Twice removed

Every year, the memories I have of my father become more faint and unclear, and distant. Once they were vivid and painful, then, they became like photographs. Only the good, the crinkly smiling eyes and prosperous grins captured in stillness. And now they are photographs of the photographs.

It is as Krauss wrote – the truth was I’d given up waiting long ago. The moment had passed, the door between lives we could have led and the lives we led had shut in our faces. And sometimes no length of indecisiveness is long enough to say the thing that needs to be said.

In such cases, all there is needed is conducted silence. And to walk away, quickly, before either party does something foolish.

Perhaps this is what it means to be a father – to teach your child to live without you.

And even this thought gives me a feeling in my heart that isn’t an ache, but something different.

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When will you

I know you, my heart said. I knew you by the way the heart thundered in my ears. 13 years may have passed but I can still feel the scars. I can chart its path all the way back to the core that still remains inaccessibly numb. 
And the mind is in a jumbled messy blankness, the way it always is with over-stimulation. And the heart continues to remain as inaccessible as it was those years ago, and what I cannot access I cannot remove. 

I cannot remove it. Still it lingers. 

The odd grief, yes, it’s very heaviness, squats here, in the general vicinity where the rib cage meets the lungs. 

I poke at it, push around the old memories we don’t like to remember because they make us sad, push it around in the mind and swirl it around like bitter medicine i am not inclined to drink but will have to because i want to feel better. 

Yes. I want to feel better. 

Your face was so strange, and strange is the wrong adjective, because you are weird and wonderful but a stranger. 

Awake my soul to the Hope You hold. Arrest my heart from this reckless path, and release the chains, Lord. 

Hymn for the morning

The saints should never be dismayed, / Nor sink in hopeless fear; 

For when they least expect His aid,/ The Saviour will appear. 
This Abraham found, he raised the knife, /God saw, and said, ‘Forbear;’

Yon ram shall yield his meaner life, /Behold the victim there. 
Once David seemed Saul’s certain prey, but hark! The foe’s at hand;

Saul turns his arms another way, /To save th’ invaded land. 
When Jonah sunk beneath the wave/ he thought to rise no more;

But God prepared a fish to save, / And bear him to the shore.
Blest proofs of pow’r and grace divine, that meet us in His Word! 

May ever deep-felt care of mine, Be trusted with the Lord.
Wait for His seasonable aid, /And though it tarry wait

The promise may be long-delayed, 

But cannot come too late. 


William Cowper 

Why regulate? 

Quick thoughts before my final interview of the year: Should government regulate business? 

The first order question is if there is a specific need for government to protect the interests of citizens. One clear need is  preventing businesses from engaging in fraud. But we do not need administrative regulation for that – there are statutes and civil / criminal legal means, and our judicial system should give citizens that basic level of protection. 

We may need to regulate business to protect the public from ‘market failure’ – but this is tenuous because many so-called market failures are actually a result of misguided government policy or regulation to begin with. In today’s age of open access to information, the nature of competition has changed, and if price and service demand signals go unheeded, market forces will act to correct the private firms. However, there is still a need to guard against negative externalities that affect the public which are not taken into account in price. If the price equlibrium between demand and supply does not accurately reflect the true costs of the product, externalities ensue. 

What are these regulatory instruments? 

Prices, requiring disclosure of information. Government can play a role by taxing goods, or by imposing rules backed by the use of penalties intended specifically to modify the economic behaviour of firms. 

Yet not all forms of regulation have to be mandated or imposed by the government. Self-regulation can be adopted by the business to maintain professional reputation or ethical standards. 

Finally, I believe that the mandate should be to be mindful of the real costs of regulation in terms of competitiveness. Deregulation has become increasingly equated with promoting competition and market-oriented approaches towards pricing and entry. 

pbj friday

October recedes.

We carry the lives we’ve imagined as we carry the lives we have, and sometimes a reckoning comes of all the lives we have lost.

And sometimes we take it upon ourselves to burn them to ashes.

To be more fully loved, perhaps. And because we live with the hidden acceptance that we need to excel in order to be loved, we also neglect the unspoken coda to that sentence.

