Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Wired article on Bittorrent

You could think of BitTorrent as Napster redux - another rumble in the endless copyright wars. But BitTorrent is something deeper and more subtle. It's a technology that is changing the landscape of broadcast media.

"All hell's about to break loose," says Brad Burnham, a venture capitalist with Union Square Ventures in Manhattan, which studies the impact of new technology on traditional media. BitTorrent does not require the wires or airwaves that the cable and network giants have spent billions constructing and buying. And it pounds the final nail into the coffin of must-see, appointment television. BitTorrent transforms the Internet into the world's largest TiVo.

One example of how the world has already changed: Gary Lerhaupt, a graduate student in computer science at Stanford, became fascinated with Outfoxed, the documentary critical of Fox News, and thought more people should see it. So he convinced the film's producer to let him put a chunk of it on his Web site for free, as a 500-Mbyte torrent. Within two months, nearly 1,500 people downloaded it. That's almost 750 gigs of traffic, a heck of a wallop. But to get the ball rolling, Lerhaupt's site needed to serve up only 5 gigs. After that, the peers took over and hosted it themselves. His bill for that bandwidth? $4. There are drinks at Starbucks that cost more. "It's amazing - I'm a movie distributor," he says. "If I had my own content, I'd be a TV station."

During the last century, movie and TV companies had to be massive to afford distribution. Those economies of scale aren't needed anymore. Will the future of broadcasting need networks, or even channels?

via Gen Kanai

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Tsunami disaster

The tsunami disaster is hitting home for us here. Two of my friends and coworkers were in Thailand for beach holidays, and as of yet, nobody here has heard anything from them.

Sifting through the reports of the damamge and death, seeing pictures of little children dead in their parents' arms, I'll admit, gives me some real theological trouble. It is almost easier, thinking about God and all that, to hear of disasters involving human evil, because there humankind and all its evil choices are clearly the focus of the blame. But what to do in a situation like this? Just cry and shake your head I guess.

I remember reading an interview with the famous agnostic Charles Templeton wherein he describes to the interviewer the photograph that led to his loss of faith:

"Was there one thing in particular that caused you to lose your faith in God?" I asked at the outset.

He thought for a moment. "It was a photograph in Life magazine," he said finally.

"Really?" I said. "A photograph? How so?"

He narrowed his eyes a bit and looked off to the side, as if he were viewing the photo afresh and reliving the moment. "It was a picture of a black woman in Northern Africa," he explained. "They were experiencing a devastating drought. And she was holding her dead baby in her arms and looking up to heaven with the most forlorn expression. I looked at it and I thought, ‘Is it possible to believe that there is a loving or caring Creator when all this woman needed was rain?’"

As he emphasized the word rain, his bushy gray eyebrows shot up and his arms gestured toward heaven as if beckoning for a response.

"How could a loving God do this to that woman?" he implored as he got more animated, moving to the edge of his chair. "Who runs the rain? I don’t; you don't. He does — or that’s what I thought. But when I saw that photograph, I immediately knew it is not possible for this to happen and for there to be a loving God. There was no way. Who else but a fiend could destroy a baby and virtually kill its mother with agony — when all that was needed was rain?"

That really bugs me.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Wendell Berry, from Sex, Economy, & Community

...That possibility, though little honored, is well known; its most famous statement is this: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you." I did not include this idea as a precious possession of our civilization because it is not one. It is an idea given to our civilization but so far not accepted.

In times of war, our leaders always speak of their prayers. They wish us to know that they say prayers because they wish us to believe that they are deeply worried and that they take their responsibilities seriously. Perhaps they believe or hope that prayer will help. But within the circumstances of war, prayer becomes a word as befuddled in meaning as liberate or order or victory or peace. These prayers are usually understood to be Christian prayers. But Christian prayers are made to or in the name of Jesus, who loved, prayed for, and forgave his enemies and who instructed his followers to do likewise. A Christian supplicant, therefore, who has resolved to kill those whom he is enjoined to love, to bless, to do good to, to pray for, and to forgive as he hopes to be forgiven is not conceivably in a situation in which he can be at peace with himself. Anyone who has tried to apply this doctrine to a merely personal enmity will be aware of the enormous anguish that it could cause a national leader in wartime. No wonder that national leaders have ignored it for nearly two thousand years.

Erich wins

Erich wins Christmas Wish Post of the Year 2004.

Silent Night: The Power of Christmas

Saturday, December 25, 2004

John's Christmas appeal...

Just got a merry christmas email from Oleg and Rita in Vladivostok, Russia. It is looking a little chilly there, but it reminds me of home. Like really does. That could be my Dad's farm yard.

Anyway, check out Oleg and Rita and their family. They are two very big-hearted people who live together in a foster-family situation with all these kids in Vladivostok.

I know I have said it before, but in case you missed it, you can help them out with the expenses of helping out all these kids. Just go over to and give it some thought. There are a few homes being supported through that page. Oleg and Rita's specifically is here.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Merry Christmas from Japan

Christmas card 2004
Originally uploaded by fatblueman.

Smile or else

Originally uploaded by fatblueman.
Well, I tried and tried to get a good family Christmas photo for the yearly Christmas card, but after too many tries, this was the best that we could do. So what follows is what happens on Christmas cards when your kids are at an uncooperative age:

See next post...

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Vernand Eller from the preface of Christian Anarchy

Why, I asked myself, did I always wind up on the wrong side of each of the Christian Left's enthusiasms--peace, justice, equality, liberation, feminism? After all, I was supposed to be part of that gang, not an outsider. Yet no matter what was said or implied about me, I knew I was not a "conservative" over against their "liberalism." I was every bit as unhappy with the positions of conservatism as with those of liberalism. So, being neither a radical, a liberal, nor a conservative, what under the sun was I? What other option could there be?

The chapters here following will recount my discovery of the rather easily identifiable but almost entirely subconscious and submerged tradition of "Christian Anarchy." And with that tradition I had found my home and am at peace. All of my battles of the past thirty years now fall into place and make sense. Now I can see a consistency throughout; I knew what I was doing but didn't have name for it.

I really do believe the key was in coming up with the requisite terminology: "anarchy," with the derivatives "arky" and "arky faith." All along, of course, Scripture itself provided the terms that should have led us to this understanding but had not. Its talk of "the powers" would have done it--except that we automatically identified those only as the evil powers we were eager to combat and not at all including the good powers we embraced. Likewise, both with Jesus' "being not of the world" and Paul's "not being conformed to the world," we read them as counsels to separate ourselves only from the world's bad powers and certainly not from its good ones. Consequently, lacking an explicit terminology, even the greatest Christian anarchists--from Jesus on down--have not had themselves or their condition identified in a way that would make possible explicit consideration, analysis, and debate.

Vernand Eller from the preface of Christian Anarchy

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Face off

Originally uploaded by fatblueman.
And I just love this one so I had to post it....

Christmas photos

Originally uploaded by fatblueman.
A few family pics up on Flickr for anyone who wants to see.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Christmas song of the year

Evey year I seem to find a new Christmas song that really does it for me. Couple years ago it was Dave Matthews Christmas Song. Last year it was Sarah Maclaughlan (man, how do you spell that) with Song for a Winter's Night.

This year the winner is Fairy Tale of New York. Track it down, but get the version by The Pogues, not the one by Pilate, which does nothing for me at all.

Erich's Internet Emporium of Interesting Historical Tidbits

I did some high school history teaching, and it was my college major, so maybe that is why I am interested (I mean other than the fact that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it :-). I tune in at every opportunity for Erich's mini-history lessons. Today's I particularly liked, because it presents an aspect of truth-telling that is rare in the context I come from. Link that to the fact that i think such truth-telling is foundational to True Worship, and you have a post worth re-posting. Anyway, check it out. This guy is all about balance. I seriously wish I could have long talks over beers with him...

World War II has often been called "the last good war." It is so termed because it seems that the good guys and bad guys in this war were obvious. The Nazis and the Japanese were militarily aggressive and, in retrospect, had clear genocidal tendencies (at least the Germans). In addition to that, the Germans and the Japanese seemed to dismiss out of hand any of the rules of war. The terror bombing of Warsaw and Rotterdam associated with the Nazi blitzkrieg tactics clearly displayed Hitler's lack of distinction between civilian and military targets. How could these not be the bad guys?

Well, clearly they were, but the good guys weren't always as good as post-war mythology was apt to say.

Read the rest here.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Vicarious Atonement vs. Christus Victor

Something I want to read later...

