December 30, 2008

New Year Reflection

Besides waiting 'till midnight to grab someone to kiss, or wondering what 'Ole Ang Syne' means, here's something that can add meaning to our New Year commemoration. I found a good short article on the “Activated' site that suggests that you personally, or with your family or friends, take some time to reflect on the past year and to look ahead to the new. A bit of an expansion on the idea of New Year's resolutions-- presented in a clear, 'how-to-do-it' way:

New Year Reflection-- A spiritual exercise

I already shared a bit about my own family's yearly candlelight ceremony last year. This little tradition has become an important part of my life. Making it 'official' makes it a bit more sure that I'll take the time to fulfil my well-meaning desire to get some perspective on where my life has gone and is going.

I hope you have a great start on a wonderful -- Happy New Year!

October 31, 2008

'The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley'*

I spotted this Kinko tree earlier this week from the train, so I went yesterday to find it and get a few shots. One of over 1000 shots I have to get posted... more on the delay below.

I'm at the end of a month in which I had plans to post so many articles...

Look out, here come the excuses!

...pick one:

1.I moved from Windows to Linux
2.Sharon and Andrew extended their August Tokyo visit, leaving me to fend for myself
3.Sharon stayed in Tokyo to help Naomi and I packed and send all their things
4.I turned over all my classes and prepared to move to Tokyo

Did you pick one? Good! You're right! They're all true.

(I've saved excuses 5 to 5,793 for a future post)

We've been up in the air over this move for some time, (that's why my arms are so tired) but when it finally became clear, things have moved so fast that I haven't had time for much else-- Sorry! I'm writing now, because thought I'd better let you know before I'm in Tokyo. I'm, in fact, traveling this weekend to make final arrangements for housing.

Why move?

Well, as you perhaps know, we moved to this beautiful mountain city two years ago, in large part to take the place of a family on their missionary way to Africa. Well, as the line from the Scots poem that's my title says, in English, 'The best-laid plans of mice and men / often go awry'-- And the couple ended up being in Africa months instead of years.

That time, plus the time it took for them to initially get off and, upon returning, to know where and how to get back on, led us up to early this year, when we, ourselves, began to see the need to move-- or, more clearly, the lack of need for us to stay. We already knew of situations where we could be more useful, but it took us until now to orchestrate the various ingredients-- kids schooling, work and ministry responsibilities etc.

As I said, when the pieces did begin to fall in place over the summer, the pace quickened and thus, I'm letting you know now, almost as I'm flying out the door.

We are very excited about our move. The Tokyo Metropolitan area contains more than a quarter of Japan's population and is exciting and challenging-- lots of people, lots of activity and unlimited opportunity-- for us this means potentially a greater part in helping to reach out to others for Jesus. I'm looking forward to doing a lot more teaching of Bible courses and Seminars, more writing and performing, as we did in Fukuoka.

I have a large backlog of posts to be polish and published, but it may be a couple weeks before I can get back into a regular rhythm of posting-- photos too . I hope no one has been holding their breath for the photos I promised to post on line and link to- sorry.

And please write, I always answer my e-mail.

Note: *This post's title is from To A Mouse a Scots poem by Robert Burns (1759-1796)

September 05, 2008

Another Set of Tokyo Photos Posted on Picasa-- Ueno Science and Natural History Museum

Andrew saw a huge sculpture of a whale on our trip to the zoo-- and, of course, he couldn't resist asking... and, since our departure was delayed, the science and natural history museum was next on our agenda.

We'd planned to hitchhike and visit friends for ten days or so-- traveling in a large loop around Honshu Island. However, each phone call seemed to bring another change of plans for those we planned to visit-- and thus for us.

We ended up spending the entire time in Tokyo-- But no complaints, there was lots to explore, people to meet and plenty to do.

You can find the photos here:

September 03, 2008

Tokyo Ueno Zoo

Andrew was determined to see the zoo-- the one place he'd really wanted to see last year when we did a walking tour of Tokyo on the hottest day in recorded Japanese history.

