Tuesday, March 28, 2006
As for the pics, I think I mentioned that there were 3 int'l students studying in other parts of Japan in Kikai recently for a 2-week homestay. We went to play ground golf, which is a mix between mini golf and croquet, at the town of Soumachi. The first 2 pics are of us there. The 1st pic is me, a 10-yr-old who is in one of the homestay families, and then the Hong Kong student on the right. The 2nd pic is part of the group posing for a group pic. The other white guy in that pic is the French student, Lionel. The 3rd pic is us at the Hyakunodai Park, the highest point on Kikai. The 4th pic is a pic of the Daiichi Jr Hi School (which translates to the highly original name of "First Jr Hi School," not to be confused w/ DaiNIchi Jr Hi ["Second"]) graduation ceremony, which was, interestingly, pretty emotional for the students and some of the teachers. That is, in the latter part of the ceremony. The 1st 90 minutes were mind-numbingly boring highly formal. Finally, the last pic is a random pic of Aubrey next to some probably soon-to-be-harvested sugar cane during a walk we took around town recently.
We're preparing to move! The Board of Ed has graciously decided to move us to a bigger house, which was previously occupied by a member of the Board of Ed and his wife and 3 kids. Our apt is pretty small, 'tis true, but I don't know if we need such a big house as this one! Don't get me wrong - I'm not refusing a slightly-too-big house, but I just feel a little embarrassed. But we'll make up for it by inviting people over all the time.
Thought we were going to move on Saturday, but Aubrey told me today that it's actually planned for Thurs afternoon all of a sudden. Just FYI, I don't know if we'll have Internet access for a few days, so don't be surprised if we can't answer Skype calls or emails or whatever. Actually, I'll forward the Skype calls to my cell phone, so call away!
Thurs morning I'll help my friend Satoshi the HS English teacher move outta his house and then go move my own stuff that afternoon. Should be great. Looking forward to it. Hope it's decent weather. It'll be great once we're all done.
The last few days I've been hanging out a lot w/ my retired friend Izumi-San. I don't have a pic of him yet but I'll get me one and post it. He's pretty cool - always brews me a really good cup of joe and we just sit and chat on his patio next to his nice garden. The garden is cool b/c there are lots of flowers, tangerine trees, and mejiro birds who sing sweetly. He smokes so much (gotta be at LEAST two packs a day) but at least most of the time we're outside. And now hopefully we can start in w/ a few Japanese lessons. He doesn't need English lessons, but he doesn't have kids and is retired and monetarily well-off and by his own admission has little to do every day, so I think he's just glad to spend time w/ me. And I enjoy his company too, so it's all good. I'm still getting used to his being a tad hard-of-hearing and a bit absent-minded, but he's doing great for 74!
Finally, Aubrey is about to come back from her 4th end-of-the-rotation good-bye party in 3 consecutive evenings. Each time she's more or less dreaded them, but each time she's enjoyed herself. These parties take place to bid good-bye to those workers who have reached the end of their 3-year rotation on Kikai. The JET schedule is a bit off. Anyway. I'm done.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
This week we released our pet bird, Midoriko. It was actually very sad for us b/c Midoriko, literally the majority of the time, sang either quietly or loudly. Many times, while we have been playing music on the stereo or on the guitar or listening to a sermon mp3 on the computer, Midoriko has apparently made it his goal to chirp louder than the noise we make. It's been very entertaining for us. We kept his cage reasonably clean, gave him a cage that was 3X bigger than anyone else's for a mejiro bird, gave him treats consisting of a half-tangerine regularly, and never tried to catch him by the hand. All that to say that we were very good hosts, but still - he's a wild bird.
So we knew that we should attempt to get a permit from the local gov't to keep him, so Aubrey went to see if that was possible. We found out on Thursday that it was not. Now, many people on Kikai apparently keep one or more of these birds as pets, but it's technically illegal. And everyone we asked said, "It's illegal but -shhhh- don't tell anyone." So I get it - it's one of those minor laws, beneath parking infractions in importance, that are almost never if not never enforced.