Vicarious Atonement vs. Christus Victor

Herbansprawl sponsored ad...

I just got an email from Smith, Funk, and Strauss. The "Smith" in that equation was the guy who recorded my whole CD for basically nothing, and to whom I am eternally indebted.

But it is not that debt that is motivating this post. Because the fact is, these guys make amazing music - deep, intelligent, and moving songs that don't leave you sad or bored. In fact, I will post one here for a few days for you to listen to, as of course in return you will all promise to go straight to their website and sign up from what I am about to describe:

They are going to live on the web! January 8th, at 5pm, Pacific Standard Time. These guys have perfected the live event known as a house concert, and this time, you can choose the house! It's ten dollars Canadian (which is like a buck and a half American, isn't it??).

So check it out here.

Update: Hey, and I just wanted to say that, if you would, please spread the word around on this one. I think it would be a brilliant thing if such grassroots, internet-type concerts were to take off. And it seems to me they would fit hand in hand with blogs, in that wonderful place where creativity and expression meet with some of the more democratic opportunities provided by the web....

... and if it goes real well I might steal the idea...

He is not risen, he is here...

Mahikari claims that this is the last resting place of Jesus Christ. They teach he died on the same day as Yoshikazu Okada (The founder of Mahikari and now considered by them to be the God of salvation for humankind) on June 23rd (May 4th of the lunar calendar), although around 2000 years apart.

...Yoshikazu Okada's claims, that Jesus was of Japanese descent, trained in Japan, escaped the crucifixion, returned to Japan, and eventually died there, and that all Christians have to go to Japan to receive salvation...

Size matters

"The Hutterites (who came out of the same tradition as the Amish and the Mennonites) have a strict policy that every time a colony approaches 150, they split it in two and start a new one. "Keeping things under 150 just seems to be the best and most efficient way to manage a group of people," Bill Gross, one of the leaders of a Hutterite colony outside Spokane, told me. "When things get larger than that, people become strangers to one another."

via Len

Thursday, December 16, 2004


Jubilation. I thought it was appropriate that this was kanji number 2001 in my textbook. Because that is somewhat how I was feeling. Now I am up to 2042 kanji learned, in exactly the time I had planned. Setting and accomplishing a large goal. New thing for me. Think I will try it again soon. Next project: the rest of the Japanese language...

Monday, December 13, 2004

And quotes from Generous Orthodoxy

And I sent off my copy of G.O. to a friend but I snatched some quotes from it before I did. So I will post a bunch of them in the days to come. My favorite one first. When I want to note something in a book I am reading, I draw a line beside it in the margin. This one got three lines, and it was just in there as a footnote:

Having read this sentence, you may perhaps better understand why I believe a person can affiliate with Jesus in the kingdom-of-God dimension without affiliating with him in the religious kingdom of Christianity. In other words, I believe that Christianity is not the kingdom of God. The ultimate reality is the kingdom of God, and Christianity at its best is here to proclaim and lead people into that kingdom, calling them out of smaller rings, smaller kingdoms. Christianity at its worst, using the definition in this paragraph, can become a sin when it holds people within its ring and won't let them enter the kingdom of God. Jesus diagnosed the religious leaders of his day as doing this very thing.

And another related one:

In the previous chapter, I suggested that Jesus didn't come to start another religion, which would include the Christian religion. I wasn't kidding. I do, in fact, believe that. That the Christian religion formed as it has is not surprising. It was no doubt necessary and in many ways good, and I know God is in it, and I am in it, too. But "the Christian religion" is neither the ultimate goal of Jesus nor the ultimate goal of God, in my view. Rather, the goal of Jesus is the kingdom of God, which is the dream of God, the wish and hope and desire of God for creation-like a parent's hopes and dreams for a beloved child.

And if your are wanting to reference this and wondering the page numbers, sorry. I scanned the quotes in by taking digital photos of the pages, which only caught a fdew of the page numbers, and so you're just gonna have to take my word on it... it's all in there.

And in the book McLaren points to this article by Joshua Masssey, His Ways Are Not Our Ways. Good read. Kind of a postmodern missiology. Go find out what a Muslim follower of Jesus is.

More from DF

Dwight expanded on his post from before, and I just want to put it here for later:

Ryan Pettit wrote a thoughtful response to my "Christianity maybe an antichrist" entry of 12/4. He graciously critiques my post, offering seasoned rational for his claims.

Ryan began his response by offering three definitions of religion, these are useful. He stresses his third definition as the most precise, as it positions a person for thoughtful engagement with the religions of the world. Religion, he writes is: "a system of ideas and behaviors that assist participants in relating properly to their God and the rest of the world." That feels pretty solid.

The Second Movement of his response began with the powerful statement, "Religion is your friend, Christian." I returned to his definition of religion, and I thought, "ok, I can mostly buy that." From my perspective in laying out his rational for the Christian defense of religion he almost underscores my initial post.

What is the religion that God accepts according to James?

I want to be clear that I am not trying to throw out History, or Orthodoxy. That is not my intention. We are who we are in large part because of "the great cloud of witnesses" that came before us. To throw out history is to fail to know one's social-self. Anyone who seeks to know God in Christ by the Spirit will find themselves sitting under others who have also walked with God.

If God wanted a religious humanity would we not see signs of religion in the pre-fallen state of the Garden of Eden? Instead what we see is a relationship between God and humanity that is tacitly intimate without need of religion. Or maybe we'd see signs of religion in the New Heaven and the New Earth, here again we see relational imagery in contrast with religious imagery. Our Lord Jesus Christ makes for an interesting study for religion. After all Jesus Christ is fully human and fully God, so if one wants to see what a "religious human" looks like, a Christian will look to Christ; and if one wants to see how God sees religion, a Christian will look to Christ.

Jesus Christ was religious. After all, he was a Jew - a Rabbi. Jesus didn't walk around areligiously, he was thoroughly Jewish, in fact there was no option. This is one of the most important aspects of the incarnation, Jesus was more radically particular than most Western Protestant Christ-followers are comfortable admitting; Christ was born into a social/cultural tradition; he was born to a specific family, etc. Jesus did not magically appear out of thin air he was reared in such a religious context that likely he would have scarcely been aware of his religiosity (certainly not as we think of religiosity today). Kind of like a fish being aware of water. He lived at a time and a place where there were a handful of distinct groups; for our purposes we could say Jews of that day saw two groups: Jews and Gentiles.

So Jesus Christ was a Jew but he was different Jesus first concern was not Judaism; Christ's concern is better described as a passion for His Father, love for one another, and the Kingdom of God. What do we defend when we defend religion?

Ryan's hermeneutic tweaks a phrase I used. His reworking of my statement reads, "[God] wants us to live fully human lives, and that can only be accomplished if we live according to God's instructions." I find it interesting that King David breaks almost all of the Ten Commandments yet he is called a "Man after God's own heart" while the Pharisees of Jesus' day kept all the laws and Christ called them "white washed tombs." So what is God looking for? To suggest that God is looking us to live according to God's instructions may be to miss the point.

Len Sweet, in his own unique voice says, "There is no point to Christianity;" there is only Christ (I hope you hear Trinity when I say Christ). To make a point is to set up an idol.

I loved Ryan's emphasis on Divine narrative. The idea that God reveals Godself to the world through history and that part of the privilege and responsibility of those walking in the Way of Christ is to live into that tradition and pass it on. Of course tradition is never passed on without bias and emphasis; this is why prophetic voices are so important, and why religion can be so dangerous. Religions of any stripe often kill their prophets. The gospel which each generation receives is as tainted as the gospel each generation will pass to the next; this is not a reason to despair or give up on faith, rather, it is an act of faith - it is an invitation to live in the Spirit.

By the grace of God and as best as I am able, I love God; thus I love learning more about God. So I study theology. But I study theology carefully and confessionally, for the study of theology can very quickly become an I/It relationship rather than an I/Thou (see Buber). Christian theology is the ongoing joy of the people of God. After 14 years of marriage I still delight to discover the wonder of Lynette; to see her in new light, to be surprised by the beauty of her love. That's not too far from Christian theology. Theology might be described as the perichoresis of soul, text and culture with the Spirit of God.

