Hey, Warren Kinsella took down the "childish attack" post. You think we played any part in that? I wonder. From time to time, if something really irks me, I might send off an opinionated email. Join in the "democratic" process. I am little skeptical about it actually having much effect, but you sure get some interesting responses sometimes.


Impactful lyrics from Andrew Smith:

Searching for a language of the soul
Much moreso than any unifying creed
Or militant meassage
And we're hard to hold
Like fog people
As we search for a reason
To waste our lives

(Holy War)
Darren Rowse suggests a church that is full of hot air...
I haven't introduced any new bloggers for while - likely because I have hardly been reading any blogs in the last month. But now the high speed connection is up and my cyber friendships are getting re-established.

Anyway, two blogs I will be watching closely in the days to come. One is Mike Todd. I noticed that he doesn't have an "about me" section on his blog (and then I noticed that I don't either), so I don't know much about him, but I intend to find out more. I know he is from Toronto, which we are ok with if he avoids all Winnipeg weather jokes.

And also my cousin Ron Janzen. He is about ten years older than me, and used to take me around on his motorbike. That's about all I can recall. Anyway, he's now a family-man living in Steinbach and posting some interesting quotes and commentary. And he's smart, real smart. So don't over there with brain disengaged.
From the bored-in-Japan file...

What would happen if the sun went out?

And why is snow white?

Another kind of baptism??
I sent the previous post to Kinsella's email. Here is the response I got back:

If you want heavyweight Canadian politicians, John, look elsewhere. Warren's is about/for anything but that.

PS Go easy on the piety over the holidays. We'll all be better off as a result.

Brian, from what you say in your comment, it sounds like this guy's m.o. is to be the frat-boy prankster of Canadian politics. Good for him (John applauds sarcastically).


It is a sad thing. I hear that heavyweight Canadian politicians are blogging now. Hmm. Sounds like something I might want to check out. What do I find? Warren Kinsella initiating a childish personal attack on some NDP that made him mad. Reminds me why I pay as little attention as possible to party politics.

And they wonder why the younger generation is disillusioned. These are our �gleaders"...
To my cousin Ron Janzen. If you read this, please send me an email. I want to send you a Christmas picture and I lost your address...


Whoah, it was cold in Japan today. Well, not Winnipeg cold, but Japan cold, which is around 0 degrees. But the thing is, in Winnipeg inside the house is always a comfortable 22 degrees or so. Not so Japan. It is truly one of the strange paradoxes of Japan. They hate the discomfort of a cold toilet seat, so everyone has a heated one of those, but central heating is just something that no one sees as necessary. And rarely does anyone leave their heater on all night (dangerous and wasteful I suppose), so on a cold morning you wake up with very visible breath. And then there is the argument, the debate about who's turn it is to get out of the warm bed to turn the heater on.

But then there are the baths, and what luxury is lost in the absence of central heating is all gained back through the Japanese bathing experience. They just plain do it better than we do. It is a ceremony, a ritual that has a history reaching back to the times when the Kings and Queens of us dirty Europeans were taking baths only once or twice yearly.

This morning I went to a local "fitness club" which is a gym/ swimming pool/ public bath. After a workout you can go and soak in either an indoor or outdoor bath, with water so hot you turn lobster red in only minutes. And this is a cheap imitation of the real deal specialized public bath houses. There you can soak in any number of pools, from "medicine water" pools, to "polar bear pools" (six or eight degrees). Usually, they even have an electro-shock pool which I can never get into beyond my ankles.

It is such a relaxing and relational way to waste time. Of course, everyone is buck naked (men separate from women) which sometimes causes a little pause among foreigers, but once you get past that, it is a great way to hang out with the guys (pun not intended, but not deleted either). Way better than Monday Night Football.
Did I mention that I like what Len has to say?

The best apology is a life lived in the grace of Christ. But unless that life has a strong relational dimension, it remains private.. love is relational by definition. We must demonstrate in renewed communities that the Gospel is true. Today the greatest hindrance to the Gospel is faith communities that are not transformed communities or are based almost solely on Sunday relationships.

St. Francis wrote, "Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." The witness to the power of the early church was not just the signs done by the apostles but the surrounding community looking on and saying, "See how they love one another!" The Spirit makes us One. When those around SEE the truth in flesh, they will believe it. Isn't this the very heart of the meaning of the incarnation? God could have lectured us as to His caring for us, His presence with us.. instead, He demonstrated love in his life by living among us, and by dying for us.


Len has this to say on the postmodern theology blog:

My point is incarnation.. a physical, historical and fleshly manifestation of the truth. Lacking this we only have a modern propositional apologetic and reasonable sounding excuses about truth and witness. The church must be an embodied presence, and faith is participation in truth embodied in a faithful community.

So, I am not arguing that we abandon our multiple or electronic communities. I am arguing for a center of embodied presence. If we fail in that one, the others wont' be worth much.

Noam Chomsky proposes encouraging Iran to invade Iraq as a solution to America's current dilemma...


I was really taken by this Dave Matthews song today. I like how he says it.

Christmas Song

She was his girl; he was her boyfriend
She be his wife; take him as her husband
A surprise on the way, any day, any day
One healthy little giggling dribbling baby boy
The wise men came three made their way
To shower him with love
While he lay in the hay
Shower him with love love love
Love love love
Love love is all around
Not very much of his childhood was known
Kept his mother mary worried
Always out on his own
He met another Mary for a reasonable fee,
Less than
Reputable as known to be

His heart was full of love love love
Love love love
Love love is all around

When Jesus Christ was nailed to his tree
He said "oh, daddy-o I can see how it all soon will be
I came to shed a little light on this darkening scene
Instead I fear I spill the blood of my children all around"

The blood of our children all around
The blood of our children all around
The blood of our children all around

So the story goes, so I'm told
The people he knew were
Less than golden hearted
Gamblers and robbers
Drinkers and jokers, all soul searches
Like you and me

Rumours insisted he soon would be
For his deviations
Taken into custody by the authorities
Less informed than he,
Drinkers and jokers, all soul searchers
Searching for love love love
Love love love
Love love is all around

Perparations were made
For his celebration day
He said "eat this bread and think of it as me
Drink this wine and dream it will be
The blood of our children all around
The blood of our children all around
The blood of our children all around"

Father up above, why in all this anger have you filled
Me up with love
Fill me love love love
Love love
And the blood of our children all around
Merry Christmas from Japan. I still haven't figured out how to access my webspace, so if you are interested in some of our Japan pictures thus far, go here.


I always think this gets more obvious when you live in another culture:

I don't cuss a whole lot. Even when I'm upset, the words just don't come out. I have no ethical objections to most cuss words. A word is a word is a word. I only have a moral objection to language used to hurt people, degrade others, and purposely offend. Obviously cuss words can be effectively used towards that purpose, but cuss words are not the enemy. I can hurt, degrade, and offend without dropped any particularly word; it's the set of words. The overall organization of my thoughts that can hurt people. We don't need to be afraid of a particular word.

From David Hopkins.
Yeah, I didn't explain say much about the Osaka trip. I was there for the weekend to work with the company I am doing weddings with. It was an interesting place to visit, and just as interesting was the ride there on the Shinkansen. For someone coming from a country that rarely uses trains to transport people, the bullet train is a wonder. When you hit about 200kmh or so, there is something almost scary about seeing another train coming at you at the same speed. And for the two seconds it takes for the trains to pass at 400kmh, a few feet from each other, you are thankful for the precision of Japanese technology.

Osaka was populous and never-ending, which I tend to like. The downtown section is called Umeda and it takes shopping to a whole new level. On top of one of the shopping centres is a massive red ferris wheel that will let you and your date take a romantic look over the city, for only about ten bucks. That is pretty cheap for Japan.

And apparently Osaka is one of the few cities in Japan that has a "bad area", like an inner city in North America. Generally, real estate estate prices here are so high that "white flight" is not really an option (though I guess it wouldn't be "white" flight here, would it...) so poverty stricken inner city areas generally don't happen. I am interested to see this area, how bad it really is, because I know that for a lot of Japanese, the desire for complete security causes their definition of a "bad area" and mine to be very far apart.


Well, lookey here. Seems that what all those reams of Japanese forms that came about an internet hookup were actually telling us that all we need to do is plug in. Andrea figured that out, and we are ONLINE!! Woohoo. I guess that is why God puts people like me together with people like Andrea, to keep me from blundering my way through life. So now I put a bit more time into hefty analysis of Japanese life...