And yet just b/c nobody else keeps the law, that doesn't mean we shouldn't. So we thanked God for the gift of Midoriko's songs and the fun we had in watching and listening to him, opened the cage door, and waited until he flew into the tangerine tree right across from our patio. We were pretty sad and immediately missed his singing, but I'm sure a wild animal like him prefers to be in the wild.
It occurred to me while praying the morning before we let him go that releasing him would make us sad and that it would be hard, and then that avoiding 'sadness' and 'hardship' is not nearly the most important calling on our lives. So what does it matter if it would make us sad to do the right thing?
We have received an unexpected blessing since we let him go - we still hear his song, a lot more often than we thought. Of course, it's farther away but he (at least we think it is he) sticks around our area and sings from the trees. Whenever he does, we open the door and listen and smile. Dang, he's cute! I can't wait until spring advances a little farther, b/c apparently, when the tangerine trees start to put out lots of tangerines, the mejiros return from migration in force and there are tons of them around. Hopefully their songs will be able to drown out those dang cicadas!
1st pic - Kansha, our original bird, who escaped on 29 Dec. Next two pics are Midoriko, mere minutes before being released into the wild on 24 March.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Fundamentalist versus Liberal
1. Most persons who use the term "fundamentalist" pejoratively are simply ignorant of the historical circumstances surrounding the origins of fundamentalism as a theological movement in
2. The terms "fundamentalist" and "liberal" are often used these days as an opprobrium but they have also become relative terms, i.e. a fundamentalist is someone more conservative than me and a liberal is someone less conservative than me. (I've been called both!) To make things worse, Old Liberalism was a package and you could easily discover an Old Liberal based on certain questions, e.g. virgin birth, inerrancy, resurrection, atonement, etc. But today there are a number of theologians who don't quite fit the bill, e.g. Rowan Williams. William's has an orthodox view of the resurrection (as far as I can tell), but his views of sexuality are as liberal as Hillary Clinton speaking at an ACLU convention. In sum, other than being an insult, the terms fundamentalist and liberal don't really mean much anymore.
3. The Fundamentalism versus Liberal controversy was really a symptom of Christianity wrestling with the challenges posed by modernity. There were two reactions to modernity: "run for the hills and hide your daughters" (Fundamentalists) or "wine me and dine me" (Liberals). As we enter into a Postmodern period the liberal versus fundamentalist controversy is no longer the defining issue for Western Christianity.
- Carl F. Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (1947)
- George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture (1980)
Why I'm not a Fundamentalist
1. Fundamentalists major on the minors, and make minor issues tests for faith and orthodoxy (e.g. alcohol, Bible translations, etc).
2. Fundamentalists fail to distinguish between what is Christian and what is the cultural Christianity that they were nurtured on.
3. Fundamentalists fail to distinguish between areas of conviction and areas of command, and treat areas of conscience as a test of orthodoxy.
4. Fundamentalists have a view of Scripture that is docetic in that Scripture is divine but it is not human - no human processes (e.g. the Synoptic problem) are compatible with divine authorship.
5. Fundamentalists preach the authority of the text but practice the authority of the community.
6. Fundamentalists fail to appreciate the different genres of the Bible or comprehend the role of presuppositions in influencing our reading of Scripture.
7. Fundamentalists believe in theological cloning rather than theological learning.
8. Fundamentalists fail to be the salt of the earth as they are concerned almost exclusively with the minutia of doctrinal purity and correctness.
9. Fundamentalists have a lopsided soteriology as they think of salvation as purely the salvation of souls for heaven rather than the liberation of persons from sin, sickness, subjugation, and death. They aim for decisions rather than making disciples.
10. Fundamentalists fail to recognize the true marks of the Church and allow for a diversity of voices within the body of Christ.
11. Fundamentalists are more excited about what they are against, than what they are for.
12. Fundamentalists regard the Spirit as a theological entity, but not as a presence that manifests itself in worship or loving community.