In passing on tradition we run into the issue of institutionalization and reification. When I was a preteen looking forward to attending my church's youth group, the youth group decided to hold a youth retreat. Everyone loved it. The next spring they held another retreat. Well, the following year the spring retreat was a given. By the time I entered the youth group the spring retreat had been institutionalized. The group that created the retreat to serve the group was now serving the retreat. This is reification in action. Peter Berger handles this masterfully, "Reification implies that man is capable of forgetting his own authorship of the human world, and further, that the dialectic between man, the producer, and his products is lost to consciousness" (Berger 1989, 89). As a Christ-follower writing to a different audience then Berger was, I would want to stress that Christian religious tradition is not a human creation apart from God. After all, the hope of Glory is that we are in Christ and Christ is in us. God by the Holy Spirit is the unifying person of the social construct we call Christian religion.

Earlier I suggested that Ryan's "Christian defense of religion" might underscore my initial post; let me briefly unpack this. Ryan's defense is one that every human takes. We return to what we think we know to be true because it feels solid. It's a lot like a battered woman returning to her abusive husband; a classic case of our solution being part of our problem. Christ always comes to us and says, "Surrender your confidence in anything but me. Trust me."

God in grace uses this "Balaam's ass" we call Christian Religion. God has used it and I trust/assume God will continue to use it until the great day when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The day when religion melts away and we see and are seen, we know and are known, and the oneness at the tail-end of Christ's High Priestly Prayer is experienced in fullness.

But until that time we live in the paradox of honoring our traditions while deconstructing them as an act of love. This is a relational move of faith, trusting in the Holy Spirit of God. It is ancient-future (to borrow from Robert Webber), but it is neither ancient nor future – it must be both. And so I am a student of theology, who loves the church of Christ, yearns for the relational reign of God and question all of it to the Glory of the Triune God reveled in Christ and present by the Spirit.

Religion loves rules; Christ breaks them. People rely on religions; Christ bids us to trust him. He invites us to lay down that which we think we can and should rely on to become humble servants, hosting meals of bread and wine to a hungry and thirsty world - not religiously but out of Divine love.

Ryan, thanks so much for the gift of engagement. Midrash is the work of the church, its the process of Orthodoxy; may God continue to give us grace as we wrestle, as we live and as we love.

Monday, December 06, 2004

One more for the Christian Anarchy files...

Christ trumps all religious systems. Jesus Christ did not create a religion, he lived meta-religion; no religion could contain him. Though he was a Jewish Rabbi, he didn't teach the law, he fulfilled it. When Christ-followers brought Christ with them into the Greco-Roman world Christ transcended Hellenistic religious systems thus Christianity was deemed a threat. The life of Christ is a threat to any system. Just as God's Kingdom is too large for the church; Christ is too large for Christianity.

Christ refused to serve the religious structures of his culture instead chose to serve people, especially the people being marginalized by the religious structures. This is one of the reasons why Christ is killed by religious structures; because Christ demonstrations the failures of those systems. The way of Christ renders the "point" of religion obsolete; Christ makes all religions antichrist… including Christianity.

The "more excellent way" which the Apostle Paul describes to the church in Corinth is Christ's way; it is the way of love which trumps religion.

God has no interest in creating a religion; rather God has always yearned to do life with people who simply live their tacit knowing/experience of Divine love. God does not want Christians; God wants humans. Christ, who is fully God and fully human invites us to live his life. "His life" is life in the Spirit of God.

via Dwight

Friday, December 03, 2004

New keyboard

It seems to take a lot to motivate me to write something on this blog, but today I got a new keyboard and that is doing it for me. Gotta test this thing out. Ok well, everything seems to be working fine.


Another good answer

Ooo. Another good one:

Q. To what extent does a biblical view of God's justice and mercy "drive" your thesis?

A. By its very nature, grace entails that no one deserves it. So, since everyone is a sinner, God could justly leave us all to suffer the consequences of our rebellion. He has no obligation to show mercy to any of us. Synergists like Charles Finney have argued for the accessibility of salvation on the basis of God's justice, but I cannot do so. When God showed himself to Moses, he described himself as "the Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Ex 34:6). God spoke his last and fullest word in his Son (Heb 1:2), and in Jesus we see a God so tender and compassionate, so troubled by the plight of people suffering under sin, and so passionate about delivering them from all forms of bondage, that I think we have much reason to be hopeful that God's grace and mercy to sinners will be very great. So the mercy of God is a much larger driving theme in my construct than is his justice.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Good answer

Good answer in an interview with a guy named Terrance L. Tiessen whose book I want to read:

Q. Some evangelicals will wonder whether your proposal doesn't dull our motive for mission. But much of your life has been invested in missions. Briefly, how do you respond?

A. I am well aware of the concern that the nerve of missionary motivation will be cut if we inform people that God can save people without the ministry of missionaries. In earlier years I shared that concern, and I appealed to people to go and send and pray for missionaries because without that human witness, people would be irrevocably damned. When I came to believe that Scripture did not support that view, I also noticed that the New Testament provides very strong motivation for missionary work without ever basing its appeal on this ecclesiocentric or restrictivist ground.

The good news concerning Jesus is God's ordinary means for bringing sinners into relationship with himself and maturing them in communities of faith that provide a small foretaste of life in the kingdom of God. Evangelism is not just about getting individuals saved from eternal condemnation, it is about bringing into being new covenant communities of people in and through whom God is working to turn back the ravages of sin--personal and social--and to establish his reign on earth. It is hard to overstate the blessing of knowing that we are God's people, who live in his love and constant care and whom he gifts to be a blessing to other believers and to the world. If we really love people and want them to flourish, we will want them to be part of the church and of God's continuing work of transformation in and through it. I believe that we should rejoice in the thought that some of God's elect are among those whom the church, in its weakness or disobedience, has not reached with the gospel, and at the same time be passionate about serving God's purposes for the well-being of those people, here and now. Few things are more exciting to a missionary than the surprise of finding that God has been at work before we arrive with the gospel and that people's hearts are already turned toward God and eager to receive his fuller revelation. Why would it disturb us that God may have saved some of those people, particularly ones who had lived and died in the years before we got there?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Orthodox Peace Fellowship

I keep running into things from those Orthodox that I like. Might come in handy if I ever do make it to Russia. A friend just got back from Khabarovsk today. Why I am the only one who finds it an intriguing place?

For my future reference:

The Orthodox Peace Fellowship

and article:

Following Christ in a Violent World

And I thought this was interesting in relation to other stuff I have been reading of late:

The state and anarchy: Regarding Romans and "the sword," my New Testament professor once pointed out to me that there are basically two images from the Scriptures that the Church has used historically to describe the state.

The first is the "minister of God" image from Romans; Romans was written by Paul in a time when his citizenship in the Roman government was offering limited protection in his proclamation of the Gospel.

But the second is the Beast of the Apocalypse, a book written during a period of state-sanctioned persecution of the Church, and which regards civil government (the "kingdoms of this world") as irredeemably corrupted by the principalities of "this age," its power as deriving from Satan, not from God.

Historically speaking, the Church has tended to use one image or the other depending on whether the state was assisting or hindering the Church in its mission at the time. One cannot simply point to Paul's image in Romans as if this were the only way to think about the Church's view of state power; in the pre-Constantinian church, it is the image of the beast that predominates when speaking about the state, not the "minister of God" image.

Regarding anarchy: I think it is fairly easy to detect an underlying stream of what might be called "Christian anarchism" within the Orthodox tradition. For example, the Desert Fathers frequently harbored fugitives from the law, to the point that some abbas advocated lying to authorities in order to protect those charged with capital crimes from the very "sword" that St. Paul refers to in Romans.

The coercive power of the state was mostly unenforceable in Scetis, part of the reason the monks chose to settle there, and the early monastic communities felt free to subvert or ignore that power, in part because their view of the state was more like that of the Apocalypse than that of Romans; as Merton once wrote, they saw the entire culture as "a shipwreck from which every person must swim for his life." They refused to identify the enemies of the state as their enemies, heeded no call to arms, and regarded themselves as citizens of no earthly kingdom.

It is interesting to note that imagery from the Apocalypse forms a dominant theme in the iconography of the monasteries on Mount Athos, something you find hardly anywhere else (books have been written on this subject). This imagery represents, among other things, the deep-seated mistrust of the monks of all forms of civic government as representative of the power of the beast, their absolute non-allegiance to the kingdoms of this world. The anarchist spirit of Scetis lives on in Mount Athos through the fact that Athos constitutes a self-governing entity, not under the legal jurisdiction of any state.

