Monday, November 01, 2010

Crying "wolf"

This whole visa business has been wonderful for waking me up and getting me to think about God more. I'm very thankful for all the lessons I've learned in the process.

It's funny looking back at this last month, and seeing all the things I felt and went though, the emotional ups and downs and twirlies and nose-dives... Quite the ride.

But one interesting thing for me was the amount of shame I felt for being in a situation like that to begin with. I noticed a pattern of similar things happening (maybe not quite so dramatic, but there is always that "I have no idea what's going to happen in the future, so I can't make any plans at all" kinda panic that sets me on edge.) It just kinda wears you down after a while, and you get to the point where you feel like "what's the point of getting all worked up about it anyway?"

Now I'm not advocating fear, since fear of anything other than God is basically telling God you don't trust him. But something has been nagging at me lately...

You see, this time around, I didn't tell Sing about my visa problems. I usually tell him most everything that's happening in my life. I've been here for 6 years now, so he's heard me be uncertain after my first two years, if I would be allowed to extend or not. He had full confidence that I would still be in Japan. And I was allowed to extend. One point for Sing. The year after that there wasn't so much worry because they needed me to extend to fill up places. My after my 4th year was finished, I was once again uncertain. I wanted to stay in Japan, but I was ending my term with the church and needed to find a job. Nothing was coming up. I wasn't sure what was going to happen. Sing never doubted. He just told me everything would be fine and I would get a job. Turns out I got a job. Another point for Sing. I thought I might move last year, and he convinced me not to. Another point for Sing.

So though all of this, I kinda feel like I've been crying "wolf" for 6 years. Every time I worry, everything turns out all right. Kinda makes you feel really small. So this year, I didn't even want to tell him. I didn't want to face him again if everything turned out OK, which is did.

But I was thinking about this feeling of shame. I'm not sure the shame is what is true. That's a funny thing to say I guess, but really, when I think about it, none of the problems were fake. They were all really there. I was in danger each time (a kind of danger anyway.) They were real wolves. So every time before, I was telling people there were wolves around me. Panic is not a good response to wolves. But telling people that you've seen a wolf is not a bad thing.

And what happened in every case? My Shepherd rescued me. He fought off the wolves and restored my safety. Wow. So what looks like me calling "wolf" is actually me testifying to what God has done for me. No shame in that. Now that's a new way to look at it.

My good friend likes to tell me that I live on the edge. She's talking about how I do ministry and such. I'm not good at doing things inside the church, but I go off to the edge and work around the people there. I think it fits in well with my wolf analogy.

If you imagine sheep in their pasture, I'm the sheep wandering closest to the forests and such. I don't go too far, but I'm on the edges. Well gosh darn it, that's where you're gonna see wolves! So my Shepherd get's to run out and rescue me a lot. But I think He likes rescuing me. He doesn't tell me I need to stay in the middle. He lets me live out by the edges. And as a result, I get to see lot's of cool wolves that never get to touch me.

So when I go back, I can tell people about my "wolves" and how my God rescued me from them, and that brings Glory to His name, not shame to mine. I'm glad that I've had such a chance to cry "wolf" so many times. I'm sure there will be more. I hope next time I remember the things I've learned so far.

Next time I might tell Sing. ;-)

"I let you make me happy"

Last week and the week before last the third years (9th graders) had a writing assignment. They don't often write in English, so it was a pretty simple assignment of about 5 sentences about volunteering. We had been studying the grammar point of "a makes b C" (ex: Reading books makes me happy) so that had to include that in their writing somewhere. Not so hard.

There were of course many amusing mistakes and pieces (one guy thought volunteering meant giving money to an octopus so he could buy a soy bean...) but the one that really stuck out to me was when one girl wrote "I let you make me happy." I have no idea how she even came up with that, but it was really funny.

But today I was thinking a bit about life lately. I struggle a lot with negative feelings and the whole concept of love and being loved. I quite enjoy complaining (as all my facebook friends can attest to.) This is of course not very Biblical. (is very thankful God doesn't keep track of negative points right about now...) I had a good conversation with a friend about this tonight.

I am supposed to be in bed right now, but I was still thinking about all these things, like "How do I get better at loving God?" "How do I learn how to love other people?" "How do I accept God's love?" and all of a sudden that phrase popped back into my head. "I let you make me happy."

Wow. Wait, let's think about this again.

"I let you make me happy."

That's the answer isn't it? This works both ways even. This is God speaking to me. "I let you make Me happy." Of course the things I do aren't perfect, but that's OK, God still allows me to make Him Happy. He loves me. He lets me make Him happy. That's grace. Amazing. Humbling. Comforting.

Then it dawns on me. This is also my response to Him. "I let You make me happy." It's so easy for me to get caught up in guilt, to get bogged down by daily annoyances. But freedom is right there. All I have to do is let Him make me happy. Wow. Life isn't perfect, but God's love for me is. He doesn't want me to be miserable. He can make me happy in any circumstances. All I have to do is let Him.

"I let you make me happy."

For some reason, this is just really profound for me tonight. I hope I can manage to put it into practice in my life. I want this to be my reality.

"I let you make me happy."

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Today I received my new visa without a hitch. I was also able to update my alien registration card and re-instate my health insurance at the city office. I did a lot of bicycle riding in the rain. For some reason, I have yet to go to either the immigration office or the city office on official business without it raining. It rains a lot in this country.

I am very grateful for God's grace in all of this. God has been very wonderful to me lately, calming my fears and teaching me new things. There is nothing like two weeks of major uncertainty to help you put things in perspective and learn to really appreciate what you have.

Two weeks ago, the message in church was given by a church member since the Pastor was in Korea at the time. The text was from Luke where Jesus healed 10 lepers, but only one came back to thank and praise Him. His response was "Where are the other 9?" The message (from what I understood) was about learning how to be thankful for what we have, and praise God, so we don't become one of the faithless nine.

I'm learning how much I am like the faithless nine, who take their healing for granted. I have so many blessings, yet I complain so much. I have so many opportunities, yet I sit at home lazy. I have so many talents, and wonderful things to take care of, but I let them sit in neglect. I am not thankful enough. If I was thankful, I would be taking better care of these things. I would be singing praises to God all the time. I wouldn't care if it was raining, or if I was tired.

Well, maybe it's a little bit of exaggeration, but I have learned that I should be more thankful for what I have. I hope this this not a lesson I easily forget.

Father, thank you so much for all you have given me. I don't deserve it, but you delight to give me such wonderful blessings. Help me to be thankful at all times, help me to have a heart that rejoices in your blessings, and cherishes them. Draw me closer to you.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Somewhere in the middle...

I'm on a blogging roll. Don't worry, it won't last. ;-)

Tonight was the first night back to Saturday night band nights. Sing went on a month long trip, and this was the first regular street live back. He was the only one playing though, but it was nice.

After he had finished, we were all hanging out talking when a couple of foreigners came over. They were two young college guys (one from Germany and one from Croatia.) Sing had fun talking to them, he loves meeting new people, especially foreigners. The guys were bored and looking for something to do. (I'm pretty sure they only came over because me and my roommate were there and they were looking for someone to go out with.) So in the course of introductions and such, they looked at me and said "You aren't Japanese. Where are you from?" To which Sing replied, "No, she's Japanese."

This is not the first time my friends have said this about me. I get comments like this frequently enough. But everyone knows it's not true. I'm not Japanese. But I'm enough Japanese now that I'm not quite fully American any more either.