The Zoo is in the large Ueno Central Park-- full of not only trees and fountains, but also home to performing arts centers, art museums, a science and natural history museum and more. The photo at left-- part of a set found here-- shows the National Museum, a fountain and a homeless man-- of which there are many in the park.

I love zoos-- and this was one of the most pleasant I've been to-- surprisingly spacious for the center of Tokyo and uncrowded, in spite of it being a holiday. There were lots of trees, pleasant enclosures for the animals and.... oh, don't feed the gorillas.

I've posted a set of thirteen zoo photos on Picasa.

August 22, 2008

Japanese Serow – Prefectural Animal of Nagano

To avoid the mid-day heat last month, I explored a trail that runs along a ridge at the base of the highlands above Chino, Nagano. The level trail is cut into the steep rocky slope just a dozen or so meters above the roads and houses, shaded by a heavy, mixed forest, with frequent spaces providing nice views of the valley and the Yatsugatake mountain range beyond.

Last Monday, having just arrived from Tokyo and needing to walk from the train station about thirty minutes to where I teach, I decided to take the trail again-- my third time. To my surprise, I came upon what at first I thought to be a deer-- but it was black. I then noted its terrier-like bearded head and small spike-like horns-- a mountain goat!

I took about ten photos-- none very good, sad to say, as I wasn't very close. It curiously watched me the whole time, even enduring when I unwittingly and repeatedly used the flash (it was heavily shaded where we stood). I later learned that such a sighting is quite rare, especially so close to the city. Locals even suggested I contact the local newspaper.

It looked very healthy and strong-- and moved powerfully and gracefully up the hill when I tried to get a bit closer. It looked a lot stronger and more powerful than the photos and descriptions I have found on line. The site that I felt gave the best description is here.

August 21, 2008

Tokyo 'Net Rooms' Offer Help

This is my letter to the editor regarding 'Behind the News: Is communal living the key to a happy society? 19 August 2008

[note: I had to remove the link to this article, as after a few days the paper's articles are archived, and require a fee-- sorry. Lesson learned. Next time I will at least summarize what what in the article. If you do need to find it for any reason, go to: It's a 525yen monthly fee.]

Dear Editor: During my recent trip to Tokyo, I was amazed at the intensity of the city-- while at the same time noticed those who stuggle at the fringes of this massive 'machine'.

I wish the Tokyo 'net rooms' and related projects success in helping those who find themselves outside the limited graces of our increasingly cold self-seeking society. Sadly, we rarely notice those who have fallen 'off the grid' into isolation, destitution, desperation and despair-- except briefly when some turn to crime, suicide or random acts of violence.

We all benefit from our connections to our families, friends, co-workers, neighbors and fellow citizens-- nationally and internationally. However, 'intentional communities'-- a broader term of which the article's mention of communes is part-- increase our interdependence. They increase the power of 'us' when so much energy is being channeled into 'me'.

More than an aid for those who are desperate and have nothing, cooperative living is also an option for those who have everything and want more. Having experienced living in Christian communities in nine countries for nearly forty years, I see cooperative living as a powerful, beneficial, caring, loving alternative for our world-- as opposed to the 'New World Order' of selfish dog-eat-dog materialistic aggression and its ultimate fulfillment in war.

Where are more entrepreneurs of love?-- the World needs you!

Bruce, Nagano

August 08, 2008

Tokyo Ueno Zoo

Andrew was determined to see the zoo-- the one place he'd really wanted to see last last year when we did a walking tour of Tokyo on the hottest day in recorded Japanese history.
Ueno Zoo is in the large Ueno Central Park-- full of not only trees and fountains, but also home to the National Art Museum, performing arts centers, various other art museums and a science and natural history museum. Photo at left in part of a set found here-- the National Museum, a fountain and a home-less man-- of which there are many.
I love zoos-- and this was of the most pleasant I've been to-- surprisingly spacious for the center of Tokyo and uncrowded, in spite of it being a holiday. There were lots of trees, pleasant enclosures for the animals and.... oh, don't feed the gorillas.
I've posted a set of thirteen zoo photos on Picasa.