Fr. Paul Schroeder

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Len points to William Law quote that I will store in my Christian Anarchy files:

It is very observable that there is not one command in all the Gospel for public worship; and perhaps it is a duty that is least insisted upon in Scripture of any other. The frequent attendance at it is never so much as mentioned in all the New Testament, whereas that religion or devotion which is to govern the ordinary actions of our life is to be found in almost every verse of Scripture. Our blessed Savior and His Apostles are wholly taken up in doctrines that relate to common life.

Reminds me of this related quote from a while ago:

According to A.N. Wilson, the Nicene Creed, to which all Christians now subscribed on pain of banishment, notably 'contained not one jot of the ethical teachings that Jesus had once preached...

Now before you get offended because I am using the "a" word again, understand that I am not calling for the institutions to pulled down and for everyone currently in them to leave. I am just saying let's see the institutions as what they are - not something mandated by God, but something we erected in our searching for him. Hopefully seeing them in that light keeps us majoring on Jesus and what he majored on, rather than all the stuff we tried to build on top of him.

Band names

We are thinking about making a new band, coming up with band names. Whaddya think:

The Pitied Cherries

The Bloody Do-Gooders

Sumi Masen (only people in Japan will get that one)

Any Others?

Update: Actually, that gives me an idea. How about:

The Others

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Cute Japan moment...

I know this kind of thing drives some foreigners here nuts, but I thought it was so cute.

Two kindergarteners sit down beside me on a train, assuming, I suppose, that whitey don't speak Japanese, and start into this little dialogue:

Kid one: Whoah. A foreigner. Scary!

Kid two: Naw, I'm not scared. I'm used to foreigners.

Kid one: Wow. Not me. I'm not used to foreigners.

See, the times they are a'changin. A little.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Toilet humour

Well, actually he likely didn't intend it as humour, but, hey, he's talking about a toilet. Always cracks me up...

This is the toilet of my home in Tokyo. It has a control panel with some buttons. For what? Well, if I push them after stooling and then a washing arm is sticking out beneath my hips and washing my ass hole. It is a surprising experience.

And by the way, wherever I live next, I will import one of these - at any cost. Yes, they are that life-changing.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Toyohiko Kagawa (the Japanese Mother Theresa) on action

The religion Jesus taught is a religion of life. People who are fully alive, people who are living strongly, can understand it; but those who deny life, who do not want to live, cannot get its meaning. The God of Jesus is a God of Action. People who stay at home and read their Bibles and pray and meditate, and do nothing for the poor who beg help before their very doors - such people will find the God of Jesus unintelligible. His God is One who is naturally reflected in a man's heart when he has saved even one suffering human being, or lifted up one who has been oppressed. The loveless do not know God. Only when a man has plunged into the blindly struggling crowd and tried to save them from their sins and failures, can he know this God. Only through the active movement of love will he intuitively come to know the God of Action.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Prayer and action...

We knew that there were many who pray but do not act and many who act but do not pray. But it seemed to us that such people had misunderstood the meaning of both prayer and action. Prayer, for us, was the inspiration for action. "When we prayed, we came into the presence of a Love so profound that it challenged all our plans, opinions and prejudices, and called us to a cause of pure compassion. In the presence of that Love we had to act with love. Because to do anything else seemed utterly absurd. In the presence of that Love we were set free from a preoccupation with meeting our needs for a vocation of seeking peace on the basis of justice for all."

Thus it was, through prayer, we developed a concern for the people in our city. And it was, through prayer, we developed a commitment to the people in the slums. And it was, through prayer, we developed contact with the Kanjars, the so-called "Unclean Ones", that lived across the road...

...We were aware that there was a power that could be released in prayer that could be explained in terms of psychology and sociology. "A self-therapy takes place", Jacques Ellul explains. "There is the giving up of anger and aggressiveness, a validation through responsibility and meditation, a recovery of balance through the rearranging of facts on successive levels as seen from a fresh outlook."

But we were also aware that there was a power that could be released in prayer that was beyond the capacity of contemporary psychology and sociology to explain. Ellul calls it 'the effectual, immediate presence of the wholly Other, the Transcendent, the Living One'.

We knew that if we were to access enough power to break the bondage of our conditioning, so that we would be free to think, and talk, and work towards an alternative future with the community, we not only needed as much "self-therapy" as we could get, but we also needed something "wholly Other" than anything we had ever tried before.

Read the rest of the story about the Kanjars, down near the bottom. It's a good one.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Burger King mug

Buger King
Originally uploaded by fatblueman.
Remember these mugs that would buy at a garage sale for a quarter? Well, they are hip and cool here now and going as collector's items. See that price? That translates into about $250!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

No Longer a Christian

I was told in Sunday school the word "Christian" means to be Christ-like, but the message I hear daily on the airwaves from the “christian ” media are words of war, violence, and aggression. Throughout this article I will spell Christian with a small c rather than a capital, since the term (as I usually hear it thrown about) does not refer to the teachings of the one I know as the Christ. I hear church goers call in to radio programs and explain that it was a mistake not to kill every living thing in Fallujah. They quote chapter and verse from the old testament about smiting the enemies of Israel. The fear of fighting the terrorists on our soil rather than across the globe causes the voices to be raised as they justify the latest prison scandal or other accounts of the horrors of war . The words they speak are words of destruction, aggression, dominance, revenge, fear and arrogance. The host and the callers echo the belief in the righteousness of our nation's killing. There are reminders to pray for our “Christian” president who is doing the work of the Lord: Right to Life, Second Amendment, sanctity of marriage, welfare reform, war, kill, evil liberals. . . so much to fight, so much to destroy.
Let me tell you about the Christ I know. He was conceived by an unmarried woman. He was not born into a family of privilege. He was a radical. He said, “It was said an eye for and eye and a tooth of a tooth, but now I say love your enemies and bless those who curse you.” He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5: 3-9) He said, “All those who are called by my name will enter the kingdom of heaven." He said, "People will know true believers if they have the fruit of the spirit--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self control.“

He knew he would be led like a sheep to the slaughter. He responded with “Father forgive them.“ He explained that in Christ there is neither Jew nor gentile, slave or free male nor female. He explained that even to be angry is akin to murder. He said the temple of God is not a building, but is in the hearts of those are called by his name. He was called "the Prince of Peace." His final days were spent in prayer, so that he could endure what was set before him, not on how he could overpower the evil government of that day. When they came for him he was led away and didn’t resist his death sentence.

via Dwight

Monday, November 08, 2004

Brian McLaren interview at Next-wave

McLaren: Don't get me started on this, or I'll lapse into rant. Let me just say that I'm very very afraid of what's happening in the church in America. I'm afraid we're falling into a warrior trance, where the church baptizes the state or seeks to reclaim a kind of Constantinian power in the American empire. We're not listening to our brothers and sisters across the globe who are shocked and disappointed in our uncritical support of our government. We say we trust in the Lord, but it seems to me that our trust is pretty enmeshed with "horses and chariots" as the Psalmist said. We're succumbing to the politics of fear. We think that because we're pious---because we pray and sing and use lots of highly religious language - that we're immune to this kind of seduction, but it's happened a thousand times in history, and I think we're no less vulnerable. In fact, our wealth and power should make us more vulnerable to these seductions. As I said ... don't get me started.

"The principle of equality kills all initiative."

How sad that this is generally so true. But within the Kingdom of God, such a statement is patently false.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Jesus and the Non-Violent Revolution

Think I want to give this one a read if I can get it printed out so I can read it one the train: Jesus and the Non-Violent Revolution.

There is nothing fancy about Trocmé’s approach. With prophetic intuition rather than weighty analysis, he renders interpretations that are both subtle and provocative. His core argument is simple: Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of God based on the Jubilee principles of the Old Testament. These principles call for a political, economic, and spiritual revolution in response Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution to human need. Jesus intended nothing less that an actual revolution, with debts forgiven, slaves set free, and land returned to the poor.

It was this threat to vested interests that awakened the hostility toward Jesus that led to the cross. Jesus understood the kingdom of God in terms of God’s work in human history; every sphere of life was a domain for God’s rulership. But he saw, too, that such rulership would always cost a struggle. The first Christians, who were charged with seditiously "turning the world upside down," understood their master well. They had caught this vision and begun to live it out.

I am needing to have my memory refreshed as to how and why Christ is central to how I live my life. This looks like just the thing.

Friday, October 29, 2004

John the meteorologist

I may be bored, or mad from hearing other prairie-types bad mouthing Winnipeg winters (only we are allowed to do that), but I was just spending some time looking at weather statistics. Here are my conclusions:

Calgary: Ok, they can brag a little. Seems winter is not so cold there. Damn chinooks.

