old) Amy’s life is anything but boring. Have you ever seen plate spinning? (I am probably dating myself) Just before a plate falls and breaks, it begins a death spiral. I am not amazed that Amy can spin plates, but the vast number of plates amazes me. Being involved in so many ways makes it is easy to get priorities off. The center of Amy’s life is still pleasing God. That is the most important; if you miss this, then nothing else really matters. Amy is our resident IT person. She help set up a backup system;.it is nice to know that your information is backed up somewhere and somehow longer- I really don’t know but I’m glad there is someone who does. This year Amy wanted to buy a car. She found one on CraigsList in Seattle and asked if I would go with her to check it out. We had never purchased something that big on CraigsList. It is a bit scary to carry that much money. I just remember that someone ran off with Jonathan’s MacBook Air. Fortunately, he kept his wits and didn’t chase down the thief. Well, we placed some money in my money belt and some in Amy’s Bible. Amy suggested our code for “Let’s get out of here” could be “I need to get something from the car.” The sellers were a middle aged couple, empty nesters who were moving to Italy. Everything went smoothly, and Amy now owns a Honda Civic Hybrid. Now she has more freedom to meet with friends and doesn’t have to drive the sporty 15-passenger van. That car has already made a couple road trips to Canada with one of Amy’s good friends, Jinshil. Even though Amy may be quite active, her “base” is still home. It is never easy to “let go of the kite string” and allow your children freedom. I am just glad, to know that for Amy, God is still holding that string.
Lori (my bride) We just celebrated our 28th anniversary. I tell Lori often, “I would marry you all over again!” We spent three nights away at Cannon Beach, Oregon. Our life is often driven by a busy schedule; this was nice to set our own schedule and pace. God is at the center of our marriage, and there is no better place to be. February of this year, Lori and I had the privilege to serve in Southeast Asia. This was a huge stretch for Lori, and there were times, even until we departed, that she wanted to stay home. It is hard to leave the children, comforts of home, safety, and everything that is familiar to head off into the unknown, with bugs, heat, and humidity, germs, different foods and language, and hundreds of people. All of these stretched her way beyond her comfort zone. Lori felt that God wanted her to go, so Lori went. Faith (trusting in God) begins at the moment we leave our comfort zone and abilities and venture into “God’s country.” This trip was a faith builder for both of us. Except the first day when we met the governor, clinic time was limited, and the crowds were huge, we by God’s grace were able to see every patient. It is always difficult to turn patients away, especially when some walked two hours to get there. This year was especially difficult due to unusually hot and humid weather. We expected 80s to 90s and humid, but this year it was 106`F and humid. That combination taxed all of us. Our team leader Dr. Mike, decided to keep Lori back one day to recover. Just as the bus was ready to take off, he said, “Rich, take care of your bride!” I was all set for another day at the clinic. Even though the clinic is hard, I find it so rewarding, getting back so much more than I ever give. But I knew that I had an even more important job, caring for my wife. We got to stay in an air conditioned room, drink cold water, rest, and recover. We read from the Bible, prayed for our team and family, talked, and even went for a walk around town to try to get acclimated to the heat. Lori was a great asset to the team. She worked in the eyeglass clinic, sometimes all by herself without a translator. Wow! She was so well-liked by the translators that many of them called her “Mah” (Mom in Khmer). God protected all of us and no one got ill- no major problems on the home front either. God used this trip to draw us closer to Him and each other and opened our eyes and hearts to want to continue His work in USA possibly working together with international students.
This has been a difficult year for Lori with the sudden and unexpected death of her mother. Since her dad passed away 3 years ago and now her mother, only she and her sister are left. Her parent’s home was also sold. It is a blesssing to know that they are in heaven, a much better place. Still the loss is hard. One new thing that Lori began this year was selling some things on eBay. After successfully selling items, Lori was able to purchase a better viola. I can really hear the difference. Now she is even more motivated to practice and play.
Rich (57) The highlight of this year was serving together with Lori in Southeast Asia. I will always treasure those memories. Really I enjoy doing just about anything with Lori. During our anniversary get-away, we went to Powell’s bookstore in Portland, ate at a Japanese restaurant, and went to a play all in one day. What a fun outing! Family projects and events require our family to work together and draw on each other’s strengths. For the past 4-5 years, we have hosted a 4th of July party. About 80 people have attended. This really requires all hands on deck. What a fun time of games, food, and fellowship. Fortunately, the weather overall has been acceptable hot but bearable and rain showers, not a downpour. Not bad for living in a place where they say that summer begin on July 5th. Finding a balance between home and work is always a challenge. Caring for the whole person- physically, emotionally and spiritually can somethings make me run behind, but so rewarding. God brings me in close contact with 20 or more patients every day through an office visit, phone call and e-mail and I have the opportunity to show them care and respect and the love of Jesus. I have been at the same office for over 21 years. I had some newborns patients who are now in their twenties wow! I have grown older with my patients. All of my patients in their 70’s are now in their 90s. Lord willing, I will soon join their ranks. I have some patients in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, and my family has brought instruments over to play music. We receive more that could ever give just to see their smiles. This year a local hardware store was selling paving bricks for 25 cents apiece, so I decided to extend our driveway with pavers. Our whole family was involved in the process. Unfortunately, it was raining quite hard, teaching us perseverance. It was nice to see each other encouraging one another. God has blessed us with 9 children and two more in heaven already. The Bible describes children as arrows: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;” (Psalm 127:4-5) Arrows are not to be left in the quiver, but launched at a target. One of my greatest responsibilities and privileges is to prepare each child to be launched. Almost every day, I lead discussion about a recent sermon, some Bible verses that I have been studying, and occasionally a section of a book. The Bible instructs fathers: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesian 6:4) That is my focus- to teach them God’s truths and hopefully model it lived out in my life and encourage them to live it out in their lives. I want to begin to meet with each child for some 1:1 time on a regular basis. I find that in a larger family, there are those that talk a lot (myself included) and there are those that don’t say much but have much to share. Both Amy and Stefanie have come to my work. This gives us time to talk during the commute and lunch time. That is a great way to squeeze a bit more quality time out of my day. I have yet to find a way to meet with each child consistently and still meet with Lori daily for ‘talk time’.
Another year is coming to a close. At the beginning of this letter, I brought up several questions: Do you know what Christmas is all about? What is the origin of your worldview? Who is Jesus and why did He come? If you were dying, do you know where you are going? Are you at peace with God? God is a loving and just God. He is interested in you and died for you that you may live and have eternal life with Him. What you do in this life does determine where you will spend eternity. Jesus is inviting you to come to Him and He has made that possible. Respond to His call. There is no better time than right now. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30) If you need someone to talk to about how to begin a life with Jesus, please let me know. It would be my privilege. A good friend helped me back in 1984 to make this most important decision. I never had regrets. All the things that I thought I would miss if I decided to follow Jesus don’t compare with the joy and peace I now have. God has given me new affections; to follow His ways and please Him. I still mess up as we all do, but God is right there, ready to forgive me and help me live the life He wants me to live. Trust me, Christmas will never be the same once you are His. Merry Christmas!
From our family to yours,
Rich (for Lori, Amy, Jonathan & Emma, Stefanie, Bethany, Kristi, Aaron, Noelle, Lily and Jairus.
Rich’s website: teamtanaka.com
Amy’s website: attuneup.com