My pastor pointed this out to me today. I was talking about how I should be OK either way things go, if my visa is accepted, or if I go back to America. I've been thinking of all the good points of going back to America. It would be exciting to be literate again, to be able to understand all my choices. It would be exciting to learn to ride a motorcycle, or go shooting with my dad and my brother. There's lots of things I would be able to do in America.

My pastor right now is actually Korean and has been in Japan for more than 20 years. She pointed out to me that when you have been in Japan long enough, something in you changes, and even though you go back, and can understand all the words and read all the letters, there's a gap. You have become partly Japanese and can never quite fit back in the mold you left.

I know I'm not Japanese. I can't read half of what I see. I still have many things I don't understand in the conversations around me. I don't have the cultural background that others do. But now I'm not a regular American either. Does this make me a Super American? Haha.

In any case, I've realized again that I now live as a foreigner in a foreign land. And if I return to America? I think I'll become a foreigner in a familiar land. Well come to think of it, I might be that now... In any case, it's much easier to understand when Jesus tells us we are no longer of this world. We are foreigners. I have been a foreigner long before I came to Japan. I've been one as long as I can remember. Because I became a member of God's kingdom.

ah, at one point there was a great deep profound point to all of this, but now it's 3AM and I'm not sure anything is coming out correctly anymore. It's time for bed.

(The boys left somewhat dissapointed that we wouldn't go out with them. They stayed talking with Sing for a really long time, until way past the time we normally go home, until finally Sing decided it was time to go. They were planning on staying out all night and invited us to go out with them. They are cute, but I think I'm too old for college boys now. Of course they didn't know that. ;-) At least they are less forward than some other foreigners I've met. But I digress.)

Oh yeah, on a different digression, God really blessed me tonight. I thought about what I could give to those around me, and of course nothing really came to mind, but I did try to be less needy. God really blessed me. We ran into one old friend and some old students of mine and Sing sang many of my favorite songs (including "Don't Go Away" which is an English song, and funny because I haven't told him about the visa problem yet.) It was a good night to be reminded that that is really my place, and God has blessed me so much there. I can't express how thankful I am for all the time that has been given to me. I hope I can carry that thankfulness with me wherever I go...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Always Fall

" So what do I do when my life's a mess?
My wrongs compound this I confess
And I know it's all 'cuz I just can't see
Past this idol that I call me

You tell me I should honor You
but no matter what I try or what I do
I try to love but I can't at all
and in the end I always fall
always fall
always fall

So what do I do with this hollow life?
This broken heart and internal strife?
You are the only One I know
apart from You where can I go?

You tell me I should honor You
but no matter what I try or what I do
I try to love but I can't at all
and in the end I always fall
always fall
always fall

All I desire is your Divine Light
but when my god is me do I have that right?
I know my sins you forgive them all
so through my shame to You I call

You tell me I should honor You
and ever always Your love is true
So to the cross I heed Your Call
and at Your Feet is where I fall
where I fall
always fall

Praise the Father, praise the Son
With the Spirit, Three in One
Join the body, voices raise
Evidence of endless praise
Evidence of endless praise
endless praise

You say that we should honor You
and ever always Your love is true
So worship we your Faithful Name
until our hearts become the same
and when we gather in Your Hall
within Your Grace is where we'll fall
where we'll fall
always fall
always fall
always fall"

This is a song I wrote at the end of August. I've been working on it for a while and finally got brave enough to try to record it today. This is mainly for the people who don't get a chance to see me in person and hear it. So for those of you who are brave enough to listen to it (it's about 5 mins long) feel free. I don't claim to be a song writer, or a guitar player, or even a singer for that matter. But it is one way to express the things I feel, and I know that God at least is listening.
Click here to watch the video.
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Dealing with uncertainty

"Dream as if you'll live forever, Live as if you'll die tomorrow." ~James Dean

This is the quote on Sing's blog right now. Well it's been there for a while. I'm not even sure if I'm quoting it right or not. It just came to mind a few minutes ago.

Suddenly it has a lot of meaning for me.

You see I'm living in a sea of uncertainty right now. I'm waiting for word if I will be able to get a new visa or not. I've been waiting for a week now. Let me tell you, it's very unsettling to not know what country you will be living in in the near future.

I've been having lot's of talks with God, and surprisingly enough, I think I will be OK no matter what the outcome is. If it's time for me to go back to America, I'll go, and do my best to go with a thankful heart. Heck, I have already been thinking of all the things I'll be able to do if I go back. (oh to be literate again!) I've left my future in God's hands, and I trust that He will be with me no matter the outcome. So that's not really the problem.

The problem is the not knowing. I can't do anything right now. I can't plan ahead. I can't prepare my heart. I can't pack or go on spending binges for things I'll only have access to for a short time because I don't know if it's true or not.

I actually get tired of this game, because it seems to happen a lot. I'm regularly faced with situations where I might be "sent home" for some reason or another (usually money.) The people around me are probably thinking I cry "wolf" a lot. Almost every time things work out the way I want them to. All from the Grace of God.

Again, I digress.

What struck me just now as I was pondering the uncertainty again was this: what is my reaction to uncertainty?

I'm ashamed to say, my reaction to uncertainty is always on the selfish side of things. When I'm faced with an uncertain situation, I immediately go into "hoarding" mode. I want to gather as many memories and "memorabilia" as possible, in case I can't go back again. So I've been spending this past week with thoughts like "I should do this while I have the chance." or "I can't waste this time, because I don't know how long I have." I have indeed become very thankful for my time in Japan (which is good, because it's easy to get buried under the daily complaints of life.)

So tonight I was thinking again of the many things I wanted, just in case, and I remembered the quote from Sing's page. As I thought about this, I wondered, is this really the right way? Granted, we really don't know what tomorrow holds. We really should live each day and value it for the treasure it is. I am terrible at this. But the way I've been going about it was to think about what I needed to get while I still had the time. I'm gathering treasures, or doing my best to.

But what did Jesus do when His time was limited. I remember studying the Last Supper a bit last year. That was Jesus' last night with his disciples. What did He do? Was he trying to get as much time with his favorite people as possible? Was He trying to make as many good memories as possible? Maybe, but that certainly wasn't His main objective. Instead He wanted to spend the time sharing as much as He could with his beloved disciples and friends before they would be separated. He spent His time giving.


Completely opposite of what I have been doing...

How would you spend your time if you knew you were going to die tomorrow? What would you do for your loved ones?

I have a little more time, but even if I get a visa next week, I'm aware now more than ever that my existence in Japan is always a fragile thing, and can change at any moment. This is the lot of a foreigner. Maybe I will live here for another year, or ten. Maybe I'll be on a plane in less than a month to see people who wish I hadn't been gone for 6 years.

But now I'm here. And tomorrow I have a choice. How will I spend my time here? Will I chase after empty things to "fill" my rather unreliable memory? Will I try to eat as much Japanese food as possible? Will I request all my favorite songs because I might not get to hear them again? Will I really be happy if I only think of myself?

God has been nice to me this week. Every time I feel like I could give up, He reminds me He is here with me. He loves me, and His timing is perfect. Like the disciples in the storm battered boat, there really is nothing to be afraid of. But when I panic, He wakes up and calms the storm for me. He has given me many wonderful reminders of His love this week. I'm grateful.

I hope this reminder stays with me, and my heart changes a little. Tomorrow it would be nice if I was thinking of what I can do for those who are important to me, instead of demanding things from them to satisfy my uncertainty.

