About Me

My photo
I’m from New York but my driver’s license lists that my address is Ohio. My passport has a number of stamps in it. I’m the youngest of six, yet oldest son. I have a number after my initials, but not my name. I like music. I drink coffee at all times of the day. I am a follower of Jesus. I own my own business. I watch bonus features on DVD’s. For four months each year my wife and I are the same age. “I pledge allegiance to a country without borders, without politicians.” I am an ordained pastor. I’ve eaten raw horse meat. I’m fifteen inches taller than my wife, but I look up to her. I still prefer buying CDs to downloading music. I’m a night owl, who doesn’t mind getting up early. I like to shop, and my wife doesn’t. I like to play games. I moved to another country nine days after my wedding. I sometimes quote random lyrics. I believe in miracles. I prefer desktops to laptops. I like listening to audio books. I listen to hockey games on the internet. I have five sons. I'm living life mid sentence.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Somewhere Between Reality and Insanity

For a while now the thought of looking into grad school has been in the back of my mind. Part of me has wanted to continue my education since I graduated five-plus years ago, and part of this desire to continue came while I was living overseas.

During my time in Japan I had a fair amount of time to read and study and the small seed that was already in my mind began to grow. Post-college, pre-marriage there were at least two reasons I didn't continue on into a masters program. The first was I didn't know what field of study I would pursue, and secondly the financial aspects threw up red flags.

If financial concerns held me back as a twenty-something, single, the concerns even more abound at this point and time. Not only do I make four to five dollars an hour less than I did before, but I also am supporting a family on my now-reduced income. In addition I still have about seventy-five percent of my undergraduate work to pay off.

Unlike times in the past, if I were to be in a position where I could seriously consider grad school at this point I have a good idea of what field of study I would pursue. And I also have a good idea of where I would like to earn my masters degree. However, barring a miracle, which is what it would take, I don't see myself being able to carry out this dream anytime in the next decade.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Suffering, A Good Part of Life

For years I've been thinking about suffering, and what my response is to be to it as a Christian. I know that "in everything" we are to "give thanks," but how do I do that, practically speaking, in 2008? I also know that we are told that "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."

A while back I heard lyrical poetry, that while not explaining things, helped mask the pain of suffering. In a song I heard "isn't this world something wonderful, that we were made to suffer both its honesty and cruelty? Today!" As I said, the song didn't answer the questions, but I found some comfort in knowing that suffering isn't something that is exclusive to me.

Well, today I discovered that Adelaide Procter did a better job than I have ever done in thinking through the reason for suffering. A century and a half ago Procter wrote a hymn that included this verse: I thank Thee more that all our joy Is touched with pain, That shadows fall on rightest hours, That thorns remain; So that earth’s bliss may be our guide, And not our chain."

While I still have a lot to learn about suffering, and my response as a Christian, but now I have a little better understanding.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Right now I am having a flashback to years-gone-by. Before I was married I usually dreaded holidays because that meant being alone. So, on many occasions, I'd volunteer to work the holidays to try and get my mind off of my loneliness. Since I got married I haven't really dealt with holiday issues, that is until today. Today I was extremely tired, which I am sure didn't help matters, and part of the day I didn't really want to be around a large group of people. However I was around a lot of people, many of whom I'd never met before, and so today wasn't very relaxing for me. In the end today wasn't a bad day, but it helped to provide some balance in my thoughts regarding holidays. I use to think that anything was better than loneliness, but now I am realizing that sometimes too much of a good thing can be...too much.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

And He's Not Even Three Months Yet

My life has changed a fair amount since the birth of my son this year. Before Reuel was born I didn't like to stay at home all that much, and would have rather been on the go. But since he joined the family nearly three months ago, I'd rather spend time with my wife and boy at home than do just about anything else. Friday afternoon I was spending some time playing with Reuel and when he was jabbering, he clearly said "ma ma." I didn't think much about it, until my wife said later in the day that he'd said the same thing earlier. Then tonight, when we were both together, he did it again. While I wouldn't say he's officially talking, he's more advanced than most (if not all) children I've seen before.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Politically speaking, America is in trouble.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

D-Day plus 7

Well, Junior (or Rufus or itty bitty or any of the other names I've called him) still is waiting to make his grand appearance. Sometimes I think I'm more impatient about his long-waited arrival than my lovely wife is. Tomorrow will be our first anniversary, and maybe the little guy has been waiting to make his entry into the world until that time. Time will tell.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Disappointments in life, chugging back a glass and life in the middle of hickville.