...Well, as soon as there is some time. Tomorrow is another 13 class day, and Christmas day - 15 classes!! Seems Christmas is just kind of an evening thing here. Christmas cake (specially made at Japanese bakeries everywhere) and fried chicken from KFC. That is what most everyone does. Quirky, eh? That's why I like it here.


I am spending my anniversary in a business hotel in Osaka sans wife. How much fun is that? I will be glad when life slows down a little.

I think people in Osaka are a little taller than people in Nagoya. Or is that just me? Other differences? Not really many, just the massive and incredible super shops are even more massive and more incredible. John and Yoko still playing everywhere I go...


It was enough to give me chills. Today I was walking around in the subway when I heard this incredible shouting coming in every exit. I ran up to the top to see what was going on, and there in the biggest round-a-bout in Nagoya sat about eight massive trucks, painted black or brown, with massive loudspeakers on top. They were blaring with such volume that everyone around was covering their ears, and the echo rang through the streets, even ten minutes after they had driven off. Apparently, these are the campaign tactics of Japan's extreme right wing, the Uyoku. It was a little unnerving how busy Nagoya station just kinda ground to a halt and watched. Made me wonder what Hitler's rallies and military displays must have been like.

Anyway, if you're curious, I found some info here. There are blurbs about other fringe groups in Japan as well.


I guess I am thinking that if there is a grand disservice that some brands of Christianity have done to the advancement of the Kingdom, it is the narrowing of what it means to have a knowledge of Christ. I often find myself on a tightrope between two sides because I do actually believe Christ to be supreme; I believe that Christ is the Light that every being will stand before on the last day. But I also believe that the spark of Christ has existed in every human being since the start of time (inasmuch as they have a knowledge of God), and many humans know that Light very well without knowing the name of Christ (as well as those who claim the name but reject the Light). In fact, historically the "Christian" church may have done as much to obscure the true light as reveal it. Frankly, I too have rejected the "Christ" that was presented to me much of my life. But the Light of Christ, of the goodness, kindness, and truth of Christ, is something resident in each person that can be turned toward or turned from.

Anyway, here is Lewis from Mere Christianity:

...But there is another way of demanding results in which the outer world may be quite illogical. They may demand not merely that each man�s life should improve if he becomes a Christian: they may also demand before they believe in Christianity that they should see they whole world neatly divided into two camps � Christian and non-Christian � and that all the people in the first camp at any given moment should be obviously nicer than all the people in the second. This is unreasonable on several grounds.

(I) In the first place the situation in the actual world is much more complicated than that. The world does not consist of 100 percent Christians and 100 percent non-Christians. There are people (a great many of them) who are slowly ceasing to be Christians but who still call themselves by that name: some of them are clergymen. There are other people who are slowly becoming Christians though they do not yet call themselves so. There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand. There are people in other religions who are being led by God�s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example, a Buddhist of goodwill may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christs birth may have been in this position. And always, of course, there are a great many people who are just confused in mind and have a lot of inconsistent beliefs all jumbled up together. Consequently, it is not much use trying to make judgements about Christians and non-Christians in the mass...

That sounds a lot like Romans 2. And 1 John 4.


I wrote these comments on another site yesterday:

What if the church as we have defined it historically was never really "the Church of Christ"? I wonder if when God looks down on us, he sees his church as something quite other than how we have defined it through the ages...

and then,

I feel a need to clarify what i just wrote a little. Mainly, two things from Christ are making me think like this. First, in John (14? 15?) Christ goes on and on about how those who belong to him will "obey his commands", basically do what he did and be about what he was about. Couple that with the spot where he talks about that the many who will come to him thinking that they knew him, and he will say he never knew them. That would say to me that when we look back in history, regarding the historical Christian church as Christ's church, we are likely at odds with God's own view. God likely looks inside and outside the walls of what has been called the church, sees those both inside and out who have been transformed by and have joined in on the Love of God, and calls only those his own.

By the same token, there are those within and without who are "haters of the light".

C.S. Lewis had a bunch to say on this subject that I will blog about soon.

I have been thinking about this for a while, and somethings I came across in Lewis were really reinforcing it. The first bit, from The Last Battle, when one of "followers" of Tash (the evil power) finds himself in heaven:

...So I went over much grass and many flowers and among all kinds of wholesome and delectable trees till lo! in a narrow place between two rocks there came to meet me a great Lion. The speed of him was like the ostrich, and his size was an elephant�fs; his hair was like pure gold and the brightness of his eyes, like gold that is liquid in the furnace. He was more terrible than the flaming Mountain of Lagour, and in beauty he surpassed all that is in the world, even as the rose in bloom surpasses the dust of the desert. Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of Thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reason of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him, for I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath�fs sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted... Beloved, said the Glorious one, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek...
Two streams of thought on all the recent Bono posts:

Jason Evans:

Okay, I kinda hate doing this, but I can't help myself any longer. There is a lot of talk about Bono and the whole AIDS crisis in Africa... The whole world realizes that this is Bono's crusade... you don't need to talk about it any more, we all know. The man is getting enough press coverage, he doesn't need your help. How 'bout you quit talking about Bono doing something about it and start letting Jesus doing something about it through you. ENOUGH ABOUT BONO PLEASE! Thank you, sorry for the outburst.

or Derek Eidse:

Bono's constantly changing my views on fame, and the value of having a universal voice. As I said in my last entry, his opinion may not be any more valid than yours or mine, but he's been thrown into a place where his voice can be heard world-wide, and he's using it for the good of people and for justice and peace.
Here's a thought some friends and I were discussing recently... We've all died and it's judgment day. God gets up in front of us and says, "Okay, I decided to change the rules. You're all in." After the cheering subsides he says, "Well, there's a hitch. For all of those that were pissed that I said you're all in... you're out!"

Interesting thought from Jason Evans.


If I hear one more awful rendition of "War is Over", original or cover version, I will burn every Beatles CD I own, or at least anything featuring Yoko.


Ok, someone is searching "naked fat men" and my blog is coming up. What's that about?? My true self, perhaps??

Anyway, in a unrelated story, Andrea is here and doing well. Simon is sleeping more normally now, and not waking me up in the middle of the night pulling on my ears and saying, "dance! dance!" So that is good, because for the time being I am working like a Japanese salary-man, out the door at 7am and home at 10pm. I don't think I have worked this hard since my farm-boy days. And I feel that work-allergy acting up again. The family-on-weekends-only phase should be over by January, but it sure is giving me a window into how much of the rest of the country lives. I don't know if I have ever lived life where everything revolved completely around pulling a paycheque. Don't want to either.

I would love to post some pictures of what is going on over here, but I don't have an account at home yet, so I don't have any room in cyber-space where I can post some pictures. I tried for three hours the other day to set something up on geocities, only to find that they won't let me link pictures from this site to that one. Freaks.

Soon enough though.


From Bono with Larry King:

KING: Why -- how did you handle money and fame and all the things that goes with it? Well or not well?

BONO: I don't know. Ireland has a very different attitude to success than a lot of places, certainly than over here in the United States. In the United States, you look at the guy that lives in the mansion on the hill, and you think, you know, one day, if I work really hard, I could live in that mansion. In Ireland, people look up at the guy in the mansion on the hill and go, one day, I'm going to get that bastard. It's a different mind-set.
I hope these guys get big and find the money to produce this song really well, because even the basic version is really hooky. What a great pop song!

Easily Amused, Better that Way


Jordon Cooper dug up a great quote from Hawerwas:

"Through his ministry and death, Jesus offered humankind a radical vision of forgiveness and freedom from revenge. To a world obsessed with power, that is outrageous. An omnipotent God incarnate who relinquishes his power and dies an ignominious death in order that human beings might "have life and have it more abundantly"? Whoever heard of such a thing? "

A God who embraces powerlessness unto death is a message the world will never accept, says Hauerwas. Yet, he argues, it is that message the Christian is bid to take to all nations. If you were to ask Hauerwas to define himself by a single word, once he got Texan out of the way, he would probably say disciple and add that anyone who uses the word "better damn well mean it.

A few comments back I was talking about "Christ as the revelation of the Love of God". That is what I was trying to say. Yeah, what he said.
Global survey reveals discontent with U.S.

In the eyes of much of the world, this is America: an inconsiderate lone wolf that has really good entertainment but really bad values, that wants war with Iraq just to get oil but still should remain as the only superpower on Earth.
Is this subversive or just dumb?


