from Rachel: The Reign of Jotham and the Call of Isaiah

How was Jotham similar to his father, and how was he different? similar – “He did right in the eyes of the Lord. He made wise decisions for Judah, and the nation thrived under him.” different – “He didn’t go into the temple, where only the priests could go. He apparently didn’t become excessively prideful.Continue reading “from Rachel: The Reign of Jotham and the Call of Isaiah”

Preparations for Company

Dearest Rachel – I set my alarm early today, as I usually do nowadays for Saturday mornings, so that I don’t miss the men’s Bible study. It’s not something that you could have related to, but when you were here, that wasn’t one of my priorities anyway. In any event, I probably should mention thatContinue reading “Preparations for Company”

The Right Time and Place

Dearest Rachel – I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems that there are so many opportunities that we let slip through our fingers because it’s just not the right time or place to bring it up with the other person (or persons). The question is whether that hesitancy is warranted, or ifContinue reading “The Right Time and Place”

Ahead of the Curve

Dearest Rachel – Now that I’ve gotten back to a certain semblance of normal – while at the same time always having to acknowledge that nothing since the lockdowns has been, and nothing since your departure will ever be, truly “normal” again – life has been a matter of reconnecting with those in my circlesContinue reading “Ahead of the Curve”

Never That Young

Dearest Rachel – So, this morning, I woke up to the bright sun pouring in from what seemed to be all sides of the room (you know how it is; the bedroom has windows all around it, apart from the one wall that’s attached to the laundry room). But when I grabbed my phone toContinue reading “Never That Young”

Never Quite Ready

Dearest Rachel – So, since I already told you about the problem that arose while we were over in Akita, I figured that I ought to tell you about how things got resolved, now that it more or less has been. No sense in letting these things hang over one’s head, after all. Sure, youContinue reading “Never Quite Ready”

Whiny Little Incel

Dearest Rachel – The other evening, I was browsing through my YouTube feed. It’s probably not the best thing for me to be doing at the end of the night – the last thing I need to be doing is keeping myself up by staring at a screen – but I absolutely hate having thoseContinue reading “Whiny Little Incel”

No Walk of Shame

Dearest Rachel – When I was talking with Kerstin about you the other night, one of the stories I brought up was the time I came down to university over Homecoming after I’d graduated. I couldn’t recall whether it was your junior or senior year, but the more I think about it, the more I’veContinue reading “No Walk of Shame”

from Rachel: The Reign of Uzziah

Isaiah 1:1 lists the four kings who reigned over Judah during Isaiah‘s life. Find their names in the list below and order their reigns 1, 2, 3, 4. “1. Uzziah“2. Jotham“3. Ahaz“4. Hezekiah” What did Isaiah call his wife? “the prophetess” The name Uzziah means “the Lord is my strength.” In what ways does thisContinue reading “from Rachel: The Reign of Uzziah”

The Song That Fits

Dearest Rachel – So last night, Kerstin came over. It was all we could do; getting all the girls together just wasn’t in the cards. It’s part of why it’s taken so long to arrange your final send-off – Erin needs her schedule together for the following year by the previous November, while Aaron (theContinue reading “The Song That Fits”

We Missed the Daffodils

Dearest Rachel – For all the hype about our trip to Japan, and that we were doing it at the exact time (more or less) as cherry blossom season, the fact of the matter remains that there are other flowers that were blooming as well. In Tokyo, in particular, the blossoms had already fallen byContinue reading “We Missed the Daffodils”

Waking Up to Reality

Dearest Rachel – I suppose today is one more reminder that I made the right decision in going straight home, rather than negotiate a day or two extra in Tokyo. I probably should also be grateful for the fact that my body managed to hold it together until we were just about on our wayContinue reading “Waking Up to Reality”

Dreams of Netless Flight

Dearest Rachel – Well, we made it home. In fact, we landed at O’Hare only about an hour after we took off from Narita – all that time change, stuff you know. That, in fact, was one of the reasons why I’d decided to stay home today from the ‘office’: it was basically assumed byContinue reading “Dreams of Netless Flight”