August 07, 2008

Out and About

Well, Andrew and I are off for another summer holiday adventure. We always meet lots of interesting people and they often visit this site, so... HELLO! Welcome.

To see how we will be traveling, check this post from last year:

Holiday Hitching Japanese Style

We'll post our adventure's story and some photos in about ten days.

August 01, 2008

An Ode to My Phone-Camera-- and Moving On

For several years, nearly all my photos have been taken with the nice 3.2 megapixel camera in my Sharp cell phone. Given good light, a steady hand and an immobile subject, I was able to get some good results and move them to my computer via the flash memory card.

Here is what I learned from using this camera:

If you always have your camera with you and easily accessible, you'll get lots of shots.

The more photos that you take, the more likely you are to get something special.

Holding the camera with two hands and resting on something solid makes clearer pics.

Here is an article that incorporates much of what I learned:

A Dozen Ways to Take Better Camera-Phone Pictures

However, for low light and action situations I wanted something more than its tiny lens, so a few months ago I began to research to see what I needed and how to get the best 'bang for my buck'.

... see my search in part two: DSLR or a Digicam?

DSLR or a Digicam?

I'd seen digital SLR camera prices tumble since I first looked at them. However, I questioned if, in the course of my day, I would walk around with such a large camera. Was I ready to become Mr. Photog?-- Or would I end up with the camera buried in my bag or, worse, left at home?

Price was my main determiner. I could only afford to get one camera, so I needed one that would serve my purposes-- not necessarily my every desire for a 'super' camera, but one that would capture what I wanted to save or share of my life-- a 'story-telling' camera.

I found two articles that I feel are especially well-written intros to digital cameras. The first calls getting an SLR-- with through the lens viewing and a much larger sensor to capture the image-- a 'no-brainer'-- unless portability is an issue: Snappy Reflexes

And a second, more in depth article-- with the author's

Quick Points for Readers in a Hurry

Here are some links to my 'products' taken with my cellphone's camera:

100 Pics on Picasa

A Few Fotos on Flickr

next, part three: I Finally Decide

I Finally Decide and Get a Canon PowerShot

While I looked long and hard at finding a used Nikon D40, Canon Rebel EOS XT, or Pentex K100D, my need for portability and adaptability-- a camera that I would always have with me and one that would also take videos-- tipped the balance in favor of a non-DSLR for me-- for now.

So I started looking for something with as many as possible of the following attributes:

lots of settings, including full manual
standard SD memory card
AA batteries
at least a 5 mega-pixel chip

Apparently, the image quality the chips delivered had leveled off at about 5 MP, with not much difference in further tweaks the manufactures had done to get 6 or more mega pixels of information on them.

I finally decided that the Canon PowerShot A-series met all my conditions, and I set out to a large electronics store to see a A-570is that was on sale-- then to the second-hand section of a large camera shop. There I found what seemed to be a super deal on a Canon PowerShot S2is-- so cheap that I snapped it up and was out of the shop without even testing it.

But before I was home I was having second thoughts as the Canon 'S' series cameras are nearly as large as a DSLR-- then I found that the sensor was dead. I was actually relieved, both that it was guaranteed and that I wasn't stuck with something that I wasn't totally happy with.

I got my money back and instead chose a used six-megapixel PowerShot A540 at an equally good price. It was actually less, so I got a high-speed SD card, some rechargeable AA-batteries and charger and a camera case to wear on my belt-- since the PowerShot isn't really shirt-pocket size.

Next: Using My New Baby

Using My New Baby

I have been very happily snapping away with my new (used) six-megapixel PowerShot A540 for some weeks now and am satisfied with both the quality, ease of use, portability and even the videos we took of a family reunion.

