Sunday, August 28, 2005

A traveler's journey to Japan, take 3


Jumping on the bullet train (which does not actually spin like a bullet, Dad), the traveler fired up his trusty laptop. Halfway thru his entry, the laptop decided to drop-kick the doc he was writing. So, cursing Microsoft under his breath, he started over.

After finishing, he waited impatiently for his arrival at Yamaguchi, where he desperately hoped that his lovely wife would be awaiting him on the quay. No relief to be found from the train window (since it was quite dark by this time), ears smarting from the frequent drastic pressure changes due to the bullet train's blowing thru tunnels, and resisting his fatigue due to his fear of missing his stop, the traveler read a bit and paced the train cars a bit.

Finally, deliverance! Shin-Yamaguchi. Picking up his luggage while attempting not to wake any of the numerous Japanese businessmen sprawled out on the seats around the car, he dragged the bags to the door. The station's mouth loomed and passed, vending machines passed by, a Japanese waiting here and there, a staircase, another vending machine, a beautiful brown-haired American girl, a... ah ha! The traveler's heart leapt for joy as he waited for the train to stop...10...20...30 meters past the beautiful waiting woman. The doors hissed open, the traveler leapt out and ran to meet his wife.

--This part censored. There are children reading, for crying out loud.--

So there you have it! I am in Japan and reunited w/ my sweet wife, who waited so patiently for me at the train station for 2 hours before my train showed up. More info later on Aubrey's and my escapades in Yamaguchi!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A traveler's journey to Japan, take 2


Hissing a favorite expletive (“biscuit!”) under his breath, the traveler resolved not to make that mistake again. Sighing, setting his jaw, he again lugged his bags down to the lower level to obtain a reserved seat.

Tossing frequent “Sumi masu en”s to the other passers-by whose path he obstructed in the congested traffic area, he weaved his way to the Fare Adjustment window. Asked if he spoke Engrish, the agent pointed to the Information booth. There, an older gentleman directed him where to obtain said reservation. The traveler confirmed the word for “reservation” and prepared to set off. The gentleman invited him to leave his bags there. Upon consideration of his fatigue and the relative value off all contained inside them, he did leave them there, praising the Lord for the restoration of lightness of step. He did take his laptop-bag and guitar (being too trusting, yes, but not a TOTAL moron), and stepped around the corner. Then waited and peeked back around the corner to find the bags still unmolested 1 minute later. Shrugging, he trekked to the window to find the 7:32 pm train still available. Thru a mix of pantomimes and a few Japanese words tossed back and forth, the traveler had his reservation. Back at the Information booth, the traveler regained his bags, confirmed his ticket, and complimented the gentleman’s English w/ an “eigo ga jozu des ne,” to which he smiled and bowed deeply.

Friday, August 26, 2005

A traveler's journey to Japan, take 1

Cursing Microsoft in his mind, the weary traveler rebooted his laptop computer, wishing that he could have the 20 minutes back that he just apparently wasted preparing a vaguely clever and even perhaps entertaining synopsis of his 24 hours of travel. Resolved to provide you good people w/ the pleasure of travel prose, he waded in again.

Inside the bullet train rocketing thru the Japanese countryside, he was hot, sweaty, and thirsty. Admittedly, it could be worse, he thought - he could be lost, could have been robbed blind (and runs that risk at time of writing), could have hurt an ankle or shoulder carrying his heavy luggage up the stairs, or a dozen other things. As it happened, the worst thing so far was having missed his originally-intended train and having to wait for one 40 minutes later. But first things first...

Having bid a fond farewell to a very close friend at the DFW airport, the traveler swallowed a lump in his throat that had treacherously returned (said lump having been banished w/ difficulty upon saying good-bye to his family the previous evening) and put on his traveling game face. Boarding the plane to the capital of the ALF (American Lunatic Fringe, to the uninitiated), San Francisco, he made pleasant conversation w/ a pretty Indian lady in her early 30s, one of 4 sisters, 3 of whom had been disowned and deemed incommunicado by a family upset at their marrying non-Indians or Indian men outside of their higher caste. After watching the inflight movie, the traveler resisted the urge to fatigue the carpet on the already well-worn mental path of reflection on the hopelessness and pointlessness of the postmodern dating scene, where a viable relationship begins w/ a glance and a sexual tryst inside an airplane lavatory.