Liam Gallagher 'more hated than Saddam'

The singer, who came third, was beaten only by Germany's wartime Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, who came first, and former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.

I'd always hoped he would eventually say it loud...

"That there's a force of love and logic behind the universe is overwhelming to start with, if you believe it. But the idea that that same love and logic would choose to describe itself as a baby born in shit and straw and poverty, is genius. And brings me to my knees, literally."

Merry Christmas.
Richard says,

...All too often I've heard people say, "The Bible says it, I believe it!", without thinking about the fact that no two individuals can read anything without filtering it through their own life experience. Interpretation is the way our brains interact with the world around us. That doesn't take away from the idea that we can agree upon a communal interpretation of a specific event.

"I believe in God, the Father almighty..." (Voice in my head: "Wait a sec... what do you mean by 'God'... how about 'Father'... how about 'Almighty'?")

Yeah, Richard, that voice in your head seems to catch the essence of it. And thankfully, where it leads us, I think, doesn't have to be a place of immobilizing doubt (which seems to be the fear of so many when it comes to the question of inerrancy). Rather it goes to a place of honesty and humility, where we admit that the world of interpretation has never been black and white.

And doesn't that honesty reduce the amount of things that we can really be conviced of, the things that are worth fighting for?? For me, that reduction is a blessed thing, because it can bring a very real unity, based around Christ as the revelation of the Love of God, which is the bedrock of what I can be convinced of in scripture, and is the only thing I really want to "fight" for, rather than whichever denominational issue.

But I suppose there are plenty of Christians who would disagree that the basic thing God is trying to communicate through scripture is "Christ as the revelation of the Love of God". Sometimes I wonder what common ground I have with those ones. Are we even on the same team??


Len Hjalmarson wonders,
(Wednesday, November 27th, 2002)

...is it really possible to understand the gospel from a position of power and privilege?

And in a related story:

why has the Catholic Church historically taken such a militant position on interpretation? why have they enforced it with the sword, with banishment and with disdain?

because the Catholic Church, unlike the majority of the Protestant Churches (until recently), has always realized that interpretation is all that we have.

does this make their posture of physical, ideological and social violence acceptable? by no means. nonetheless, it underscores what is at stake in the act of interpretation.

reality is interpretation. the stories we tell help establish the boundaries for our actions. our actions are partner in enacting destiny.

interpretation is all that we have.
engage it authentically.
hold it sacred.

From Dan Hughes:

there seems to be a series of assumptions that either support or are created by this notion (the professional mediating strange ancient texts to the masses):

1. that the secrets of G-d are locked in the text and need to be unlocked by a "bible expert," who is defined in terms of technical literacy.

2. that somehow the received text is a sufficient answer to the question of the genealogy of the textual tradition. thus the task is simply one of translation and communication--questions of strata and critical texts being left to the side, or rather, not generally even acknowledged as questions.

3. that there is a right interpretation. that somehow we can possess the author's intent by translating and interpreting the text "objectively."

in this view we need experts to unlock the linguistic mysteries of G-d that come from inerrant texts which we can objectively know absolute truth from.

doesn't that make us feel all warm and fuzzy.

what a crock of shit. what a dangerous delusion. "Inerrant in the original manuscripts" is the traditional mantra. as if that solved anything. what does inerrancy mean in a world without recourse to objectivity? inerrant to whom? when? in which situations? interpretations can never be inerrant. interpretation is our ever present enterprise. i'll give you inerrancy if you demand it, but i warn you, it does you no good when over the perspectival line of contingency you step. and step you must! in practice if not in purpose.

He's right, you know.


I was over reading the arguments at nologo.org and following the links to the counter-arguments, and all it does is get me back in that "what the heck is truth really anyway". Everyone is very convinced of their side, but both sides operate as much in terms of faith as they do knowledge. It increases my suspicion of anyone with an over-arching plan. The only over-arching plan that I find convincing is the one that is the most local and particular. Love each other, even your enemies. One thing that is easier to do than "join the movement" is to identify selfishness and selflessness within myself. I think that is all I really have certainty about. God is Love. Love pays attention to the small things. The rest is God's domain... isn't it?


Adbusters wants to get the big pig on a CNN financial show, but they need some help. Anybody got money for that??

Check it out here.


There's a good article floating around out there...

"Simply put: Being a Christian means following Jesus. If our discipleship is not leading us to continue to give away our lives to other people, at great personal cost, then we are not following Jesus.

"There is a fundamental call to Christians to be involved in generous compassion to the poor and the broken and the underprivileged. There's more in the Bible about justice and compassion than evangelism."


Still working on getting connected at home. ADSL seems to be the prime option. Though they have some sort of fiber optic connection here now that is supposed to be super crazy fast. Little more expensive, but....
These thoughts have been bouncing around in my head a lot lately, and then today I found them well-said on Len Hjalmerson's blog:

"[The subject] of wealth and poverty is one of the most pervasive biblical themes.. In the New Testament there are more than five hundred verses of direct teaching on the subject, one out of every sixteen verses (not including implicit teaching in the actions of Jesus and the disciples). Jesus talked about wealth and poverty more than any other subject including heaven and hell and sexual morality.

"Wealth is seen, at best, as a great spiritual danger and, most often, as an absolute hindrance to God. The rich are continually held responsible for the sufferings of the poor, while God is portrayed as the deliverer of the oppressed.

"Yahweh demanded justice and righteousness and declared that nations would be judged by how they treated the poor..

"Jesus is God made poor. .His coming was prophesied to bring social revolution, and his kingdom would turn things upside down.. Jesus Himself identified with the weak, the downtrodden, the outcast...

"The Bible often refers to the oppressed, the alien, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow. These are the defenseless ones, the powerless, the disenfranchised, the voiceless ones at the bottom of the social structure. But by his relationship with the poor, Jesus establishes their value. So must the church. The Christian point of view must be that of those at the bottom. Their rights and needs should always be the most determinative elements of the church's social stance."

Jim Wallis, The Call to Conversion


This article sent to me by a friend, prompted this response from me:

Hey Nathan,

Good article. Came at a poignant time for me, as I am
also reading Naomi Klein's No Logo. Both raise the same
question in my head. Is the alternative vision somewhat
Luddite and anti-technology? Is poverty inherent to a
technologically advanced society? Because
anti-corporate, anti-globalization arguments, though
not explicitly, tend to point in that direction. Not
that I am saying that is bad. I remember reading Thomas
Jefferson saying that for a society to remain good, it
had to remain primarily agrarian. But is that true??

I dunno. Just my questions. I am sure the Naomi-goddess
will make everything clear by the end of the book....


And then today I came across Joel Mowchenko's blog. Uh huh, just what I figured, let's take it back to the land people...

Of course, being in Japan, it might be finding some land that proves to be the tricky part...

Coming from a Mennonite heritage, I can see where at times withdrawl from the world goes to such an extreme of non-engagement that the community ceases to have any relevance to the world, or influence therein. But I can really see where such a community, if linked to some sort of community venture going on within an urban centre, could be really redemptive (salvific even!!). Two short weeks in urban Japan are reminding me of the extent to which the city is a glorification of man and all his conquests. And my hunch is that isolation in such an environment eventually does some sort of violence to the spirit (there is something about the massive, though obnoxiously loud and despairingly plastic game arcades here that drives this point home to me).

So Joel, hurrah for your venture into rural community. And though I know I don't know you from a hole in the ground, my advice would be don't forget the poor in the cities...


I am sitting in the biggest Starbucks in Nagoya. Yesterday, I bought Naomi Klein's book No Logo, so I suppose this could be the last time I ever come here, but for now, ignorance is bliss. Though this isn't really such a blissful place for me. I don't really like coffee, so instead I just paid $5 for a steamed milk, which seems a little overboard for warm milk, but hey, I bought the image, and I am sitting in Starbucks, which makes me infinitely cooler than I was just minutes ago...

Yep, if we have it in North America, they pretty much have got it here, just with better service. All except for size 11 shoes. I have searched far and wide for a pair of size 11's - not because I need them but because I will need them - and have met with no success at all. There was a size 11 pair of nike basketball shoes in one place, but they were orange and yellow, and I will do a lot more searching before I go back for those.

Today I am looking around for English teaching jobs. I need something to do with my week, and I need some extra money to pay off the startup costs of life in Japan. We got a nice house about 25 minutes out of Nagoya in a place called Seto. It has lots of room, and the rent is very low, as we are getting it from a pastor friend of mine. Diana and Natsumi, Andrea, Simon and I are all going to live there together, which should be a good experiment in intentional community. All of us, with the exception of Andrea and Diana, have lived together before, so I don't foresee too much friction. Well, maybe some between me and Diana because, come on, we are siblings. And I suppose between me and Andrea because, come on, we are married...