Bad Connections

Dearest Rachel – As you’ll recall, I was hesitant to speak ill of our cruise line, due to a sort of “it’s not you, it’s me” situation, where I was aware that Daniel and I were not their intended clientele, and while the trip – and the destinations, in particular – were wonderful, any senseContinue reading “Bad Connections”

The Sun Also Sets

Farewell, Japan – I will miss you. I will miss your forests, with your pine trees standing so closely together (and so close to the road) that your nature can be every bit as claustrophobic as the streets and alleyways of your cities. I will miss your customs, such as the belief that a pairContinue reading “The Sun Also Sets”

Food for Thought

Dearest Rachel – I don’t know what sort of manna or ambrosia you get to eat where you are; I assume that, since heaven still contains most of the truly good things in life, you’re able to eat and enjoy things (and hey, Jesus ate fish after His resurrection, so why not you?). And whileContinue reading “Food for Thought”

Terminal Conditions

Dearest Rachel – Daniel fell asleep by eight-thirty last night, and I shut everything down and attempted to do likewise shortly thereafter. We knew we would have to be off the ship by eight, so we would have to start our morning absurdly early in order to make sure we would be able to getContinue reading “Terminal Conditions”

Views from the Port Side

Dearest Rachel – I understand that we don’t necessarily have a say in where our stateroom is located on the ship when we sign up for a cruise. Half of the passengers will get starboard cabins, and the other half will be on the port side. It rather has to be that way, otherwise weContinue reading “Views from the Port Side”

For the Last Time

Dearest Rachel – “Tomorrow at this time…” Daniel’s voice trails off as we ascend the escalator into Tokyo’s International Port building.  He doesn’t need to finish the thought; we both know we’ll be taking this same route through the building thirty or so hours from now, as we prepare to make our way to theContinue reading “For the Last Time”

At Any Price?

Dearest Rachel – It’s morning in Tokyo Bay, and we’re suddenly only one of dozens of ships within sight of each other. You’d think we were in a race to get to the port or something. There’s a certain point in every trip where are you mentally begin preparing yourself to leave and return home.Continue reading “At Any Price?”

Ever In Our Favor

Dearest Rachel – First off, I suppose I need to thank you. All of the time, I’m asking you to keep an eye on us, and other things as well from time to time. But when things pan out as well or better than expected, I really need to express my appreciation. Between you andContinue reading “Ever In Our Favor”

from Rachel: Don’t Run Ahead

Read 2 John 7-9. How does John describe the deceivers in the world?“They’ve gone out into it.”“In the world there are many deceivers” What does John tell us to specifically watch out for? “that we do not lose what we have worked for” What is the positive part of his warning? “that we may (instead)Continue reading “from Rachel: Don’t Run Ahead”

Up Too Early, Up Too Late

Dearest Rachel – I don’t know where I first heard it, but I have heard that the difference between comedy and tragedy is simply a matter of timing. It’s probably a corollary axiom to the fact that comedy is tragedy plus time; where any occurrence involving the loss of life (no matter how horrific) canContinue reading “Up Too Early, Up Too Late”

Shimizu – 清水

Dearest Rachel – Our trip is just about to wind down, and we’re down to our last stop before returning to Tokyo, and from there to Narita and home via Denver (which no, I am not going to bother writing about. I’ve already told you plenty about having been there). I’m not sure how muchContinue reading “Shimizu – 清水”

Misty Motomachi Morning

Dearest Rachel – After having written you earlier this morning, I passed by the gangplank on my way back to the room. It was posted there that we passengers needed to be back on board the ship by one o’clock, so that we could leave Kobe for Shimizu by five. That meant that, in aContinue reading “Misty Motomachi Morning”

All Part of the Show

Dearest Rachel – You might be surprised (or you might not, what do I know?) to discover how often I get started on the letter to you, only to virtually crumpled up and throw it over my shoulder into the trash. Maybe I can’t find an ending for it. Maybe it’s just too rambling andContinue reading “All Part of the Show”

