"Jesus was angry enough to purge the temple, hungry enough to eat raw grain, distraught enough to weep in public, fun-loving enough to be called a drunkard, winsome enough to attract children, poor enough to borrow a coin for a sermon illustration, radical enough to get kicked out of town, responsible enough to care for His mother, tempted enough to know the smell of Satan, and anxious enough to sweat blood." But why would Christ endure earth's toughest pain? So that you would know that "He is able...to run to the cry of...those who are being...tested" (Heb 2:18 AMP).
Sunday, April 29, 2007
After being gone a week in Japan, I was sitting at my computer about 10:30 p.m. and my flatmate "Reubs" bursts through the door and tells me he wants to make a Singapore parody of Heroes and that I need to be a part of it.
I was a litle hesitant, but after about five minutes of persuasion I agreed. The catch was that I had to learn to dance and dress like a homeless man. I eventually lowered my standards and agreed to the part.
I knew that Reubs made some good stuff in the past. He 24 parody that he made last year cracked me up.
Reubs took about two weeks to produce the thing, but the finished product is complete.
Here it is in two parts:
Saturday, April 28, 2007
I shouldn't be sad, but I am. Roy Weece passed away last Saturday. He was one of the most dedicated and successful minsters of the gospel that I have ever met. In addition to founding the Christian Campus House, the campus ministry organization that I met him through, he also would do weekly outreaches to Columbia nursing homes and the women's prison in Vandalia, Missouri. He would show love and share the gospel with nearly everyone he met, no matter what their status. The Christian Campus House was the only campus ministry that I knew that would help a homeless man or a poor mother if they came to them requesting help. (One of the reasons that I became disenfranchised with my first campus ministry is because they would pretty much throw folks like that back on the street.)
During Bible study small group, Roy had a never ending array of stories to tell. He would tell stories about preaching in Communist Russia and Romania, he told about the time he tried to share the gospel with George Brett, he would tell about the good times at Ozark Christian College; he would talk about one of his earliest jobs preaching in Eldon, Missouri, his experiences helping missionaries in Latin America, and he loved to talk about his wife and four children. Even after working at a Christian school for two years, he's the only person I've ever met who has all of his children working in the ministry.
Even after I graduated from MU, Roy and I would exchange letters about once a year. He always had some encouragement to give or words of advice to share.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Five years ago when I was student teaching, something kind of scary happened. A student, one who had a reputation for acting out and making threats, left his notebook behind. I thumbed through it and flipped the pages just to make sure that it belonged to the student that I assumed it did.
Sadly, when I turned the pages my thumb happened to stop on a page that had the phrase "Hit List" scribbled on the top of the page. There was a crude sketch of a bullet flying out of a gun. Underneath the heading was a list of people, some celebrities and some junior high students. My next course of action was to show it to the school administration. That student was then taken away "somewhere" and nobody saw him for the rest of the year.
Most teachers that knew about the incident didn't comment on my actions or the fate of the student. However, one teacher who was kind of sad to see the student go came up to me and asked, "Did you really have to flip through the notebook."
At the time, I didn't really know what to say. I had been working in schools for about six months, and I still wasn't quite sure about proper procedures and protocols. I've always had a lingering doubt that I should have respected the student's privacy and given him a little more autonomy. However, after reading about the massacre at Virginia Tech, I now have no regret.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Monday, April 16, 2007
The opposition party (Singapore Democratic Party) invited some European government officials to speak at an event about the state of democracy in Asia. Apparently the reigning power (the People's Action Party) took some action and wouldn't allow them to speak.
I did read on one blog that the Singapore Democractic Party might have been pressuring them to speak on a recent government pay raise, something even the Europeans didn't really want to discuss. However, that is beside the point. Singapore's attitude toward foreigners, even well qualified top level government officials is "Singapore's politics are reserved for Singaporeans." The world would be in a sad state, much worse than it is, if every government acted with this mentality.
I guess you could say that the MP's were muzzled by the Merlion.
Europe MPs 'gagged' by Singapore
Friday, April 13, 2007
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Friday, April 06, 2007
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
These Apple spoof ads are pretty funny and poignant, but it is too bad that they are based on the premise that there is some kind of legitimate distinction between a "Christ-follower" and a "Christian." I think they are produced by some Community of Christ Church.
Monday, April 02, 2007
One of my old high school classmates who is working in Latin America for an activist group sent me this interesting analysis of trade laws that compares and contrasts the policies of Latin America with those of East Asia.
This samurai castle is called Hiroshima-Jo.
This is a Hiroshima food called okonomiyaki. The amalgamation of fried foods is one of Japan's only fatty foods. It consists of a layers of egg, noodles, pork, special sauce, cabbage, and vegetables fried into a giant delicious omelet.
This is a plate of raw blowfish. The Japanese call this fugu. I ordered it as part of an all blowfish set meal that included fried blowfish, hotpot blowfish, and blowfish salad. The thrill of eating this is that the inside of the fish contains a poison called tetrodotoxin, and if the fish is not prepared properly the person eating it can die. Thankfully, I did not die.