Father, give me wisdom and love, and eyes to see.


Aisatsu: 1. a greeting; a salutation; a salute....

Today I got off a little early from work. My train pass expired last week, and because of circumstances, I'm waiting to renew it for a bit. The weather had just cleared up so this made for a perfect chance to try a new way home! So as I was leaving, the students were still having their club time. Since I was trying a new way home, I was going to leave the school by a different gate. This was the first time I had left school by this gate. This required walking the entire length of the school along the field where the sports teams were practicing.

After being mobbed by the first year girls from the basketball team (they were very fascinated by my cell phone, and surprised for some reason that I liked it in English mode.) I continued on my way past the field. The softball and soccer teams were too busy and far away to really notice me. The last club to pass was the baseball team.

As I was walking, I was playing with the GPS system on my cell phone to make sure I didn't get lost on my little "adventure" so at first I didn't realize that the boys were yelling at me trying to get my attention. Finally it registered that they were yelling "Amber, stop" in English. When I stopped, somewhat confused, the captain of the team turns to the club members and calls them to attention. Then the entire team stopped in the middle of their practice and bowed while screaming "aisatsu" in Japanese.

I was a bit shocked. I am used to the students calling to me individually as I go home past their clubs, but I'm not used to them stopping the entire practice to bow as a team. I have now just upped my opinion of the baseball team. They are cute.

There are 5 more definitions of "aisatsu" in my handy dandy electronic dictionary... Aisatsu is huge in Japan, and even more important when you are in school. Not only is aisatsu used when you see someone (as in a greeting) it is also used when parting. This is a huge part of daily life in Japan.

When I first started working in the schools, I thought they were a bit too focused on this whole idea of aisatsu. I mean really, how important is it to say "hello" or "good-morning" every time you see someone? Especially if it is forced. Teachers regularly tell students how important aisatsu is. For the longest time I just didn't get it.

Then I moved to this new school. When I arrived at this school, the first day, even without having being introduced yet, almost all of the students who I met in the hallways greeted me very energetically and with smiles. Wow. That instantly created an atmosphere of warmth and welcome. I was very impressed with these students who greeted me so warmly. Once we had been introduced and I started going to classes, the aisatsu increased, and even started coming in English (this is the only English some of the kids know. If you ask "How are you?" after the "Hello" some of them freeze and freak out, despite this being asked before every lesson. Then again, I remember the same thing when I was learning Spanish in High School. We would see people in the halls and say "Hola!" and the teacher would remark that that was the only word the students actually used... This must be a universal problem.)

Compared to my former school (where the students only gave aisatsu when addressed first or when forced.) this was a huge difference. I felt welcomed and liked. I smiled so much easier, and working was more fun. Compared to riding the trains and commuting in the silence of strangers, just recognizing a former student and greeting them makes my day. Or seeing the same people while I walk to school. People who were once afraid or suspicious of me, relax and smile if I say "Good morning" to them. Then after that, they are waiting for me, and they say "Good morning" first.

There is an old man who stands outside every morning on my way to work. He waits for me to pass by so he can greet me. He has such a huge smile every time he sees me. He even occasionally gives me gifts.

Ah, the power of aisatsu.

It really is amazing how simple greetings or traditions can change your entire day and outlook. A day that was dreary and gray, is suddenly brightened by the faces of people who greet you and are glad to see you.

Try greeting the people around you this week. And watch the reactions from something so simple, yet so profound. The first step to building relationships is "aisatsu." And along the way, helping to keep the road smooth along the way of the relationships is... "aisatsu."

Just a little something I've learned this year and have become grateful for.

Aisatsu is a beautiful thing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Sensei of my own...

I have lots of things to think about lately. This makes for good blogging. ;-)

I've been practicing my guitar lately. I've tried for year and year and years to learn to play the guitar. The problem is, I'm not so good at self study. According to my mother, I did in fact teach myself how to read when I was very young, but I have no idea how I did that. Since I've become older, I've seem to lost whatever it was that enabled me to intuitively learn.

So I get stuck a lot.

When I started the guitar, I knew nothing about it. It just looked fun. I liked music, and I wanted to be able to play my own music. I even had visions of being able to lead some campfire music for youth groups and such.

So I took my guitar with me to college.

Problem number one surfaced very quickly. I have lofty goals, and little motivation. I give up quickly. First time I hit a wall, I quit. I repeated this step for about 10 years or so, always looking for someone or someway to learn guitar. (and other things for that matter, art, piano, voice lessons, etc) I do well when I am in a class. There are things to learn and a method to learn it. This worked well for art and voice lessons. But for some reason I didn't do well when I tried to take a guitar class. This probably had something to do with the fact that my teacher was a classical guitarist, and I didn't want to play classical guitar.

So I quit.

I took my guitar (the first one I got from my mother, a small 3/4 size guitar) with me to my one summer as a counselor at summer camp. I thought, there should be someone there who would help me learn to play guitar. I quickly found out that camp was a bit busy and there was no time to really learn how to play the guitar. I never learned anything there.

When I came to Japan, I still wanted to learn to play guitar. So I looked for a hard case for my little guitar and my uncle bought me a new(used), bigger guitar from a pawn shop for me to bring over. (ended up using the soft case anyway, haha) I was going through immigration for the first time with my guitar and case and the officer in Japan looked at me and asked "Do you play guitar." and I didn't skip a beat, looked right back at him and said "No, I don't." He told me to have a nice day and let me though. I worried a bit about the immigration procedures in Japan... Haha

Once I moved to my site, I looked for people to teach me guitar. There were several people here who played guitar, and played it well enough, but there was really no time to get together and learn. I was too far behind them, and they didn't know how to teach from the very beginning like I needed. So because I couldn't find a teacher, I would often give up.

I also had the problem that the guitar my uncle bought me was not meant for beginners. The strings were too high and hurt my fingers anytime I tried to play. (I even had both guitarists from the band try to play that guitar and both, while liking the sound, said that it hurt too much to play.) So with a lesson here and there, I did not progress very far in my goal of being able to play guitar.

Then, for my birthday about two years ago, Sing gave me one of his old guitars that he didn't need anymore. He knew I was trying to learn, and my guitar wasn't so good. I was really excited to get such a great present.

But even then, it was hard to practice. I just didn't know what to do.

Then one of my friends told me that instead of trying to learn to play chords and stuff first, I should just choose a song and try to play it. She helped me pick out a song with very easy chords (Em and Am) and I could start practicing. I learned a strum pattern from her, and then I had at least one song I could try to play.

I'm not really sure when, but little by little I gradually started getting the hang of things. I learned how to change chords, how to sing while strumming, how to get my fingers used to the strings etc. I grew brave enough to try a new song, one with three chords. For the longest time, I could only play (or rather play at) two songs. I found one more song and my grand total was three.

From that point, it was a problem of finding time to practice. I had a few more lessons here and there. (One from the previously mentioned Sensei, but he is busy and can't really teach me so often.) But for the most part, I had to do things on my own.

Yesterday I was asking one of the band members about how to study rhythm. I really have no rhythm. I have one strum pattern I can play songs to, and when it doesn't work, I just really have no idea what to do. As I would also like to learn to play the bass someday, I really want to learn about rhythm. So he taught me two rhythm patters for songs I'm trying to play, but that's all.

It's helpful every time I get help from someone, and I appreciate it. I can grow and suddenly I am able to play more than before. But it's a very frustrating process for me.