What happens if you excel and find you are still unloved?

Once more

Afraid.

How am I to run this section of the race? I tire so quickly, and my mind is not focused on the Finish Line.

I’m distracted by scents and sights. I don’t have the strength to finish.

Lord, please help me in my short-sighted weaknesses. I’m not who I should be, but by Your grace, I am what I am.

Addictions and such

“Accomplishments can be a drug.”

The following extract resonated with me –

“You seek a new level of achievement at work. A promotion. An award.

A commendation. You were the staff officer and now you’re moving up the ladder even higher.

You were recognised by the panel of judges. You bring home all As and your GPA is 4.0.

You always need to come in first.

You’re always striving to achieve, and you can’t handle it if you don’t.

It all sounds good, but down deep you know that achievement is your drug of choice.”

… I felt called out, immediately. Exposed.

I cannot bear the unknown, Lord. Please help me see that this life is about magnifying You, and not the futile works of these feeble hands.

The prince of the air is sowing his seeds in the sons of disobedience, and I hear his lying whispers – his promise that I must make much of myself.

Against apathy 

Dear God, 

Your Spirit is moving through the people in Morioka, and in their constant prayers. They gather to pray on Wednesday, and bring You their time and resources and faith in action. 


I ask for forgiveness for my cold heart, my small mind, and my “good manners”.

Back home, I see that my peers and I tend to be quiet rather than to share the good news. 

Maybe we are too polite to be faithful to God in this area of sharing the gospel. Maybe we are more concerned about people’s response than God’s glory. Maybe we are more concerned about their feelings than God’s. We wrongly fear them. We don’t want to cause awkwardness. We want their respect, and after all, we figure, if we try to share the gospel with them, we’ll look foolish! 

And so we are quiet. We protect our pride at the cost of their souls. In the name of not wanting to look weird, we are content to be complicit in their being lost. As one friend said, “I don’t want to be the stereotypical Christian on a plane.”

You do not like having Your truth suppressed, and that’s what the non-Christian is doing (Rom. 1:18). Good manners are no excuse for unfaithfulness to You, but I have, too often, used them so.

Change my heart, Lord. 

Iwate Church Network meeting

For revival

Lord, the time to act is now.

The missionary Catherine informs the Iwate network meeting yesterday that the katsetsus will be closing at the end of this year. It has been almost 6 years since these temporary houses have been set up to house the residents who have lost their homes in the 2011 tsunami.


Today, we will head back to the coastal area at Ofunato to help Saito-sensei with the work in one of these katsetsus. This last programme will be bittersweet; we know the community will be dispersed throughout the new residential areas built by the government next year. Some of the elderly residents will not want to leave – they have been uprooted once before, and will need to find their footing again. Have compassion on them for they are feeble in spirit and in body.

Above all, Father, I ask that the good work of the pastor in building up this community for the past five years will not be eroded by the physical relocation. We ask that Your Spirit work in the people, to open their hearts to see You in the actions and love of the faithful few who have laboured on this soil. Lord, You love the people of Iwate, and You are tender-hearted especially towards those whose hearts have been broken by death and loss.

I ask that You continue to send workers to this area, Japanese speakers who can commit to growing their own roots on this new soil, so that that can bring the powerful but intangible sense of community to the people.

Give the pastorate clear direction for a new church plant. Out of the 20 church plants in Iwate, there are only 5 left, each with one handful of members. The rest of the churches have already closed. You know the disappointment and frustration of the pastorate here. You know the competition for members – for the precious few who still have not renounced their faith. Yes, You are the God who sees. Continue to act and work, Father, for the people need You in this place where the air is thick and the people are too polite to step out in love.


Prepare and move people to revival in Your grace. Give them humble hearts to seek Your face, and to wait upon You. Startle the region of Iwate, Lord, to bring these multitudes into saving faith.

 

For us who have seen Your work – You have brought representatives from many nations. Hallelujah!

Grant us the burden for such a revival. Help us believe that it can come to the country of Japan, and to our country as well. Lead me to people who will pray regularly for its coming. 