Something has been bugging me on and off since last August. A number of my friends, some among my closest friends, said they were coming to my wedding but never showed. I'm sure they had good reasons for not showing, but it still bugs me that in most of their cases no explanation was ever given. They simply were no-shows, and in a couple cases I haven't heard from them at all since that time. While I realize there are transitions in life, and along with some transitions friends take different roads, I still am bothered at times that my friends--some whom I've known for 15+ years didn't take the time to pick up the phone and explain their absence.

The five weeks of "birthing class" are behind my wife and I, and the one major thing I learned from this experience is that just because a guy (or girl) is physically mature enough to procreate doesn't mean they are mentally mature enough to become parents. One teen, who we dubbed "Ian" served as a reminder that sometimes maturity is expressed the most by what we don't say.

And while I'm enjoying life in the country, I must say that it's a transition from working jobs with those who, for the most part, hold college degrees, to working with some who have, and others who haven't, finished high school. There are times when I find myself asking me a question that a customer recently asked me. Upon finding out that I had taught school, worked as a newscaster, and had a college degree, the gentleman asked me "what are you doing working here?" At times, usually when I am able to slow down enough to ponder life, I ask myself what God has for me to learn where I'm at now. So far I don't know what He has for e here, but part of me is hoping I find out sooner rather than later.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Enjoying the Slow Lane

Life seems to have kicked into overdrive since returning to the U.S. Between working 50 hours a week, church activities and spending time with my wife's family it seems I'm going non stop. Last night I wound up falling asleep at 8pm, on my in-law's couch, and I didn't wake up until 8am this morning (still on their couch). Today has been a nice breather. After Sunday school and church this morning, I relaxed all afternoon and then my wife and I want for a walk (to her parents' house) this evening. It's been a nice change of pace. But tomorrow, bright and early, I have to jump back on the racing tread mill of life.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dad To Be

While I'm not exactly young, I'll be 30 next month, at times I'm still scared about becoming a father this summer. I know, I know, many, possibly even most men are fathers before they turn 30, but that doesn't mean that this first-time-dad can't be a little nervous about venturing into this (relatively) unknown part of life. Today we found out what our baby is, and that makes this feel so much more real. Not that I didn't think it was real before today, but knowing that I'm going to have a (gender omitted)in a few months makes it seem like a real baby. I'm excited about picking out a name now that I know it's going to be a (_________) and all that comes along with preparing for the baby. And as time goes on, I hear that some of the nervousness about becoming a daddy will fade away. Here's hoping.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Comforting Thought About Stress

Yesterday a co-worker of mine, who is pursuing a masters in counseling, told me he thought I was going through a stressful time. I mean, among other things, I've been "dismissed" by employer due to my wife and I expecting our first child, my wife and I are moving back to the U.S. unemployed -- and expecting our first child. Those are just a few of the stressful things we are facing. This afternoon I took a "stress evaluation test" online, and these were the results:


Your results

Thank you for taking the Stress Test!

Your total stress score is 709

If your score totals 150 or more:
You have a 50-50 chance of developing an illness.

If your score totals 300 or more:
You have a 90 percent chance of developing an illness.


So I guess I'm due to get sick. Great. That's just what I need right now.

Friday, March 21, 2008

So Long and Thanks for all the Fish!!!

This week my employers took a group of us out to dinner to thank those who are leaving their positions. It was a weird mix of emotions I was facing that evening. In essence my wife and I were fired by these employers when they found out we were expecting our first baby. In one sense our employers were very kind to us, but they also are the one's who've left me unemployed, and without means to support my family--let along without means to pay for our child's delivery. At the end of the dinner the five employees leaving their positions here in Japan were asked to give a short speech. While I'm grateful for the seven months of employement they've given me, the frustration over being "dismissed" (a nice way to say fired) over the pregnancy made me tempted to stand up and say "so long, and that's for all the fish." For anyone who'se spent any amount of time in Japan you'll understand.