I want a Teacher. Someone who is interested in investing in me, and helping me learn how to solve my problems. A lesson here, or a hint there only helps so much. I feel like people just expect me to learn it on my own. The problem is I can't. There is only so much I can learn by playing around on my own. I need someone to help me. There is only so much I can learn by searching on the internet. I want someone to tailor the teaching to my needs. I want a Sensei.

Of course, this isn't just about my guitar. This is in general for life. I feel like I'm wandering around so often without a clue. I don't know what to do next or how to do it. There are expectations and consequences I don't understand. And lot's of little teachers a long the way, but no Sensei to be my own.

Now when I say Sensei, imagine Karate Kid, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Someone who mentors you, and meets with you, and pushes you beyond your limits.

Imagine Jesus with his disciples.

Yeah, that's a Sensei.

Today I found myself praying for a Sensei. Maybe because I want things laid out for me in an easy to understand format. Maybe I just want everything spelled out for me. I could just be lazy. But there's more to it than that. I want someone to help me grow. I want to be invested in. I want a relationship with someone who is helping me grow closer to God. I want someone who has time for me and who I don't have to beg to teach me. I want someone who cares if I learn or fail and rejoices and gets mad at me. Maybe I just want Jesus in my life. How awesome it would have been to be one of the disciples. To follow your Sensei, and learn at His feet. To eat dinner with him, and go on trips with him. I think this is at the core of my desire for a Sensei.

There are so many things I want to learn. I'm greedy. But I would really like to learn how to play the guitar. I'm thankful for all the people who have helped me on my way. Maybe I'll learn to play better without a Sensei to help me. But that's my prayer for today. I want a Sensei of my own....

Maybe I should pray instead for contentment and thanksgiving and perseverance (although prayers for learning perseverance is dangerous to plant life around me...)

Or I need to learn how to learn at the feet of My Sensei who is already in me, and Who loves me and watches over me continually.

A Sensei of my own...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The sin of Neglect

I've been neglecting my blog lately. To be honest, I've been neglecting many things lately. The list is a rather long one.

For long time readers of my blog, you might be somewhat familiar with my little bonsai tree Paga-chan. Paga-chan was given to me for my birthday several years ago from a dear friend. This said dear friend loves bonsai very much, and likes to grow her trees from seeds. She had just separated two seedlings she had been growing, and she gave one to me. I however, do not have much of a green thumb. I'm not good with plants. Or fish. Or small things that require a lot of attention, but don't demand it and remind me constantly. I'm good with small children, dogs and cats that remind you when they have needs (and make you pay the consequences rather quickly when you don't meet those needs.) But there was a reason I wanted the bonsai. I wanted to learn perseverance.

Paga-chan has been nice enough to teach me many things about my relationship with God, and recently is helping teach me a more sobering lesson. One I need to learn over and over. The lesson of neglect.

You see trees don't react quickly. If a tree is sick, it takes a while to show up. There are no immediate reactions to motivate. If you haven't guessed by now, I've been neglecting Paga-chan recently. I was supposed to re-pot her a long time ago and check her roots. But since I had never done that before, and didn't really have a clue as to how to do it, I'd been putting it off. This job also makes it more difficult for me to water her and look after her. So there's lot's of "I'll do it later." About a month or so ago, I finally got around to re-potting poor Paga. She had a few brown needles, but I thought she was doing ok. I didn't really do anything with the roots, just put her in a slightly bigger pot, hoping she would survive.

Then all her needles started getting brown. Poor Paga looks rather sad. You know the pine tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas? Imagine smaller and all the needles are brown instead of green. With less needles. She's a sad sight. It'll probably take until next spring to know for certain if she is dead or not. My dear friend gave me some instructions about roots and such, so I have re-re-potted her, and hopefully she will survive.

Right now there are a lot of circumstances coming to a head right now. Many things are happening because of neglect on my part. When so many things happen at the same time, it's easy to feel lost in a storm. It's easy to feel crushed and just want to give up. After all, for many of them, it's my fault.

Sorry for the vagueness, but there's a lot that I can't go into detail here.

But this has got me thinking a lot. (funny how trouble does that.) It suddenly dawned on me the seriousness of the sin of neglect. Neglect is something that is so easy to do. It's easy to think that you are tired, or that you have plenty of time later. It's easy to rationalize it away. So many little little steps. And you never think they will have major repercussions. After all, who really thinks of neglect as a sin? I mean really, it's not so bad right?

That's the danger isn't it? People die from neglect. It's a crime to neglect children or pets. What was the order God gave Adam and Eve? Take care of the earth. Neglect goes directly against God. It's so easy to do, because there's rarely instant consequences. It's easy to let it build up over days, months, years, until everything just falls apart, rotten from the inside out. I neglect my blog, my house, my family, my friends, my health, my spiritual life, my relationships.... All this neglect is degrading my life away. And now the signs are showing. And when the signs start showing, that means there is little time left. The consequences have come due. Oh yeah, it's not a pretty sight.

Fortunately, I have a God who loves me. He has watched my neglecting ways. He has forgiven my neglecting ways. He has even seen fit to open my eyes to the seriousness of my actions. And now, I wait. I wait to see what the verdict is for the charges against me. I will have to pay the consequences soon. I don't know what they are yet, but I know that they will be just, and maybe there will be some grace thrown in the mix. But the good news is, God never neglects me. I often neglect Him, but He will never neglect me.

Wow. I can't even imagine. Neglect is such a horrible thing. Can you imagine what it feels like to be the one neglected? It's got to be worse than being hated. You just don't matter. You have become nothing. Not worth my time or my energy. I can't imagine much worse.

And I did that to God. I've done it to many people I love. I can't believe how terrible that is. But what amazes me is that I am still loved. God still loves me and promises to provide for me. My friends and family still love me and want the best for me. There is still hope for Paga-chan.

I'm not sure what the point of this is, other than the need to reflect and confess my own sin. The need to put into words, what is so easy to (for lack of a better word...) neglect. I'm not trying to imply that this sin is more terrible than any other sin. I'm just trying to remind myself that it is the same as any other sin. And that it is a real sin, and a prominent one in my life.

There are a lot of things that need to be worked out. Strongholds to break down, relationships to build, lessons to learn, prayers to pray. But I feel hope for the future. I have a God who does not neglect me. And I can grow and change. There is hope for Paga-chan, but more importantly, there is hope for me. There is hope for Japan, a land full of neglect. So I wait. I wait to see if Paga will survive. I wait to see if I will be living in Japan next month. I wait to see if my relationships will be given new life. I wait to see if I will learn the lesson better this time. And I pray.

I want to build up, not tear down. I want to share life, not neglect.

Sorry, the blog posts are all kinda dark recently. I have some fun pictures that I've been meaning to put up and I hope to do that sometime. Thanks so much for your comments and your support. I really do appreciate it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I guess when I get in writing moods, I just write a lot...

I'm not sure this blog will make much sense, but I'm just processing right now. (I promise to reply to comments later. Well, I'll try really hard..)

Today I went to "Postcard." That's where Sing goes to the station and sells postcards he has made. His fans gather around and camp out while he's there. Lot's of people coming and going. Sometimes they even buy the postcards.

It was a nice day, and I was feeling good. Sing was also feeling good I guess. Sing likes philosophical discussions a lot, and he had just read a new book and wanted to talk about it. He kept trying to talk about it and trying to find someone who would have the kind of conversation he wanted. I could only follow about 60% of the conversation. But the starting point was "if the world was going to end in 8 years, what would you do?" He kept bringing up how the world would go crazy and it would become a dangerous place and what people would become. But at some point in the conversation, religion was brought into the picture.

