Saturday, January 31, 2004

I thought this was really good from Chris Marshall:

Now to my next reflection. I am enormously uncomfortable with the focus on "up front" space and those who serve in it. In a perfect world, or better yet Kingdom Reality, there is no "up front" leader. The ground is completely flat, no one or no role exalted above others. The fact that we even are conscious of that space, in my opinion, shows how inculturated we are with top down structures, preaching focused services and staged worship as our paradigm for normative church. I asked Brian to not use notes, no power point, not use a stand and not to talk from the stage but from the floor. We intentionally faced the chairs at one another, not towards the stage or the "up front" space. We dotted the floor with round tables to foster life on life conversations. I specifically said in my description of the weekend that "the answers you're looking for will not come from this microphone but from out there (the greater community)". I may sound like a purist here, but in Kingdom economy there is no exalted role/space/gift. Church history has revealed to us how in certain periods, some roles were exalted over others. In modernity, no question it was/is the teaching gift or "up front". This is top-down thinking and I reject it. I think all this has exposed the need for a lot more growth in this area. Whenever we have a clear separation between teaching and serving and one is exalted or even noticed above the others, we do not yet understand the economy of Kingdom values and will not taste its reality here on earth...

...I spent 10 years climbing the ladder in evangelical ministry, being groomed to be the next super "up front" leader and what I learned is that it had more to do with being an American success story than anything to do with Christ following. I would go as far to say that until I learned to love 2 or 3 and be content in my giftedness, I really never understood what pastoring was. I believe the pastor who will thrive in the future will be one that turns in their pulpit for a guest bedroom, their preaching for true hospitality, their "up front" role for a towel and basin. Hospitality, which fosters powerful organic relationships underground will be the bridges that the Holy Spirit will use to bring healing to our communities. (by the way, women generally kick arse in this area). So men, learn how to clean a toilet and make a bed. Learn how to cut the vegetables and clean the dishes. Learn how to listen in conversation to people's stories as they share lives over a meal and be ready to respond with warmth and empathy with nobody to notice what your doing. The future leader will not be an expositor but a diakanos (table servant). If this is not enough for you, then let me end with this question: Who told you to be successful?

the fifth estate: Conspiracy Theories

In a special investigation the fifth estate's Bob McKeown finds that even the most outlandish conspiracy theory may have its basis in a legitimate question. In the course of separating fact from fiction, Bob delves into the labyrinthine and surprising ties between the Bushes and the Bin Ladens.

What he finds out may startle you as much as any conspiracy theory.

The response from viewers of the fifth estate to Conspiracy Theories was almost unprecedented in the history of the show. The broadcast had barely ended before emails began flowing into our office.

In addition to the extraordinary volume of mail, the number of hits to the fifth estate's web site was overwhelming. Overnight, the fifth estate's site became one of the most read of all the CBC's web sites, a sure indication that we had touched a nerve among our viewers.

Friday, January 30, 2004

I am just reading through Mike Bickle's Tabernacle of David fact sheet, which of course I have lots of confused opinions about, but in the midst of reading through the scriptures he lists, I came across one that intrigues me:

Amos 9:7

"Do you Israelites think you are more important to me than the Ethiopians?" asks the LORD. "I brought you out of Egypt, but have I not done as much for other nations, too? I brought the Philistines from Crete and led the Arameans out of Kir."

Monday, January 26, 2004

Teachers to sue Tokyo over anthem

The teachers claim it is unconstitutional to force pupils and teachers to stand and sing "Kimigayo" at school ceremonies.

The group will demand that the metropolitan government pay each of them 30,000 yen in compensation over the "psychological suffering" that has resulted from the board's order. They will also demand that the board refrain from punishing them for disobeying the order.

Wow. For singing the national anthem, and only at school ceremonies. We sang O Canada every morning of the school year! Maybe I could get a whole heap of money for my mental anguish...

Sunday, January 25, 2004

More Japannery for you. Go over to the photo blog for my tour of Osu.

Wow. A man ate McD's everyday for a month and lived.