Today, as I said my final good-byes to the students I worked with, I had to fight back the emotions that felt like they'd overtake me. Saying good-bye when it's of your own choice can be difficult, but having to say good-bye when you are being forced to is harder. I am going to miss Modoka and Ryo, Yuma and Haruka, Chihiro and Tomotaka, Shunpei and Mayu, Misaki and Wataru, an so on. What's more, I'm going to miss the opertunities that lay ahead to share the love of Christ with these kids. I know that someone else can pick up the torch, and be the light of Christ to these kids, but it doesn't make leaving any easier.

As for now I have to rely on God, trusting that He will make things work out for the good. And if things don't work out in what would appear to be a "good way" I have to trust that He has a purpose for them.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Countdown

The countdown is underway. I have four more days of classes at school, six days total, before the school year is over. In 16 days my wife and I will leave our little apartment for the final time. After four days of vacation, here in Japan, we will leave Japan--not likely to return. So in less than three weeks, Lord willing, my family will be back on U.S. soil. It's surreal to think that this journey my wife and I have been on is almost complete. It's an exciting time in some regards, yet a sad time of reflection and goodbye's in other regards. If I didn't know that God is soverign and has everything in control, I'd most likely be terefied of the unknown that is before us. But as it is, we are trusting God to guide us one step at a time.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Iwaki

Yesterday my wife and I went to a coastal city to visit a friend of her's. It was my first time seeing the ocean in Japan, other than from the plane as I flew into Narita each time. In addition to seeing the ocean we went to see a Shinto shrine and a Buddhist temple.

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Prayers at a Shinto shrine.

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It appears at times even ducks can be vain.

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These appear to be guardians of the temple.

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More prayers at the Buddhist temple.

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My beautiful, pregnant wife.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Take 4

For the fourth time in my life I'm putting together a comptuer for myself. See, I currently live in Japan, but am moving back to the U.S. in a matter of weeks. Instead of packing up my desktop to take back to the U.S. I found someone who was interested in buying my computer and sold it to them. As a result I get to update/upgrade my computer, I don't have to try and pack it in a suit case--which i did to get it here--and they also get a decent computer. So this week I've been shopping online to find the parts I wanted, yet try and stay within my budget. So far I've ordered the case, power supply, 2 GB of ram, DVD burner, motherboard, and CPU. I have the keyboard, mouse, a monitor (which will be upgraded after I get the mail in rebates back from the first portion), a sound card (if I can find the one I have in storage in the U.S.) and 3 hard drives already. So, barring any problems, all I have left to order is a video card, a CPU heatsink/cooler/fan, and possibly a couple 120mm fans for the case. So far I've kept my computer to $450, which means I have about $100 that I can spend on the video card and CPU fan. I'm not looking for anything spectacular, but something that will work decently for normal usage, so I shouldn't have a problem staying in budget. Assuming that the mail in rebates come back, I should then have about $175 for a monitor, which should help me replace the 19" widescreen I have here in Japan.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Trusting God with My Que Serra Serra

Que Serra Serra. That's often been my attitude as I looked towards the future. Knowing that God is a sovereign God, and that nothing catches Him by surprise, has allowed me to lean back and think "whatever will be, will be."

I recall a time back in 1999 when I left work late one night and discovered that my car had been broken into and somewhere around $700, in cash and contents, had been stolen. I remember thinking at the time that God had provided me with the means to earn the money, and buy the contents, in the first place and if He saw fit He could replace them. In short, He did.

Another memory that comes to mind was the summer following my graduation from college. As I wrapped up my internship I was wondering how I was going to start to pay the bills that were piling up, but I didn't doubt that God would provide what was needed when the time came. There were moments when I doubted, but overall I trusted God to guide my steps, and pave my paths. In that situation, the radio station I did my internship at would up having an opening and I worked there for the next four years.

This brings me up to the present. Over the past few months doors have been swung wide open in my life, and others slammed closed, and there are times when I wonder what will happen next. Unlike some previous times, I don't just have myself to think about anymore. Now I am responsible to provide for two, and in a few months, Lord willing, that number will be up to three. The doors that have been closed involve my employment. At moments I've questioned how an employer can, in essence, fire my wife and I when they found out she was pregnant -- as in the only reason we've had our jobs terminated was due to our upcoming child. On rare occasions I've even felt some level of bitterness about the situation, especially since we were told that it would be fine to start a family while in our current positions, and that things would be "taken care of." But our supervisor who told us that, obviously, must not have had the authority to tell us that, and now here we find ourselves jobless, basically homeless, and 19 weeks pregnant.