Now Sing and I have a long history now. I've known him for 4 years. I guess he has this kind of idea of what it is a Christian "missionary" should be doing. I'm not really clear on what that is, but it's been a point of a lot of hurt between us. He also likes to egg things on sometimes.

So I enter into the conversation. At some point, Sing makes it into a "Defend your position" type of conversation. He wants me to "win" the conversation and prove my point. Of course, this can't be done. At least not by me. I'm not good at that. And Sing's good at finding all my weak points.

In one of his books, John Eldredge talks about what he calls the "message of the Arrows." The lies or circumstances that wound you. It's kinda a more in dept concept than I really want to explain here, but I think you can kinda get the point.

At the end of my conversation with Sing, I was processing it, and it hit me. The Arrow. I could see that I had once again failed in Sing's opinion. He had offered me so many chances to do my "job" and I blew it. I couldn't explain it well enough, I didn't make it attractive enough. No one understood. I failed. Sometimes when that happens, I see a look of disdain in his eyes. Or maybe disappointment. Mixed with triumph, like he knew he would win. My loss lowers the value of the entire Christian message in his eyes.

Ouch. It hurt. It hurt a lot. It hurts more because he's so close to me. I came home crying. (discovering along the way that riding your bike while crying is just about as bad as riding in the rain... Note to self...) Again.

But this time, I did something different. I remembered the words about the message of the Arrows. I know that it's not just Sing here. Satan wants me to believe those words. He wants me to be injured. He wants my hurt and my anger and my frustration. And he got it. But, not for very long. I talked to God about it, and God reminded me that it's ok. It's ok if I fail (which is not the point here.) It's God's job to fight for me. God works in my weaknesses. It will be ok.

The conversation ended with "Papa" the man central to the conversation (other than Sing) saying that he kinda understood my words, but He just couldn't understand the point. And I told him it was because he didn't really want to. And he agreed with me.

Here's the point.

If you don't want to understand, you are not going to. If you don't want to find God, you are not going to. This has nothing to do with the teacher.

I teach English for a living. I'm not the world's best teacher, but I'm not a bad teacher. I make mistakes, but for the most part, my students are able to learn English. Working in public schools has changed one central thing for me. I now have students who don't care about English. In conversation schools the student are there because they want to be. In public schools they just have to be. It makes a huge difference.

No matter how wonderful a teacher I am, if the student doesn't want to learn, I can't make them learn English. This is the student's problem. I can teach it in as many different ways as possible, do everything in my power to make it interesting, but if they don't want to learn, I can't make them learn. It's that simple.

This is the same with faith. If people don't want God, they won't understand what I am saying. Does that make me a failure? No.

But I guess the point is not if I failed or not. It's the hurt from the look in Sing's eyes because HE thinks I have failed. It's the Arrows that try to wound me to decide to shut off my heart, get angry at Sing, give up and stop trying. It's easy to blame it all on Sing and trow up my hands and shake the dirt off my feet. And then I remember, isn't that what Satan wants me to do? Let it get to me. And I really have failed.

So this time, I'll just let the Arrow hit me. It hurts, but that's ok. But you know what, as soon as I realized that, the tears stopped. My chest relaxed. I forgave Sing and myself. There's still a long way to go, but if I believe that it's ok even if I'm shot, then I can continue forward. If I trust God to take care of me, then it's ok if I'm shot full of arrows. The point is to not be shot. The point is to continue anyway. This is faith.

So, I think that thanks to Satan's latest Arrow, I've gotten just a little stronger today. It's not about winning or loosing. God will take care of that. I will continue forward, learning as I go. As many Arrows as it takes.

And now I'm tired. That's quite a lot of emotional highs and lows in one afternoon. Time for bed and another week of work.

Thanks for your prayers and your interest in my blog. I am very encouraged when I heard that people who read this are praying for me and Japan. Please also pray for Sing and "Papa" and the girls who were listening. Pray that their hearts will be softened and their eyes opened, so they can want to understand, so that they can see their own need for God. What if the world was going to end in 8 years? What if tomorrow? That thought is kind more painful than all the Arrows. I love these people, and I would like them to share Eternal Life with me. I pray that God gives you wisdom in your prayers for these important people to me.

Thank you so much. (insert deep bow here.)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

On being the Single Friend (or Living like a Fingertip.)

It's been a while since my last update, not really for lack of things to write about. I just haven't been able to sit down and write. Life updates will come later I hope. For now, random musings from this week...

When I was very young, I always felt alone and socially awkward. I somehow came to the impression that I didn't have any friends. In my little world, my friends were the books I read. We lived out in the country, so it was hard to have playmates anyway. I was alone. Don't ask me where the thought came from. Looking back, I can see that while I have never been one of the "popular" girls, I have always been blessed with friends. No matter what stage or place in my life, God has always provided friends for me.

I'm not really sure when it started, but sometime in Elementary school, I decided I liked boys. Not really romantically, I just thought that boys were better than girls. I wanted to be friends with "the boys." I tried really hard to be one of the "boys." Of course, I wasn't the kind of girl to be accepted so easily by the boys, but I could usually find some who at least tolerated me somewhat. But no matter how hard I chased after the boys, God always provided me with female friends as well.

Now that I think about it, I am always chasing after relationships that don't suit me, ignoring the people God has given me, and chasing after "bigger, brighter" things. Whether it was the popular crowd or the boys or trying to find romance on my own, I'm always leaving behind what I have to chase after something else. And then I feel alone when I don't reach those things. I think, "I must be not good enough. There must be something wrong with me, or I would be able to have the relationships I want." I am tainted and un-valuable. (yeah, spell check tells me that isn't a word, but I don't care...)

One very valuable experience for me has been watching my friends form romantic relationships. Some I have seen from the very beginning (one set of friends started dating in the back seat of my car...). I have seen the dating, marriage, kids, and even sadly enough, divorce. I have seen hook-ups and break-ups. Boyfriends and ex-boyfriends. Now that I'm in Japan, there are husbands and kids I have never met. I've learned a lot about what "good" relationships should look like, and the consequences of bad ones. I've even given out plenty of relationship advice from the sidelines. (Why people even ask me for that, I'll never know.)

But there's only so much I can learn from watching others. I learn from experience. Generally when learning something, I read/watch/listen to directions, hopefully see an example, and then to really understand it, I have to do it myself. There is only so much that reading, watching and listening can do for me. I get some information, but not the whole picture.

When I was younger, I watched with a jealousy that made me envy my friends of their good fortunes. I usually ended up depressed and feeling sorry for myself. I often tried to make others feel sorry for me too. (always a bad idea) Sometimes, I still do. It's a hard habit to break. But recently I've noticed that I'm watching with more of a sense of deep longing and a feeling of separation. Separation from my friends and their shared experiences, separation from the feeling of being a complete person, loved and appreciated unconditionally.

Why am I suddenly thinking about this? I guess it was just something I've been pondering this week as I have been reflecting on my currently spiritual condition (mixed with a bit of PMS I'm sure.)

Right now I'm reading "The Ransomed Heart" by John Eldredge. It's a collection of writings from his many books. There is a repeating theme of Heart, Desire, Romance and Love in his writings. The things that make us truly alive.