Yesterday we were talking excitedly about the house parties we would be able to have at the new place. I have been musing a little about how, in my estimation, traditional church has fused the school and the party with poor results. You either have a boring party or a vague and confusing school. I am wondering to what extent we can experiment with separating the two �Eeither let a get together be a party of wide open relational connecting, or a more focused and intentional look at issues and theologies. Well, we'll experiement a little anyway. Apparently, the party might run into a little trouble as house parties are just not very normal here. The Japanese tend to confine their partying to the downtown areas, while keeping their homes for quiet family living. It is quite a rare thing to go over to someone's house even just to hang out. Relational connecting is usually done at a bar, restaurant, karaoke lounge, arcade (YOU SHOULD SEE THE ARCADES HERE), etc. So we might have to walk softly in our neighborhood with that one. I'm not really interested in a "loud, obnoxious gaijin" kind of reputation.


Gaijin. That means �goutside person�h. I�fve heard that the politically correct version is �gGaikoku-jin�h. That means �gperson from an outside country�h. I can�ft say that the original version offends me that much, as it is just plain true that we are outsiders. Why try to sugar coat it. I find that among foreigners in Japan, the reaction to being a visible minority varies. Some absolutely hate being constantly noticed. Others treat their difference more like celebrity, and almost revel in it. I lean toward the latter. I figure we better get use to being somewhat of a curiosity in a country that is 99% ethnically homogenous. Yer not in Canada anymore, Dorothy...

It is a little easier when you know that most people are positively pre-disposed to North Americans. I remember once saying to a friend at home that, having lived in Japan, I know what it�fs like to be a visible minority. As a member of a visible minority in Canada, he kinda scoffed and said that it is a little harder to play the odd one out when the majority is condescending and disrespectful. He�fs right. I remember being in Korea for only three days and having one drunken man come up to me yelling, �gToo many white!! Get out! Get out!�h I mentioned, in the presence of a black woman from Washington DC who I was traveling with, that it was a slimy feeling, to know that I was disliked because of my skin color. She remarked that she felt more that way in her own country than she did in Korea. Ouch.

The experience in Japan has been quite different. Yesterday, my sister and I were on a train, and an old woman came over from her group of seniors and said to us, �gPlease, welcome to Japan.�h The grammar might have been a little off, but we sure appreciated the sentiment. You could tell she was a total hero among her group of friends, as you could see their looks of disbelief at her boldness in going right up and talking to a foreigner. I mean she could have been killed.

It does tend to be true that some Japanese people are terribly scared of foreigners. And that can lead to awkward/pathetic situations. It can be extreme too. I had one student last time I was here who explained it all to me during our first lesson. He began by making it clear to me that he had no interest in learning English. So why was I there? Well, years ago he had been walking up Mount Fuji with a friend of his. The friend had some gaijin friends that he had met on the way up. My student said he was so scared that he literally stood behind his friend and shook with fear. He told me that he realized this was utterly absurd, and determined to change his feelings toward foreigners. So I was there to be a foreign friend, to chat and exchange cultures with. It was the best teaching gig I have every had. He paid me $50 an hour so he could teach me Japanese. He is still a very good friend. And he doesn�ft tremble when I come around. Mission accomplished.


Seems like Kinko's is the best option for internet as long as I can't get it at my house. We went to an internet cafe that seemed really cheap, about 4 bucks for a half hour, but changed our minds when they charged us 6 bucks a piece for our Cokes.....

Here is an unfinished blog entry that I wrote on the plane:

Wow. It�fs -63 degrees outside. That is almost as cold as Winnipeg in January. I am 30 000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, about seven hours into a thirteen hour flight. I have reached the head-spinning-need-a-gravol stage of the flight. Japan Airlines is pretty good for entertainment; I have my own personal screen with about five movies playing, as well as five video games to play, but I am exhausted with cheap Hollywood movies, and I just found out that I am not good at Tetris anymore. Good time for a blog entry, thinks me

It has been a smooth trip so far. A couple things worked out so perfectly that I reminded myself to be even-minded the next time I want to jump into a �gwhy do things always go wrong�h kind of mindset. Today, things are really going right. My bag was heavy; the check-in lady thought too heavy. We weighed it, and it came in at 69.5 pounds, .5 pounds under the limit. I heard at the desk that the flight was very crowded. Indeed, it is, but no one showed up in the seat next to me, so I am thankful for the elbow room. But I still can�ft say I am enjoying the trip. I am tolerating the trip. I can�ft wait until someone invents a Star Trek like teleporter so they can just zap me back and forth between continents.

This is a big chapter change in my life. I have been coming back around to that theme all day today. I was feeling a sort of deep thanks to God for the intricate and unexpected way that he does things. In the last five years, we pretty much lost interest and passion for the institutional side of church. At times that would make me a little stressed as I gazed into the future, because since I was a teen I have been fairly single-minded about wanting to be a �gchurch planter�h. How strange then that my perception of the community of faith was so drastically altered, to the point that �gchurch planter�h had so changed in definition so as to become unrecognizable.

But here�fs the thing that makes me so thankful. I am on a plane heading off to a foreign land to be a missionary. Funny, that terminology carries meanings that I don�ft care to join in on, but essentially, that�fs what we are up to. We go to incarnate a message of the Love of God as a community of faith. Not really anything different than we were doing in the North End, but God knows how much I love cross-cultural settings, so this must be his kindness to me.

But with the foggy definitions of what it means to be a �gmissionary�h in these changing times comes a nervous uncertainty. I mean, I don�ft think my picture is on anybody�fs fridge. There is no church board to raise my funds and pay my way. That system has its advantages. But God has provided well for us in the absence of those things. I have friends, very deep friends, who I will stay connected with all over the world. We are praying for each other, covering each other.


Ok. It has been a long and difficult journey, but I am in Japan, and I am online. You would think for such a techno-freakish country, there would be a lot more and a lot easier access to internet, but no no, it took me while and a lot of fumbling around in Japanese to find this internet cafe. I have all kinds of back-logged blog entries that I should upload, but I haven't yet got internet at the house, so they are stranded offline on my laptop for now. I will post them as I get online from our place. Also, not much I can say on this update, as time is almost up, but we have found a house that is quite roomy by Japanese standards and should be all moved in within the next month. I am looking forward to being the blog-correspondent in Nagoya as soon as I get all hooked up.

'Til then....


Japan: The Missing Million
Whoah. I am buzzed. Sugar buzzed. That's what happens when fewer kids come around for Halloween than you anticipate.

This weekend looks like it is going to be a blur of goodbye dinners with friends. Olive Garden tonight. The Keg tomorrow. I've been working hard in the last couple of weeks at visiting all my favorite non-Asian restaurants (as I shall be getting my fill of Asian food - no complaints there), and this weekend should round it out nicely. And the last Bomber game of the season tomorrow. Means nothing for the standings, but it will be fun to sit in the cold and see Khari Jones go for the "most touchdowns in a season" record. Of course, he is from California, so the cold seems to back him off a little.

What sucks is that I am going to miss all of the playoffs. Although last time I was in Japan, I did know of a foreigners bar where Canadians could get together (at 9 am) to watch CFL games, so I will have to track it down again. And I hear that they show the CFL on ESPN 2 so maybe somebody will have the right satellite package.

Maybe I should just put less effort in to sports. Last time we were there, I was so determined to watch Michael Jordan get beat by the Jazz (didn't happen) that I went down to an electronics superstore at the right time of the morning and stood in front of one of the display TV's for two and a half hours to watch the game. You know, the whole time I don't remember seeing a salesman, but the next day when I showed up again, a chair had been placed exactly in front of the television I had watched the game on the previous day. How's that for Japanese hospitality!


And here is something I think I am going to do one day. A Masters of Arts in Global Engagement. Finally, a masters degree that is all about the things I want to be looking deeper in to...

Update from Christian Peacemaker Teams:

Bringing peace to Colombia: one prayer, one conversation at a time
by Carol Foltz Spring
October 25, 2002

In our work as Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) we plant seeds of peace daily. We do not know which of the seeds will bear fruit, but each time we talk about peace it can be a seed.