Why I'm Not a Liberal
1. Liberals mimic culture to the point that they simply imitate the contemporary values of the day and wrap them up in some Christian wrapping paper. The world looks on and says, "Thanks for affirming all of my values but you can keep the wrapping paper".
2. Liberals minor on the majors - sin, atonement, and resurrection.
3. Liberals have a view of Scripture that is Arian - it is human but not divine.
4. Liberals take Scripture to be illustrative but not necessarily prescriptive and normative for faith and praxis.
5. Liberals deny the transforming power of the gospel to liberate persons from every form of sin.
6. Liberals minimize the unique revelation of God in Christ and deny the eschatological finality of Jesus Christ.
7. The Gospel of Liberalism was what Karl Rahner warned us of: A God without wrath takes men without sin to a kingdom without judgment.
8. Liberals de-historicise and de-apocalypticise the message of the Prophets, Jesus and the Apostles.
9. Liberals preach pluralism but do not tolerate anyone who fails to embrace their pluralistic ethos.
10. Liberals believe the Spirit is a Spirit of unity but not a Spirit of truth.
11. Liberals think that the only heresy is to believe in heresy.
12. Liberals think that the church is about programs and structures, when it is about creating gospel-proclaiming, Spirit-driven, Christ-centered, God-focused redemptive communities.
Friday, March 17, 2006
1st on top right is a bunch of Trinity iMPACT people at Santa Fe Steakhouse in Norman, enjoying good ol' SW food and the best dinner rolls I have ever had. No kidding. And I'm picky.
Next down is a view of Kagoshima looking out from the inside of the big Shinto temple there. Notice the neato tree and the huge gate - had to be 10 meters tall at least. Next is the cute little Buddha statue I found in the hillside park in Kagoshima. It was rainy, so someone was nice enough to clothe cute little Buddha in some red knitted raingear and a hat to make sure he didn't get his chub belly all wet. They also bwat him some fwowahs and a nice cup of gween tea. Nice widduw Buddha. Gag me.
Made me think of this biblical passage.
Last one is me at the OU-Iowa St. basketball game w/ some Chi Alpha friends, the day after the ice hit Norman. By this time, I'd been in the States for about 42 hours. Seriously, it was a great trip.
It's been a week of getting back to normal, and I think I've succeeded.
Does that mean that I will join the realm of "normal people"? Mmmmm, no. I meant "normal" in a very postmodern, comfortably relativistic kind of way. It just makes me feel...happy. Tolerant. Accepting. Affirming.
All strange prefaces aside, this has been a good week, actually. I finally realised that I have a bit of a discipline problem when it comes to hanging out on the Internet during the day - I just spend a bit too much time on it. And then, when I try to study at home, lots of stuff gets in my way, like snacks and little errands that suddenly occur to me, or a book on the bookshelf that suddenly seems a TON more interesting than studying how to count various specific items in Japanese.
You may laugh, "You mean you haven't learned to count yet?!?!?!" Hear me out, now. Japanese uses certain "counters" for all different kinds of things, analogous to the way that English says "3 pairs of pants" or "a glass of water". And when is it a glass and not a cup? Ah, now, my friends, you are catching wind of the difficulty. So in Japanese, you have to say, for example, "At my house cats 8 animals there are." That's a more-or-less literal transcription. In Latin characters it's, "Uchi ni neko ga happiki imasu" (he said just before double-checking "happiki". I was right). Anyway...that's what I studied today. The point is that I've taken to timing myself while on the PC and shutting it down when I'm done, and then studying at the liberry. It's been working well so far and I'm learning at a good pace.
This new approach to self-discipline has, however, come up against a 6'8" 260 lb. all-muscle contender in the ring, w/ the words "March Madness" proudly emblazoned across its championship belt. Ooofff. And my bro hooks me up w/ a website where I can watch all these basketball games for free, and even live. Thanks a ton. I'm half-sarcastic...sigh. I do so love March Madness. That and the occasional (just under one per week in the autumn) college football game are about the only things that get me in front of a TV on any reliable basis anymore. Were I back in the States, I'd be watching the games on TV during several spring evenings. But I'll get my fix and then just kind of leave it alone. The challenger can be starved! If I can just stop chucking T-bones at him...