Edmonton: Have us by a hair, but not really much to brag over.

Saskatoon and Regina: They got nothing to say at all. Same as Winnipeg.

And before you Vancouverites start getting all smug, check out this one:

January hours of sunshine: Winnipeg - 120; Vancouver - 55.

And here's one for the gang back home. Thiruvanantha, India: January avg - 27 degrees; August avg - 26 degrees. Hours of sunshine, January - 263.

Can get it out of my head...

U2 has a knack for soundtracking my life, and that latest single has got me again.

It's everything I wish I didn't know
Except you give me something I can feel

Uh huh.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Man, that's well said...

So elections are being held in America. We’re watching curiously here. Previously, Iraqis didn’t really take a very active interest in elections. We knew when they were being held and quite a few Iraqis could give an opinion about either of the candidates. I think many of us realized long ago that American foreign policy really had nothing to do with this Democrat or that Republican.

It sometimes seems, from this part of the world, that democracy in America revolves around the presidential elections- not the major decisions. War and peace in America are in the average American’s hands about as much as they are in mine. Sure, you can vote for this man or that one, but in the end, there’s something bigger, more intricate and quite sinister behind the decisions. Like in that board game Monopoly, you can choose the game pieces- the little shoe, the car, the top hat… but you can’t choose the way the game is played. The faces change but the intentions and the policy remain the same.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Strong quakes rock Japan, killing two and derailing train

This wasn't anywhere near us, but it the number of quakes this year is starting to make me nervous. Nagoya is awaiting its own "big one" and we are just hoping that in such an event our old house would hold up. What a weird mental state to live in - any day a huge quake could, no, will kill a bunch of us, and there is nothing to do but get as ready as you can. What are you gonna do? Shikata ga nai, as the Japanese say. Coming from Winnipeg, where the only natural disaster is winter, I am having a hard time with all the time Japan is spending in the news recently. Typhoons, quakes, and even a volcano. What's left? I suppose Godzilla should be along fairly soon.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Joke of the Day

Q. What's the difference between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War?

A. George W. Bush had a plan to get out of the Vietnam War.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Fight peaceful

Fight Peaceful
Originally uploaded by fatblueman.
That sounds right to me.

Jon Stewart responds to his "Crossfire" visit

And it's a bit lighter than that previous clip...


Jon Stewart 'Crossfire' feud ignites Net frenzy

...glad to a part of the hype.

Good comment

I'll give my two cents twice in one day. I think a key point is whether God sent Jesus to die like some sadistic daddy or whether God voluntarily chose to participate in the suffering of the world to show us the path of redemption. I believe option B. The truth is that most evangelicals and fundamentalists aren't really monotheistic - They believe in two gods - the Father and Jesus. The Holy Spirit is sort of this extra subsidiary thing they mostly ignore. Anyway, if there is one God who sacrificed Godself, then God suffers with us. Suffering is inevitable, but if we enter into it, rather than avoiding it, then we find resurrection on the other end of it, and God there with us. Conversion is our continuous journey of death and resurrection.

Anyway, that's how I understand it.

I liked that comment enough to track the person down and add her to my newsreader. From Christy.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Solzhenitsyn on freedom

After the Western ideal of unlimited freedom, after the Marxist concept of freedom as acceptance of the yoke of necessity - here is the true Christian definition of freedom. Freedom is self-restriction! Restriction of the self for the sake of others!

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Daily Dig - Freedom and Security by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I post this because I am finding it in my life to be very true, when I do it. It is a vital thing to grasp the fact that you are free to do as you wish, but I am finding in so many areas of life, big to small, from eating right to living more simply to making friends in places I normally would not, that it is restricting my own freedom that makes things get brighter all around. Doing that hard stuff that there is no obligation to do in the first place - good things happen there. I guess maybe that's the point of the cross.

Saturday, October 16, 2004


Yep. 'Zactly. What Paul said.

Brothers in arms

Brothers in arms
Originally uploaded by fatblueman.
I think this pretty much captures how Simon is adjusting to the new little brother.

Whew. That was tense...

I am used to Jon Stewart the funny guy on The Daily Show. But check him out on Crosstalk. Starts out funny, but, wow, you find out JS is not all humour...

Update: Man, I'm still feeling awkward.

via Gen Kanai

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Zahar in Vladivostok

We are having a great time emailing back and forth with Zahar, the guy we are sponsoring at an orphanage in Vladivostok. This is the first time I have ever done a sponsorship, but I must say there is something really good about the personal connection. The kids we are connecting with are not just a faceless organization (not that that is always bad... but this is good too!) and maybe they are changing us a little as we try to help them out. And the fact that they are just a two hour plane ride across the water means that the hope of us being a little more involved in each others' lives is a very real one. Already some other friends in Japan have sponsored kids there as well. Maybe we will have to make a connection some time in the near future. I'd better work on my Russian...

Why doesn't someone give some consideration to sponsoring Zhenya or Oksana. Go give their stories a read. It would be about $40 a month very well spent.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

This was supposed to be a comment...

Yeah, a comment over at Maggi Dawn's site, but it said it was too long, so I will put it here because I don't wanna just delete it:

That's an interesting post. Good to be reminded of.

Having come from an "evangelical inerrancy" type perspective, these days I often find myself wondering if the power of what the bible communicates would lose one bit of strength if the bible "inspiration-level" were the same as, say, that of the works written by Plato about Socrates. In that case, the strength of the message comes simply from the truth of what was said. And for me, it is the same with Jesus. My faith in him doesn't flow from the idea that he makes an appearance in a divinely inspired book. It comes from just how convincing he was to me in what he said and how he lived.

My concern is not so much "is what the writers wrote inspired by God" as much as it is "is what the writers wrote true" (ie: not propaganda). Because if it is true, then we have a record of the words and actions of a divine being, of what God wanted to communicate to humankind. And therein lies its authority. Not because a council got together and agreed "these books are from God, these are not".

I can imagine the canon could be different by a few books in this direction or that, and it would have minimal effect on our expressed faith. I mean, with the closed canon that we have, there is already enough breadth and diversity of opinion so as to seem ridiculous at times. Closing the canon seems to have had little bearing on what is orthodoxy.

That's why, for me, centering strongly on Jesus makes a lot of sense. I admit this sets up a kind of biblical hierarchy (Jesus first, epistles and OT informing what he was about) but I think that is defensible. To me there is clarity and simplicity of thought and action in Christ that gets muddled or even ignored when we raise things like biblical inerrancy, church tradition, etc. to places of vital importance.

English folks debating about the atonement...

Blogs can be an interesting way of connecting with things I am sure I would never have heard of otherwise. I have been reading reports about the controversy in the UK over a guy named Steve Chalke and a book he wrote challenging the majority evangelical view of the atonement. That is a subject that always interests me because I think it is one theological point that can have a big influence on our action and expression of Christianity.

I am no fan of a really rigid approach to atonement theology that treats anything diverging from penal atonement as heresy. I mean, the early church had no formal theory of the atonement, yet they seemed to do as well as any of us in being disciples of Jesus. I think that fact points to the possibility that we need to consider and hold a number of theories in tension in order to grasp something of the fullness that God is trying to communicate in Jesus.

From what I heard about Chalke's point of view, it sounds like is putting forth a lot of good ideas that need to be heard. In an article some time ago, I struggled with some of the theology of Christ on the Cross that made no sense to me, and from what I read on Graham's blog, it sounds like I should read Chalke's book; it seems like he is communicating clearly what were just a bunch of muddled hunches for me.

The one thing I don't understand though, and that has a lot to do with not knowing the English context they are in, is why the debate actually arises in the first place. Not that that is at all a bad thing - on the contrary I think it is great that they would all get together and talk these things through. I guess what I would expect to happen would be for Chalke to write the book, get labelled as a heretic and written off by some segment of the evangelical community, and everyone would go on quietly with their lives. I mean, its not the first time ideas like this have surfaced. J. Denny Weaver in America wrote a book full of very similar ideas, and I don't think it even caused a stir (heh, maybe evangelicals just ignored it because they figure Mennonites aren't really evangelicals anyway). And Steve Chalke seems to be quite concerned with remaining an evangelical in good standing, enough so to defend himself vigorously and passionately in a packed debating hall. Rather than just saying, "so what, some people think I am not an evangelical, who cares" he seems to demonstrate that being a member in good standing of the evangelical fold is of great value. Can anyone explain this to me?