Kobe – 神戸

Dearest Rachel – Thanks for indulging me in a little bit of reminiscence about the city I remember best from my last time in Asia; I only wish I could have brought you with, so that you and I could have swapped stories about our previous visits. Granted, your homestay village of Tsumago is soContinue reading “Kobe – 神戸”

Staying Put… or Not

Dearest Rachel – Eight a.m., and we’re eating breakfast overlooking the enormous (compared to most of our other stops, including Tokyo; the roof is even with the level of the upper-deck cafe) station at the Kobe harbor. We’re going to be here until five in the evening tomorrow. Well, ‘we’ as in the passengers onContinue reading “Staying Put… or Not”

Kyoto – 京都

Dearest Rachel – I know I should be talking about Kobe, since that is the port that we will be coming into tomorrow. However, since our excursion is a Shinkansen ride to Kyoto – and this is the place I remember so vividly, as I walked around it during the day after the Emperor Showa’sContinue reading “Kyoto – 京都”

The Journey is the Destination

Dearest Rachel – Last night’s trip was a curious one; even though they pulled up the gangplank shortly after six in Hiroshima, we still hadn’t left port even after we ate, retired to the room, and Daniel fell asleep waiting for me to finish assembling certain documents for church and send them off, so weContinue reading “The Journey is the Destination”

Takamatsu – 高松

Dearest Rachel – So now, we visit the third of Japan’s major islands, meaning we’ll have stopped at all but Hokkaido on this trip. And to think, we still have three more days before we’re back in Tokyo. Takamatsu is the capital city of Kagawa Prefecture, located in the northwestern part of Shikoku Island, theContinue reading “Takamatsu – 高松”

Rain and Sun

Dearest Rachel – You may have noticed from the picture I sent you this morning while en route that the sky was dark and cloudy. That was not because it was early in the morning in the sun had risen (although admittedly, it was early in the morning, but the sun was, theoretically, up), butContinue reading “Rain and Sun”

As Long As We Walk the Earth

Dearest Rachel – Dave Barry, a man I admire as both a writer and a humorist, wrote a book about his experiences in this country some twenty or thirty years ago entitled, creatively enough, Dave Barry Does Japan. In it, he speaks of his own adventures and misadventures as he bumbles his way through theContinue reading “As Long As We Walk the Earth”

Hiroshima – 広島

Dearest Rachel – For all that Hiroshima has a certain singular claim to fame (if nothing else, it is the yardstick by which all nuclear devices are measured against, usually in terms of dwarfing it), there is so much more to this city than that one terrible moment. Indeed, the fact that it still standsContinue reading “Hiroshima – 広島”

Stretching the Experience

Dearest Rachel – April continues to move on, and we’ve made our way as far south as we wil. It’s finally warm enough for us to go around in T-shirts (not that Daniel is willing to shed his layers of clothing just yet), so we sit on the veranda balcony as we wait for ourContinue reading “Stretching the Experience”

Matsuri Yume

Dearest Rachel – Six forty-five. After a brief moment of wakefulness around four, I’m finally, actually waking up. “Oyaho.” Daniel, it seems, has been awake for an hour or so. And up until now, I’ve been the one to wake up first. I turn and open the curtains to the veranda – we’re still sailingContinue reading “Matsuri Yume”

Kitakyushu – 北九州

Dearest Rachel – So, after that brief sojourn on the tip of the Asian continent proper, we return to the islands of Japan. And I use the plural deliberately, since this is our first visit to a city on an island other than the main one of Honshu. Kitakyushu is a city located in theContinue reading “Kitakyushu – 北九州”

With a Little Help

Dearest Rachel – Well, here we are. It’s wild to realize we’re still only about halfway through our trip around Japan at this point. But for the moment, we aren’t in Japan, which is likely to be more of a challenge for us than you’d think. As I explained earlier, we can neither read, speakContinue reading “With a Little Help”