Tonight Aubrey and I went to Sugira Beach, the big park not too far away from our house and the place where we swam on New Year's Day, and where many things happen. We were going to play basketball on the court since there's supposed to be a coupla communal b-balls in a storage locker next to the court. It was empty so we contented ourselves w/ bizarre games on the playground, wrestling a bit (very chastely, thank you very much) in the grass, and making fools of ourselves. Great time. Then we were watching the sun set (sun set or sunset?) on top of a playgrd toy when two high school girls showed up and started swinging. We talked to them (yes, mostly in Japanese) for a while and then took a coupla pictures, and they were saying "Oh, lub lub," which means roughly "lovebirds." Seriously, our marriage is a huge testimony around here and we asked them if they wanted to know our secret. I wasn't surprised that they said yes, but I was surprised that they showed a ton of interest, even when we were stalling most of the way thru, not knowing the right words. We pretty much told them our story and then shared our and their need for Jesus as best we could. What a divine appt! I'd never met these girls before, and Aub had maybe once. I challenged them to challenge Jesus honestly to prove that He exists (a challenge I make to anyone reading who doesn't believe Jesus to be the only way to God), and so yeah. Quite a cool time. Tomorrow we're getting together w/ a young couple who speak English to watch Jonah: A Veggietales Movie on our laptop, since it won't play on theirs (FYI - DVDs are set from purchase on regional settings so a Japanese DVDR typically can't play an American DVD and vice versa. Yes, it is annoying in case you were wondering). That should be neato.
Many teachers who have finished their 3-yr rotation are preparing to ship out and we'll start seeing lotsa new teachers soon. We are praying that we can meet many who will become our friends and hear the Gospel. Heck, we're also praying that some will be believers already - that would definitely qualify as nifty.
I spent so much time making sure the text wouldn't get all wranged around by those pix that I'm tired now. Catch you later.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
It's been really nice and yet unpredictable weather since Wednesday. Today, though, it's chilly and blustery and my house is cold.
I took a bus ride around Kikai today and played guitar for the driver. I talked to him a bit and, true to form, forgot most everything of what he said. That's why Aub has a notebook in which she keeps that kind of info. I do too but I forgot it (what else is new?).
We went to Naoko's house yesterday but another friend showed up as well and we weren't able to talk about the Gospel much, but we will. She was reading the Gospel of Matthew when we arrived. We got to talk about Shusaku Endo's novel Silence, of which I may or may not get around to posting a review in a while. It was bloated w/ self-importance, to be sure, and it had a lot of good things to say but not where it wanted to say them. That said, if we ever home-school, which is looking likely, that would be on the reading list. Not sure we would home-school into high school, which is when I would suggest a student read that book, but you know. Anyway, review. Perhaps later. Patience.
I am supposed to read Chapter 1 of Machen's Christianity and Liberalism along w/ Tony this week, to which I look forward. It's only Monday today...
One of our friends, who is married to a workaholic, has joyfully reported to us that he has quit his job and they are going to move. Bummer that they're moving, but we've been praying that he would drop-kick the taxing job and spend more time w/ the family. Yay!
The NCAA Basketball Tourney has begun, and I'm doing a fun bracket w/ friends and family. I always enjoy that. Perhaps too much. I'll miss watching some of the games on TV, to be sure.
This post will not contain a clever ending.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
So I was walking back to the center of the city when I was greeted by a Japanese fellow taking the same sidewalk and wearing a backpack. He introduced himself as a Japanese-American, had an accent but was perfectly understandable, and his stories were fascinating. Turns out he's a highly seasoned traveler. He's been on the road since August, when he took:
-Amtrak from Oakland, CA to Denver
-Bus to Chicago
-Bus to NYC
-Airplane to London
-Bus, ferry, bus to Paris (which I have done)
-Night train to Italy (which I have also done)
-Ferry to Croatia (nope, haven't done that)
-Bus to Zagreb
-Bus/train to Sarajevo (!)
