Monday, November 30, 2009

Missions Interview
I was recently interviewed about being a missionary by my brother for his blog. Read the interview here:
Part 1
Part 2

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Raising Bilingual Children
Should we be speaking only English to our kids? Should we be speaking both languages? Should Maki only use Japanese and I only use English? There are a variety of answers that people will give you to these questions. We want our kids to be bilingual (able to function well whether they choose to live in Japan or America in the future), but we realize that this is not an easy task! Most of the kids that go to the bilingual school where I teach will not become fully bilingual, even verbally. Many of the students from homes where two languages are spoken do not become bilingual either. As you can see, this is topic of interest, and sometimes one of stress to us and others around us!

Maki and I have talked a lot about this, but we have decided that I should speak only English in the home (when the kids are around), and that Maki should try to use English as much as possible. Since the kids are surrounded by Japanese people in Japan and have a Japanese mom, they will most surely learn Japanese. The bigger thing is that they get enough exposure to English. Some people think that it would confuse a child to hear two languages being spoken all the time, but we have not found that to be the case. It seems Noah sees Japanese as more important, and so he chooses to speak this language more often, but when we have people at our house that only speak English, he is quick to speak only English to them. At the age of two he already realizes that there is a distinct difference between the two languages (even in the written characters, for example, he will ask me to read English books and ask Maki to read Japanese books) and can decipher when to use what language when.

It seems that we are on the right track for now. As Maki always says, (and I agree with her!), kids are like little sponges. The main thing is that they feel positive about using both languages at this point. If they feel forced to use English, for example, it may cause them to dislike it such that they don't want to speak it at all. However, if they have a good feeling about the language, and can see that is important to use, and have enough meaningful contact in that language, I don't think we will have anything to worry about twenty years from now. But it just may take that long!

If you'd like to read more about this from a more informed person (!) read this very good article on the topic from the Linguistic Society of America.
Creation vs. Evolution
I thought this was a pretty good debate.
Natural Selection - part 2
Evolution Exposed: Biology
Roger Patterson writes:
"The natural selection that produces the variety of living things (within kinds) that we see today began after Adam rebelled against God. The concept of natural selection was published in a Biblical context by Edward Blyth 24 years before Darwin published Origin of Species. Blyth is forgotten and Darwin is remembered because of the philosophic and religious implications of his idea, not the scientific applications."

So do living organism change?
"Change, yes; evolution (macroevolution - change from one kind to another), no."

Read the whole book online, with helpful illustrations here. I especially recommend reading this for high school or college students in a biology class.

Read my first post here. (What Scientists Know about Natural Selection)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What are you giving thanks for this week?

From Steve Rohrer, our principal at the school I work at:

I am thankful for:
"Learning at school. This past week I was heavily involved in taking care of a discipline problem at school. And as I sat talking with one of the main instigators, I was learning. Students often try to hide what they have done or blame others, but I had talked to so many kids, I knew very well what had happened. So I told this student, "I know what you have done, but I want to give you the chance to be honest about it, because only when you are honest about it can you be forgiven and be free from it. Don't you see? I'm not against you, I'm for you! I'm not eager to punish you, I want to help you grow to become the kind of person you should be. I know what you've done, and I hate that kind of behavior and cannot allow it at this school, but I still love you." And as I sat there, I realized I was learning in a very experiential way about the wonderful love of God. Like my students, we all try to hide our sins or blame them on others, but God knows them all. And He just wants us to come and confess to Him that we have blown it, we've gone the wrong way. And when we do, He says He will forgive us and cleanse our hearts. He is not out to get us. Even though He knows our every thought, word and deed and hates our sin, He still LOVES US. And when He disciplines us, He is doing it for our good, to help us become the people He made us to be. By God's grace, this week I understood and felt something of what God feels as He looks at us. I understood a little more fully God's amazing love. And thanks to the Holy Spirit producing His fruit of love in me, I think my students understood God's love more too. Praise the Lord!"

What are you thankful for? I encourage you to leave a comment.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I am excited about this new Sherwood Pictures movie (from the creators of Fireproof and Facing the Giants) coming out in 2011. The plot seems to be about men taking the courage to take the lead of love as fathers in the home.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pursue joy?