January 22, 2004 -- LAST February, Morgan Spurlock decided to become a gastronomical guinea pig.
His mission: To eat three meals a day for 30 days at McDonald's and document the impact on his health.

Scores of cheeseburgers, hundreds of fries and dozens of chocolate shakes later, the formerly strapping 6-foot-2 New Yorker - who started out at a healthy 185 pounds - had packed on 25 pounds.

But his supersized shape was the least of his problems.

Within a few days of beginning his drive-through diet, Spurlock, 33, was vomiting out the window of his car, and doctors who examined him were shocked at how rapidly Spurlock's entire body deteriorated.

"It was really crazy - my body basically fell apart over the course of 30 days," Spurlock told The Post.

His liver became toxic, his cholesterol shot up from a low 165 to 230, his libido flagged and he suffered headaches and depression.

Via Darren

Maybe I should try Yoshinoya everyday for a month. Mad cow fer sure.

Ok. Here is one of those "life in Japan" posts you ordered:

That up three is Yoshinoya, which a gyudon shop. Gyudon is thinly sliced beef on top of rice with some onions and stuff in there. It is delicious and fast and costs about three bucks and so is usually filled with young single men. But now they are freaking out. See, they use only American beef, which has apparently crossed over to the "mad" side of the beef world. So now this massive chain restaurant has no supply for their main (only) dish. In fact I read this morning that a quarter of American beef exports go to Japan.

Anyway, to counter this they have introduced a whole bunch of new menu items including chicken-don and curry-don (though most people I have talked to said the curry-don is just the regular curry meal served in a more-difficult-to-eat fashion). They are still serving the beef - apparently they have about a three month stock of it - so I will be ok for now, but I am getting a little panicky about the gyudon-less months to come. This is the stuff crisis-type drama movies are made of.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

U2 Nearly Split by the Hand of God...

...In 1981, as the band toured the US, they began attending meetings with a Christian Group called Shalom which encouraged them to give up their Rock n Roll life style.

Luckily they stayed together but things could have been so different. Bono explained: "What we went through in the early eighties was a kind of baptism of fire. We went down to the water and nearly drowned in it. Our heads were under the water..."

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Voices from the Days of Slavery: Former Slaves Tell Their Stories
A Taste of Our Own Poison

...This push to protect intellectual property is defended as just one aspect of free trade - the aspect that benefits Hollywood. Since Adam Smith penned The Wealth of Nations, we've understood that borders are best when opened and when property from one country is respected in another. Free trade so enabled is the promised elixir for the woes of developing nations. Open your borders, protect property rights, and prosperity, the Smithies say, will quickly follow.

The dirty little secret, however, is that we don't respect the free trade rules that we impose on others. While the US sings the virtues of free trade to defend maximalist intellectual property regulation, we poison the free trade that developing nations care about most - agriculture - by subsidizing farming in the industrialized world to the tune of $300 billion annually. Rhetoric about family farmers aside, most of that money passes quickly to agribusiness. This is not Adam Smith; it is corporate welfare par excellence...

...The world is already skeptical enough about Adam Smith's magic. Throwing hypocrisy into the bargain can't help.

via Dan

Saturday, January 17, 2004

I have been spending lots of time watching the clips from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Very funny. If you have a high speed connection it is well worth going over there to waste some time. Especially funny are the correspondent pieces by Stephen Colbert and Ed Helms.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

On a slow winter morning I am going through old letters that I have sent to various friends in the past 5 years or so. Recently I have been feeling kind of a strange sense of disorientation that has to do with "living in the grey", not being real sure of what the goal is, what the plan is to get there, and what I am all about. In that context, I found the following letter, which seems to mark the beginning of my grey zone. But I think I still agree with much of what I said back then, and while living in the grey is harder I think I have to stay here and fight it out...

January 29, 2002

... So you were asking me what I see as a big picture. Well, I don't know if you will believe this, but part of what I have been learning in the last few years is to let go of my definition of the big picture. I really don't have any over-arching master plan of where I see things going other than the following of basic guiding principles. For me, the problem with grandiose all-encompassing visions is that they take the control out of God hands, placing the burden on us. And pretty quickly the lines blur as to whether we are doing it or God is doing it.

