Friday, December 26, 2014

Light versus Darkness

December 26th, the day after Christmas. I am in the middle of reading "Unbroken",  the biography of Louie Zamperini.  When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Sunday, the 7th of December in 1941 I was thirteen years old.  Clearly I remember our student body being assembled to hear the pronouncement by President Roosevelt that our nation was at war with an East Asian country half way around the world.  None of us could have imagined what that pronouncement would mean for us as a nation and as individuals.  My brother Bob soon was in the Air Force,  sent to the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific for the rest of the war.

When our country was drawn into the European war scarcely a family was spared the agony of worry and loss. Reading "Unbroken" is bringing up many emotions.  We learned from Bob after the war that one day when he was cleaning his gun, he had left a shell in the chamber which went off and shot him. The next day his squadron of seventy-five flew a mission from which none returned.  He alone was spared as he lay in a makeshift infirmary in bandages. He was assigned to a new squadron.

Bob was never the same after the war. He had always been untrusting of people.  Now he was bitter, unforgiving and vengeful. When I became a Christian and my life and purpose for life dramatically changed  he laughed and repeatedly tried to shame me for believing there is even God.  Christ? way could our Lord's suffering compare to his, even if Christ actually existed.  He hired a private detective to prove that the Christians who had wrapped me in Jesus' love had a sexual motive for reaching out to me. In an authoritative voice he declared that the missionaries on the Fiji  Islands destroyed the "pure culture" of the nationals.  I, this young girl who had adored this brother above all others in my family was devastated.   I was forced to distance from him, attempting again and again to connect with him when we moved years later to California. He used Ted and me each time as he did others, expecting everyone to repay him for what he had suffered.  He broke my parents' hearts and their bank account. I kept trusting that some way, somehow, he would come to know Christ. Much later,  he walked forward in a Ben Lomond, California church and accepted the Lord.  The pastor wrote to tell me and I was so excited.  He would not, however continue to go to the church and as far as I know he did not read the Bible. He chose to remain a victim.  In Heaven he will be like Jesus. So will I, and we will,  at last enjoy sweet fellowship.  I have much to look forward to... and I do.  My parents are there, having come to know Him in their mid 70's. You who are the "first-reborn" in your families, never stop praying and believing that God is at work. You are the Light, perhaps the only Light in their world that is so dark. I understand discouragement and weariness, however, which drive us to the Word for reassurance and strength to keep on making whatever sacrifice must be made in order for loved ones to believe that Christ loves them enough to have made the ultimate sacrifice for them. The word "love" without sacrifice means absolutely nothing.

Because dear Billy Graham, President of our Christian school came as often as he could to report to the students about those who were coming to Christ in the Crusades, we heard about the conversions of many like Louie Zamporini.  Now as  I look at dear Karen and Tomo, the beautiful Japanese women who are part of my life,  I wonder:  "Were some of your relatives those who were led to Christ by this amazing man named Louie Zamporini who refused to remain bitter and vengeful but replaced both with grace and forgiveness?"

Yesterday, on Christmas Day,  I was enfolded in the warm embrace of precious ones:  Dee, Brent, Lexi and youngest granddaughter Madi.   I fell into bed last night,  a blessed elderly lady whose early life was empty and dead.. and then, at nineteen years of age,  was given these simple but powerful words that gave me fullness of joy and life:  "This, then, is the message which we have heard of Him and declare unto you,  that God is Light and in Him is no darkness at all." 

No darkness have we who in Jesus abide; 
We walk in the Light when we follow our Guide

Ye dwellers in darkness with sin-blinded eyes;
Go, wash at His bidding and light will arise




Friday, December 19, 2014

Hello, Husband

My dear husband of 65  As on the night of our wedding in Minneapolis, Minnesota, there is snow a blowin ' here on our mountain. The hardy Scandinavians who graced us with a beautiful wedding and reception filled the church.

I am so curious about so many things.  What do you look like? The Word tells me you do not have your glorified body yet because we will all receive those at the same time. All of our immediate family will be there. Our preferred Exit Plan would be to zoom in simultaneously, but as you always said: "We aren't in management!" Do you know what is going on down here or would that taint Heaven? What are you doing? When our remaining family was together for my 86th birthday last Sunday we wondered if you and Doug are buzzing the Planets as you "buzzed" our houses when you flew over Bear Valley. You always told people: "When you read in my obituary that I have died, don't you believe it! I will have just begun to live!" I surely would like to know what that  "living" looks like. ...

You were such a shy young man when we married. Your disciplined study of the Word of God and your belief in what you read made you bold.  You were a hard worker all your life and I admired that so much. You lived and breathed II Timothy 2:2.  No matter how much pressure was put on you to aim for numbers in our ministries you kept right on pouring the Word into those God led to you whose mission was to teach it to others.  You aced every test the evil one threw your way, modelling for us the fact that God uses everything for His ultimate glory. I can't thank you enough for that.