Jesus was a Canadian (or possibly a Russian)


I always figured Jesus probably played hockey...

via Conrad

Monday, October 11, 2004

Jesus links personal holiness to getting rid of your money...

I wanted to note this passage because it was making me think today:

37As Jesus was speaking, one of the Pharisees invited him home for a meal. So he went in and took his place at the table. 38His host was amazed to see that he sat down to eat without first performing the ceremonial washing required by Jewish custom. 39Then the Lord said to him, "You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are still filthy--full of greed and wickedness! 40Fools! Didn't God make the inside as well as the outside? 41So give to the needy what you greedily possess, and you will be clean all over.

42"But how terrible it will be for you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest part of your income,[8] but you completely forget about justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things.

At some point I should write what it was making me think...

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Strongest typhoon in decade strikes Tokyo

Wow. That one was supposed to hit us, but veered off. Wasn't so bad here yesterday...

Saturday, October 09, 2004


Originally uploaded by fatblueman.
So there is the first one. One of my favorite little friends. And just as her shirt says.

direct to blog

Apparently I can now send photos from my phone directly to this blog by usinf Flickr. I shall be giving that a try. I have thus far been using Phlog, but it doesn't let me put anything directly on to this one. Very nice.

Friday, October 08, 2004

kanji progress...

By the way, as of today, I am up to 1246 kanji learned. Only around 800 to go. That's eight more weeks. Oh yeah! And then I think I'll learn Chinese after that. I mean, its the next logical step. And Korean too. Yeah, why not...


There is no such thing as a “quick” hello here because it takes you five minutes just to finish the common greeting, which is spoken continuously and simultaneously between you and everyone else present. The trick is never try to answer their questions. Just continue to say your greeting until everyone stops, then answer the last question you heard and then say, “And you?”. Translated, it goes something like this: “Peace be unto you. (And also with you) Are you fine? How are you? Are you healthy? Is your health fine? Are you working? (or…going? coming? – whatever they/you are doing) You’re not tired, are you? Is your family fine? Are you healthy?…(repeat if not everyone is finished yet)” And the whole thing ends with everyone saying, “Fine, thank you.” “Fine, thank you.” “Fine, thank you.” “Fine” “Fine” “Fine” repeatedly, until everyone finally stops.

from Top 10 Absurdities (so far)
By Dee Warren on Uzbekistan

I so completely agree...

So well said Junicus. Today I am walking around in the rain in a t-shirt to celebrate.

In Canada, relief came when spring showed it's face. The snow melts, revealing the smell of bark and brown grass. It's only 10 degrees, but you feel like wearing shorts. Or if you're like me, you feel like stripping naked, and running wildly through the streets with a huge smile on your face because you can feel warm sunshine on your skin.

In Japan, relief comes now. After 5 months of humidity so bad you feel like taking a second shower an hour after the first; where a perpetual layer of grease is everpresent on your face. I carry around a cloth for the sole purpose of wiping the dripping sweat off my face and neck.
I still feel like stripping naked, but not to feel the sun. Instead I want to feel the wind. I want every pore to become a goosebump, and feel chilled to the bone. I never thought it would feel so good to be cold.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Natasha Bedingfield. These Words.

Natasha Bedingfield. These Words. I heard it on the radio. I know it is kind of candy pop, but she talks in the lyrics about writing a killer hook... I think that "I love you, I love you" part is a killer hook. Bravo.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Last FM

From Joi Ito. Sounds like a good idea. I'll try it... but for now I can't access the website... has been around for awhile now and they've even been covered in Wired so many of you may already know about them. It is a music site based on collaborative filtering. Using one of the many Audioscrobbler plugins, you can set your music player to upload the titles of the music you are playing to their site. This starts to create your profile. You can also go to the site and browse songs and artists and add them to your profile. It will recommend similar artists and also show other fans of those artists. You can browse the profiles of those fans as well. Eventually, you will have enough songs in your profile for it to calculate your neighborhood. These are other members with similar taste. It's quite uncanny how similar some people's taste in music can be. You can visit these people, see what they are listening to, send them messages or add them as friends.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Wendell Berry - The Failure of War

Obviously, we would be less absurd if we took better care of things. We would be less absurd if we founded our public policies upon an honest description of our needs and our predicament, rather than upon fantastical descriptions of our wishes. We would be less absurd if our leaders would consider in good faith the proven alternatives to violence.

Such things are easy to say, but we are disposed, somewhat by culture and somewhat by nature, to solve our problems by violence, and even to enjoy doing so. And yet by now all of us must at least have suspected that our right to live, to be free, and to be at peace is not guaranteed by any act of violence. It can be guaranteed only by our willingness that all other persons should live, be free, and be at peace—and by our willingness to use or give our own lives to make that possible. To be incapable of such willingness is merely to resign ourselves to the absurdity we are in; and yet, if you are like me, you are unsure to what extent you are capable of it.

Here is the other question that I have been leading toward, one that the predicament of modern warfare forces upon us: How many deaths of other people’s children by bombing or starvation are we willing to accept in order that we may be free, affluent, and (supposedly) at peace? To that question I answer: None. Please, no children. Don’t kill any children for my benefit.

If that is your answer too, then you must know that we have not come to rest, far from it. For surely we must feel ourselves swarmed about with more questions that are urgent, personal, and intimidating. But perhaps also we feel ourselves beginning to be free, facing at last in our own selves the greatest challenge ever laid before us, the most comprehensive vision of human progress, the best advice, and the least obeyed:

"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."

via Paul Fromont

The Daily Show's Steven Colbert - Media Culpa

Dan Rather is the head, the Commander-in-Chief if you will of his organization. He is someone in an ultimate position of power who made a harmful decision based upon questionable evidence. Then to make things worse, he stubbornly refused to admit his mistake, choosing instead to "stay the course" and essentially "occupy" this story for too long. This man has got to go!!!

Small is Better?

Napster allowed people to hear what they are going to buy before they buy it. The result is that good indie records are selling more copies, and bad major-label records are selling less.
Despite what the RIAA would have you believe, the shifts the industry has witnessed haven’t been a matter of quantity so much as they’ve been a matter of quality. People are making their purchasing decisions less on the basis of hype and blind faith, and more on the basis of what they actually enjoy listening to.

And that has really screwed up the trend-driven marketplace it took the major labels more than 40 years to perfect.

LA Weekly article via Gen Kanai

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Fun with home videos...

If you are interested, and have the time and bandwidth, check out Simon's first music video. We got a new toy a little while back (camcorder) and have been having some fun with it.

But it is big (about 30mb) so if you want to see it, better right-click and choose "save target as".

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Minn. Trooper Writes 205 Mph Ticket

Man, I remember those days. Cople bored young guys on an empty prairie road. Except in our town the coffee-shop-cop gossip was that the fastest they ever clocked was 160mph. Said they didn't even chase. No chance of catching something going that fast. But 205... wow... I mean wow, that's stupid. But, maybe that's 20 years old a lot of times too. Used to think I was invincible too. Only took nine years to convince me of my vincibility.

A Conspiracy of Cordiality

What we call "church" is too often a gathering of strangers who see the church as yet another "helping institution" to gratify further their individual desires. One of the reasons some church members are so mean-spirited with their pastor, particularly when the pastor urges them to look at God, is that they feel deceived by such pastoral invitations to look beyond themselves. They have come to church for "strokes," to have their personal needs met. What we call church is often a conspiracy of cordiality. Pastors learn to pacify rather than preach to their Ananiases and Sapphiras. We say we do it out of "love." Usually, we do it as a means of keeping everyone as distant from everyone else as possible. You don’t get into my life and I will not get into yours.

Stanley Hauerwas in Resident Alien from the Daily Dig

Temperature tops 30 C in Tokyo for annual record 68 days

I know at home they had one of the coldest summers on record, but after this many days of this kind of heat, a cold summer doesn't sound too bad to me. And it's still not over. Yesterday was still hot and humid. We will see what today brings.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Do you speak English? Or American?

A list of words that Brits say that we don't. Especially important knowledge for living in an environment that mixes English speakers from all over, like we have here. I met a friend of mine from the UK who I hadn't seen in a while. Asked him what he was up to and he said he had changed jobs from the company we both used to work for. Why? He told me that he had been "pinched". I start freaking out, imploring him for the details of this apparent sexual harrassment. He says, No, no. "Pinched". Means stolen. A student from another company offered him a better job and thus "stole" him away.

