Friday, October 28, 2016

After the Cookout

You may have read a few posts from our time in Japan.  My favorite memory from that trip had nothing to do with waterfalls, or hot springs, or the interesting culture of Japan.  My favorite memory is of a cookout.  Yes, a very American-common cookout.

Our son David said that one night we were going to cookout.  I thought, this should be nice.  And it was. Together we built a charcoal fire- a bit more challenging doing it Japanese style.  We got the charcoal hot, and cooked some nice meat, which combined with trimmings produced a nice meal.

Nothing too unusual, but then came the treat.  After the food was grilled and eaten, Davey and I had a quite time sitting in the dark and discussing life, language and anything else that came to mind.  Brenda noticed us chatting in the dusk and then dark, and gave us some space.  How nice.

I didn't realize how much this mundane event meant until the opportunity came to do it again.  My enthusiasm for grilling out was so intense that I started the charcoal at 4:30 in the afternoon!!  What was I thinking?  I was thinking about the pleasures of sitting and chatting, and was anxious to get to that part.

David very patiently indulged me.  We grilled, ate, and most importantly, we had a nice quiet, not-so-dark after the cookout chat.  It was as good the second time as the first.

Who knew?   Who knew a simple after-dinner conversation could be so sweet.

It was to me.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Onsen- Say what?

On my last two visits to Japan, I have gone with my son, David, to the onsen.

Never been to an onsen?  Know what an onsen is?

An Onsen is a hot bath house.  Both of the onsens I have visited had things in common:

  1. You go totally naked.  (I.e. no photos to post here)
  2. You bathe extensively BEFORE entering the hot baths.
  3. The sauna is terrifically hot!
  4. There are various features to the baths.  The recent one had:

  • A waterfall that gave me a neck/back massage- my favorite.
  • Pools with spouts kind of like a jaccuzi.
  • An outdoor bath- kinda nice when you were really hot.
We went twice.  The first time, I was still sweating about 20 min AFTER we left.

That is probably the CLEANEST I have ever been.  I washed and soaked and washed some more.

But that is NOT the cleanliness I need- we need.

We need cleansing from our old sin nature.  We need cleansing from our sin.

No onsen can do that...

Only the blood of Jesus The Christ!!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Lost in Tokyo Train Terminal

We needed to get to Tsukuba University, an hour North of Tokyo to give a talk.  The instructions were simple.  Take the 0832 bullet train form Kakegawa to Tokyo.  There would be no train changes – what could go wrong?  Well, having been around the block a few times, I solicited the telephone number of my faculty friend who was sponsoring my talk.

We flawlessly arrived in Tokyo Terminal… to utter mayhem!  There were people everywhere going in every direction.  We had been told, if we weren’t immediately met, to go to “local platforms 2&3 (blue and green)” and wait there.

Well, we went there but saw no one looking for us.  As we stood there, looking confused, an elderly Japanese gentleman approached us and in halting English asked if we needed help.

Did we!!!!  Yepper!!

He had a cell phone, and happily offered to call for us.  We reached our Professor at the University, who told us one of his grad students was desperately looking for us!
And… after just a few minutes, whilst our Japanese rescuer insisted on waiting with us, the sweating huffing grad student came up most apologetically.

At last, we were no longer lost.

It seems too capricious to compare our rescue to the rescue we received from The Christ, but that’s what comes to mind.  We once were lost, but then we were found.  We were on a journey but had no idea how to get where we needed to be.  We needed someone to rescue us from our lostness.  We couldn’t help ourselves.  We didn’t deserve to be saved, we just were saved.  It wasn’t that we had DONE anything to deserve rescue, it was the grace and mercy of our rescuer that mattered.  It was really more about THEIR ability than ours.

Hmm, not a bad comparison I guess.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Yellowstone, Japan

During our visit in August with David and him family, they took us on an overnight trip to Hakone, near Mt. Fuji.  Of course all this was new to us, but it was fascinating in its own right.  It was most reminiscent of Yellowstone National Park in the US.

The first thing you see are the huge plumes of smoke coming out of the earth in several places.  The chemistry of the smoke is such that the vegetation for many acres is brown, appearing dead.  The smell is distinctively sulfuric and as you move across the area you come to a huge sulfur mining area.
As in many volcanic areas, hot springs are abundant here and apparently the hot water is piped down to the resort area below where it is used in the luxurious onsens, about which I have previously written.

In the small museum there was interesting info, mostly in Japanese.  There was a lot of emphasis on landslides which apparently have brought lots of destruction over the years to the local areas.  They displayed several engineering devices used to mitigated the landslide hazards.