The Thursday girls just left and I am so excited to tell you about them.  They are all building relationships with people who have an empty place in their souls that can only be filled by Jesus! Today I played your podcast "Meekness #2 " for them. They love hearing your voice and your good sound teaching.  (Ted's pod casts can be downloaded on

I still have all of my own teeth.  Did you check them out before you married me...kind of like farmers used to do before they bought a workhorse?  My new hearing aids cost almost as much as our first house. The three nails that hold my hip together throb when the temperature drops.  My brain is still relatively good. ... remembering some things best forgotten.   You were always the "half-full glass" partner in this marriage.  I mentioned to you more than once that you weren't very good at spotting deceivers. Over my desk I have a picture of hounds racing pell -mell after a fox.  Blending in, running with the pack is the fox himself!  I Thesssalonians 4:11 ("Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, mind your own business and work with your hands.") provides a check on me:  If I don't have a hound dog in the race I pass.

The country is a mess, no matter how wide a brush the president chooses to paint his picture.  We were given much as a nation and much, therefore, is required.  Am I scared? ...not for me. ...but for our families?   Persecution will make them strong. ...just as it has down through the ages.

I love you and have since we were seventeen!

How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv'n!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.


Your Jo

Friday, December 12, 2014


We had pastored (and I make no apology about saying "we")  a redemptive church for over a decade in Bakersfield, California.  The American Sunday School Union missionary Boyntons had established Fruitvale Community Church after many children and their parents had come to know Jesus.  Widowed Mabel Boynton knew they needed a Bible teacher. Ted, our two boys and a pregnant wife/mother moved from our beloved Palo Alto to Bakersfield in 1959 with a passion to build a church by new-believer growth just as our dear mentor Ray Stedman had taught us to do. We squeaked through for a loan on a brand new house miles from the church in what was then a newly developing part of the city.  The builder/realtor, Bob Watson who sold us our home was not a believer.  A few years later he walked through the door of our country church with his wife and family and all came to Christ.

Settled into our new home, I waddled down our street and became acquainted with a neighbor named Diane,  a runaway Christian, eager to be restored to the Lord and His Word.  I only knew something about the Book of we started to study it verse by verse. One week Diane invited her sister who brought her friend Ann, an avid patriot who knew everybody on the City Counsel, every John Birch Society member and most of the business leaders in town.  (Didn't we meet  "Ann"  in Philippi?   Her name was "Lydia" who opened the door for the Gospel to Europe.)  Soon Diane's friends knew Jesus and began to come and bring their families to our little church. Determined not to allow our fledgling flock to become a "Homesteader" church  we pressed them to "Go and make disciples".  Ann and husband Bob began to serve waffle brunches after church in their home,  inviting the people they knew in the city. We joined them,  sitting around five or six round tables in their small living room. Soon the waffle people began to stream through the doors of our church, bringing with them the friends they were leading to Christ.  Then,  along  came the Jesus Movement. Hundreds came to Christ and moved out all over our city and to the uttermost parts of the earth. They still are.  Some are in Heaven.  I wonder if they have seen Ted?  There are so many things I wonder about, but maybe not for long.   I will be 86 on Sunday.

Sometime in the mid-70's, .the Christmas musicals, plays and church doin's were over and Christmas Day arrived....on a Sunday as I recall.  I looked around the congregation and saw many that I knew might be lonely that day. As people filed by us when church was over I invited some to drop by our home in the afternoon.  Fifty people showed up!  About a year ago I received a call from a man we shall call "Sam".  "Hi, Jo.  I found your blog on the web. I asked Jesus into my heart when I was a boy growing up in your church. I have been away from Him for a very long time but He has welcomed me back into the fold.  Many years ago you invited my family to your home for Christmas afternoon.  Since my return to Him, the Lord has given me the ministry of intercessory prayer.  How may I pray for you?"

There were five of  us around my table for Thanksgiving:  Dee, Brent, Lexi, Carla (Son Jeff was in Philadelphia with their daughter Lauren)... and me.  Friday morning Carla left to return to Sacramento/Granite Bay and I was anticipating the let-down that sets in since Ted left for Glory. ...then came a call from Sam. "I am in the area. Would it be all right if  I drop by to see you?"  Much later Sam left for his home to the north, after we enjoyed warmed-over Thanksgiving dinner, memories,  laughter, prayer and worship.  Sam:  ...this now middle-aged  "angel unawares"  that was part of a crowd that showed up at our home on a Christmas Day in the 70's. The Lord admonishes us in Hebrews 13:2 to:  "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." 

                                     "I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY" 

,,,and in despair I bowed my head; "There is no peace on earth," I said.
"For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fall, the right prevail with peace on earth, good-will to men."

