Friday, September 26, 2008

Lesson on Perspective

Last week I was given a present from one of my students. Of course I was really happy. I like presents. But this present was a little unique.

There are two ways I could look at this present. This present is a small pink crocheted flower. Well, at least that is what it is supposed to be. If you look at it closely you can tell it's a flower. It's kinda misshapen. And a little funny looking.

But I love it.

The reason is because it was made by a 6 year old little girl. But I don't love it just because this little girl is cute. (she is super super cute by the way) I can also see how talented she is. The flower isn't close to perfect. But I know where she came from. I'm the one who taught her how to make this flower, back in July. Just one day she came for an event and learned how to make it. (She was also the fastest to learn how to crochet that day as well) So I'm not so much impressed at what she can do now, (which is pretty impressive considering she's 6!) but at how much potential she has. She still remembers how to crochet something I taught her 2 months ago! I think that's pretty amazing in itself. (this knowing that I probably wouldn't be able to do something like that myself. I forget details quickly.)

So I guess this reminds me of how God loves us. When he looks at us, he doesn't only look at the product (although that is important.) But he also looks at all the factors. Where we started, how far we've come, and how far we can go, how much effort we put into it, etc. So I can give God, the most horrible looking, misshapen flower, and he might love it more than a perfect one given by someone who didn't put love into making it. It's the difference of perspective. Kinda like how God accepted Abel's offerings, but rejected Cain's. Not because of what was offered, but because of the motivation behind it.

It's a bit of a relief to know that God will accept me and my offerings as long as I love him. I don't have to be perfect. Like a child I can offer up funny looking flowers to God, and he will treasure them. Of course, just like the little girl, I have room to improve. Someday, she will be able to make perfect flowers, and I will be even happier to receive that. But for now, the funny looking flower has a place of honor on my cell phone.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Today I'm sitting on the train on my way to the other side of Tokyo. (I'm on my cell phone right now. I'll paste this to my blog later.) It's still about another 30mins before I arrive at my destination and I find myself with plenty of time to reflect.

Today is cleaning day. No, not my house, though it really needs it. Next week 4 new volunteer missionaries will arrive in Japan. Just like I did years ago, they will spend 6 months in Tokyo learning Japanese and other important things before beginning 2 years of teaching English and ministry. So today we are preparing for their arrival in an annual tradition of house cleaning.

It's a strange mix of feelings I find myself with. This isn't the first time I've helped clean this very house for girls who might possibly replace me. The last time was two years ago when my original term of service was about to end. There were 4 new people coming that year as well. At that time I wanted to extend, but we weren't sure there would be enough room for me still. So at that time I felt maybe a sense of slight resentment for these unknown girls who had the power to take away my job,my students. But God provided as always and that year a new position was created and I've been blessed to extend not only one but two years past my original contract.

Now I'm satisfied with my time in VYM and I'm ready to move to the next stage of my life. So I find myself on a train on my way to clean a house with the very girls whom I cleaned it for two extensions ago. Now they are also the ones preparing for the possibilities of replacement or extension. My resentment for these girls has been transformed into community and love. It's amazing how God gently shows us the better way sometimes.

So now, this time, I'm merely experiencing bitter sweet acceptance instead of sullen rebellion. It's good to know how far I've come. Today I'm looking forward to a day of laughter and fellowship (even if we are cleaning). Maybe in another two years I'll be anticipating an event such as this with true joy, the evidence of my relationship with my Father. I'm so thankful for all the ways I've changed and grown these past two years.

Now if I could only learn to clean my own house...

Monday, September 15, 2008

What does it mean to be Christian? Lessons from a non-Christian.

I just got home from a conversation with Sing. It was really good. But my head is spinning a bit trying to process it all. But God is really funny. When I came to Japan, I thought I was here to tell Japanese people about Jesus. But God turned it around on me first. He had the Japanese teach me about Jesus. God is good to me.

So, what does it mean to be Christian? What does that look like? Tonight, that question was answered for me from the perspective of a non-Christian. He told me this.

I am a Christian. That means I am going to heaven. I should be happy right? So he is jealous of me.

So I guess to him, that's what it means to be Christian. Live like you are going to heaven. If he can't see that I'm happy about it, then why would he want to go? I guess he's got a point. If I want to go to a concert, or some event that I really like, I'll think about it for a long time. And I'll look forward to it. Everyone around me knows I'm about to go someplace I love. It shows in everything I do. So why doesn't it show that I love heaven? I'm going there right? So why am I not happy? He accused me of thinking too much and making things too complicated.

He's got a point. One of the most given commands in the Bible is "rejoice." (followed closely by "don't be afraid") So why have I spent so much of my life in fear and worry and just plain unhappiness? I've been missing a key point.

It's kinda sad it's taken me so long to realize these things. This is actually the end of a conversation I had with Sing two years ago. Tonight he finally explained why he thought I wasn't a good missionary. I'm not happy. Well, I've become more happy recently, but I guess I didn't know I was happy.

In the previous post I was looking for purpose, the goal that would allow me to make it through any trials that come my way. When I asked Sing about that tonight, he told me that wasn't the problem. I already have the answer.

Recently I had the thought that you can't change the world, but you can change how you see it. I think the way I see the world, and how I see what it means to live as a Christian, has changed, just a little.

The fear before the next step.

So this is my last year of missionary service. In March I will leave this job and find gainful employment elsewhere. I know I still have some time, but I've been thinking about the future lately, and realizing how terrified and ill equipped I am for it.

Up until now, while lonely, I've never really been on my own. In college I had the financial support of my parents. Now I am supported by my missionary program. While I live alone, I'm not on my own. There are people to help me and take care of me when I need it. In March that will be over.