Should missionaries and pastors and... well, just regular Christians pursue joy?

"At least twice, the apostle Paul sums up the goal of his ministry in the joy of his people. First, to the Corinthians:

"Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy." (2 Corinthians 1:24)

Second, to the Philippians:

I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith." (Philippians 1:25)

The pastoral implications of being "workers for your joy" are huge. I am still trying to figure them out and work them out after 30 years at this church." - John Piper

I personally am excited to hear the messages from this conference.

Check out this resource as well.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

愛の決心 Loving Decisions Adoption Agency
In light of the bad news lately, I wanted to focus on this piece of good news.
May God continue to shine his light of love and the spirit of adoption in Japan.

AI NO KESSHIN from Azod Abedikichi on Vimeo.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Elements that Construct Japanese Culture

Japanese Spirit is characterized by eleven elements:

Yuugen 幽玄 The Subtle and Profound - things unsaid is understood in a suggestive way.

Wabi.Sabi わび.さび Subtle Taste, Elegant Simplicity - quiet, clear and calmness, free from worldly concerns and annoying human relations, expressed in Sado茶道and Haiku俳句.

Mujou 無常 Transiency - a Buddhism worldview of everything is under constant change.

Ma 間 Interval in Time or Space - an empty space that leave suggestable notions and individual interpretation, expressed in Noh 能and Kabuki歌舞伎

On 恩 Debt of Gratitude - social and psychological obligation taken on with favors received from others.

Giri 義理 Moral Obligation -principle of human relations that advocates returning debts of gratitude received from others.

Ninjou 人情 Human Feelings - spontaneous expression of feeling toward others: love, sympathy, compassion, and friendship. Together with Giri, both were the two key elements, traditionally applied to human relations among the common people in Japan.

Haji 恥 Shame - putting importance on an external feeling of shame.

Nemawashi 根回し Prior Consulation - gaining consent from everyone in advance before making a decision to avoid confusion.

Honne to Tatemae 本音と建前 Honest Feelings and Official Stance - to express an official stance which is different from one's honest feeling is a result of seeking a sense of harmony and togetherness instead of self-expression.

Wa 和 Harmony - Japanese feel that wa is more important than self-assertion, argument or confrontation.

Many of these attitudes which had once dominated the characters of Japanese people are not well understood or accepted by western people, or in the world community, and it has been gradually changing as Japan internationalizes.

Reference: Yoichi Sugiura and John K. Gillespie (2004). A Bilingual Handbook of Japanese Culture. Tokyo: Natsume

(Ht: Heart4Japan)

Slandering of Christians in Japan

Just before President Obama arrived in Japan last week, The Secretary General of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan in a series of remarks slandered Christianity and Western Civilization.

Speaking at Koyacho to an audience from the Japan Buddhist Federation said `Christianity is exclusive and self-righteous"

Commenting on Islam he said `It is exclusive too like Christianity too, but Christianity is worse.`

He carried his comments further saying `Western society because it is based on Christianity is dead as well`

Ozawa, the head of the Democratic Party which won recent elections made the comments to reporters following his talk to the Federation.

As the head of the party, Ozawa is seen as the real power in Japan and experts are shocked to have an international leader of his stature speak derisively of Christianity as well as Western Civilization.

Ironically, Koyachi, the place where the conference was held is according to officials there formerly the site of a Christian Monastery from the 8th century.
Further the Democratic Party of Japan according to reports received financial support from the mother of Prime Minister Hatoyama who is a well known Christian and has the largest number of Christian believers of any Japanese party.

The previous Prime Minister, Taro Aso was a Christian believer as is the current Empress Michiko of Japan.

Christian in Japan are particulary upset as Japan has the noteriority of having the longest persecution of Christians in history with a nearly 250 year period known as the `Japanese Holocaust` in which up to one million `kirishitan` or indigenous Christians were martyred.

Please send a message to The Democratic Party headquarters is or call 011 81 3 3595 9988

Please send a message to the Prime Ministers Office is at or or call 011 81 3 5253 2111

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What Scientists Know about Natural Selection
1. Natural selection can only operate on information that already exists in the gene pool.