Love, Jo


Friday, December 5, 2014

The Wordless Book

Betty's first husband Ralph left earth by way of a slow-moving brain tumor;  John, her second husband left by instant heart failure. ...but Betty Zimmerman Walker never flagged in her passion to follow Jesus with an ardent passion for the lost.  Widowed and left with four teenagers to raise, she had just married John.  Years ago Ted and I came home from someplace to find Betty Zimmerman Walker sitting on our front steps snugged up beside our little neighbor boy named "Danny Shearer".  She and John were on their honeymoon and dropped in unannounced so we could meet our dear Betty's new husband.  In her left hand was a green booklet that I recognized as the "Wordless Book",  a colorful tool created by Child Evangelism that has led countless numbers of children to faith in Christ.   Danny was listening to her intently as she turned the pages of the little book from black to red to white to gold, explaining that all of our hearts are black when we are born and without the red blood of Jesus being shed on the Cross they will remain black. He makes them white as snow if we ask Him into our hearts.  Golden streets await us in Heaven.   The green covering states that we are to grow like the green grass through God's Word. Ted, and a man we had not yet met and I stood quietly by and listened as our neighbor boy invited Jesus into his little heart. Betty went Home last month at the age of 95!  I sent Betty a list of  the names of five women years ago to pray for and all but one has come to Christ. ...and I'll betcha that Betty prayed for her as she lay on her final earth-bed. 

I have travelled enough.  My system likes to be in its own bed and eat its own food when it feels like it. It likes its cats snuggling up at night, and the great out-of-doors all around me.  ...and our wonderful climate and the blue sky and sunrises and sunsets, and so forth and so on. Reluctantly I recently turned down an enticing invitation to fly to an island off the coast of North Carolina to offer a musical Valentine outreach for the community.  Is it normal for a woman my age to be halfway through an event that has everybody around me eating and laughing and all I want to do is be at home in my big ol'  bed?  Do other aging people sleep a few hours then come fully awake, clearly hearing the Lord tell us how to resolve a situation that seemed blurry in the daytime?  The good news is this: I can snatch a nap throughout the day whereas as a wife of a pastor and a mom the thought of a nap in the daytime would have sent me into peals of laughter.

I wonder if Paul the Apostle did his best thinking and writing in the night.  ...or Matthew, or Mark or Luke or John, and all the other forty or so appointed listeners who wrote down what He spoke into them?    Paul had to have been in bodily agony from all the beatings he endured. ...a Ted-ism: "When  Paul went into a new town he never looked for the motels but staked out the jail because he knew he would be in it!"  ...and then to read that Paul  "beat his own body into submission".  It seems to me that others took care of that rather thoroughly.  Paul  wrote that it really didn't matter to him whether or not the Lord left him here any longer or took him on Home.  Some hours that's the way I feel,  but then I change my mind.  It's a good thing the Lord numbers our days.  I wouldn't want to miss tomorrow night when I entertain at the Apple Shed.  I'll have the staff place the tables in a half circle around the piano and we will sing Christmas songs.  ...and they won't all be about snow and reindeer and stuff that has nothing to do with our Jesus' birth.   Many years ago on a Christmas Eve twenty or thirty of us empty nesters who were having dinner at the Apple Shed were pretending not to be sad  that our kids were with their in-laws or friends.  The owner, George turned to me as he glanced at the old upright in the corner and asked, "Do you play the piano?" "Uhh, yes..." and he said, "Well, get over there and play some Christmas songs and we'll all sing." ...and we did and that's why, nine years later I am still at that old piano on the first Saturday night of every month.

I get to play in the next couple of weeks for some church Christmas musicals.  ...and then there is Tasha's Christmas piano recital.  She wants me to lead a Christmas Singalong for her students and parents. ...dear, dear  Korean Tasha who has been the instrument to recently bring one of her students to Christ, and now the student's mother as well. Both have joined the "Thursday Girls".  Some of the Girls have moved into their own ministries and I am so proud of them, but at the same time,  I miss seeing them on a regular basis. ...not at all unlike parenting.  We knock our socks off training our kids to leave home and then they GO and DO it!

By now it's 6 A.M., so right after I cook up something wonderful for my breakfast I will crawl back into my warm bed and have myself a little nap before whoever and whatever is supposed to happen today comes through on my Email, cell or land phone. People don't just drop by here on our mountain as they did when we lived in cities.  Bears do, however.  If you missed that story, you might want to check out the "He Was Hungry" blog.  I have no idea how to tell you to do that.  This computer still makes me break a sweat. It's been on strike for a couple of weeks, but after hours of techie magic it is behaving again. if I can just find my mailing list.  I fully relate to the title of Florence Littauer's last book: "O.K., I Found My Keys. Now Where's My Car?" 

There is a Name I love to hear; I love to sing its worth.
It sounds like music to mine ear; the sweetest Name on earth.


Love,  Jo