Note: to see this camera's reviews and specs you can go HERE or HERE.

Something that I use much more than I expected is the bright viewfinder. It's necessary when bright sunlight washes out the LCD screen, but I use it much more often than just for that. It zooms in and out with the optical zoom, but not the digital zoom-- which I usually don't use anyway. With it, I can more easily stabilize the camera, my eye pressed to the viewfinder and two arms forming a kind of tripod.

I'm glad for the added stability, for I think I missed something that, in hindsight, I perhaps should have held out for-- image-stabilization. That little 'is' after the model number seems to make quite a bit of difference in sharpness for shots in low light or action shots-- think kids. It means I need to crank up the ISO sensitivity a bit, which adds more 'noise' to my images.

Do I still wish I had a DSLR?-- sure! But I think I'd also be using a second back-up camera to be able to catch the shots when I couldn't lug around the 'brick'. In fact, I'm still using my cell phone camera. People are often more at ease with the informality of whipping out my phone, and at other times my PowerShot is-- in my backpack-- Oh well.

I'll keep you posted on my further adventures and let you know as soon as I can upload some of my new photos.

July 05, 2008

Driving Me Crazy (or) Getting a License in Japan and Driving on the Left

After nearly three months and three attempts, I finally have a Japanese drivers license. I was told that this was fast-- let me explain.

A foreigner who had a drivers license for at least six months prior to coming to Japan can convert directly to a Japanese license. However, you must be from a country which Japan deems has a tough enough system to meet its own stringent requirements. Canadian drivers, for example, are accepted-- Americans are not.

Since I have license from the state of Nevada, I needed to take both a written and driving test. The written test was relatively simple-- ten fairly straightforward questions, although some were in rather strangely translated English. Then an eye exam, and I was asked, 'automatic or manual?' I asked for a manual transmission, because, if you test in an automatic your license will be limited to driving automatics.

I failed my first test.

If you've never driven in England, Australia or India, you'll have to focus more intently as you learn to drive on the opposite side of the road. I kept turning on the windshield wipers when I was changing lanes-- so embarrassing. Everything is the opposite, not just the side the driver is on-- the shift lever too. Thank God the clutch, brake and accelerator are the same!

Do you remember the familiar "look left, look right, look left again before you cross the road" chant from childhood? Well, in countries where the traffic drives on the left (right-hand drive) is the opposite. Twenty-five years ago, my second day in India, I was nearly flattened by a speeding bus. I looked left, then began to look right as I stepped off the curb and... WHOOSH! That got my attention!

Even after a couple years in India, I would still sometimes end up on my bicycle in the wrong lane as I pulled out of a roundabout (traffic circle). Of course it wasn't too bad in India, as everyone is used to dodging-- the rule of the road being, 'If it's bigger, it goes first-- Elephants, buses, water buffalo, cars, rickshaws, pedestrians... and, as you can see by this photo I took in 1984, there wasn't usually much space for speeding.

Back to Japan and my second test.

People told me, “Don't worry, nobody passes on the first test-- or the second-- and few on the third or fourth. They just won't let you pass.” I took this to be 'sour grapes' from people who had flunked repeatedly. However, I started to believe them when I went for my second test.

As I waited in the DMV lobby, I saw a man talking to himself as he pretended to drive the course. I struck up a conversation with this West Point graduate and former Patriot missile unit commander. He was there for his fourth attempt, and assured me that it had nothing to do with skill and everything to do with knowing the test itself.

His advice:

“You need to memorize the course and the numbered turns. The inspector will tell you, but it's better if you know what you're doing. You can't go too slow, except in the backstretch, where they expect you to speed up to 45 kph. Be respectful to the person who is giving the test and exaggerate every action, showing that you are checking that the mirrors are set correctly and keep moving your eyes from side to side and mirror to mirror while driving.”