And I look around at my friends. I see the relationships they have: with their significant other, with each other, with God. And I feel a great gulf between us. They seem to have what I'm looking for. There is only so much I can learn from this side of the gulf. There is only so much we can share like this, only so close I can come to them. I find most of my friends are "taken." Even the single ones have wonderful, vibrant, fulfilling relationships with God. And I'm left wondering what I'm missing. I feel frozen in time, unable to break free. I am the Single Friend.

I would be lying if I said I didn't want a boyfriend. I've wanted that since jr. high. I want the knight in shining armor to come on a white horse and rescue me. I want to experience intimacy. But I've seen enough to know that a boyfriend alone won't be enough to satisfy me or to fill me. What I really want is a romance with God. To hear him call my name. To feel for even a moment His eyes upon me, looking at me intently, and to feel the depth of His love for me (as scary as that sounds.) I want to know more than theology or doctrine. I want to know more than I can find out by just hearing about other people's experiences. I want to leave behind my "singleness" and enter into relation.

There is a song by Avril whose lyrics often speak to me. The openings lines are "I'm standing on a bridge, I'm waiting in the dark. I thought that you'd be here by now. Nothing but the rain, no footsteps on the ground. I'm listening but there's no sound. Isn't anyone trying to find me? Won't somebody come take me home? It's a damn cold night, trying to figure out this life..."
It's a song about being alone, but I think it expresses the human condition so well. Our separation from God and the coldness in our souls that comes with it. Our "singleness."

Another song I really like is called "ooh ahh" by the Grits. It talks about living life by the fingertips, never quite having a full grasp on things. This is my current relationship with God. Only fingertips. Sometimes I fall, I slip. But I hope, I know one day my Prince will come. He will look deep into my soul and tell me that I am beautiful and valuable because I belong to Him. And He will never let me go. He will fight for me and He has already won. And I will understand, I will leave behind my life of singleness- of aloneness- and be in a True relationship.

So I wait as a bridesmaid, waiting for when the Groom will come for me also. So for now, I need to make sure I have enough oil in my lamp as I wait, so I am ready for when He comes. I can't be running after distractions, or I might miss Him. And so this is what Hope is. Waiting for the fulfillment of a promise by the one you love.

Now the hard part is figuring out how to make that resolution practical and how to merge it with daily life, whose sole objective is to see how much it can distract me from my Hope. (Ahh!! It's too much for the poor ADD girl to handle!!!!)

There were many more thoughts and musings from this week, but I didn't write them all down, so this is all you get this time. For anyone who is interested, here are the lyrics to "ooh ahh" with my favorite places highlighted. For a rap song, it often makes me want to cry, and dance at the same time. :-D

My life be like Ooh Ahh
It's times like these that make me say,
Lord if you see me please come my way.
Leavin bread crumbs for when I stray
Rely on sacrifice and the price you paid
Feel me like a fingertip
(flow fingertip flow fingertip)
Sometimes I fall I slip
Got a heartfelt desire be more like you
Trying not to quench your fire by the things that i do

I'm on an island by my lonesome stranded
Low key and stayin� candid
Reflectin on the things I try my hand at
Search for the equations to persuasions I'm used to
Findin comfort in the zones of closet bones I get loose to
A mountainous fontaine,
Spinnin and monsoonin
Grinnin its high octane
This worlds out wacky
Rollin down the hills cause lifes a hassle
Encircled by my folly like a moat surround a castle
Stay afloat,
Catch a second wind thin is the air I breathe
Teary-eyed nose runnin, wipe the snot on my sleeve
I'm callin on my savior to be all that I need
Please forgive me my behavior had me lost at light speed


The fear of never falling in love
And the tears after losing the feelings
Of what you thought love was
Like the dirt still up under the rug
(My life be like)
Bad characteristics covered in Christ's blood
The joy of new birth and the pain of growing up
The bliss between giving my all and giving up
The highs and lows,
Paths and roads I chose
In the cold I froze
Trying to ease my woes
In this world of sin
Clothes to thin to fend
So to God I send
Words of help to win
In grumblings so deep letters could never express
So the sounds of Ooh Ahh beneath my breath projects


My life be like (Toby Mac)

My life be like ooh aah ooh
Dum dum diddy
Here comes that boy from the capital city
Last up on the Grits new ditty
But eight bars of the truth will do, eh
I believe there's a bride thats stunning,
And I believe in the kingdom coming
I believe if you seek the truth,
You don't need to look far cuz it's gonna find you

So why, oh why, do I trip and stumble?
And ooh ahh as commitments crumble?
I can't believe that I'm here again


Monday, February 22, 2010

Fullness of Life

I went to a celebration dinner last night for the missionaries who are finishing up their terms this coming April. Since I'm a recent Alumni, I still know most people. But there was one missionary who was new, and it was the first chance I had to meet him. So, he's a friendly guy. Real friendly. And nice. And he walks up to me after I've had a chance to relax with one of my friends for a bit (since as a rule, I'm not good in groups, I usually have all my walls up and don't make small talk well if I don't know the group.) This meant that my walls had partially come down. I was in a good mood, and saying whatever came to mind at the time. Poor guy. So he walks up to me and tries to initiate a conversation. It went something like this:

"I've heard so many wonderful things about you! All kinds of bells and whistles and joy and dancing etc." (I don't remember the exact wording, but those are what stuck out to me.)

Poor guy.

My friend and I were instantly laughing in his face. Because none of those are words that I would associate with myself. (He also made the mistake of trying to flatter me, which I don't take well.) Poor guy.

But it's interesting. I'm not a joyful person. I'm not an optimist. I wouldn't go as far to say that I'm a pessimist (I prefer to say pessimistically leaning realist.) But it's true that I generate a lot of negativity. I'm good at hard cold truth. Law is my friend. Joy is something I see in other people.

Yet, I miss it.

In my bible study last week, we had a question that I couldn't answer. It was "What truth has been revealed to you this year that you are not putting into practice?" I was stumped. I couldn't really think of anything. Usually with questions like that, my guilty conscious jumps right in and gives me a nice long list of things I did wrong, things I'm not doing right or enough and things I'm just plain not doing. But this time there was nothing. What did God want me to be doing? What was I doing wrong? What habitual sin do I need to overcome? It was a blank slate. So I went to class with the question unanswered.

A different question in the same study had also stuck out at me. It was about the verse where Jesus declares "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me." The question asked us to explain the difference between the three words, way, truth and life. At first I thought it would be easy. But when I thought about it, it was harder than I thought.

Finally I found somewhat of an answer. In Japanese you can use the word 道 ("michi" or "dou") for the word way, or path. It's how you get there, what you do, what you follow. Budou is the way of the warrior. How to be a warrior. In traditional Japanese culture you have lots of examples. Way of the tea, Way of flowers, Way of the sword... I can understand the meaning, but I realize that I often fall from this path from lack of sight on my part.

Truth was a much easier word for me. I'm good at truth. Truth is what is real. Truth doesn't change. Truth is absolute. That's a comforting support for me. Truth is the foundation. In this world where it's difficult to understand the things around you, a world covered with lies and deceit, Truth is very comforting for me. I find that this is often the only thing I have to cling to. I doubt many things, but when I find Truth, I never want to let go.

Life was the hardest. Life, means to live right? But what does that mean? Life. We all have that right? But not really. This is where things began to "click" for me. Going way back to the beginning of the post, were I was laughing because I am not a person with joy, what I was really laughing about was that I was not a person with Life. I live, but I am not often alive. I harden my heart to protect it. I put up walls, and I counter compliments with sarcasm. So often I feel dead inside. I think a lot of that is habits gained from years of clinical depression. It's how I protected myself.