On October 11, 2002, Lena Siegers (Blyth, ON) and two members of a recent
CPT delegation to Colombia saw a lineup of armed men along the
riverbank. The three were headed down the Opon River at midday in CPT's
motorized metal canoe. The dozen armed men represented a local
paramilitary group. They wore new, matching uniforms with insignia of
their organization. Paramilitaries are the illegal armed group responsible
for approximately 80% of politically motivated kidnappings and killings in

The leader of the group asked Lena to leave and mentioned that there was
another group downriver. She said, "First we'll pray." The group of
CPTers joined hands on the riverbank and Lena prayed loud enough for all to
hear. After they finished singing "Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying,"
the men were gone.

The CPTers then followed the men downriver where they encountered another group of paramilitaries, standing at attention with their feet apart, from
the same unit. Each carried an assault rifle slung over his shoulder. The
commander was surprised to see the CPTers and wanted to talk to Lena
immediately, but she shook hands with each of the young men first. When
she began speaking with the commander, everything got quiet. She talked
with him about CPT, about nonviolence, about vengeance that only creates
more violence.

Meanwhile, Barbara and Charlotte talked with the other armed men. The men
were all in their teens and twenties and spoke respectfully with the young

The commander politely asked to speak. "The newspapers say bad things
about usit's all propaganda. We work for peace, for the people. We are
farmers too." He said his superior was trained in the United States.
Lena responded, "If you are farmers too, then you understand that you are
putting these farmers at risk. If you really want to help them, meet in
the woods away from their houses."

She continued, "While you're killing your brothers and sisters, the United
States and Canada are taking the oil and other natural resources from this
rich land. Colombia is so beautiful. If everyone would work together to
develop your resources, it would truly be a rich nation."

Lena asked about the commander's family. "Oh, yes, I have two beautiful
young girls," he said, and talked of his love for them.

Lena said, "Oh, it would be so wonderful if you could go back to your
little girls."

His eyes glistened with tears. "But I'm working to build peace, so that I
can go home again."

"I feel so sad," Lena told him as she put her hand on his
shoulder. "Someday, before you lay down your weapons, you will meet your
brother and have to kill him. He has a face too, he has a mother
too." She traced his face with her hand. "I know your face now." She
traced her own. "And you know mine."

CPT has maintained a violence-reduction presence in the Medio Magdalena regin of colombia since May 2002 at the invitation of the Colombian Mennonite Church. Current team members include Lisa Martens (Winnipeg MB), Lena Siegers (Blyth ON), Charles and Carol Spring (Palo Alto CA), and Keith Young (Comer GA).

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an initiative among Canadian and U.S. churches committed to active peacemaking, which prepares small teams to intervene in violent and militarized regions using active nonviolence. Contact CPT, PO Box 72063, 1562 Danforth Ave., Toronto ON M4J 5C1, ph 416-423-5525, fax 416-423-9213, email cptcan@web.ca; or CPT, POB 6508 Chicago, IL 60680, ph 312-455-1199, fax 312-432-1213, email cpt@igc.org. To join CPTNET, visit us on the WEB: www.cpt.org


Another good one from the Hauerwas article:

I also think � and this is John Howard Yoder's point � people say, "Well you can't survive without violence." Yoder said, "Well, you know, there have been a people that have survived for two millennia without an army, without a land, without a nation state � that their lives have been held together through lives of holiness and prayer. They're called Jews." (Laugh) So, you can live the way Jesus wants you to live. The Jews have done it. Maybe it's true that Christians got called out in the world for Jews to live the way we Christians think we should. This is about God after all. It's not about us. Therefore, it makes some sense that the Jews may be living the way we think we should.


From Snarky Malarkey:

Ever feel like playing God? Smite away with this Flash game...
Stanley Hauerwas: Faithfulness First

As a Christian, if George Bush had come to you and said, "Stanley, what should I do?" What would you have told him?

It's a tricky question because, if he had asked me, he wouldn't have been President! (Laugh) So, I'd say, "You need to tell the American people the truth." This is still about oil. We intervened in Kuwait to protect Saudi oil. You can say, "Well, gee, don't you think you ought to oppose a tyrant?" Look, the United States is very selective about which tyrant it's going to pursue. When Indonesia invaded East Timor twenty-five years ago, we didn't do anything. Why? East Timor didn't have any strategic interest to us. Bin Laden is clearly motivated by the fact that the United States is in Saudi Arabia. We're in Saudi Arabia to protect the oil. We need to say that the reason America has such a problem is because we're such a rich country, and we depend on the resources of the rest of the world. Therefore, maybe the best thing we could do� I mean, rather than saying, "Well, what can you do to support a reaction against bin Laden" � rather than saying "Go out and shop" � maybe he should have said we should put a three dollar tax on gas. (Laugh) That way we won't use so much of it. That would have been a sacrifice. Yeah, I'd say, "Tell the American people the truth about these matters." I'm not sure that people around the Bush Administration even know the truth because they need to tell themselves lies about what they're doing � and they believe the lies � in order to carry forward.
Man, Dan Hughes is a good talker:

this one who tells us to forgive 70*7 and who himself forgave even those executing him on the barbaric Roman electric chair also sets no limit to the love and forgiveness of his Father. God loves his enemies. God sends the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. God forgives 70*7. victory is a posture of reconciliation and selflessness; not right systematic beliefs.

He just says that so well. Here's the rest of it.

I don't know why exactly, but it's been it'sin my head a lot in the last while. Maybe because I am moving to the richest country I have ever seen. Maybe it's because twice this week friends asked me if having money and comfort is going to wash over me, cop me out, so to speak. I am thinking about what I cannot forget, the thing that has become deep and central in us over the last few years.

That thing is God's heart for the poor, the rejected, the losers, the fringes of society - whatever language you prefer. I am thinking a lot about attention paid to "spiritual disciplines", as I am feeling a need to increase things like prayer and contemplation in my life; but I am also being reminded of the incredible importance of the poor as a spiritual discipline. Friendship with the poor is vital to my spiritual health. There are kingdom things that I cannot learn apart from friendship with those on the fringes. I think it is quite similar to the role of working out (physically) in my life. Especially when I started, I despised the practice of waking up at six am on a dark and cold Winnipeg morning, dragging my butt down to the gym, and running until my lungs burn. Same thing with spiritual disciplines. They're not something you especially want to do; they are disciplines. But without my trips to the gym, I become unhealthy and fat (maybe I should say, "even fatter"). Without the poor in my life, messing up my neat and tidy times and spaces, teaching me humility, and kindness, and perserverance, my spirit is flabby.

I think I need the poor to be central in my life because they are the loudest prophetic declaration I know of that says that God's values are contrary to ours. The people who have little worth by our value systems, the people that the world says are not people who you should strive to be friends with, are the ones who Christ was deliberate about being with. We are trained to run from any kind of pain, suffering, or "ugliness". Christ chose to be there, in the low places.

God don't let me forget to be deliberate about joining him there.
My posting might be somewhat sporadic in the next while. I take off for Nagoya on Monday, and I don't know what my computer situation will be for sometime after that. Looks like we will be living in a friend's apartment in downtown Nagoya for a good part of December, so I will be back with some regularity at that time. Until then, it will be wherever I happen to track down a computer.

I have been studying Japanese pretty hard for the last couple of months. We will soon see how much it will pay off. For me, it gets way easier to learn the language when it is all around me all the time. Trying to learn it here is so disconnected from the rest of life that it frustrates me because I can hardly seem to remember what I learn the day before. Mo sugu wasureru yo.
My comments work, then they don't work, then they do again... what's up with this thing?


Me as a cyclops. What fun I am having with photoshop today...


This a view of salvation that I really appreciate. James expands on this a bit on his site:

... Well in Orthodoxy it doesn't work this way at all...in fact we see it altogether differently. Salvation is union with Christ and so the relationship with Him is not an added benefit to the "salvation contract", rather the relationship IS salvation itself. And so the process of salvation (since salvation is a relationship) is very much like the process of developing a relationship (big suprise, huh?). But to try and label or characterize any relationship with legal terms and definitions is to negate its true worth. Don't believe me? Try it sometime with your spouse.


Whenever I find Miroslav Volf talking about the concept of the "other", I am inclined to listen. It is a remarkable thing when you hear a Croatian talking about the importance of loving Serbs. A while ago, that would have been kinda like a Jew talking about the importance of loving Samaritans. Not something you hear everyday.


A couple new good blog finds: Mennoboy and Leighton Tebay.