-Bus/train to Turkey
-Bus/train to Georgia
-Bus/train to Baku, Azerbaijan, where he was denied a visa to enter Turkmenistan (he has a US passport)
-Flight to Tashkent, Uzbekistan
-Train to Kazakhstan
-Train into China from the western border
-Train to Shanghai (he wanted to hang out in Central China but it was too cold by this time and he didn't have a heavy enough coat)
-Flew back to San Jose for his sister's funeral
-Flew back to Osaka
-Ferry to Okinawa
-Ferry to Kagoshima
and the guy's not done yet. That's just messed up.
He had many amazing and fascinating stories, a lot of good insight into Japan/American relations from WW2 and also Japanese/Japanese-American relations. After talking for a while (and postponing my lunch date w/ a French guy I had met 2 weeks before in the same city), it became obvious to me that this guy had made an idol out of travel. Which is one of the more interesting idols out there, I have to admit.
At any rate, I challenged him w/ the Gospel and he said he travels too much probably to take it too seriously, but you know, his choice. Craziness.
Anyway, I'd say he was easily the most interesting acquaintance I've made so far on this jaunt. The vulgar French-Canadian running an exporting business out of Tanegashima that I met in Starbux in Kagoshima falls now to a distant 2nd. They have sthg in common, though - seems they were one-time acquaintances. The Canadian guy doesn't respond to my email and this Japanese-American gentleman doesn't do email and didn't seem too enraptured by the idea of staying in contact.
Later I had lunch w/ my new French friend, Michel, and he seemed genuinely glad that I had come to see him, so I hope that we can continue to cultivate that friendship later on.
I got fairly wet in the steady rain, but got on the ferry that night w/o further incident and crashed around 7:45 pm.
I'm tired b/c I then had a full day (Tuesday), had 3 classes, was still tired from walking around so much the previous 3 days, and then went to basketball practice on Tues night.
So don't ask me to do any running for the next coupla days.
Here, have some pics.
1st is me in Starbux in Dallas on my way to Houston, enjoying my first cup of costly brewed happiness.
2nd is Bobby and me in Starbux 5 days later, enjoying more costly brewed joy.
3rd is my family and me being goofy. We wanted to take a pic that looked like the album cover for an alternative band. I think we have talent.
4th is the Osaka Castle from closer up.
5th is a kid playing a drumming video game in a Kagoshima arcade. Ridiculous. If you zoom in, you can see that he's made 169 consecutive drum strokes so far w/o a miss. Think he practices sometimes on this game?
--Weird evening continues--
So by this time I was remembering that we had seen quite a few hotels on the Internet map, so we set off to look for one. The airport was only a mile or so from there, so it's not like we were in the middle of nowhere, but we sure felt like it! We stopped at another hotel called "Hotel J0u1r" (replace the 0 and 1 w/ "o" and "i") and I decided to take a look inside, noting only in passing that "j0u1r" in French has a highly sexual connotation. The office had a frosty window in front of the Reception and I could barely see under it by craning my head way down. The receptionist informed me that I should come back after 10 pm (it was 8 pm at this point). I argued for a moment and then turned around to rejoin Aub outside, who had already put 2 and 2 together - we were right in the middle of a "love shack" hotel district. Oops. Looking around, the way the hotels kind of hid themselves and had funky colors all over them made sense all of a sudden.
Back we went towards the airport, ducking the cars barrelling down the street, hoping they'd see us as we pulled our luggage down the unpaved shoulder of the street. Asked a restauranteur where we could get a regular hotel and she pointed us to the Airport Hotel. They wanted to charge us US$150 for a room w/ two twin beds. Thanks, buddy. Depressed, we called the only other hotel down the road, the equivalent of a Super 8 Motel, and we got a tiny smoking room w/ a double bed, a strong heating unit, and quite the tobacco scent. I was pretty ticked but couldn't figure out how to communicate in Japanese the fact that the guy had promised us a non-smoking room. Paid US$90. Life lesson was included.