Right. Gotcha. hehe.

Micah's pics

A few more pictures of McJunior over at the Phlog. I figure it is my job to think up every strange variation of his name before the kids at school do.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The importance of detachment from things

"The importance of detachment from things, the importance of poverty, is that we are supposed to be free from things that we might prefer to people. Wherever things have become more important than people, we are in trouble. That is the crux of the whole matter."

Thomas Merton

The Daily Dig via Mike

Coco in Tokyo

Just reading this blog by a girl who grew up in Canada, but is Japanese and now living in Tokyo. Her entry describes something who encounter quite a lot here, the notion among many that if you have lived outside of Japan for a time and then come back, you are not quite the real deal anymore:

Being returnee is often considered as plus. Language, perspective or etc. but actually in Japan, returnee is not treated as 100% Japanese. We returnees are called "Gaijin" (means foreigner) often. When I can not read some Kanji, when me and someone Japanese have different opinion, when I tell Japanese I rarely have miso soup or not owning rice cooker, they say "you are returnee/gaijin". However there are many Japanese who can't read Kanji, have different opinion or not like miso soup or steamed white rice, only people who have 100% Japanese parents and born in/grown up in Japanese are treated as Japanese. Many of Japanese people refuse mutual understanding with returnee. It is sad. or is it only happening to me?
On the other hand, the country I was born Canada is not my country either. However I still keep Canadian citizenship, I am a foreigner there. I'm Japanese in overseas, I am not Japanese in Japan. I am foreigner in everywhere. Permanent solitude.

I have been here over three years altogether now, so I am quite used to the feeling of always being a foreigner, always being "visible". But some people hate it a lot more than I do. I suspect those are the people who don't stay here very long. But being from here and feeling like that might be tough.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Japanese volcano calmer after five straight day of eruptions

And this is what was going on when he came into the world. I should have said something, but last week there were four earthquakes, two typhoons, and a volcano. Whoah, that makes this prairie boy a little nervous. The only natural disaster I ever saw at home was the river getting a little too high. But where I come from, the ground doesn't just start moving.

It's a boy!!!

Well, we all knew that, but now it's for sure. He came yesterday evening at 9:20pm. He weighs in at 3.5 kg, 49 cm, dark hair, and gooooood lookin! His name is Micah Raine Janzen. We'll call him Mick.

Andrea was happy that the whole ordeal only went on for seven hours. She is doing just fine, though in Japan they make you stay in the clinic for five days. So Simon and I are bach'ing. Simon was a little freaked out at first at the sight of this intruder, but today he was a lot happier with the whole idea.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Baby's on the way and we are off to the hospital! No posting for the next few hours... hahahahahahahaha

"…Leadership is not a person with a plan or vision for the future, a leader is one who forms environments in which the people of God, among whom the Spirit resides, can get in dialogue with others and narratives of Scripture…”

Winn Griffin via Paul Fromont

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Just a bit more on the Russian Orphan site. I was getting all inspired again reading a news article about the guy who started it up. I posted once before about what a great thing it is when someone decides to be deliberate in constructing their lives in such a way that they can extravagantly give to others, and it seems that this guy is one of those.
These seem like good folks. I've been chatting with them by email. Think I would like to learn more about them. Vladivostok is not too far away, and I think they could probably teach us a few things. Send them some money... I mean really, go read some of the stories of the kids you can sponsor, and at least think about it.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Saturday, September 11, 2004


I am just changing things over, updating template-wise, and I don't fully understand what I am doing so some links aren't working etc. Trying to figure it out....

atonement chat

A good discussion of the atonement that I just wanted to store the link to. At djchuang's site.

day with the boy

Spent most of the day with that guy. Pretty soon number two will be here. That is uncharted territory for me, two boys. I grew up as the only boy, number one son. And all I remember about guys with brothers is that they punch people a lot more than I did.
I read today that it is a good practice, good for your writing and getting into the swing of it, to write for just two minutes everyday. To let that be your start. Well, when it comes to blogging, I am petrified of committment, as my record has been so bad thus far, but I want to say I might be interested in possibly giving that a shot... maybe.

So here are my two minute for today. I just came back from Sakae, downtown Nagoya. I live the center of the city, especially on a Friday night, but it does feel somewhat incompatible with being a married father of one with one on the way.

So I am back at home, wasting time on a computer while my wife sleeps.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I am having so much fun I had to share this. I am really mad at a teaching company I do ome part-time work for tonight, because of a bunch of extra meaningless work they are making me do. I have to do these really in-depth evaluations of students in a two-day course, because the company we did it for wants to see something. As teachers, we told our bosses that such detailed reports taken from a period of two days really have no meaning at all, but they adamant, suggesting that it really isn't about the English learning anyway, it is about the business.

Well, if it isn't about the English, then I have found a great way to entertain myself for the evening. For the comments section, I am working hard of thinking up things to say that have basically no meaning, but will make everybody happy because, well, obviously something has been done.

So here are a few:

I recommend buying some English learning software such as Rosetta Stone. It's a good one. And remember lucid imitation of recommended structures may seem constricting, but is always commendable.

Good work on the presentation. Very creative. Keep reading and watching English media that suit your interests. Immersion is relative even in its most ubiquitous contexts, but its outcomes infinitely reliable.

Very interesting presentation. And excellent work in the dialogues. Regard fluency as a guide road to lingual intra-applicability. Function and context always work together in coherent dialogue - with one another that is!

Send me a few more. I likely won't be finished tonight...

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Good thoughts from Brian McLaren:

It's no surprise that in this fragmented world, community becomes a higher value, even though it is so darned hard to achieve and sustain. It's no surprise that interest in house churches increases in these times, where the shared life of a few is so important that even bothering with public worship is optional.

Throwing a small-groups program at this hunger for community is like feeding an elephant Cheerios, one by one. What's needed is a profound reorganization of our way of life, not a squeeze-another-hour-for-"community" into the week.

Of course, maybe a little programmed community is better than nothing, but I expect that this thirst for community will lead to a lot of experimentation in the years ahead. Perhaps many of our churches will become more like Catholic churches in the past, where the ideal parish had a few households where monks or nuns lived in community, practicing radical hospitality that would overflow to the community at large...

... I was once talking with Dallas Willard about Islam. He dropped this little thought virus: "Remember, Brian, in a pluralistic world, a religion is valued by the benefits it brings to its non-adherents." The virus has taken hold in my thinking, bringing to mind sayings of our Lord, like "the birds of the air" nesting in the branches of the kingdom of God, people seeing the light of our good deeds and "glorifying your Father in heaven," "by their fruits you will know them."

How different is this missional approach to the "rhetoric of exclusion" that worked so well in modernity: "There are blessings to being on the inside. You're on the outside and so can't enjoy them. Want to be a blessed insider like us?"

In contrast, missional Christianity says, "God is expressing his love to all outsiders through our acts of kindness and service. You're invited to leave your life of accumulation and competition and self-centeredness to join us in this mission of love, blessing, and peace. Want to join in the mission?"

Monday, August 23, 2004

Man. Didn't I read about this in a science fiction novel in high school? Freaky.

Human chips more than skin-deep

Advocates of technologies like radio frequency identification tags say their potentially life-saving benefits far outweigh any Orwellian concerns about privacy. RFID tags sewn into clothing or even embedded under people's skin could curb identity theft, help identify disaster victims and improve medical care, they say.

Critics, however, say such technologies would make it easier for government agencies to track a person's every movement and allow widespread invasion of privacy. Abuse could take countless other forms, including corporations surreptitiously identifying shoppers for relentless sales pitches. Critics also speculate about a day when people's possessions will be tagged--allowing nosy subway riders with the right technology to examine the contents of nearby purses and backpacks.

Great language story (from blog I just randomly found...):

A Japanese friend of mine took her mother to Paris one year. Everywhere they went they heard the phrase"Qu`est-ce que c`est?" (what is that). To a Japanese person, unfamiliar with the French language, that phrase sounds very close to "Ketsu kusei," which in Japanese slang means "the ass stinks." My friend's mother, who did not understand French asked her, "why are these people saying my ass stinks?" Poor woman!