They're Saskatchewan boys... probably Rider fans... hmmmm **eyes narrow into slits**
If the Riders beat Edmonton tonight, the Bombers can still take first place in the West, so we will be tuning in. Go Riders Go... did I say that... I suddenly feel somehow dirty...


I just watched a short thing about a couple adopting from Russia, and wow, does that whole adoption thing move me. I was thinking how in the previous post it said that the reputation of Christians was as those who take care of orphans. The Bible so regularly speaks of concern for the orphans. Wouldn't it make sense then, that among Christians adoption be a regular, common occurence - almost expected. I can't think of too many expressions of the kindness of God that are as holistic and as sustained as adoption. Right now I can admit to being a little torn as to knowing whether our next child should be biologically our own or adopted, but I do feel that somewhere in our future will be some adopted children. In my life I can remember hearing some criticism of people who "mix" families, having both biological and adopted kids, but I don't buy that. I have seen too many examples where the benefits far outweigh the difficulty of the challenges.

Foster care is another awesome option right here in Canada. I have met people who open their homes to kids from bad family situations and are able to shine such light in a dark situation. Wouldn't it be something if Christian homes were known for being centers of foster care.

And hey, if you want to join in with God's heart for the "fatherless", here is a starting point.


Andrew Careaga found a good quote on what was once the reputation of Christians:

Christians love one another. They never fail to help widows; they save orphans from those who would hurt them. If a man has something, he gives freely to the man who has nothing. If they see a stranger, Christians take him home and are happy, as though he were a real brother. They don't consider themselves brothers in the usual sense, but brothers instead through the Spirit, in God. And if they hear that one of them is in jail, or persecuted for professing the name of their redeemer, they all give him what he needs -- if it is possible, they bail him out. If one of them is poor and there isn't enough food to go around, they fast several days to give him the food he needs... This is really a new kind of person. There is something divine in them. -- Aristides, a lawyer, before Hadrian
Archie Bunker on honesty in prayer:

See Edith, Job hollered at God and, if memory serves, he got a promotion from that there and even a nice write-up in the Bible.


Derek Eidse points me to a documentary on Iraq that brings my last post into sharp focus. I am a North American listening to the voices from the other side. If what this documentary says is true, what should we do??
Listening to an evangelical preacher talk about "righteous indignation" provoked some thoughts. It made me think about listening in humility and its relation to Truth. Now, perhaps there is a place somewhere for "righteous indignation" a la Jesus clearing the temple, but my problem with what this guy was talking about was that it reeked of arrogance. Righteous indignation requires a very high degree of certainty that what you are attacking is evil, even that your manner of attack is appropriate. And I think that is the thing that makes me nervous about fundamentalists on the right, and activists on the left, that it seems the Truth is less important than clinging to your position, which often seems to be more about where you are from (personal experiences influencing tastes and opinions) than what you have actually endeavoured to learn.

Once again, clarity likely requires that this be a more thought out discussion than just a blog entry, but if you are tracking with me, one more thought. The Truth about anything is usually impossible to know with absolute certainty, but at least getting closer to that absolute certainty requires a high degree of humility. Interesting then that humility is a virtue Jesus points us to. It requires us to listen carefully to both sides, and to be deliberate about doing so. "The wisdom that comes from heaven... shows no partiality..." I think that links in directly with Jesus telling us of a time when true worshippers would worship in spirit and truth. I think the truth side of that directs believers to be vigilant about finding honest truths, both big and small. Listening well, asking loads of questions, and a continual openness to learning seem to be part of the path to learning Love, which is worship.
More quirky Japanery. A shoe store from one of the malls in Japan.


If you like Coke, you'd better get over to Snarky Malarkey and get yourself some of these.
Remember Woody from Cheers? Who'da thought he would have an opinion... and an opinion like this.


More good music online. Check out Dale Nikkel. He is a folk singer from Edmonton who I knew in college. He has full mp3's from his album available at his site and they are indeed tasty. If you only buy one CD this year... buy mine. If you buy two, get his too...
Well, I am back. For a guy who loves traveling, I sure hate the actual travel part of travelling. Driving - I hate it. Flying - makes me throw up - literally. Ship - sick again. Ricksha is about the most enjoyable transpodtation I have experienced.

Coming out of Alberta, the Flames game was the talk of the province. Some idiot at the hockey game decided he wanted to do the naked streak thing across the ice. Problem was, he misjudged how slippery the ice was, totally wiped out, and smacked his head on the ice. So he is lying unconcious on the ice, in all his naked glory, until the trainers take pity on him, throw a towel over his midsection, and drag him off on a stretcher. Now that's entertainment.

And could some American football fan please explain to me the problem with Terrell Owens great offense?? I was listening to an American sports show on the way home, and by how incensed they were, you would have thought he had killed someone or something. It was a freakin endzone celebration! To me such actions don't "threaten the tradition and integrity of the sport". I mean lighten up. It's a game. It's entertainment. Owens was entertaining. You'd think Owens was messing with the national religion... hmmm.

Didn't endzone celebrations used to be allowed?? I seem to remember Ickey Woods doing his shuffle.


Thirteen hours of driving and all I can say is I gotta sore ass. Then I stayed up eating nachos and drinking beer (english beer which tastes rather flat to me) which I just should not do. I so pay for it! There is something about late night junk food that just doen't agree with my stomach. Anyway, probably not the content you care to read.

Now it is off to the embassy for the visa interview. After that, I think I'll take in the West Edmonton mall for a while, and then back on the road. On the way here I listened to an audio book called The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. It was such a sad, sad story about a busted up and broken down black family trying to make their way in a hostile world. But more than that it was about how we do our best to deride and destroy the things we consider ugly, cleansing ourselves on their ugliness. It got me thinking all kinds of thoughts about how Jesus remained so close, and identified with the things we consider ugly, but to much to post right now... Read the book...


More driving. Now I am off to Edmonton to get a working holiday visa from the Japanese embassy there. I have readied myself for the long drive with lots of sunflower seeds and various audio books. Everything from Dostoevsky to Oprah's book club. I also made a mix of all my favorite tunes of late, the Prairie Boredom Mix. After 14 hours of driving, they likely won't be my favorites anymore.

Today I scored 119 seconds on Windows Solitaire, a personal best. What a perfect waste of time.


Just home from Thanksgiving in Saskatchewan. Spent lots of the weekend explaining to in-laws this sudden decision to take off overseas once again. Told lots of stories about cultural differences and just why it is that Japanese folk often want to get married by a westerner. Japan is the strangest mix that way. On one hand you can say that they have a somewhat-overboard fascination with the West, but they are also well-known for the fierce clinging to the more ancient aspects of their culture. Maybe the restaurant Denny's is a good illustration of the collision between these two tendencies. Go to a Denny's in Japan. On the outside, it looks just like any Denny's you would find on this side of the Pacific, but then go inside and order something. All the food has been Japanized. And the portions are way smaller. Funny, I hated this at the beginning, but after two years of living there I came home thinking that North Americans eat too much (and that Japanese food is much better than ours).

Japanese folk on the surface are rarely arrogant or condescending. They are usually humble, almost to an annoying extent for a Westerner. But underneath the very polite exterior, I found that most Japanese are as proud of their country and their ways as any Canadian. I remember seeing just a trace of contempt for things un-Japanese once when I was talking with a friend of mine. He had just returned from a trip to America and the thing that struck him as digusting was that most often Westerners put the toilet and the bathtub in the same room. He said, "We Japanese feel that to put such a "clean thing" and a "dirty thing" in the same room is something barbarians would do." I responded that us Canadians feel that not cooking your food is something barbarians would do..." Ooooo. Tense moment. But you don't get too many of those.


Daniel Miller has an article over at Seven magazine where he points to all kinds of good music available on the net. That got me looking around at old favorites of mine as well:

Nathan - Band from Winnipeg that is on their way up. Keri McTighe, lead-singer, has a gorgeous voice. The song to listen to is .Australia

Whitelock - Band from Vancouver. Fall is an amazing song.

The Ancestors - New York band. I have only heard one song, but I like it plenty. Sounds like neo-Lou Reed.

Blimp - Sometimes you get lucky and find a good one at mp3.com. Who's Laughing Now is a good song.

Jennifer Marks - She writes this ballad called Fragile that has the saddest chorus.

And here is the website for Radio I. It is one of the things that is getting me excited about getting to Japan. It is a good sized station in Nagoya where a friend of mine works. He is the afternoon DJ and well-connected into the musical life of Nagoya. So I am looking forward to continuing with music and touring over there. Heck of a lot easier to tour in Japan, where I will have five massive cities within a four hour drive. Compared to Canada where you play one small city and then drive 12 hours to the next one.