This 1st pic is me eating at the lovely restaurant where Sho took me the evening of my arrival.
So, the next morning after waking up in Osaka at like 3:30 am and not getting back to sleep (thanks, jet lag), I got up when Sho did, at about 7 am. We took the light rail system and subway of Osaka 1st to stuff my luggage into a coin locker at the bus station. Then we hit another spot in Osaka where we volunteered for 3.5 hours at a soup "kitchen" for homeless/destitute people in Osaka. We actually just kind of stood around and chatted for almost 2 hours, occasionally feeding a few fires under the big soup pots, before we were actually put to work, but that was OK - we got to talk about a lot of interesting and useful topics. You know, not the weather. 'Twas good to be able to deepen our friendship that way. Anyway, once the soup started being served, we (having already eaten the soup to test it out) set to work rinsing the bowls that were used by the people. You can see in the succession of pictures above how it looked. It was basically a big dirt block in the middle of urban cityscape. About 400 people showed up to eat, but quite a few came back for seconds, and I saw at least one return for thirds. So we rinsed dishes (someone else earlier in the washing-line had washed them) for about 90 minutes and then took off when all was finished. We then rode the rails to the Osaka Castle, which was the site of a couple of important shogun-related actions in Japan's history. Cool outside family park place. We toured the castle, whose interior was moderately interesting, but its top (as you can see in the pic) had a great view, so that was nice. There were some juggle/comedy performers hanging out outside and doing their thing, and there were lots of kids and people just hanging out. It was a nice place, to be sure.
So the whole time we were blessed w/ good conversation - I thank God for that, had been praying for it.
Anyway, took the night bus to Kagoshima that night and I had expected to sleep great since I was so tired from not sleeping well and walking around all day in Osaka, but such was not to be. I think I got about 4 hours on the bus, which ain't great but is enough I guess.
(I apologise for the disorganisation of these photo posts - I can't figger 'em out. If anyone has hints, I welcome them.)
Saturday, March 04, 2006
Thanks to Daniel W for dropping me at the OKC airport way early on Thurs morning. He even brought me some coffee, though I wasn't interested in it, given that I had stayed up all night and wanted to sleep on the plane. Appreciate the thought very much, though. I dozed from OKC to Detroit and then had my last American food, a lovely Quizno's sub at the DTW airport. On the plane, it was great! I got a whole row of 3 seats to myself, so that was really welcome news. I slept just over half the flight away and so got to Osaka much more coherent than I had been at my arrival in OKC after the overseas flight. I did miss the first meal since I was apparently asleep, but asked about it later and they gave me my tray to eat by myself, so I was grateful for that. At Osaka, I got to go thru the fast Customs line, that of the Japanese nationals, and they didn't even check my luggage. Awesome! Once there, I found a bus that would take me almost directly to where my friend Sho could easily meet me. So that was great too. I had arrived at about 5:45 pm in Osaka on Friday.
I was praising God for providing much for me on the way over here, and it was also really nice that my cell phone was working again (since in Japan only it has coverage). 'Twas also nice to talk to Aub over cell phone and not Skype. Sho met me at the bus stop and we ate some delicious Japanese pancake-things. Yum. Now, I guess I had not made it absolutely clear what I intended to do at Osaka, b/c Sho asked me halfway thru dinner where I was planning on staying while in Osaka. Oops. Turns out he lives in a dorm for 1st-year workers for his company, which is fairly common in Japan, and his room is the same size as a dorm room at Cate at OU (for those of you who know that type of room). Sho was, however, very gracious and invited me to stay at his place and even lent me his blanket to sleep on the floor. Due to the jet lag, I didn't sleep well that night, but even in a really comfy bed I probably wouldn't have slept much anyway. It's just hard for a light sleeper like me to readjust in one night to the time zone difference, to be sure.
OK, it's lunchtime here at the house, so I'm gonna finish this message later.