At SFO, the traveler settled down for a 3-hour layover, spending half of it slumped in the chair w/ an MP3 sermon in his headphones and most of the other half flat on his back on the floor w/ said sermon playing, a fresh pocket-pack of Kleenex serving as a pillow (as said traveler has a flair for the functional and unassuming). Disheartened at the sheer volume of fellow passengers in the huge 777 that would convey them all to Osaka, he boarded, only to be further disheartened to find his seat in the middle position of the 5 part of the 2-5-2 configuration of each row. Settling into the ridiculously long flight, he made the acquaintance of a young Japanese lady returning from vacation in Arizona and (you guessed it!) Las Vegas and a U-Dub student on his way to visit grandma in Japan. The flight passed more quickly in his mind than did his previous overseas flight – that returning from France. It was still long though; he passed it reading, watching an in-flight movie, and dozing (which caused him almost to miss a snack fly-by from the flight attendants as well as the second meal).

Last into a tram from the gate to the immigration terminal, the traveler was first down the stairs and in line. Wisely resisting the urge to laugh when asked if it was OK if a young immigration official searched one of his suitcases, the traveler passed thru w/o incident and set about the hard part of the journey – traveling in-country. First, he exchanged his wad of American cash to an equally large wad of Japanese cash, which made him antsy, as he prefers flashing a credit card to a wad of bills. Directed by helpful airport employees, he found the train to the train station easily and grabbed a water bottle from a nearby snack kiosk. Finding it pleasantly Gatorade-flavored, he turned to a nearby man who had bought the same and ventured an “E desne?” To which the man nodded, saying “Yeah, ‘s’good.”

Watching the Osaka cityscape whiz by w/ feelings of trepidation, the traveler reflected that the houses looked in many ways European in style and in their proximity to each other and to shops. Missing from the European cityscape are all the rice paddies present at random spaces throughout this quarter of the city. Having spied a casino and liquor store, the traveler decided to make good use of his time by praying for the city – doing the prayer-walker one better as a prayer-rider. Top that, Eric and Melanie! Well, I guess they have but to prayer-ride in a Beiruti taxi to top it. Never mind.

Into the Shin-Osaka train station, the traveler recognised a few Americans from the airport here and there but was truly become a stranger in a strange land. Kiosks with expensive and malnutritive snacks as well as numerous gates for train quays and ticket windows were the order of the day. Everywhere, Japanese! Hmm, what did you expect, right? Older men in Western suits w/ no tie, a surprising number of young men in snappy black suits, girls in pants and sharp-pointed pumps, other guys w/ bossa-bossa hair (for bossa-bossa, see here) and tank tops w/ English slogans: “The Last Supper;” “Energize the night;” “Disko, swing, house, Berlin;” and a surprising number of cross necklaces. The traveler felt like he had been re-transported to the Paris Metro station of Chatelet-les-Halles, to be frank. And lugging his luggage (‘cause that’s what one does w/ luggage, right?) around the station, he found the correct gate for his train and found the train about to leave. Hurrying to the non-reserved cars, he found to his dismay that the cars were packed full of people, standing-room only, and no standing room left. Casting a despairing glance downward at his large suitcases, he calculated the following:

Another person + two big suitcases + guitar + the obvious attitude from the other passengers of “don’t even think about it, gaijin boy” = no dice.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Job-less, car-less, wife-less, home-less, care-less

So I'm sitting in my parents' basement listening to my brother play some DragonForce, which is some British band that plays like 80's-style rock music; it's like unabashedly throwback, but since I dig that kind of stuff usually, I'm OK w/ it.