I then failed my second test-- I pulled into a wrong lane due to not understanding the road markings-- and turned on my wipers once-- so I understood why I failed that one.

So I took this young man's advice (by the way, I still don't know if he passed) and poured over the course as much as possible, imagining myself making all the turns-- signals and all. I also watched others take the test while I referred to the course diagram. This probably explains the vivid dream I had several times the night before my third appointment. In the dream, I was driving the course with an examiner who kept telling me to use the right lever for the turn signal and excitedly instructing me which lane to turn into.

It must have been just what I needed, as I passed the third test. Only one other person I've heard of passed on their third try, but maybe I should count the dreams and say I passed on my seventh.

To summarize:

Ask for a photocopy of the course diagram before you go to take the written test and get familiar with it. You could ask for one at the same time you purchase a “rules of the road” manual in English.

If possible, watch others take the test. I suggest that you sit in a borrowed car to practice shifting with your left hand and turning on your signals with your right-- unless, of course, you've been driving with an International license (you can for your first six months) and feel you have it down.

When you take the test, be respectful, relax, go slow, two hands on the steering wheel, exaggerate your safety precautions-- moving your head and eyes.

If you fail, they won't tell you immediately. They'll announce to the entire group who passed first-- a round of applause here-- then tell each one in turn what they did wrong-- including showing you on the course map.

Stay calm. Ask the inspector to explain anything that is unclear-- a Japanese speaker could come in handy at this point. Don't forget to thank him-- He might give you your next test.

That's all-- have fun!


If it helps, you could tell yourself that you're getting a mini-course in Japanese culture-- a culture in which taking a test properly can seem more important than demonstrating that you are knowledgeable and skilled.


Driving on the left or right-- facts and myths

Japan Automobile Federation-- rules of the road, changing an overseas license to a Japanese

June 18, 2008

Tokyo Rampage-- Japan Asks 'Why?'

This week, a young man rammed a truck into pedestrians on a crowded Tokyo street, then began stabbing people, killing seven and wounding ten-- the worst of a string of five random stabbings this year, in which nine have been killed and twenty-four injured-- besides these, there was also a teenager who pushed a stranger under a train, saying he just wanted to kill someone.

Soon after this latest attack, I visited an electronics store similar to those in Akihabara, Tokyo's biggest electronics shopping district-- where the attack took place-- and also a popular destination for those obsessed with video games and animated characters.

There, as I waited at the service desk to get something repaired, my wife muttered, 'It's horrible!'-- referring to a violet video game demo playing on a large screen nearby. This game, "Metal Gear Solid 4" had its Tokyo premier canceled after the attack. The company cited customer safety. Really!

This kind of entertainment reminds me of the ancient Colosseum of Rome-- where death as a spectator sport covered their consciences with unfeeling scar tissue. To me, the possible connection between these mind-numbing, heart-hardening violent video games and these attacks seems obvious, yet I've seen and heard little reference to them.

I have tried to keep track of the opinions of the many Japanese, as they are struggling to make sense of this outbreak of random violence. Most concerns that I've heard voiced echo those heard in other developed countries in recent years, yet Japanese are even more bewildered-- since they have grown up with an extremely low rate of violent crimes.

Most blame what they see as disturbing trends in society.

High on their lists are Japan's failing families and communities. People fear that the disappearing extended family has made Japan a lonelier place, with little support for troubled youth. There is often with no one to talk to, and relationships become strained.

Next, many sense that a general 'me first' attitude has become increasingly prevalent and that morality is declining. People feel they can do anything-- there are no more restraints.

Japan's sluggish economy is a big issue. In a country where nearly everyone could previously expect to be 'middle-class', companies are converting to low-paid part-time or temporary workers, creating a growing gap between rich and poor. Frustrated, those left out of of the middle-class 'norm'—are buffeted by rising prices, taxes and disappearing work and government benefits.