Good point Kevin...

I've always had a little problem with the cliche, "Bleeding Hearts." I first heard the phrase when I was a kid, and like most kids, I took the phrase literally - and I agreed. Yes, hearts do bleed. They bleed constantly - that's what they're made for. As a matter of fact, hearts bleed so much that blood has to be constantly pumped back into them. And even more importantly, when hearts stop bleeding, they die.

... or maybe turn to stone...

Toronto, Ontario Two volunteers from Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), Lisa Martens, 25, from Winnipeg MB, and Ben Horst, 23, from Evanston IL, were detained without charges by twelve members of the Colombian Administrative Security Department and the Colombian armed forces at 10 p.m. on October 8, 2002.

Earlier the same day, Martens and Horst, had accompanied a Colombian civilian woman, along with the body of her deceased husband and other civilians, from a nearby village to the city of Yondo, for burial. The civilian woman had requested international accompaniment because of her fear of . None of the civilians were members of any illegal armed group, nor were any armed.

Martens said, ?We have done this before. We have fished bodies out of the river because even their relatives are afraid to, afraid that they will be further victimized.?

CPT regularly accompanies unarmed civilians who are in danger because of the ubiquitous in Colombia. ?The accompaniment Lisa and Ben offered a bereaved widow, so her husband's body could treated and buried with dignity, is a part of the work of building peace in a war-wracked country," said Gene Stoltzfus, Director of CPT.

CPT staff contacted legislators and government officials in both Canada and the United States to seek the release of Martens and Horst. Officials from both countries were in contact with Colombian officials throughout October 9, and by late afternoon Martens and Horst were released without charges.

After her release, Martens reported, ?While in detention, we prayed and called to mind the great cloud of witnesses in heaven who are concerned for us and the people of Colombia.?

CPT still does not understand why Martens and Horst were detained, but hopes that the Colombian government better understands the work of CPT after this event. Colombian President Uribe has stated that his government is committed to the protection of human rights. CPT hopes that Colombian and international human rights organizations will be able to continue their work of defending the rights of unarmed civilians caught in the y conflict that grips Colombia.

CPT has had a -reduction team in Barrancabermeja, Colombia, since May 2001, at the invitation of the Colombian Mennonite Church. Present team members are Scott Albrecht (Waterloo ON), Ben Horst (Evanston IL), Lisa Martens (Winnipeg MB), and Lena Siegers (Blythe ON).

CPT is sponsored by Mennonite and Brethren congregations, Friends? Meetings (Quakers), and other Christians, both Catholic and Protestant from other denominations, in Canada, the U.S.A. and the U.K.


Man, Wayne Gretzky is a classy guy...
Simon is sick with an ear infection, so it was a long night of Teletubbies for me. Thank God Treehouse TV plays almost 24 hours. Finally, at 5:50 am, he fell asleep, and he's still out now. It's 11:30. Good thing I have no classes today.


From an article by Dave Andrews:

In Jesus on the cross, we can see that God embraces our pain. Frederick Beuchner tells a story that he says is 'a peculiarly twentieth century story'. And you only have to hear the story once to know it's just the kind of story that Jesus himself might have told. 'It's a kind of parable of the lives of all of us. It's about a boy of twelve or thirteen who, in a fit of crazy anger got hold of a gun and fired it at his father, who did not die straight away but soon afterward. When (he) was asked why he had done it, he said that he could not stand his father, because his father demanded too much of him. And then later on, after he had been placed in a house of detention, a guard was walking down the corridor late one night when he heard sounds from the boy's room, and he stopped to listen. The words that he heard the boy sobbing out in the dark were, "I want my father, I want my father". 'Our father', Beuchner says, 'we have killed him, and we will kill him again.' But Jesus, on the cross cries out, as one of us, saying "Father. Forgive them. For (I know) they know not what they do".


Jordon Cooper posted this a couple of weeks ago, but it has been bouncing around in my head so much, I thought I would put it up again. The idea in this quote is so similar to a book, Christian Anarchy, that changed how I thought.

Our worst sin is prayerlessnss, because of what it says about who we really think is in charge of the church and the universe. God save us from the people who would renew the church and bring justice in the world without praying. Having he appearance of godliness, but denying its power, they are more dangerous than the wrongs they would set right. They will replace old evils with new evils, themselves. -- P. T. Forsyth


I am cleaning up my desk today and I found two things that were juxtaposed in such a way as to get me thinking. First I found my year book from university. It got me all nostalgic and thinking of how I would like to head back to the institutions for some more of that "higher learning". Then I found a sort of journal entry I had written on a legal pad that reminded me of the tenous balance between theory and practice; I haven't thought about it much for awhile, but that struggle was a big deal to me in those days:

Anytime something takes our focus off of the acting out of grace, the demonstration of the Christ kind of Love, the forceful advancement of the Kingdom behins to lose momentum. Historically, I believe I can see where theological pursuits have become so singularly intellectual and divorced from the radical self-sacrifice of Christian Love, that the Kingdom of God in that sphere grinds to a halt altogether. It would seem to me that the wisdom of God is again the opposite of what seems so wise to us - to the point where the kindly lady who has no intellectual depth of understanding regarding theological things , yet whose heart is turned by compassion to, say, taking care of orphans, is much closer to the Kingdom than the professors in the seminaries whose head-truth is never allowed anywhere near their hearts.
I found this through Dan Hughes. It is called the LaughLab and it was a great big study some university did on humour. There is a bit of discussion on the types of jokes that various countries found funny. The UK joke made me laugh the hardest. Does that mean I have a British sense of humour? No wonder I was the only one laughing at The Full Monty...


A profound theology-meets-reality moment from James Ferrenberg had me in tears...

Draw us near and bind us tight
All your children here in our rags of light
In our rags of light, all dressed to kill
Come end this night, if it be thy will

Leonard Cohen


Speaking of Simon, I am starting to realize how threatened my computer time will be as he gets older. Already he drags me to the computer and demands "Tubbie-tubbies", which we all know means, "let's go to the Tele-tubbies website". Now we found a new one with Little Critter that he also likes lots. I have been searching around for more such interactive websites, but haven't been finding much. Any ideas??
Simon, at 20 months, has lots to say. For the longest time, he would ever so sweetly say "thank you" whenever you gave him something. Recently, for reasons that I can't figure out, he stopped saying "thank-you" when given something and instead says, "there you go mom". I often say to him "there you go" so that is no surprise, but adding the "mom" on the end is a mystery. So I have been telling him that he should say, "thank you dad". I guess he must be trying to incorporate at least some of my suggestions, as this morning when I gave him his bottle he said "thank you mom dad". Close enough.
Something you don't hear a church pastor say every day:

We are nearing the end of a 2 year transition and one of the final steps in the transition will (I believe) affect my "employment" with VC. This is not really a vocational shift as much as I just want to go off the payroll and streamline the budget down to the absolute minimum overhead (like a phone and internet service and that's about it) and free up the rest for mission (church planting, coaching leaders etc)...
Blogstyles of the rich and famous.



Someone found my blog by googling "I hate canadian tire". Good. I hope the truth gets out.

Hmm. Is this somewhat in opposition to my last post? Like I said, all that stuff is hard. Real hard.
The Wisdom That Comes From God

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no partiality and is always sincere.

Methinks that is just plain hard....
I switched my radio to CBC 1 tonight because I am soooo gut-wrenchingly tired of Avril Lavigne and Nelly. The program Ideas was on, and it was pretty interesting. And their website provides some good internet content, if you are sitting for hours at your computer and want something informative playing in the background.

Tonight was a discussion with Jean Vanier, the guy who began L'Arche community, and was very influential on Henri Nouwen. It is not up yet, but there is another talk with Vanier posted, which would likely be good. Also, Jordon Cooper was talking about Hernando DeSoto, and there is a talk there with him about globalization and poverty. Another one that looks good is THE CRUSADES: AN ARAB VIEW, but go take a look and see what you like.


Whoah. Derek and Joy are going to try to get Kevin Costner to come and produce a documentary about Aboriginal peoples up in Norway House. Nice. You go, you video technology freaks...