As the title suggests, I am, as of Friday, all of these things. No job. No car. No home. No wife (but what else is new? It's been that way for 4 weeks, 1 day, 5hrs, and 40 minutes as of right now).

No cares. Well, let me take that back. I care quite a lot that I've been away from my beloved Aubrey for so long. No fun. Let me reiterate for all you married people or future-ly married people that you should only try some separation like this if you're ready for NO FUN.

As for the no job and no car thing, that's pretty nice. It's amazing to think that it's been years and years of anticipation and now I can finally say that I am a missionary. Not that I care particularly whether or not I can proclaim that fact far and wide or whatever, but God put this desire in my heart at least 10 yrs ago, and to have that seed come to fruition in my life is gratifying.
Looking forward right now to:
-embracing Aubrey again, sooner rather than later;
-not feeling cross-eyed all the time b/c of long hours of working in front of a computer screen;
-not buying gasoline for a car anymore, at the time when it is less pleasant than I can ever remember to buy gas;
-not paying rent for a while (our apt in Japan is rent-free, courtesy of the Kikai Board of Education. Thanks guys!);
-changing my life to be a full-time learner of Japanese (I've long wanted to speak many many languages) and sharer of the Good News w/ a lost and beautiful people, the Japanese;
-sharing tales of missionary mishaps, munchies, mistranslations, misunderstandings, and mayhem w/ other friends in the service of the King abroad, like Ben and Aaron in Highland, Tim in Africa, Ron in Asia, and others.

Praise God for His perfect plan! Let the record note that I will leave my native soil around 9 am CST on Thursday 25 Aug for Japan. Only God knows when/if I will return.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Some thoughts on Jewish terrorism

Some reflections on a video on extremist Israelis, from an exposé done by Frontline (PBS).

I encourage the viewing of these videos since they are quite interesting and informative on a group of people that I should have thought would exist but just never really thought about (since I'm lazy). But I want to react to what I've seen in relation to the moral rightness in the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.

First, let us remember who started this whole terrorist-let's-blow-up-little-kids-at-school thing, shall we? And who honed it to perfection? So it is, to be perfectly honest, just a little bit understandable why these people are so mad.
Second, who is the "bad guy" to these terrorists in these videos? It's Israeli State Security forces. They are the ones who stop the bombings and interrogate the terrorists and imprison them. A free society policing itself. Why doesn't this happen in, I don't know, pretty much anywhere else in the Middle East? Where are the Arab govts who imprison Wahhabists for threats against other nationalities, which is exactly what happened in Video 2 when Israel's Secret Svc and police prevented and followed up on a plot to blow up an Arab girls' school?

...crickets chirping...

Finally, it is so very interesting how the guys in Video 1 claim that their support is from the Torah. Hmm, where is that exactly? Oppose that to Islam, whose founder, Mohammed, spread his religion thru violence. Jihadists do nothing more or less than follow his example, and I daresay they do (and have done, knowing the history of Islam) a better job of following his edicts for Islamic evangelism than modern Muslims (especially in the USA) do...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Hahvahd Prof's Psychology of Dissing God

I'm trying this whole hyperlinking thing out.
If it works (and my reputation is based almost solely on whether it does) (special thanx to Bryan at St.O.Wa. for the html save), then click on that ugly thing and read what brilliance is coming outta Hahvahd U these days. I was reading some peripheral articles on ID vs. Evolution in Time Ragazine and stumbled across this prof's take on God.

Specifically (colored in UT Longhorn burnt orange to show my distaste):

The moral design of nature is as bungled as its engineering design. What twisted sadist would have invented a parasite that blinds millions of people or a gene that covers babies with excruciating blisters? To adapt a Yiddish expression about God: If an intelligent designer lived on Earth, people would break his windows.

What a blasphemous statement! Now, I know he doesn't say it to be mean, but think about it. God created this man and everything around him. Were he to bring this slanderous accusation before God, he would react like Job:

2"I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?'
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4'Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.'
5I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
6therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42, ESV).