I guess, for me, this time of deconstruction has been about finding out what is at the foundation of all my strivings. As I look at Christ, I come to believe that the foundation for everything I do should be Love. Inasmuch as God is Love, Love becomes the absolute prime directive. Jesus and his greatest commandment - Love god and Love people - that is what I want to be all about. But there is something inherent about big plans and visions that takes my focus off of the goal of really loving God and people. Somehow, people become part of my project, a means to an end rather than an end in themselves. At least that is what was happening for me. I read where Peter tells Christians to really Love each other deeply, from the heart, and that is compelling to me. But as far as I can see, that requires quality time and quantity time. When I was really a part of the big structure, I was so busy that all I had time for was quality time. But I seemed to be leaving a trail of disconnected, disillusioned people who thought they were part of a family, but were finding that they were really an unpaid employee in my corporation. I was thinking about it yesterday, I have been outside of the structure of church for some time now, and I have never had such an alive, growing network of relationships as I do now. The network is primarily about becoming a family - a people of God who Love each other honestly and want to do life like Jesus did. But I must admit I am hesitant to start placing titles on people and meetings because it seems like too quickly we would be back on the road to corporate status.

What I want to do these days are the small things of Love, and then trust God to bring about an awesome "big picture". One friend of mine was talking about the need in any healthy group to find the balance between community and mission - to Love the people in your group but be looking outside the group for more people to share Love with. And for me, that is best done in a small group of people, primarily. This is not to say that I think large gatherings are evil. I think sometimes they're really good, like Sunday. It is just that right now, they are definitely the primary focus, and to me, there are way too many people in the room to really make for a healthy family.

These days, there is a lot of life for me in the community of friends that is forming at my job. I am not real crazy about the teaching part, but the job itself puts me in daily contact with, well, I guess you could call them "the poor". A lot of the students here have addictions and other circumstances that they are drowning in, and real friendship is something they respond to quickly. And there is no glory in it, and that is a good thing for me. It was a paradox for me, that in the context of a large church with a big plan, I could use my relationships with the poor as trophies, pointing to how I was really "doing it". That is not so much an issue in a place like this, where nobody is watching.

The bare bones of what I think would be a good idea organizationally for now looks something like this: a gang of us has been talking about turning Sunday morning into brunch time. We want to get together around what Paul called "the Lord’s table" and eat and build friendships, encourage and teach each other. I like the idea I see in the early church how communion was part of a larger meal, and we want to give that a try. We have also been getting together on Wednesday evenings to pray, usually, just basically because we have all been feeling that unction these days.

I suppose I could get into the whole discussion of how the early church organized itself (webs of house churches, etc) but I will save that for inch 3 of the stogie.

Talk to you more on Thursday,


In another letter I had pondered that "Jesus is God, yet he threw it away in the way he lived, and then threw it all away at the cross. And in doing this, he showed us how to give all the control over to God, letting him take care of the resurrections." This was a theme that showed up in a lot of letters and journals those days that I think I have forgotten recently. I don't know how it works for other people, but for me it seems that there are some bedrock principles that I can't forget or else everything else starts to slide. And this one is a big one for me, that of not focusing too much on outcomes but letting the dream be the acting out of Love in my everyday life. For me now things are becoming a little too unintentional, and a little too relaxed and suburban. I need to think of some ways to change that.

Update: Or maybe this is all just nostalgia...

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

What is the best way to make foreign friends?

One of the most frequent cultural "shocks" that I get lving in Japan has to do with the fact that such an overwhelming majority of the population shares the same ethnic background. At home, it is a very natural thing to question what "kind" of name a person has - Irish, German, etc - but in Japan it is a pointless question since 99% of the time the answer would be the same. And there are all kinds of other little things you run into that culturally, just wouldn't have any emphasis back home. Like this "question of the day" in Japan Today. Can you imagine in Canada being asked what is the best way to make foreign friends? In Japan, where often people are so unfamiliar with non-Japanese, sometimes to the point of fear, the question is a pretty fair one.