Here is a plate of raw fish and rice that I ordered. I don't remember everything that I ate, but I know that this dish contains minced tuna fish belly, salmon, and squid.
I took this picture for Mom. It is a picture of a Japanese Wendy's.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
I woke up and rode the Shinkansen down to Hiroshima. Things were getting much smoother because I was remembering my high school classes and recalling the words that I needed to communicate in Japanese.
I booked a room at the Aster Plaza International Youth House. This is part of two floors of accommodations located above a concert hall. The room was perfect and the room was extremely affordable.
During my first day in Hiroshima I went to the Peace Park and the Atomic Bomb Museum. I won't try to summarize the experience, but I'll save it for a longer essay that will be written and posted some other time. The lesson that resonates with me from seeing the memorials, museum, and preserved destruction is how inhuman and cruel it is to have a device that could, even accidentally, raze an entire city in under a minute. Imagine the sadness that passes by you when you see a bad traffic accident. Multiple this sadness by 100,000 and it is how tragic it is to view the sites in Hiroshima.
Back at Aster Plaza, I spent the evening talking with a spunky and beautiful Australian exchange student named Meredith. She studies law and Asian studies and it was her third time in Japan. She told me all about Australia's government, the aesthetics of Japanese game shows, her experiences learning Japanese, dealing with being away from your family and loved ones, and the differences between life in Japan and life in Australia.
For dinner that night I ate a delicious bowl of Udon and discovered a very good brand of Japanese gummy candy.
Before bed I watched some American TV. It was an episode of Inside the Actor's Studio and Jane Fonda was being interviewed. She talked about how much she regretted posing with Vietnamese soldiers and how she became a Christian after being meeting some Eastern Europeans.
In Kyoto I woke up and wanted to do as much sightseeing as possible. Unfortunately, it was raining so I had to spend the first hour of the morning walking around a shopping arcade located close to the hotel.
After the sky finally cleared up I walked to see the ground of the Kyoto Imperial Palace. I didn't go inside the actual palace, but there are shrines and trees all around. It was prime season for the peach and cherry blossoms so I was able to see flowers all around.
After walking around the grounds of the imperial palace, I went to Ninjo castle. Inside it was pretty simple, buy the outside exterior is surrounded by a moat and two layers of walls. Inside they have restored some of the furniture and you can see some of the murals that were painted on the silk walls. The most memorable part was the mockingbird floor around the chamber of the castle. It was intentionally designed to squeak in order to alert the samurai that lived there of intruders.
That night I had my first and only encounter with the traditional Japanese bath. After telling the people at the hotel reception desk "onsen e ikitai. doko desu ka?" They kindly gave me a map pointing out a place close to the hotel.
Going to the hot bath was one of the most awkward experiences of my life. No matter how much you've read about it, you probably aren't prepared for the experience without someone to tell you what to do. First, you are expected to bathe naked. Second, you are expected to shower before you bath. The showers in the bath are about knee high and they give you buckets of water to pour over yourself. Not being used to showing before a bath, I did this out of politeness and ritual. After that I got in the boiling hot bath.
As I sat there letting my muscles melt and my blood pressure drop, I saw a few other guys and realized what I should have done. The correct procedure is to actually sit on the ground underneath the little showers and scrub your body until you've used an entire hotel sized bar of soap cleaning your body. The whole scheme seems like a good way to get athlete's foot on your oshirii, but I guess it has worked for the Japanese for centuries.
Anyway, I didn't embarrass myself in front of too many people, because I only lasted fifteen minutes in the hot bath. To top off the chicken and noodle dish that I had eaten earlier that day, I stopped off at the Mr. Doughnut across from the hot bath.
That night in my hotel room I watched some eerie Japanese ghost stories on television. One was about a man who was accused of murder after a ghost came to his apartment and murdered a woman every night. He was eventually committed to an insane asylum and the murderer came back and killed him and some of the people in the asylum. Man, I though CSI was violent and weird. After the ghost stories there was a program that had two female Japanese celebrities wearing jumpsuits in a boxing ring. They shouted insults at one another and every time it looked like they were actually going to fight, the referee made them participate in a comedic relay race.
During my third day in Japan, I woke up and made my way to Tokyo station. The previous day I had purchased tickets for a Shinkansen ride to Kyoto. I was able to buy tickets without any problem. There is an electronic system that is even in English.
The shinkansen (bullet train) is the most incredible form of transportation. It goes super fast and the seats are comfortable. The only downside is that I did get a smoking car on my way to Kyoto. However, this wasn't entirely bad. Knowing that this sort of thing would be totally banned in America, in an odd sort of way I kind of appreciated the experience.
When I arrived in Kyoto I was a disappointed because the first four hotels that I walked to were all booked. The people on the street were all very helpful when I asked my simple request of "Hoteru wa doko desu ka?" I went to all of the budget hotels near the station listed in the Lonely Planet book. I was about to blow my cool and get frustrated, but I decided to go back to tourist services at the train station. They were able to book an inexpensive a classy place right in the middle of downtown Kyoto called the Sun Hotel.