You think you could do one better, sir? Why haven't you as yet? You do have the full resources of the Hahvahd Psych Dept at your disposal, do you not?
And as for whether people would break the Intelligent Designer's windows, what do you call the epidemic of sin and rebellion against a loving God that has been going on since the Fall and which you are furthering? It does remain on you, however, to prove that they are right to do so.

The Parable of the Sower

Hear the Word of the Lord:

The Gospel of Matthew 13:1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9He who has ears, let him hear."

10The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?"

11He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 13This is why I speak to them in parables:
"Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
" 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15For this people's heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them'" (ESV).

Thanks be to God.

I'm studying this psg in my devotional time, and I am struck by the sheer Romans 9, 10, and 11 of it. It is obvious that God is more in charge of the seed-planting and fruit-bearing process than I usually think He is. It is a terrible temptation to break evangelism and sharing the Word of the Lord w/ people down to me, the naked text (there is a God, you are a sinner, Jesus died for you, etc.), and the other person - will they buy it or not? Yet let's just look at the 1st case.
Looking at the interp given by Christ later in the chapter in regard to the seeds that fell along the path and were eaten by the birds, He says:

19When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

So Satan is the birds that eat the Word. Why does the enemy not succeed in taking away every seed that is sown? Wouldn't he really really like to? But God stops him sometimes, yet not all the time. Why? I'm not sure - it obviously serves His purpose somehow.
The funny thing is that this whole situation is the parable itself in action. Note how Christ talks to the people in parables, and the disciples are naturally curious as to why. I didn't at first notice that they were confused and it didn't make sense, but that's b/c I've been exposed to this most of my life - familiarity breeds contempt for a sinful man.
So the Parable of the Sower, by itself, is apocryphal - we are not meant to understand it. Apart from its interp, it could very well be many things, not necessarily a metaphor for the way people accept the Gospel. Yet Christ intentionally and explicitly makes it known only to a few. Why? So that the rest of the people will remain in the darkness and hard-heartedness in which they live. It is not their time to hear clearly the Word. So what did Christ the Sower do? He tossed some seeds to the path (the people) and to the rocky places (Judas) and perhaps to the thorns (can't think of anyone right now who would match them, sorry), and to the good soil (the Eleven).
Perhaps later the meaning will become clearer to those from whom Satan snatched the seed, but not now. God will decide when. Far be it from the text to teach a God-allows-no-choice-in-the-matter paradigm, but God clearly does limit choices and opportunities for certain people at certain times.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Today's update

Just thought I'd tell a bit about how Aubrey is doing on Kikai.

She is meeting many new people, has bought a bike that she likes pretty well, is getting to know some of the restaurants and cafes in the area, and is enjoying the sunshine (though it's pretty warm there right now). She found a church (of which kind, we're not currently quite sure) and tried to go on Sunday, but she arrived at like 10:30 and the pastor told her that the service was at 9 am. Oh well.
She is in pretty good spirits, though we miss each other terribly. I was able to send her some music CDs (which we neglected to include in her luggage) and a copy of that picture posted on this blog with my hair up in the air, and a mushy letter. Yep, mushy. She liked all of that.
Most eating establishments are kinda expensive there, but she found one place where the proprietor prepares plates (say that 10 times fast) and puts them on a round table and spins them around, so you grab one of the pre-prepared plates (pre-prepared plates properly prepared by the proprietor) and pay the price on the label. It's reasonably priced. The coffee is not - every place is like Starbux... and I'm not sure she's buying fancy coffees, either, but w/ her I can never be sure. She's the kind to say, "Hey, sweetie, let's go get some coffee," and I'm thinking, "OK, we both get a drip coffee, that's $3.20 after tip. That's an economical way to get some time together." And then we get to the cafe and she's like, "OK, I'll take a white chocolate soy latte with coconut flavoring." My wallet screams in agony. She turns her head, "What was that?"
"Nothing, baby."
"OK. What do you want?"
"Um, an ice cube is fine for me."

No cell phone yet - we'll wait for me to get there before getting those. But good news - there will apparently very possibly be several opportunities for me to tutor people in English, so that's good news for our economic situation. Perhaps said private lessons will lessen the impact of our cell phone bills.