Finally, they mention Japan's continued obsession with exam grades. Those who can't succeed are treated as losers and their frustration builds. They begin to hate society.

Tomohiro Kato, 25, in Internet postings made before his attack, sounded like just such a person.

"I don't have a single friend and I won't in the future. I'll be ignored because I'm ugly."
A man with hope could never understand this." "I'm lower than trash... I am hopeless,"
"What I want to do: commit murder. My dream: to monopolize the tabloid TV shows...
"I will kill people... I will crash my car and when the car becomes unusable, I will use a knife.
Good-bye, everyone!"

In the northern city where he grew up, Kato was a model elementary and middle school student. However, when he entered his province's top high school, he found himself in the bottom twenty percent of his class. Apparently discouraged, his studies suffered and he became withdrawn-- even violent at home. In a few years, Kato went from studying at a top high school to living alone as a seemingly friendless temporary worker in a factory near Tokyo.

Yes, we are living in stressful times, with 'Men's hearts failing them for fear'. For some insight on the times in which we are living, please read:

The Future Foretold: Part 2 --current world violence, famines and earthquakes forecast two millennia ago with predictions of what is yet to come.

[Bible references used: 1Timothy 4:2; Ephesians 4:17; Titus 1:15; Luke 21:26]

June 14, 2008

Major Earthquake in Northern Japan

Just to let you know-- sorry we didn't write immediately-- we didn't even feel the large earthquake that hit northern Japan. Strangely, we felt a minor jolt the day before-- perhaps not too strange, since Japan gets 20% of the world's quakes.

Here's a news link: At Least 6 Dead in Major Japanese Quake

May 04, 2008

Five Sisters and Spring Holidays

In a month when I had so much to write about, I didn't make a single post-- sorry! My excuse is simply, because of all the things happening, that I should have written about, just took so much of my time-- good excuse, eh? I don't think I'd do well as a news reporter-- I'd be fired!

The 'Five Sister' reunion was the biggest event-- with Aiko, Andi, baby Izumi and Erika staying for four weeks. For the last week, Angie and Naomi visited from Tokyo, and Izumi from Australia. Baby Izumi got to meet her namesake and was the center of attention, of course. The photos will be a later post.

Spring also sprang upon us-- after a heavy snowfall the last day of March-- bringing with it Japan's famous cherry blossom (sacura) season, with picnics under the blossoms. We also participated in an international festival and the local Children's day-- photos coming.

The nights are still cold, as we are at 1000 meters, but by Golden Week-- this week-- we're having some beautiful weather-- more photos!

Did I mention photos? Well, another big event, at least for me, was getting a new-- I mean, used-- camera, a Canon Powershot A540. I've gotten along with my cellphone or borrowed cameras for quite a few years now, so I'm very happy to have my 'story-telling' camera-- small enough to always carry with me.

There's more, but those are the highlights.

And to each one who contributed your prayers during this busy time-- a big... Thank you!

April 06, 2008

A Deluge

We're getting ready for a deluge of family members this month-- two daughters, a son-in-law and a granddaughter from Hungary, one daughter from Australia and two from Tokyo will be with us for varying times nearly all month.

Aiko, with her baby Izumi, husband Andi and sister Erica, will be coming from Hungary on Monday, then after a short visit here, they'll go to Tokyo with Sharon, then return with three more sisters in tow-- Naomi, Izumi (baby Izumi's namesake), and Angie-- for a week or so.

Clockwise from top-left:
Mom, Naomi, Angie, Izumi, Andrew, Andi, Aiko, Erica and friend, and baby Izumi.

It will be the first time that the five sisters have ever been all together at the same time, so we're really excited. I'll be posting more pics over the next weeks.

Here are some news we received from Hungary:

Our work here in Budapest, Hungary began nearly five years ago with five missionaries and their children. We grew until we were nearly thirty living and working together for Jesus with a multitude of projects-- so many people and projects that our team recently opened another center, closer to the center of Budapest, to fulfill the vision the Lord has given us for reaching the youth-- the world's future.

