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.

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.