Do I still trust God? Am I still able to rely upon His sovereignty and say Que Serra Serra? Did any of the things that have taken place over the months catch Him by surprise? The answers to these questions are I'm trying, I'm trying, and not at all. It's easy to talk about trusting God, especially when things are smooth sailing, but it's another thing when I'm 26 days away from being jobless and without means to pay for housing, food, bills, etc. One thing I need to keep in mind is that the same God who has provided for me in the past is the same God who can provide for me now. He never promises to give us all we ask for in life, or even make our paths easy. But God has said that the steps of a "good man" He will order, and He will "delight" in their ways.

Right now is the hard part for me. It's the time when I need to stop talking the talk and make sure that I back up the talk with trust and faith in God.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

My Precious!!!

There is some irony in the fact that I'm currently reading a book about someone who would love to lose a ring that was given to him, but can't, while I have no desire to lose the ring my wife gave me (wedding band) and I have lost it. If only I could swap places with Frodo.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Opinions Ni Ban

God has a way of hitting a point home for me. As I finished writing my previous post, on opinions, I was listing to a CD of mine for the very first time and the following lyrics really hit home.

I won't take advice from cynics
I won't listen to the word of fools
Sure, everyone has their own take
On what I should do, but...
I will follow Your voice
I will follow Your voice
I will trust Your choice
I will not fear
I will follow Your voice
I will follow Your voice
Not my will but Yours
Be done here...

And, as a result of hearing that song I visited the band's website and stumbled upon a link to an upcoming movie. This line in the movie's extended trailer hit home a message again.

"In my experience, people who are confident in their ideas are not afraid of criticism..."

If this is true, that people who are "confident in their ideas" aren't worried or "afraid of critism" then it says a lot about those who've gone after my wife and I for our opinions recently.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Opinions

Opinions are rampant in the world around us. With the world’s population approaching seven billion people the number of opinions can probably be said to be around 10 billion—after all, there are times when we have different opinions on a topic, depending on the circumstances. As the 41st American president once said “I have opinions of my own, strong opinions, but I don’t always agree with them.

That being said, I find it interesting that people seem hell-bent at times on changing my opinion. Over the years I’ve had contact with some friends and acquaintances who have tried to sell me on a particular political candidate, a cause, and on other occasion’s things such as new herbal supplements. Sometimes the way such opinions were delivered opened me up to be more receptive, and at other times these opinions were basically d.o.a (dismissed on arrival). While I agree that everyone is entitled to have their own opinions, this does not mean that some opinions are not right and some opinions are not wrong. For example, some people are of the opinion that there are many ways in which individuals can earn their way to Heaven. While individuals are free to believe that, if they wish, the creator of Heaven and Earth says there is only “one way” by which someone may enter Heaven. So, while people who believe something else are free to do so, it doesn’t make their opinions right.

In recent days I’ve been told, both directly and indirectly, that I’m not entitled to have some opinions I do. I’ve had some suggest that speaking my mind on some issues, in forum such as my own personal blog, is going too far. Some have felt judged by my own opinions, even when those opinions were expressed as merely that--my own opinions. In expressing my own opinions, I have never tried to strong arm anyone into believing anything exactly the way I do. However, at times I have tried to explain to others why I felt my opinion had some validity. Wouldn’t it be foolish of me to discount that I believe my opinions have validity, for if they were invalid in my own mind it would be foolish of me to hold such opinions. On the flip side, expecting others to buy into my opinions lock, stock and smoking barrels, would also be foolish. While some of my opinions are merely human opinions, some opinions I hold are grounded in absolute truth that God has given us in the Bible. Those opinions hold much more weight than the trivial opinions I hold on inconsequential matters.