One of the more interesting aspects of the area are the black, boiled eggs.  Apparently chemicals in the hot springs react with something in egg shells and turns them black.  There were abundant displays and vendors of these black eggs.  I wasn’t that interested.  A boiled egg tastes pretty much the same regardless of Easter dye or volcanic dye.  But, there was a fairly long line to make this purchase.

This old world is an interesting place.  The variety is amazing.  G^d is indeed creative!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bar-b-que Japanese Style

We just ate a GREAT barbecue at my son David's house in Japan.  At Japan, the grilling is done over charcoal.  Lighting the fire is a bit of an art, so I introduced the old Boy Scout fire building skills and got it going fairly easily.

It was nice to grill fresh sweet- really sweet- corn, green peppers, hotdogs, steak, burgers and tongue.  Really, the tongue was a tasty thinly sliced beef tongue, and over the grill it picked up the flavor and much of the fat was removed.  It was one of my favorites.

But the real favorite came after the physical appetites were sated.  After the ladies went inside, and the sun set too, Davey and I set in the growing dark and chatted.

I asked David about things in Japan.  I commented on things in my life.  I really can't recall all that we discussed, but I do recall the joy of adult conversation, in the quiet, with my middle son- now a mature adult with many great character qualities.

If I enjoyed this, how must G^d feel when we sit with him- in the quiet?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Judo- Say What?

We have been in Japan, watching the Rio Olympics on the television with Japanese announcers.

I was a wrestler in High School, and enjoyed the sport and developed a strategy to be pretty successful.  I have been around a lot of sports and even wrote a book on measurement in sport and exercise.

Unfortunately, I couldn't ever figure out HOW to score judo.  I saw the competitors, I know they MUST be very high level, but beyond that, I was lost.

Several times I thought I was catching on, but alas, no figuring it out for me.  Of course, I could go on the www and learn about it- but, I have skills and experience- which of course failed me this time.

Even when I went on Google, I wasn't too clear.

But, I'm glad it's a sport.  I am glad I got to see a bit.

But a bit, is enough.

So, for you judo aficionados, enjoy,   We don't all have to agree to be friends.  We don't have to fully understand everything.

And, for us academics, that last point is essential.  Some things, like judo, are simply beyond our ability to grasp.

Like G^d for instance.  Think about that a bit.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Falling Water

Water is appealing to us humans.  We love it whether at the beach, the lake, those swift streams or WATERFALLS.

While in Japan, near Mt. Fuji, our daughter-in-law took us to see two waterfalls.  They were beautiful.

What hath G^d wrought?
It amazing the beauty that G^d created.  We are so blessed to get to view these kind of things.
And, it's just another way that G^d is GOOD- ALL the time!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Visiting Tsukuba U

I had an opportunity to speak at one of the top Exercise Science Labs while I was in Japan.  The lab is that of Dr. Kyoji T.  I finagled an invitation through my old friend, Dr. Wojtec C., whose wife got her Ph.D. from that program.

It is a pretty long way from where I son David lives to the Tsukuba U, which is North-north-east of Tokyo.  We caught the bullet train from Kakegawa, with David and family escorting us to the train door.  After several stops we pulled in, right on time as always, to Tokyo Terminal.  Here we were supposed to meet some of Dr. T's graduate students.

What a madhouse!!  People going every direction in every square foot.

Fortunately, we knew to go to train platforms 2 &3- which we did.  No one looking for us at either platform.  As we stand there looking confused, I guess, a kind older Japanese gentleman approaches us in broken English and asks if we need help.

Do we!

Fortunately I had been clever enough to get a telephone # from Dr T.  Two phone calls later and a few minutes wait and a smiling an apologetic young man comes running up to us.

Whew, we instantly feel MUCH better.  unfortunately two other grad students seem to be lost and wandering around looking for the three of us.

I was scheduled to speak at 1300 (1 PM), and it was about a 90-min drive to the Uni from Tokyo. It was almost 1100. Time was of the essence, but wasn't anything we could do but wait.

Finally we met up with Wong, a Chinese Ph.D. student at Tsukuba.  She guided us to the train to the subway, and eventually to the bus.

We made it with only about 2 mins to spare to the University Classroom where I gave my talk to grad students who seemed remarkably interested.  Surprising to me, I spoke in English- well that wasn't surprising- the surprising part was there was NO translator.

Now this is a challenge, becasue this was a pretty technical talk.  Despite my slow and careful choice of words, I am sure the complexity of the issues made it pretty hard for the listeners.

But there is a key lesson here.  G^d must necessarily speak slowly and simply to us too-- but-