Enforced Rest

Dearest Rachel – We had planned on taking a shore excursion today in Busan – a Korean cooking class, believe it or not – but when we got aboard the ship, there was already a card on what would up being my bed, informing us that regrettably, it had been cancelled due to the lackContinue reading “Enforced Rest”

Busan – 부산시

Dearest Rachel – I know that, when cruises’ destinations are within the United States (such as to Alaska and Hawaii), there is a stop (or, more often, an embarkation point) in another country, so that the ship isn’t subject to the laws of the United States, which presumably are considerably more stringent than the internationalContinue reading “Busan – 부산시”

from Rachel: Truth and Love

In Hellenistic times the author of a letter identified himself at the top instead of signing off at the end. Based on this information, how does John refer to himself and to whom is he writing? “the elder, and the chosen lady and her children” John loves the recipients of this letter in the “truth”Continue reading “from Rachel: Truth and Love”

On Both Sides of the Border

Dearest Rachel – With every stop we make along the ancient shipping route around the perimeter of Honshu, we get the same announcement from the government of Japan: we’re not allowed to bring meat products ashore, lest we run the risk of bringing potentially infectious items into the country. Setting aside the question of whereContinue reading “On Both Sides of the Border”

Easter Morning on Heathen Shores

Dearest Rachel – I’ve mentioned him to you before (and I’m curious as to whether you’ve had a chance to meet him up there), but I’ve always been fascinated by the words of King Agur, perhaps the most obscure contributor to the book of Proverbs, and the Bible in general. One of his prayers wasContinue reading “Easter Morning on Heathen Shores”

Like You Were Never Gone

Dearest Rachel – There’s a part of me that thinks this is silly; I really should be back in bed, getting some needed sleep, because we’ve got another tour in the morning. but there’s another side of me that, when I see you in my dreams, I feel I have to let you know aboutContinue reading “Like You Were Never Gone”

Running Cold and Hot

Dearest Rachel – Even before Daniel was awake this morning, I was packing for today. Not that I knew we’d need it – I’ve seen enough anime to know what people wear (or rather, don’t wear) in a hot spring – but in a somewhat forlorn hope that we could retain a certain amount ofContinue reading “Running Cold and Hot”

Super Dry

Dearest Rachel – This might be a bizarre introductory topic, but I know you would bear with me as I get started this morning. That was the beauty of our relationship, or any such relationship (I assume): we were each more than willing to hop on each other’s train of thought, and see where itContinue reading “Super Dry”

Kanazawa – 金沢

Dearest Rachel – I think of Japan (and the main island of Honshu in particular) as being much like California in shape and climate, if clearly not in culture. If we think of ‘cruise ship speed’ as equivalent to 25 mph on land (at least, that’s what we always referred to it as we droveContinue reading “Kanazawa – 金沢”

Taking it Easy (Relatively Speaking)

Dearest Rachel – I confess to not being entirely at ease at breakfast; the dining room has what Daniel wants to eat today, but it opens an hour later than the other places serving breakfast, and gives us but and hour to eat and prepare ourselves to head out on our tour. But somehow weContinue reading “Taking it Easy (Relatively Speaking)”

Getting My Money’s Worth?

Dearest Rachel – These days, I try not to worry overmuch about what this or that thing costs me. This is especially true of regular bills, like utilities and phone service. We’ll use what we’ll use, it’ll cost what it’ll cost, and there’s no sense in getting all bent out of shape about it, because…weContinue reading “Getting My Money’s Worth?”