Something that I, as well as others, need to keep in mind when trying to dissuade others from their firmly planted opinions is something that Hosea Ballou, an early American clergyman, once said: “The oppression of any people for opinion's sake has rarely had any other effect than to fix those opinions deeper, and render them more important.” This does not mean that I never try and show someone why I believe my opinions carry some weight, but it does encourage me to check my means of sharing such a message. After all, if I embolden someone into digging their feet in when I try to persuade them to consider a differing opinion to their own I’ve actually lost ground in my attempt to have them at least consider looking at things through the lens that I see them.

Another thing that sticks out to me is that as humans, instead of lemmings, we each are responsible for what we believe. We need to be willing to listen to others, but in the end we must not fall prey to what the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville noted upon observing American society in the more than 150 years ago. de Tocqueville said “In the United States, the majority undertakes to supply a multitude of ready-made opinions for the use of individuals, who are thus relieved from the necessity of forming opinions of their own.” In the end, we must all realize that each of us is responsible to God for what we believe, and are not, ultimately, responsible for what everyone around us believes.

The Hobbit and Breakfast at Tiffany's

In 1992 I started my freshman year of high school. Not only did I start high school that year, but I also attended school for the first time. Until that year I had been homeschooled. The summer before my freshman year I was sent a reading list of books I was to read before the school year started. One of the books was The Hobbit. Sad to say, at that time I read only a few chapters of the book before I gave up in boredom. Last week I picked up the book, now having enjoyed The Lord of the Rings movies, and in a few short days I'd read the book. And, unlike the 14 year old version of myself that didn't like the book in 1992, this time I like the book.

In fact, I liked the book enough that when I finished reading it I started right into reading The Lord of the Rings books. Part of me didn't want to read the books, in fear of ruining the movies--which I've enjoyed--but taking that risk, I'm currently reading The Fellowship of the Ring. So far it's a fair amount different than the movies, but I'm enjoying it.

One thing that hasn't changed over the years is the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's. Years ago I watched it with one of my sisters, and tonight I watched it again. Much like the last time, this time I found the movie disappointing. Some things change as the years pass, and other things remain the same.

Friday, February 29, 2008

I took my camera with me to work today, and also to Koriyama (Japan) this evening. Here are a few pictures I took.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Will It Control Me or Not?

Mother Nature was simply cruel today. This morning, while my wife was gone, I decided to open the doors and windows in our tiny apartment to air the place out. As winter progresses each year, a home starts to become more stale smelling. So today, since I was home alone, I decided to air the place out. It was a beautiful, sunny, spring-like morning, as I aired out the place while cleaning up around the apartment. After Tricia returned home we decided to go to a local restaurant for lunch. As we walked the 10 minutes to the little eatery, we both commented how it was a perfect spring-like day. The sun was shining, the smell of spring was in the air, and it was just one of those great days—especially after a long, cold, dreary winter.

Half way through our lunch I looked out the window and noticed that it was no longer sunny, but instead was snowing. The walk home, which remind you was less than an hour after we walked there, was miserable. No long was it spring-like, sunny and unseasonably warm, but instead it was cold, blustery and miserable. Then this evening we walked the six blocks or so to the little grocery store where we do most of our grocery shopping. The five minute walk, each way, was miserable. The wind was cutting, the kind that seems to go through however many layers of clothing you are wear, and the snow was coming down, covering the freshly frozen ice patches along the street. What appeared to be a perfect day, just six hours earlier, now had turned out miserable.

This got me thinking about how easily I sometimes let my circumstances affect my outlook. Did, in those moments, my life change at all? Did any prospects about my future vanish before my eyes? Have my circumstances ever caused the sun stop ruling the day, or the moon stop ruling the night? And has, or will God ever stop being God? No, no, no and no! But today, over a matter of an hour or so, the weather got colder, and instead of the warm sunshine the cold snow became the mood setter. And, like many of the curveballs I’ve faced over the past 29-plus years, I could have allowed this little thing to become a mood setter. Instead of taking things in stride, like I should—knowing that God is ultimately the one that orders my steps, I could have balked, and allowed it to get me in a bad mood. Today’s change didn’t really affect me, though. Today for some reason, I took the change in stride and went on to have a great day—in spite of the lousy weather. Now, having seen that the day turned out to be great after all, I wonder how many other times in life I could have voluntarily chosen to not allow the little things become mood setters, and how many great days I forfeited as a result of being susceptible to things outside of my control.