But Jesus is The Life. What does that mean? Recently I have been searching for The Way to improve my relationship with Jesus. Learn how to love. To understand what it means to be one with Christ. The feelings and emotions that can't be found in Truth alone. That is Life. The Bible tells us over and over again that God wishes to give us the Fullness of Life. He doesn't want us to live as empty shells, huddling in a war zone of emotional scars. He wants to give us Life. Now.

I realized that this has been building up for a while in my life. This theme keeps coming back. Several months ago, when I was thinking about Fukushima, my friend sent me a blessing. Apparently I kept invading her thoughts when she was trying to pray and have her "God time." She is a wonderful friend who I have often envied for the Life that she shows and the love that she gives. So she send me the blessing so that she could have her uninterrupted time with God back. (hehe, see I'm annoying even when in a different country!!)

The blessing was about choosing Life. Since I was in the middle of trying to choose to stay or to go to Fukushima, I thought the blessing must relate to that decision somehow. But it didn't really fit, and I couldn't figure out what it was trying to tell me. Eventually, I put it out of my mind.

But then, after the Life revelations from above, the blessing came back to me. I read it again, and that was it! That was the answer to the question. (the first question of what truth was I not practicing) I was not choosing Life. I am living in the darkness of my enclosed heart, yearning for the outside, but unable or unwilling to make the effort to get there. And I suddenly realized that I desired Life. I desired to be life giving. I would like to be a good wife someday. I want to be the kind of wife that gives life to her husband. I would like to be a Christian woman who gives life to the people around her. Now I spend most of my time protecting my own space and my own heart. I'm too busy thinking about me to give to others. I judge them when they don't reach my standards and I often resent the people who do have life.

But I want Life. I want fulfilment. I want to be the person I was created to be. I want to embrace Joy in my Life. I want to become the person that the missionary told me about. Bells, whistles, joy and dancing. I want that.

this story is getting long huh. Haha. I can't make anything short. :-D

So that night I decided that I wanted Life. My goal was to become a life giver. The kind of person who could give water to a desert heart and help a flower grow. That's the woman I want to become. So I began a 3 day fast for that purpose. To begin the process of submission and learning that would allow me to become a woman of Life. (how wonderful to be a woman, the bringer and bearer of Life!)

Those 3 days were filled with many confrontations of my ugly nature. My judgementalness, my bitterness, my greed, my lust, my desire for worldly posessions, and the desire to run back to the darkness. I don't often feel hungry when I fast (I have plenty of reserves!) but I do want to eat. I think about food all the time. But it's not so hard to keep doing it. But I was tired this time. I got easily irritated with my students. I ended up with a terrible headache that I thought was going to cause me to throw up (I had one that made me throw up the week before, so I was kinda afraid of it, but since I hadn't had any food that day, it would have been difficult to throw anything up. But I never knew you could be so nauseated without eating anything!) But I stayed with it until the end. All during an insanely busy week when I am trying to prepare for Mako's birthday with everything else going on. I was tired, and wondering how I was going to make it through the end of the equally long and busy weekend. After midnight I ate some of the food that my mom had sent me that week. Velveeta shells and cheese is probably not a good way to end a fast, but I don't worry so much if it's only been three days. ;-) I went to bed happy to have ended the fast and hoping to have enough energy for the next day.

Saturday I had a BSF fellowship event, I needed to go get the cake for Mako's birthday (I had been asked to choose the cake! Baskin Robbins ice cream cake was the final decision!), and then it was a Live event where we would also celebrate Mako's birthday. Sunday I knew I would teach Bible study for the first time in a long time and then go to the celebration dinner in the evening. And then work on Monday. No time to really relax and let down.

But I woke up Saturday with anticipation and energy. Completely different from Friday. I prayed for Mako and the day before me. I prayed for life and joy. And the day was amazing! I had a good fellowship meeting, the cake didn't melt. The Birthday presents were finished and gathered. There was a girl with her two children there, a 1 year old and a 1 month old. I got to tickle and bounce around the 1 year old, and I was able to hold and cuddle the 1 month old. New life. And we all gathered to celebrate the life of Mako. It was beyond what anyone had expected. You could feel the joy in the room. It was full of life. I felt like it was my birthday I was so happy!

I woke up the next day still smiling. And the joy has continued. I went to the celebration dinner, which in previous years I would have dreaded and been stressed by, and I laughed with my good friends until I cried. And then I did it again. (there was the small matter of me being amazingly rude to the poor man who tried to get to know me, I'll have to apologize for that.) God had already began the transformation.

How quickly He pours out His blessings! These past two Days of Life have been wonderful for me. I can only pray that I can learn from them, and keep the lessons close to my heart. This is the woman I want to become. I want to laugh freely, so that the tears running down my face water the desert hearts around me, so that they too can also smile. I know there will be many ups and downs before me. But I hope I don't loose the way too often.

And in the end, isn't it amazing how the two questions answered each other?

What TRUTH has been revealed to you that you are not PUTTING INTO PRACTICE (WAY)?

and the answer is LIFE.

The Way, The Truth and The Life.

All who come through Me will reach the Father.

Time to move forward and truly Live my Life.

Friday, January 08, 2010

If you love me...

Check it out! I'm on a blogging roll! Well, I just go in spurts. Here's to a year's long "spurt!"

Anyway. So yeah. I have to admit it. I watch anime. I don't watch it as much as I used to. I actually run out of time for things like watching TV or anime. But sometimes I get the chance to watch it. Over the winter break I watched some anime. Good times.

Most of the time anime is kinda shallow and silly. But sometimes, it can really strike a chord with me.

So recently I've noticed a theme in a lot of love stories in anime. Two people will be together. Then something will happen that casts one of them in doubt. The other person invariably struggles with this new information. What will happen to the relationship? What seems to make it worse is that the person being accused often doesn't even defend themselves. They just allow the other person to assume things. This of course creates all kinds of tension. But then in the end, when the accused person is found indeed innocent, the other always asks, "why didn't you tell me?" then the reply is always along the lines of, "well, I just kinda thought you would believe in me without it..."

That's a humbling thought. What is love? I'm not experienced in this subject. I might even classify myself as "love impaired." (I can hear Pamela sighing from here. hehe) But I want to learn what it means to love. Sometimes I learn from watching others. Sometimes I learn from fiction. But this fiction is echoed so often in Jesus' life.

So many times, over and over, Jesus turns to someone close to him, and I can only imagine the hurt in his eyes as he says, "I thought you would believe in me... Where is your love? Where is your trust?"


If you truly love, you will trust. If you truly love a person, and know his character, no matter what anyone else says or accuses, no matter the external circumstances, you will believe in and trust in that person. That is true love. Unshakable faith.

How often we fall short! Heck, I'm not even close!

But the good news is that in the end, all is forgiven, and the doubter is given a new chance, and the relationship has become just a little stronger.

Love is pretty amazing. Yeah, I'm pretty sure there's nothing as strong as love.

Awesome. :-)

Back to work.

Today was the first day back to school. Despite being cold, half awake and having a headache left over from yesterday, I still remembered to take my camera to school today. Good thing too, because it was a beautiful clear morning and I could see Mt. Fuji from the bus windows. So here are a couple of bus window pictures! :-D

There were of course no classes today. Just an opening ceremony and then some cleaning. Then kids do club activities and teachers have some meetings.

Here's a little taste of a Japanese opening ceremony. (yeah, there are ceremonies for everything in Japan. They love them.)