Three weeks from tomorrow I'll be in Kikai! The plan is shaping up that I'll be in Kagoshima City at some point after Sunday and then I'll take the 5 pm ferry from there and arrive at Kikai at 4:30. In the morning. Heck, it'll be like I'm back at my night-shift job!

Praise God for His timing and His provision for my beloved while we are separated by distance but not in heart. May He bring me to her quickly!

Friday, August 05, 2005

That's what I wanted to hear

I haven't learned how to make URLs pull up by linking them to an underlined word; otherwise I'd say, "Click here."

This is a story that I heard about, actually, while listening to conservative talk radio (a bit of a guilty pleasure, I would say). So the school can't control this 5-year-old girl (!) and she's tearing the Asst. Principal's office apart. And of course, the AP can't restrain her, b/c that would bring the ACLU crashing down w/ their patented Iron Glove of Irrationality (IGI). So what do you do?

Asst. Principal: "Call the police?"
Me: "Wrong answer, but why the heck not, right?"

So the police come in, meet the little girl, handcuff her, and then lead her out to the cop car, where she has to have her feet restrained b/c she's about to break something again.

Do you think she was a little freaked out by the experience? According to her (lame) mom's (money-grubbing, slimy) attorneys, she is. The attorney "added that she's planning to file a suit. 'Our client will never be the same,' she said."

I'd say that the city should file a suit to reclaim compensation for unpaid therapy sessions. Isn't it obvious that this child was headed for a disastrous life? The police restraining her w/ irons was probably the best thing that ever happened or could have happened to her, and such therapy usually goes for $70/hour on the psychiatrist's sofa.

That's what I wanted to hear - that this little girl will never be the same. Thank God (and the St. Petersburg PD) for that!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Why bother?

Please read this story:,2933,164546,00.html

It's quite sad, really. My question leaving this article is this: why did this woman's family, who chose to utilise all available medical care to keep their baby alive in dire and dangerous circumstances, even bother?
An even better question is: why did the doctors and the hospital do so? Is it not a medical establishment who would be possibly legally liable if they refused to murder a baby (oops, I mean, "perform an abortion") for a woman who requested such a crime (dang it! I mean, "procedure")?

For the latter question, I can only presume that not all medical establishments are identical - some voluntarily take in the abortuary side of business and some find it repulsive. As for the family, obviously they are Roman Catholic and so would not want to murder their child (not always a necessary connection, but we'll let it go for now).
But it really speaks volumes when we comprehend that it was totally up to the family whether the baby lived or died, and the state would have done nothing to punish them had they chosen differently.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

This is me on a really good hair day. Hey man, my wife's outta town! A guy's gotta have fun SOMEhow...
This is a picture.

This is Aubrey and me at the Korean House, eating delicious bul-go-gi. You should all eat bul-go-gi - it's killer!
This is a picture.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


"If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?"

- Milton Berle

Monday, August 01, 2005

My wife the missionary

For all concerned, Aubrey is in Kikai now, and she is living the island life.
She has now been there for 5 days. It's been an up-and-down struggle for her, since she speaks little Japanese (but is learning) and doesn't really know such little things as how to operate the washing machine, what to buy at the grocery store, how to ask if the yellow-and-black spiders she sees all over the place (outside, mind you, not in the house) are dangerous. She's undergoing some culture shock, as one would well imagine, really.
The main difficulty, I would say, is that we're apart and we'll have to wait 4 weeks before we'll see each other again. Until then, long-distance is the word. The 14-hour time difference keeps things interesting, but the fact that I work at night here in the Central US makes it sometimes easier and sometimes harder than it would be for a normal person to keep in touch.
But I got my plane ticket for Japan, which is great news! It's a flight from Dallas to Osaka, leaving 25 August. So I'm excited for that. Can't wait for that, really - it means that I won't be working my hellish schedule anymore and that I'll soon be reunited with my sweet wife.