I rode Kyoto's subway line to the city hall, a location near my hotel. I checked into the hotel then went out to walk around a little bit. The whole city is littered with ancient temples and shrines of varying significance. After growing up in America where almost nothing is over 100 years old and living in Singapore where almost nothing is over 50 years old, it overwhelmed the mind to see so many 600 and 700 year old buildings and structures.
That night I spent a little bit of money and bought a big bowl of rice topped with six different types of raw fish. For dinner I went into a bakery and had something called a tapioca bun. This is one of the most delicious pastries in the world. I'm told that it is a standard type of food in Japan.
I woke up about 9 A.M. and headed out to see the sights with my Lonely Planet book in hand.
I had a souvenir that I needed to buy for a churchmate so I went down to Ueno to get it before I forgot about it or ran out of money. It was a little stuffed character named U-Chan that looked like a bug with two maracas coming out of his head. I found it in a toy store across from Ueno Eki. I marveled at all of the cute little stuffed animals and toys in this six story shop. There was one floor devoted to imported toys from the U.S. I thought seriously about buying a Japanese only Darth Maul bobble head to take back to some Springfield friends, but I wasn't sure they'd appreciate the twenty plus dollars that I would have to spend on the trinket.
After this, I wandered around some Japanese streets and back alleys. I passed a girl standing on a pedestal dressed in a blue dress as an anime character touting some type of pachinko.
For lunch I wandered into a Japanese fastfood place and ate a big bowl of rice, beef, and onions. In order to buy the food, you didn't speak to a cashier. You purchased a ticket from a vending machine and handed it to the chef. I was thankful that I knew enough Chinese characters to tell the difference between fish, chicken, and beef.
After lunch I walked over to Ueno park. It was a dreary day, but I was able to pass university students having a picnic and eating under the just bloomed cherry blossom trees. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Museum are located in the area, but unfortunately it was Sunday and they had early closing times.
On the way out of the park I passed some crazy Japanese antics. There was a group of guys and a few girls dressed up in poodle skirts and black leather jackets. They were drinking beer and doing crazy dances in the park. It looked like a scene from an Asiatic version of Grease.
That night I rode the train down to Roppongi. On the subway I struck up a conversation with a black guy that I suspected was an American. Unfortunately, my suspicions were wrong. He was really an African who was working as a tout for a gentleman's club. While we were still riding the train I let my curiosity get the best of me and I pumped him for information about the Japanese underworld. After we got to Roppongi, I ended my conversation with him. Much later that evening, I saw him again while he was still out touting. I was able to tell him that I was a Christian and that my convictions prevented my from engaging in any of the activities he offered. He just smiled at me.
In Roppongi I looked at all of the clubs and found it surprising to find a salsa club in Japan. Who would think that the Japanese would be into Cuban style salsa dancing? While in Roppongi, I also walked in a Pachinko parlour and had my first and only experience with that type of gaming. It was loud and chaotic. Pachinko is a mindless game where people shoot little tiny balls into a pinball machine. The whole place had the ambiance of a Showbiz pizza game room for adults. If they strike it big, people can turn the balls in for gift certificates, cigarettes, more tiny little balls, and other assorted memorabilia.
That night, I made it back to Asakusa and checked out a comic book rental shop that is run by Namco and located above a Denny's. It is a place where people can pay 200 Yen to read comic books, eat snacks, and smoke cigarettes. If you pay more you can surf the internet, sit in massage chairs or watch DVDs. The Japanese love comic books and their love seems to be a national obsession everywhere you look on trains, public areas, and restaurants are young and old people alike reading comic books.
I concluded my day with a trip to Mr. Doughnut.
Hey Folks! I have safely returned from a wonderful journey to Japan. Here is a rundown of everything that I did.
Arrived in Japan about two in the afternoon. I was initially confused by the complicated train schedule, but was able to speak broken Japanese in order to find out that my subway schedule was a little out of date. I eventually made my way to Asakusa and found the Sakura Youth Hostel, the place that I would sleep for the next two nights.
That night I found a nice little soba shop caddy-corner from the Mr. Doughnut in Asakausa. It is located at the start of a narrow alleyway. The little shop was run by an old man and woman and there were only three other people eating. I ordered by saying "Soba tempura onegaishimasu." The batter on the tempura was crispy without being greasy. On the way out I thanked the shop owner with my first "Arigatoo gozaimasu" and left after saying "Oishii desu!"
Back at the hostel, other travelers were quietly sipping coffee, looking at the internet, or watching TV. The TV in the lounge had some NHK program with two Japanese women boxing one another. Occassionaly Kanji characters would flash across the screen and the fighters would scream taunts at each other. There were two or three men in the ring judging the fight. They were laughing and seemed to find the ladies' antics hilarious.
I shared a room with three other guys. Two of them were American and one was a Russian. Outside of the windows was a hokey Japanese carnival designed for little children. The lack of sleep from the previous night, the travel, and the new surroundings made me so exhausted that I slept though the night without waking.