Here the kids are all gathered and waiting for the official ceremony to begin. They are lined up according to class and are separated into alternating lines of boys and girls. Of course they have to wear their uniforms for the opening ceremony. (other times they are generally allowed to change into their jerseys, which are of course, all the same.) We had the ceremony in the gym. It was pretty cold. I could see my breath the whole ceremony! I felt sorry for the kids! I was wearing at least 3 layers plus my fuzzy fleece.

The vice principal starts the ceremony with the opening remarks, which roughly translated was, "The opening ceremony for the third trimester of the 2009-2010 school year has now begun." Simple, and to the point. Love it.

The kids are of course enthralled by the speech. (actually they do a pretty good job of sitting quietly. much better than in class.)

Next comes the school song, all three verses. Yeah, they are just as excited as American Jr. High kids here when it comes to singing the wonderful school song. On a side note, the accompanist is always a student!

Finally we get to sit down and listen to the speeches. *fun* and *cold*. Can't beat that! This is what I woke up at 5AM and traveled an hour for. Better than sitting at my desk though. Well, I did a lot of that too today.

After this was some cleaning of the school. In Japan students clean the school themselves. Well, kinda. They often play around instead.

Then the teachers had a lunch meeting, welcoming us back. It was fun and interesting. Then all the other teachers went to meetings and I sat at my desk playing with my new electronic dictionary. Eventually the teachers come back, and do whatever it is that teachers do to get ready for a new semester. I just sit at my desk.

Oh yeah. I did get a Christmas present from the school. They passed these out at the party that I couldn't go to. Here's my present! What is it???

Hello Kitty ear plugs of course! Just what I wanted! Standard equipment for any Jr. High teacher. Now I can use them in class when the kids get too loud. j/k

But actually the case is really cute, so I might find a use for that. :-D

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Beautiful Letdown

I can hardly believe that it's been two months since I have last written here. It feels so much longer, yet short. I think I'm living in a time warp right now. Haha.

So much has happened, yet not so much has changed.

I'm sitting here on my second to last day of winter break with my first major migraine of the new year.

It's been a good break. Time to get back in touch with people and catch up on communications. Unfortunately the cleaning didn't happen. We still have tomorrow. Maybe we'll be able to re-arrange the living room to a more comfortable place.

So here's a nutshell update. I'm not moving to Fukushima. I joined a group called BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) and I'm going to try to grow here, and learn to hear God's voice in the circumstances and communities He has graciously given me here. I guess I got a kind of wake up call, that I shouldn't just take the easy way out and that I really need to maintain the things I have here, at least for a while longer. So. That's the plan for now.

I've felt a lot of peace since coming to that conclusion. The future still seems foggy and difficult to see and understand, but I no longer feel like I'm going to be pulled under by hidden currents.

Even though I feel peace about the Fukushima choice, life still has a way of wearing me down. I'm tired a lot, even though I'm not really doing so much, or getting anywhere. There's a nice phrase in one of the songs I listen to that describes it well. It's like "swimming in a sea of peanut butter." You spend a whole lot of effort and don't get very far. Good news is that it's easy to float in peanut butter. ;-)

Today I was able to talk to one of my good friends for a while. It's really good to have friends like that, who support you and can lift you up. I wish it was easier to stay connected. But today we were supposed to be cleaning our house. But I ended up with a headache. After my conversation with my friend, I ended up having to go to bed to try to sleep it off. I'm sitting in the middle of winter, wrapped up in lots of blankets to stay warm, with an ice pack on my neck to help with the headache. The ice packs seem to be the only thing that does any good with these headaches. But really, hot water bottles at my feet and ice packs on my neck? Does this seem insane to anyone else? haha.

After a few hours of abandoning my poor roommate, I come out with my head feeling a little better, but moving and light quickly makes it worse again. :-( It's easy to get discouraged, and wonder, is this all I really have to look forward to? Pain that sends me to bed and keeps me from doing the things I want to do, the things I need to do? It's somewhat depressing. There's also a lot of discouraging news lately. Marriages in trouble, financial problems, things ending... But there's hope too. Other friends getting married, babies on the way, new starts. I guess it balances out.

But a lot of times I feel like a spectator watching other people's lives go by.

so I was thinking about all these things tonight, while waiting for my wonderful roommate to cook our dinner. (Chicken and veggie soup, wonderful!) I put on my music and this song came up.

The Beautiful Letdown by switchfoot.

It was a beautiful letdown,
when I crashed and burned
when I found myself alone
unknown and hurt
it was a beautiful letdown
the day I knew
that all the riches this world had to offer me
would never do

in a world full of bitter pain, and bitter doubts
I was trying so hard to fit in,
fit in, until I found out

I don't belong here, I don't belong
I don't belong here, I don't belong
I will carry a cross and song
where I don't belong
I don't belong

it was a beautiful letdown
When you found me here
yeah, for once in a rare blue moon
I see everything clear
I'll be a beautiful letdown
that's what I'll forever be
and though it may cost my soul
I'll sing for free

We're still chasing our tails
in the rising sun
in our dark water planet still spinning
in a direction no one wins
no one's won

see, I don't belong here, I don't belong
well, I don't belong here, I don't belong
I will carry a cross with a song
where I don't belong
I don't belong here, I don't belong
no I don't belong here, I don't belong
I'm gonna set side and set sail
for the kingdom come, kingdom come
Your kingdom come
won't you let me down?
my foolish pride forever let me down

ah, easy living, you're not much like the name
easy dying, you look just about the same
would you please take me off your list
easy living, please come on and let me down

we are a beautiful letdown
painfully uncool,
the church of the dropouts, the losers, the sinners, the failures and the fools
what a beautiful letdown
are we salt in the wound
hey let us sing one true tune

I don't belong here, I don't belong
it feels like I don't belong here
it goes like I don't belong here
I don't belong, I don't belong
won't you let me down, I don't belong
c'mon and let me down, I don't belong
you always let me down, I don't belong
so glad that I'm let down, I don't belong
c'mon and let me down, I don't belong
'cause I don't belong here
won't you let me down

This song does a good job of expressing the things I'm feeling right now. I think a lot of my discontent lately has been because I've been trying to find my identity. Who am I? What am I doing here? What am I supposed to be doing? But in my search, I try to find my identity in my job, or other people or outside circumstances. But those always leave me frustrated. I was able to meet one of my good friends during the break, and she is famous for her "sermons." She wasn't even actually "sermonizing" at me, but she said something that just cleared up so much for me. She said that we have to find our identity in God. When we search in other places, we will be frustrated. But if we have a firm identity in God, then our circumstances don't matter. I want that. I'm tired of being lost and looking in the wrong places trying to figure out who I am.

So just like the song, I've realized once again that I don't belong here. It's so easy for me to understand this. I'm a foreigner. I don't belong here. But I know now that it doesn't matter where I go, I will never belong here. Because this is not my home. The things of this world can't make me happy. They can't fulfill me. No matter how long I search or how much my circumstances change. I will never be satisfied. That is the beautiful letdown. I will never be perfect. I will never stop disappointing those around me. There will never be the final "click" that makes everything right. Not here anyway.

I don't belong here. But for now, I do belong here. And that's the grace. I can continue swimming in this sea of peanut butter, in this world where I don't belong. But it's not forever. There is always hope. This world is not forever. This world will end. And I will finally be where I belong. And now somehow the peanut butter doesn't seem so bad. :-D