Niigata – 新潟

Dearest Rachel – Even before we head down the gangplank tomorrow, we should have a beautiful view, no matter where we are; the side of the ship not facing the city should be able to see Sado Island. At least, that’s what it looks like on the map of the prefecture, showing where the cityContinue reading “Niigata – 新潟”

A Bit of a Mess

Dearest Rachel – So, yesterday we went out on walkabout before our tour; today that’s definitely not going to be possible today, as our tour starts almost as soon as we’re docked and cleared to get off the ship. We will, however, have a good four or five hours before the ship leaves, in orderContinue reading “A Bit of a Mess”

Akita – 秋田

Dearest Rachel – We’ve now gone across the top of Honshu, and continuing our counterclockwise route around the country through the Sea of Japan (as opposed to the Pacific Ocean proper). Akita (literally translated ‘autumn field,’ which suggests we’re here at exactly the wrong time of year – evidently, the many rice paddies turn aContinue reading “Akita – 秋田”

Only So Much Research Can Do

Dearest Rachel – For all the research I did (and got ChatGPT to do for me, I know full well that all the information in the world doesn’t compare to experience. So, now that we’re here, it’s time to go on walkabout, as the indigenous folks way south of here might put it. The oldContinue reading “Only So Much Research Can Do”

Broken Morning

Dearest Rachel – I have to confess, I’m not really sure what time zone I’m functioning on at this point. I only know it’s not really the one that I should be on. Since there’s nothing particularly interesting in terms of entertainment after dinner (unless I want to stay up until 11 or so, toContinue reading “Broken Morning”

Aomori – 青森

Dearest Rachel – As our one and only sea day comes to a close, I’m starting in on sending out these daily pre-docking reports, like we used to do as a family. As I’ve mentioned a few times previously, most of the research is being done by artificial intelligence – because there’s too many stopsContinue reading “Aomori – 青森”

A Day at Sea

To be at sea (idiomatic verb phrase): 1. To literally sail on the sea in a boat or ship. A: “Is your mother at sea yet?” B: “Yes, her cruise lasts several weeks.” 2. To be puzzled, perplexed, or completely confused (about a subject or some task at hand). I tried to do well inContinue reading “A Day at Sea”

The Moment of Truth

Dearest Rachel – Do you know how I said earlier about how “that ship has sailed” when referring to the fact that you and I would never be able to visit one of Japan’s notorious love hotels together? About that phrasing… I’ve been rather dreading this moment, and not because today I officially become oldContinue reading “The Moment of Truth”

Departure Day

Dearest Rachel – No, to the best of my knowledge, it’s not so momentous as yours; we’re just getting everything packed to be taken to our ship. There is a twinge of concern, as we won’t be absolutely sure we’ll be able to get on until we’re actually on. But that’s not something we’re goingContinue reading “Departure Day”

The Hell They Say

Dearest Rachel – This pre-cruise tour was not one that I recall having made plans for; this may have been more our agent’s doing than my own. Certainly, after having arranged for a shore excursion in a future stop that includes a hot springs experience, I was a little surprised to find that the tripContinue reading “The Hell They Say”

Mister and Missus?

Dearest Rachel – Yes, that’s how Daniel and I were addressed as the tour guide called out people’s names, to confirm everyone was present and accounted for.  I realize that most of the tourists are couples, and Danielle could be interpreted as a feminine name, but really? I don’t see how we could be mistakenContinue reading “Mister and Missus?”

from Rachel: Prayers That Give Life

How does God respond to those who call on his name? (See Romans 10:13) “He saves them – ‘everyone’” What is Jesus’ promise for the person who believes in His word and trusts in God who sent Him? (See John 5:24). “Having eternal life and not being condemned.” Who is John talking about in [1Continue reading “from Rachel: Prayers That Give Life”

Rubbish To Get Used To

Dearest Rachel – Yes, you read that title right. But hear me out: I’m not dismissing the differences between Tokyo and Chicago culture as ‘rubbish.’ Nor am I saying that Tokyo is unclean, and full of trash; quite the opposite, in fact. I’m saying that our noticing such differences literally began with it. You see,Continue reading “Rubbish To Get Used To”

Closed on Weekends

Dearest Rachel – For all that we found ourselves standing in line for several hours at Haneda Airport, waiting to be cleared through customs and collect our bags, we should have known that it wouldn’t have mattered how long we took to get through. When you arrive in a city at five in the morningContinue reading “Closed on Weekends”