Similar things have happened to me lately that make me smile. I was walking out of my yard one day when a Japanese schoolboy was going by on his bicycle. When he saw me, he was surprised and said, "gaijin, kowai!!" which translates to "a foreigner, I'm scared!!". I called out after him, "why are you scared" but he was pedalling away as fast as he could.

And then a couple of weeks ago a salesmas came and rang my doorbell. When I opened the door, he bursts out, 'E! Gaijin da!" which means "Ah! A foreigner" (if you hadn't already figured that out). I responded in polite Japanese, "yes, I am a foreigner." There was an awkward silence.

The situation struck me as so funny when I translated it into a Canadian context. Can you imagine being in Canada, and saying, out loud when the door was opened to you, "Ah! An immigrant!" I am pretty sure that could get you into some fights. Lucky for them nobody fights here.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

CD's are much cheaper in Canada. That is a very good thing as my new CD's are providing me with some comfort here at 4 am as the rest of Japan sleeps. When I was home I got Emmylou Harris, Red Dirt Girl, and Steve Earle, Just an American Boy. And so far I am loving them both. The good news is that music with lyrics that go beyond "do me tonight" is out there, the bad news is that you almost never find it in the mainstream. You gotta dig for it, but the internet is making that easier. On with the revolution.

Emmylou Harris is starting to write her own songs and I am glad she is. The first track, The Pearl, has a lyric that is one of those that makes you think the writer must know you:

Our path is worn, our feet our poorly shod/
We lift up our prayer against the odds/
And fear the silence is the voice of God/

And we cry Allelujah

Steve Earle's new one is maybe less spiritual, but man is he getting political. The CD is a recording of a live performance where he has lots of criticisms to make on what he sees as the attacks on democracy by his current government. In Amerika 6.0 he's singing,

...letters to the editor and cheating on our taxes is the best we can do

And the rocker-in-a-country-musician's-body type music that he writes still really appeals to the hillbilly in me. I remember as an overdramatic teenager, locking myself in my room and listening to a song from Guitar Town, where he sings about being stuck in his small town and how he is "gonna get outta here someday". Well, I've been gone from that small town for quite a while, but I am still listening to Steve Earle. I guess you can take the boy out of the country but...

Saturday, January 10, 2004

We made it back. Andrea and Simon were up around 4:30 and I've been up since 6-ish. Ain't jet lag grand. What I don't understand about it is how sometimes I get it and sometimes not at all...

But now that we are back and the craziness of the trip is over, it is time for getting back to the routine and accomplishing those New Years resolutions. Mine revolve around really taking my Japanese up another notch, losing some more pounds, and concentrating a lot more on songwriting.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

So the trip home is drawing to a close and this is only the second time I have gotten to a computer in the whole time I have been here. And maybe I am turning Japanese because there are a few things I am feeling contempt for at home. For instance:

1. The internet cafe at Starbucks costs 6 bucks an hour. Downtown in Nagoya I go for 2 bucks.

2. The cell phones with cameras in them cost a crapload of money.

3. A windchill of minus 48 degrees. Wow. Although, that stretch was so incredible it almost crosses over from being negative to being an amazing and rare thing that is kind of fun to experience... and then leave. I mean, we always tell friends in Japan, well, it sounds really cold, but it is not that bad. No. We are wrong. It is that cold. It is crazy cold. In fact, it makes me think that in the theology of Winnipeggers there should be a careful re-thinking of the doctrine of hell. In Winnipeg any notion of heat as punishment just packs no punch.

Don't get me wrong - I still love this place like crazy and am a loyal Winnipegger; it's just that I might come back in the summer next year. But there are some things that I have really loved about being home and so I should mention those as well.

1. The Keg Steakhouse. They need to expand to Japan.

2. The YMCA downtown. A non-member can drop in for ten bucks and use a facility that is three times the size and quality of our gym in Japan.

3. Friends. I sure do miss my friends. And now it is your turn to come to Japan. I came to your country, so it is only fair.