2. Mutations do not add any new information to the gene pool.

3. Over time, mutations and natural selection lead to a loss of genetic information. "Not even one mutation has been observed that adds a little information to the genome." - Dr. Lee Spetner (John Hopkins University)

4. There are no natural mechanisms by which new information can be added into the gene pool. (ie. For a reptile to change into a bird, vast amounts of new information would have to be introduced.)

5. Natural selection and mutations lead to physical diversity within the gene pool, not increased genetic information. "Any real evolution (macroevolution) requires an expansion of the gene pool, the addition of new genes and new traits as life." - Dr. Gary Parker

6. All we have ever observed is variation within one kind of animal. Science has never observed a change from one kind to another kind. (Missing links are still missing.)

Darwin was correct about natural selection in one sense. We do observe small changes within the respective gene pools of all living things. However, now that we understand more about genetics and biochemistry, we know the process of natural selection and mutation can never form new kinds of animals and plants.

EXTRA: Watch Richard Dawkins, the leading evolutionist in the world, squirm at this truth that he knows blasts all of his beliefs to shreds. He never does provide an answer to the question.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Please Pray

Please pray for a good friend of ours who is seriously considering aborting her baby next Monday. She is not married and still very young. To stay completely confidential, as she has asked us to be, we request that you not ask for further details. Please do pray, however! This is really breaking our hearts.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Reflections on Loss

Loss, pain, weakness, you and I can both think of a hundred other words to describe the daily negative events around us. Amidst the amazing wonder and beauty and greatness God has designed, the sin of Adam (as well as our own sin) still affects us all daily in real ways. Not everything is beautiful anymore. Not everything is lovely or admirable. Not everything goes your way.

My conclusion?
Our souls love and desire flawless perfection... and it is only found in one place. God in Jesus Christ. He has become our flawless perfection and will be that for us forever. What a hope we have! No matter how down and out you are, He is always there for you and me.

Friday, November 06, 2009

We all need friends like this
Only an hour earlier this scene was unimaginable. Only an hour earlier Hawkeyes junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi sat alone on the sideline, his head down.

Iowa trailed
by 10 points as the third quarter wound down, and Stanzi’s stat line read: 10 of 23, 160 yards, five interceptions.

During the TV timeout Iowa punter Ryan Donahue walked over to his quarterback, leaned down and said, “Ready for the greatest quarter of your life?”

Stanzi, who with four picks had just experienced the worst quarter of his life, looked up and replied, “Absolutely.”

And of course that is exactly what Stanzi went on to do. I hope to be a friend like that. I know that I need friends like this.

For the entire “Good And Lucky” piece on Sports Illustrated’s Web site, click here.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Fall Family Fun

Noah and Taka on the hot-rod trikey!
A week and a half ago we went to stay with some friends and they took us to a national park.

This is the teahouse we visited there. We came to find out that our server during the tea ceremony was a Christian, or at least very passionate to tell about the Christian roots of the Japanese tea ceremony. Praise God!

This is a replica of an actual teahouse at the time Christianity was banned in Japan. For over 300 years many Christians hid their beliefs and held the Lord's Supper through the tea ceremony. The roofs were built to notice any Ninja that might creep on top to listen in. There were also many windows to spot anyone coming.

The door was always small and low so that everyone would have to humble themselves to enter the "narrow gate". (Matthew 7:13-14) Samurais would also have to take off their swords and enter peacefully. Everyone was at the same level. (As we all are before a holy God.)
What a beautiful fall day!

Our two friends, Yuka and Ga-chan

The Japanese Momiji (Maple) is always a brilliant red this time of year. Thank you, God!
(Be sure to check out the video of the boys at Maki's facebook page! Very cute, I must say... even though I am very biased.)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Mark in Kindergarten!
Can you find me?
(HT: Julie Green)

Crazy Good

Life is like this sometimes, isn't it? Can't wait for the great finish!

I Love to Worship in Japanese
I love to worship. Of course I love to worship because I love God and I love to express that love. But I have noticed also that I love to worship because I love to join others in expressing our unified hearts to God. It is a special joy to hear the praises and join in the praises and worship of fellow Japanese brothers and sisters. I am thankful for all of these precious brothers and sisters whom God is working in and among.

Here is an example of Sunday worship at our Ikoma Chapel.