We will be training new missionaries, giving bible studies and conducting outreach at music festivals and universities. We are all very excited! God is already doing miracles with our NOMAD band-- including interviews on radio and television and their CD in being sold in shops throughout Hungary--- and a music video too.

March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday

Sharon and I hope you have a very special day today and have a chance to participate in one of the many meaningful traditions that celebrate Jesus' victory over death for every person.

With so many images competing to represent this special day, I thought you might enjoy this article on the history and meaning of Easter-- as well as the many ways that Easter is celebrated around the world...

Found here:

The Easter Celebration: What does it really mean?

March 14, 2008

Easter so Early!

I was surprised how early Easter Sunday is this year- March 23th in 2008- with good reason. The last time Easter was this early was in 1913 and the next time will be in 220 years- AD 2228.

The date of Easter Sunday is set by this formula:

The 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox

This approximation-- a compromise made centuries ago-- was meant to unite Christians who were celebrating Easter on various dates. However, Eastern Churches adopted a different formula-- making Easter Sunday April 27th this year. The Eastern and Western observances do fall on the same day in some years-- for example, 2010 and 2011 both fall on the same Sunday.

Does Easter come even earlier than March 23?

Well, the last one was on March 22, 1818 and the next one will be on March 22, 2285-- So, stick around!

Could you imagine what it would have been like for the disciple Thomas at the time of the first Easter? Well, here's an interesting account of what it may have been like:

or you can look over or even download a pdf file of the March Easter edition of Activated Magazine here:

March 13, 2008

White Day

No, White day, March 14th, is not a Ku Klux Klan holiday. In Japan, it follows a month after Valentine's day, when women give gifts to men, usually chocolates-- nice, huh? I really like chocolate!

However, now, on White Day, it's the men's turn. And, we have to consider the Japanese traditional saying: sanbai kaeshi 三倍返し "return triple". Ouch!

How did White Day originate?

Well, just as Valentine's day promotions of cards, flowers and chocolates popularized that holiday, apparently a 1965 candy company 'Marshmallow Day' campaign-- urging men to repay Valentine gifts with marshmallows-- has since expanded to “White Day”, with white chocolates, other candies or even jewelry or white clothing like handkerchiefs or lingerie.

photo: (c)

March 02, 2008

Nagano Skiing

We've been snow-covered continually nearly all winter-- with temperatures hovering right around freezing in the day and well below at night-- of course colder in the surrounding mountains.

And that's just were we went two weeks ago. That's Andrew in the photo. He did quite well for his first attempt.

The skiing here is world-class-- impressive and beautiful, even to a non-skier like me. My big dare of the day was to sled halfway down one of the slopes-- the fastest I've ever gone on a sled!

Photos of the resort we went to:

Kashimayari English Home Page

January 27, 2008

Intensive Study-- Intensified Experience

A few months ago I started formal Japanese studies-- a textbook, teacher and weekly classes-- after three years in Japan. This was a mistake-- not the studies, but the wait. The best way is to jump into learning a language as soon as you arrive-- as I did with Spanish and Chinese-- but I failed to do with Hindi-- during the five years I was in India-- and now, Japanese.

Trying to make up for my lack with a big push, I'm now past chapter three in my thirty-chapter Japanese textbook. I recently started carrying all my Japanese books with me everywhere to build up my muscles... well, not actually. The truth is that it's to help me to be less embarrassed when I have to face my teacher each week.

Besides avoiding humiliation, I've discovered that when I'm studying, people who would usually not speak to me, often do. On three successive train trips I've sat across from young persons on the train who asked how my studies were going and were glad to help as I struggled to read and pronounce my Japanese assignments.