I ask that You build a broad base of people nationwide who are expecting revival. Grant to each nationality – Germans, Hong Kong, British, Filipinos, Americans, a consuming burden for You to bring revival. Your promise is that as we seek to draw near to You, You will draw near to us. I pray that this nearness will be truly revolutionary. Make it humble us, break us, revive us, and change the direction of our disintegrating culture.
Lord, I believe that there is sufficient grace supplied in the person and work of Jesus to do far more than I have even begun to ask. My hope is in the promise of Your Word. Thank You for Your compassion for us in our sinful ways. In our arrogant lifestyle, we say to You, ‘I am rich, I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ I repent of that. I confess that as believers, we show our wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked condition.

I lay all this before You, basing every request on the merit and worthiness of the Lord Jesus alone and in His finished work.

Amen.

Day 4: what a day.

Thanksgiving 

The epicness of yesterday started from the morning at the public hall. We did not know how many would come, but we were prepared with salted egg yolk fish skin and pineapple buttered rice with cashews for serving lunch. And we were excited to step out in faith that our paltry offerings could bring a blessing to the co-workers and to the participants. 

Yet again, faithful pastor Iwasuka arrived bright and early to Shalom House to lead us to the first public housing, where we had done flyering on day 2. It was so good to see the elderly people come, some 20 mins before the start time of the event. Some in their best clothes, as we were aware that these gatherings were the highlight of their week or month. 

The songs flooded the otherwise silent hall, and it was heartwarming to sing “God Bless You” to a curious watching crowd. Who are these Singaporeans who travelled for 7 hours to enter into a world many have forgotten? 

Without our Japanese translator, we were concerned that we wouldn’t understand the pastor’s instructions that day. We didn’t have to worry! 👏🏼


The ladies at the temporary housing / katsetsu in the afternoon were particularly lovely. Despite the heavy heat, they were patient with the craft. Many sumimasens were exchanged. 


Our drive back to Morioka unveiled the incredible beauty of the Japanese countryside. After a while, it stopped making sense to capture the beauty in pictures, because the vastness if sea and density of forest just could not be adequately captured. 

We made a pitstop at an ice cream palour- two scoops of perfect gelato won the day. I ate most of the goma ice cream before I remembered to take a picture.

Back at Morioka 

Karage and sushi dinner with Dave Robinson (the American missionary), Kondo sensei and their families was a welcomed break. It is beautiful to see families thriving in the work of the Lord, and to experiencd the peace and joy that flood these households. 

I continue to ask for the Lord’s protection on their children as they grow up in a society that is increasingly intolerant of the Christian way of life and living. May they never resent the courageous countercultural choice their parents have made – in opening hearts and home to strangers from all over, and in living as resident aliens in this world. 

The 7pm English Cafe started off with a bang: I didn’t know my brother could so put everyone at such ease during the icebreakers. Indeed, there are many things I am learning about him in this trip, and I realised that our faithful God continues to mold him into an unassuming and thoughtful leader. Praise God from which these blessings flow. Praise Him for answered prayer. 

When pastor kondo says ‘funny face’, I take it seriously
Pastor Kondo translates my testimony in Japanese.

Pastor Kondo told us he had borrowed money from a student at Iwate University. He told his student he would only return the money to him if the student came last night for the English cafe. (Pastor Kondo admitted this was a risky bargain, but he figured he could take advantage of a forgotten wallet). Student M came last night, nervously, but he came nonetheless. 

The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. 

Lord, I continue to ask that You prove strong for the Christian community in Morioka. 

I ask that You work through the international crowds, to show the Japanese that You are the God of all the nations, not only of the Jews or the ‘white people’. 

I ask that through the good work of English language teachers, Your gospel will go forth, if not in words, by sincere actions born from love. 

We constantly taste and see that You are good here. You are working and You continue to set hearts aflame to step out in obedience. Jesus tell us that the harvest is so plentiful, but the workers are few. Lord, I ask that You continue to call and send workers into the ripe fields of the Iwate University and Morioka city. Your Spirit moves like the wind; come down upon this land.