Haven't felt like blogging much as I have been pretty busy. Andrea was admitted to the hospital a couple of days ago. They are not exactly sure what is going on, but they are keeping her in and doing some tests to find out. It's a little weird because results could be anywhere from not serious at all to fairly serious. So Simon has to put up with the care of his scattered Dad. Don't tell mom, but we are surviving on crackers and brown bread (must get to the store) and the pile of dishes in the kitchen... yikes! It's getting so big it depresses me. I'm sure if I just ignore it, it will go away.

My spirits were greatly lifted a couple nights ago by the midnight surprise of a visit from my friends, Andrew and Tami Smith. We stayed up til three and and ordered Chinese food and talked and talked. Andrew was getting in to the idea of how the church structures we build are often not neutral as we may think they are, but instead the structure itself has a huge propensity to do evil. The structures can war against relationship and increase spectatorism in a way that is contrary to our most foundational values. Anyway, he sounds a lot like Dave Andrews in his book from a few years back, Building a Better World.


Corporate scandals, downturn in the economy. Is a war with Iraq just good politics??

WASHINGTON - A war of words erupted Wednesday in Washington over the continuing confrontation between Iraq and the U.S. Key Democrats accused President George W. Bush of using the possibility of conflict in Iraq to boost Republican prospects in the November mid-term elections.

God bless those rastas. Arrested Development put out a song a while back based on Revelation 18, the part where Jesus calls his children to get out of Babylon. And they state plainly the need for that kind of departure from the dictates of a contrary society. The song is called Hit the Road, Jack, and I don't know what CD it is on, because I couldn't find it anywhere.

No one, nowhere will escape the day of judgement
Ok, I dare you to do right instead of wrong
Babylon will fall and when them do
There will be peace for us all
But until that day, I stress that you stress that we go away

Hit the road, Jack, and don't you come back no more....

...you think you standin hard as a rock but you ain't intimidatin as a pebble
You look tough but when you speak your voice falsetto like Aaron Neville
And you ain't livin for God then who you livin for, you a joke slowpoke
Afraid to see sin within that makes you yoked...


Need some educatin'??

I just found this article by Rudy C. on the Bruderhof communities, an Anabaptist group that lives in intentional community, yet doesn't withdraw from engagement with the culture, as was historically typical of other Anabaptist groups.



It's been a while since I really liked a worship song, but this one by Tim Hughes, Here I Am To Worship, is really catching me. I always find it a curious thing when simple song can carry so much power. The lyrics say nothing really new, but there's just something there. Hmmm.

And I hear that Brian Doerksen has a new one out, You Shine. Has anyone heard it? I am interested to see if he sounds any different now that he's doing stuff with Hosanna Integrity instead of Vineyard music.

And two of my buddies, who are no slouches when it comes to writing a worship tune, have new ones coming out. David Ruis has one from FOTB called Wide Wide World; and Eoghan Heaslip, Dublinish worship-master extraordinaire, has one coming out, but I don't know what it's going to be called. He did one with Ruis a while ago called Powerscourt 2000, and it's a good one.

Tonight Kim McMechan and I are doing a little folky concert at CMU (Canadian Mennonite University). We will be singing... but no dancing... hahahahaha...


This is the transition from PATRONAGE to PILGRIMAGE.

I like it too.
If you have some reading time, Dan Hughes points to a good discussion going on here (at least it starts out well)...
I just finished listening to Campolo and Gary Bauer in a debate over the Christian response to the War on Terror. If anything, it highlighted to me just how hard the questions are. A Christian's interaction with the state is indeed a precarious thing.

At one point it was making me think how divorced from each other the New and Old testaments of the Bible seem to be. But as I re-think that, I can see that what they hold in common is the notion of human beings humbly handing control over things back to God. In the Old testament, it was done by believing in him to fight the battles, to the point of doing humanly ludicrous things like shrinking your army down to a force of 300 to prove that it was God who was really fighting the battle. In the New testament, it was a rejection of force and violence to the point of giving up your own life, if necessary.

I wonder, then, if a modern day goverment could ever dare to truly go either way. I think I might be kind of impressed with the American government if they said, look, this is how we are going to fight the battle. God is on our side and he will give us the victory, so we are not going to do it on our own strength. We will send a handful of priests and pastors to march around Baghdad, and God will strike all the bad guys dead. Never happens, does it. A friend of mine points out that, if we are going to embrace the OT model, it might in some cases require us killing every man, woman, and child we conquer. Yeesh, this option is getting less and less attractive.

The other side of the coin seems even less possible. Can you imagine a New Testament nation, a nation of Christ-followers? Similarly, we would declare that God is in control, so our military efforts would be completely unnecessary. Our weapons would be prayer, kindness, and compassion, blessing our enemies with the good things that have been given to us (wow, one wonders what effect that would have in the spiritual realms). Our job would be to live as Christ instructed. The outcome would be entirely in God's hands. It really comes down to the degree to which we trust God to be in control.

I don't know if I believe in the possibility of a "Christian nation". Perhaps we are meant to be "aliens and strangers", a political threat to the nations we are in, simply because our allegiance is not to that nation. But I do believe in the second coming of Christ, and I believe that therein we will discover how a "Christian nation" should really be done.

For Christians looking for a biblical response to war, these are really the only two options that scripture gives us. Funny that we take neither of them very seriously.


Something true in these too:

"I may not know much about God, but I'd say we built a pretty nice cage for him."

- Homer Simpson, after helping some island natives construct a church


A man had been stranded on the proverbial deserted island for years. Finally a boat comes into view, and the man frantically waves to draw its attention. The rescuers turn toward shore and arrive on the island. After greeting the stranded man, one looks around and asks, "What are those three huts you have here?"
"Well, that's my house there."
"What's that next hut?" asks the sailor.
"I built that hut to be my church."
"What about the other hut?"
"Oh, that's where I used to go to church."


This sounds true to me:

Don't be fooled by window dressing. Most of these churches are still hierarchical, still centered on the big gathering, still are not reaching their communities, and do not truly empower anyone. Most of these churches have no intention of releasing control of their people (and thereby their cash flow), and most have no idea what is really happening in the culture around them.

You can manage an audience, you cannot manage community. If you do, it dies.

You can build an audience, you can only grow a community.

You can program groups, you can't program community.

From Len H.
Ok, I've taken this Japan net-surfing thing too far, but I did find out some interesting things about us western men:

1. Western men consider the sexes to be equal and, as a result, they are willing to share household chores. Western men are kind and openhearted, they are willing and able to express their love for their wives and they will continue to love and cherish their wives as they grow old.

2. Western men clearly express their opinions and intentions with words and always make decisions after fully discussing the issues with their wives. Japanese women feel these traits make it easier for them to understand their husbands and will also allow them to feel relaxed and to act naturally in the presence of their husbands.

3. Western men care dearly about their families and their lifestyles are centered around their families.

4. Western men are tall, strong and handsome.

No, really. Check for yourself. It has to be true; I found it on the internet.
You know you are excited about going back to Japan when you start visiting all your old expatriate internet haunts.

This is so true.

And this is the kind of quirkiness that really makes me love Japan...
Dan Hughes highlights an article about Japan:

MASAMI HAS SEX with several of her pals, she admits, rotating among partners who themselves enjoy numerous liaisons. Her promiscuity is not uncommon: Surveys suggest that many young Japanese maintain multiple sekusutomo �literally �sex friends.� According to a joint study... in the Shibuya section of Tokyo recently, 43 percent said they keep five or more sex friends at a time...

They form social groups that�like their jobs�are part time, low stress and temporary.

My friend Brian responds:

It is quite similar to the attitudes of the late '60s hippie crowd, actually, who were going through the "Mother of all Cultural Shifts". With the seperation of the old generation and it's strict rules of how to function in society from this new care-free way of thinking and behaving, the hippies produced a hightened sense of global morality and no sense of personal morality. Sure, it was an emphasis on relationship and community (loving one another, man) that produced this. But, I can remember even in the Woodstock movie that was filmed for theatre release in 1970, there was an interview with a teenage couple who were asked "are you guys a couple?". The girl answered, "no, he's not my boyfriend or anything". The interviewer pressed it further to get a bit of definition on what this relationship consisted of (he could probably tell there was something else going on), and the girl responded, "we're not dating. I mean, we ball (60's slang for having sex) and everything but we are not a couple". It was the way then...and now, as Japan goes through it's own cultural shift, it is the way again.

Yeah, talk about a cheapening of love. But if the North American track record is anything to go on, eventually people wake up to the reality that "tonight" love leaves you empty and longing for "forever" love. In a way, these times of radical independence might be good, if only for teaching people that there is really something deeper and spiritual to sex than just the physical.