An older couple joined one conversation-- first the wife, commenting in a mixture of English and Japanese-- and then her husband began making comments to her in Japanese like, 'How many of those 'ABC' things do they have in English?' 'Twenty-six', she told him. 'So few!' he responded, 'It must be difficult for them to learn ours.'

And it is! Forty-six phonetic characters duplicated in two sets-- one principal set and a second set mostly for foreign words and emphasis--like italics. There is also a third set which uses our 'ABC's to approximate the sounds of Japanese.

Besides these, there are thousands of ideographs, each one representing a word-- object, action etc. At the top of this post, the first two ideographs mean Japan, and the third, language.


And the grammar!-- If it wasn't for learning Chinese tones, I'd say for certain that Japanese was the more difficult of the two languages... but back to my conversations.

I gave the first person I met my email address on the back of a small flyer called, 'Professionals'. She seemed especially interested-- saying that she was studying to be an occupational therapist, and adding that her sister is handicapped.

I suggested that life's difficulties can help us to become kinder and more unselfish. I pointed her to the tract, which says that we all want to excel in whatever we do-- be professionals-- and, importantly, that with God's help, we can all be 'love professionals'.

I further explained, 'Kamisawa aidesu [God is Love]' and 'Anatao aiteshiteimasu [He loves you]'. I invited her to repeat a prayer, accepting God's love, forgiveness, His gift of eternal life-- and His power to be a 'love professional'-- which she did.

She then asked for my notebook and pen and wrote a few lines saying how glad she was to have met and had our conversation, and asked me to write her every day-- in Japanese-- so back to my studies! I'll keep you updated on my adventures in Japan and in Japanese-- Mata! [Later!]

January 09, 2008

Happy New Year!

Thank you-- each one who has had a part in contributing to the wonderful year we've just had. Family and friends--we are glad to have shared another year with you-- even if we're far apart, our hearts and prayers never are.

Each New Year is a tender thing, let's handle it with care.

Greet the year with praise and sing; commit our all in prayer.

Carefully seek His very best, put all our armor on.

Be prepared for every test, by seeking Him each dawn.

Set the pattern, get it right; it’s His plan to free us.

We’ll end the year with armor bright, by yielding self to Jesus.

(c) 1994

January 01, 2008

Hope and Prayer for New Year 2008

New Year Candlelight Ceremony (part 3 of 3)

It's difficult to write about my hopes for the New Year. The past is, well, past-- known. However the future is unknown-- even fearsome...

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'

And he replied, 'Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!'”

--Minnie Louise Harkins 1875-1957

Why fear then?-- Perhaps I fear failure-- Failure to reach my goals or change as I would like-- failing myself, or others... which leads to what is, perhaps my greatest hope-- for faith and strength to trust along my path...

"So if by some still small voice, He calls me to paths I do not know,
I'll answer with my hand in His, 'I'll go where You want me to go!'" -- unknown

And my prayer?-- For faithfulness-- especially as I learn to depend more on prayer-- and simplicity and a yielded heart--leaving success or failure up to the Lord-- that I might hear...

Well done, thou good and faithful servant... enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
Matthew 25:21

And the year ahead?

I want to continue writing-- for this blog and for a second that I feel will develop out of the basic classes that I teach on the Bible. I also want to continue to add to my posted photos and to graduate from my cellphone camera to a 'real' camera.

A big desire is for our long-delayed family reunions-- for Sharon's five daughters-- who haven't been all together since they were wee little ones—and, if possible, for my scattered tribe of children and grandchildren-- and other family members, most of whom I haven't seen for eight or more years.

Finally, I'm hoping for major progress in studying Japanese and for all our work here in Japan.

Lord, Give us a good year, whatever comes-- lived to the fullest for You. Guide us and give us strength to help others find the freedom and joy that we have through knowing You. In Jesus' name, amen.

And thank you for your help-- and especially your faithful love and prayers!

Have a wonderful New Year!

Here's an interesting article called-- Climbing the New Year-- by Curtis Peter Van Gorder