I have already decided I am not returning to America at the end of my service. I love Japan. I want to stay here. That has never been a question in my mind since arriving here. But the only way to make money in Japan for me is to teach English. (I have a very large student loan debt hanging over my head that makes the move away from church work necessary...) While I don't hate teaching English, I don't love it either. Now, of course, having the perfect job is not the prerequisite for happiness. Nor am I naive enough (any longer) to think that I am entitled to the perfect job. The problem comes when I realize that I will still be living alone.

Now of course I live alone now. But I have a job I mostly enjoy, and a sense of purpose to guide me through that. ( I also have a band that get's me out of my house every weekend and social time) But I fear the thought of living alone, having a job I don't like, and just surviving here. What's the point? What's my reason for living? The band can't support me in a situation like that. (I think right now the band is a substitute for family for me.) But I'm moving past the point where that level of support is going to carry me through. I need something more. I need a purpose.

I see other people who live alone, and what it is that motivates them. For some it is their music. Maybe it's art. But while I love both of those things, they aren't what drive me. I want something more. Something bigger. Something that will keep me moving forward, even when I want to stop. Something to fight for.

Am I still being naive? I don't know. But these are the thoughts that are coming to me now as I'm looking forward. I've prayed about this, and now I'm waiting for God to show me His plan.

If anything, it's comforting to have words to put to the problem. Now I can trust and wait for God to guide me and teach me. While I'm still afraid, I'm less uneasy now than I was before.

God is good to me.

Friday, September 12, 2008


So Japan has a tradition of buying gifts for people you know whenever you go on a trip. These gifts are usually food, and are called "omiyagi." Almost all train stations, air ports, and convenience stores, as well as specialty shops in major places were people travel, carry omiyagi. It is a huge business. It's always best to find omiyagi of a local product, or something that area is famous for.

Students often bring omiyagi to class to share. Today a student brought some omiyagi from near her home town. What was funny was the kind of omiyagi. If you look at the box (it might be hard to read...) it says "Francis Xavier" Then it reads (in English):

Francis Xavier gave happiness to many people and taught our country the light of civilization and God's teachings. In commemoration of him, (I can't read this word and I forgot it but it probably means eat or enjoy or something...) a confectionery, please from sweet shop.

Francis Xavier was the first missionary that came to Japan. It's rather strange to see omiyagi made in commemoration of him. The box was really nice too. It was covered in nice fake velvet. And everyone remarked that the box reminded them of the Bible. Haha. But it seems strange to me, for people who probably don't know who Francis Xavier is, to be buying omiyagi in his name. I wonder what he would think....


This summer we had our first VBS at my church (that I'm aware of anyway.) It was only three days, and only two hours a day. It went quite well I think.

We did the every thing by scratch. It worked out, because we had about 12 kids come. So we could do everything together as one big group. Our theme was Heroes. We studied about three Bible Heroes, Moses, David and Esther. There was also song time and crafts, and play time. The last day we made lunch and ate together too. It was a nice combination. I only took pictures of the last day, but here they are!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

more pictures

Here are a few more yukata pictures from the live. The top one is me with three other missionaries I know who came with me and then the members of the band. I was really glad they came. We weren't planning on taking a picture, but the members told us to. Haha. It was funny.

There is also a picture of the band members in yukata. Personally I really like the yukata for men. It's more common to see girls wearing yukata, but I like the way they look on guys. I think more guys should wear them! haha. Yeah, I'm weird.
And randomly, some cute bunny pictures. There was a special live outside during the summer. We met this guy who had two bunnies and the girls made friends with the bunnies very quickly. Here is Neko-chan with the two bunnies. They were really cute.
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catching up

Well, I survived the summer. It's been a while, so I'm going to try to play catch up a bit with my blog.

This summer was very similar to my other summers in Japan. Hot, muggy and busy. I had a few days to relax, but for the most part I was off doing many different things this summer.

The highlight of the summer would be getting my very own yukata. A yukata is a traditional type of kimono that is worn in the summer. Back in the old days, when they wore kimono all the time, yukata was much cooler to wear. (now, it's a bit hot if you compare it to wearing short sleeves and shorts...)

Summer is great for watching people get dressed up in yukata for festivals and fireworks. Although I've lost quite a bit of weight since coming to Japan, I'm still rather large, so I can't buy a pre-made yukata. (one size fit's all). So I asked a church member who likes to sew, if she could make one for me. I bought the fabric and she made it for me by hand!!!! in one week!!!! She is amazing! (she also takes care of the flowers around my house.) The she taught me how to put it on, and even lent me an obi (the belt part) to wear with it. Here is the final product. I wore it to the Trash Box Jam summer live. It's becoming a tradition to wear yukata (or a swimsuit) to this live. If you wear one you get a special prize. This year it was a custom made pick. Very cool.

In other news, this summer I started walking for exercise. I try to walk a little over an hour 2-4 days a week (weather permitting). Since I started, I've lost 4 kilograms! (a little less than 10lbs I'm guessing... I'm bad at converting.) I would like to loose another 10 kilos by April. Of course the next problem is going to be finding a way to buy new clothes that fit! haha.

This summer was crazy with rain and storms. The newspapers called it "guerrilla rain." Apparently Tokyo had the most lightening in 50 years this summer. The up side was no typhoons so far this year. The down side was lots of headaches and the band was canceled several times. sad. This week the weather has been changing. Today was nice because there was very little humidity! It was wonderful. Except for the headache of course. I get headaches every time the weather changes. I think it's because of my sinuses, but I'm not sure. I'm going to go to a doctor this month to get it checked out. I'm definitely tired of headaches.

Well, I think that's all for today. I will try to put up some more pictures and stuff from this summer. There are several fun stories I would like to share.

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