Another Japanese story - I went to a boarding school with students from all over the world. Fun part of the experience was to share food, culture, music from our countries. The Spanish kids were trying to make friends with the Japanese kids by offering them gum. They would stretch their open palms (offering the gum) and ask, "un chiclet?"(brand of gum). Now, that phrase in Japanese sounds like "unchi kuray" or "give me poop." Here's what the whole scene looks like from a Japanese perspective - a guy is stretching his hand out to you and asking a question... ok so he wants something from me... thenhe hear the Spanish guy saying, "give me (your) poop."Of course, "un chiclet" became a great insider joke between the Spanish and Japanese kids!
Oh oh oh. What has happened to my interest in blogging? I remember when love was young. Me and Sony had so much fun. Posting life-bits and findin' links. Never lacked a topic or cared what anyone thinks...

But now I don't even check for comments, and when I sit here and try to think of something to post, there is nothing that intrigues me. Might be because I am not reading much these days. Or surfing the net. Just studying kanji. Everyday. Drawing little pictographs, and then drawing them again. Coming home on the train - kanji. Few extra minutes at the doctor's office - kanji.

It really is a good thing though. I feel so productive. And I wonder what goes on in my own head when for two years I can hardly motivate myself to lift a finger for study, and suddenly, it is what I do with every spare moment. At this rate, I might possibly be fluent at this language one day.

Oh I know. I hve really been wanting to do a post about the whole weight loss thing I have been on to in the last year, and how that has so radically impacted my life in the area of self-discipline. But I don't even have jam for that right now. Instead, I will just post my before and after pictures, in case you are interested:

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

A great quote Graham found by Kirkegaard:

It is well known that Christ consistently used the expression "follower." He never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for.

What then, is the difference between an admirer and a follower? A follower is or strives to be what he admires. An admirer, however, keeps himself personally detached. He fails to see that what is admired involves a claim upon him, and thus he fails to be or strive to be what he admires.

The difference between an admirer and a follower still remains, no matter where you are. The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. He always plays it safe. Though in words, phrases, songs, he is inexhaustible about how highly he prizes Christ, he renounces nothing, gives up nothing, will not reconstruct his life, will not be what he admires, and will not let his life express what it is he supposedly admires. Not so for the follower. No, no.

The follower aspires with all his strength, with all his will to be what he admires. And then, remarkably enough, even though he is living amongst a "Christian people," the same danger results for him as was once the case when it was dangerous to openly confess Christ...

Monday, July 26, 2004

Hey, you better check out my phlog. I was taking pictures in the temple grounds, and apparently some ghosts just walked right into the picture. Whaddya know...

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Three posts in a day. Wow. I thought that was worth celebrating with one more post.

Just to say I want to look more into this thing I found on Dwight Friesen's blog.

"Sobornost is a Russian Orthodox social church theory"
Ok. I am sufficiently inspired. And I am in a internet cafe with a lot of time on my hands. so...

That's the text I am using these days. I decided to go for it - learn kanji. Kanji are the Chinese characters used in Japanese writing. I guess I should break that down a little more: reading Japanese is really hard. It consists of two alphabets (three if you count the roman one) plus kanji, which is not an alphabet, but pictographs, pictures that represent a word. So to read a newspaper, you have to be able to read both the alphabets, plus about 2000 of the kanji. The alphabets are no big deal, we did that in the first couple months here. But kanji! Well, many just assume they will never get it and leave it at that.

There was a time. about two months ago, when I thought i would be one of those guys who may never learn kanji. But a friend of mine stumbled across this system that he got all evangelical to me about. He was convinced that it is absolutely life-changing in regard to kanji learning. Always a sucker for evangelism, I checked out the system and now find myself spending about two hours a day at it.

I don't exactly know why I am able to do that. I am not known for my discipline, but for some reason I am feeling highly motivated to do this. And I guess it is basically because of the success. The way I used to try and learn kanji, I would just learn a bunch and then have them fall out of my brain in a week. But this guy has come up with a way that makes the kanji stick in my head like that last grain of rice in the rice bowl.

He does it with really strange stories. Remember in school using strange acronyms to make stuff stick in your memory, like roygbiv for the colors of the rainbow? Well, it's kind of like that. Here, I will demonstrate, sitting right here in the internet cafe. First, I've gotta find a kanji appropriate for explaining. Just a sec...

Ok. I couldn't find one, so I am drawing one on a napkin. Now I have to mail it to the phlog. Hold on...

Ok. So here it is:

So, this is how he breaks this one down. The top part there, the part that looks like a cross with one arm lopped off, that is a magician's wand. And the square, that is a mouth. So the mouth with the wand on top means fortune telling. Now add four little dots underneath, and that is that kanji for "spot". See, because this fortune teller looks into the fire and tells your fortune from the spots she sees in front of her eyes.

Now that just sounds like the dumbest things, doesn't it. But that is actually the point. the stories get a lot weirder than that, but it seems like the weirder the are, the less likely you are to forget the kanji.

I learned 200 in the last two weeks. Previous to that I was at about 40 in two years. I plan for another hundred next week.

2000 by Christmas???

Anyway, if your thinking of getting born again into the world of Japanese reading, the name of the book is Remembering the Kanji by a professor named James Heisig.
I haven't been blogging with any consistency for a while now (granted there is no rule that says I must) so there is likely not a lot of people to see this recommendation, but I thought I would jot it down anyway.

For anyone who has a freaky somewhat inexplicable attraction to Russia (as I do), this guy is living in Moscow right now and having some great times that he writes about in detail.

In fact, maybe he will inspire me to write in more detail about some of my experiences here. Maybe.

Great day at the beach yesterday. We went to a place on the Japan Sea called Wakasa. Nice place but the sand was a little gritty. I still have yet to find a beach with sand as nice as that at Grand Beach. Amazing little jewel that Lake Winnipeg...

And it is hot and HUMID here. Like you wouldn't believe. We hide in the air conditioning and go to the beach or the river. And the week is going to get rough when it comes time to put on a tie. The Japanese should never have taken on western modes of business dress. It just doesn't fit the summer here. If we did it real Japanese style, we would all be wearing yukatas, which is almost like wearing pajamas all day. Ii ne...

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Was in Canada. Saw Farenheit 911. The following isn't my opinion, but I thought it was an interesting one...

I have been defending Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 from the criticism in mainstream and conservative circles that the film is leftist propaganda. Nothing could be further from the truth; there is very little left critique in the movie. In fact, it's hard to find any coherent critique in the movie at all.

The sad truth is that Fahrenheit 9/11 is a bad movie, but not for the reasons it is being attacked in the dominant culture. It's at times a racist movie. And the analysis that underlies the film's main political points is either dangerously incomplete or virtually incoherent.

But, most important, it's a conservative movie that ends with an endorsement of one of the central lies of the United States, which should warm the hearts of the right-wingers who condemn Moore...

...Is the administration of George W. Bush full of ideological fanatics? Yes. Have its actions since 9/11 been reckless and put the world at risk? Yes. In the course of pursuing those policies, has it enriched fat-cat friends? Yes.

But it is a serious mistake to believe that these wars can be explained by focusing so exclusively on the Bush administration and ignoring clear trends in U.S. foreign and military policy. In short, these wars are not a sharp departure from the past but instead should be seen as an intensification of longstanding policies, affected by the confluence of this particular administration's ideology and the opportunities created by the events of 9/11...

...The claim that Fahrenheit 9/11 is a conservative movie may strike some as ludicrous. But the film endorses one of the central lies that Americans tell themselves, that the U.S. military fights for our freedom. This construction of the military as a defensive force obscures the harsh reality that the military is used to project U.S. power around the world to ensure dominance, not to defend anyone's freedom, at home or abroad...

Monday, June 28, 2004

Maybe have to give this one a read...

If someone were to ask you what was the theme of Jesus' preaching, what would be your answer? Man's need for salvation? God's love for mankind? The new birth?

To be sure, Jesus spoke about all of those things. And they're all essential truths. But none of them were the theme of His teaching. The theme of Jesus' message was the kingdom of God.

Wherever He went, Jesus preached about the kingdom. The irony is that the message of the kingdom is almost totally missing from the gospel that's preached today. As a result, a lot of Christians don't realize that the kingdom of God is a present reality on earth. In fact, they don't even know what the kingdom of God is. Consequently, they never make the kingdom commitment that Christ requires.

In The Kingdom that Turned the World Upside Down, David Bercot takes the reader back to Jesus' teachings of the kingdom - teachings that have too often been forgotten. Bercot describes the radically new laws of the kingdom and its upside-down values. There's no room in Christ's kingdom for superficial Christianity, for this is a kingdom that has historically turned the world upside down.