Clumsy Mumsy

As a foreigner, I often feel clumsy.

I realized it today when I was parking my bike at the… bike yard? The guard in charge waved me over to a narrow spot down the aisle, where I walked the bike in and tried to get it propped up with 40 lbs of bike seat and baby over the back tire. As I lifted up the back tire to attempt to kick the stand under it, I inadvertently knocked the neighboring bike off its stand.

Great.

My head envisioned the entire row of bikes laying flat.  Thankfully however, said guard was there to rescue the rogue bike threatening the next 30. I felt clumsy.

As I walked into the city hall, I realized that as a foreigner, I feel clumsy in so many ways.  And often.

Oh, I’m standing in the wrong line?  Clumsy.

Wait… which line do I need to stand in? Clumsy.

As a foreigner, the information desk is one of my best friends.

Clumsy as I stare blankly at the person speaking to me.  What did they say?

Clumsy as I figure out how to work the machines with instructions I can’t read.

Clumsy as I attempt to use new phrases and words in everyday conversation.  And the passing glimmer of a smirk when they gently rephrase what I just said.

Clumsy like a kiddo attempting to grasp a slippery fish.

Poor fish.

Anyway, when you’re a foreigner, I think the correct word for how you feel for the first however-long is clumsy. It affects your everyday skills.

However, just as my toddler trips and falls because of her lack of coordination, I know that she’ll grow out of it.  And I’ll grow out of it too.

I’ve already graduated from falling flat on my face to just tripping over my own feet now and then.  🙂

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Ancient Doors

So the other day, I met a lady on the train.  She came up and introduced herself to us… which is very uncommon for Japanese.  I thought it was pretty cool though and we arranged to meet, which she later rescheduled for today.

I showed up prepared today to share the message of Christ, and when I arrived, she was with another older lady friend.  That was when I knew something was a bit strange.  That and the fact that they already knew what restaurant we were going to– my opinion (though I would have deferred) wasn’t asked.

It was a planned attack, haha!

Anyway, an hour and a half later, I interrupted as kindly as I could from a monologue that was getting longer and louder and more aggressive.  I excused myself, paid their bill without their knowing, and left.

It was super weird. Some sect? of Buddhism that I really have to find out more about– but they were very aggressive and though I shared my testimony and the power of God in my life and my family’s life, they repeatedly told me that it was not Jesus who did such things.  Oh it was this or that, but they insisted that Jesus and God (or my God) did not exist and did not do the things that happened in my life.

I listened patiently to most things they said, but every time they denied Jesus, I emphatically said, “that is not the truth”. I came very close to saying, “That’s a lie,” but I wasn’t sure how offended they’d get (though to be fair, their approach was very rude, as they told me the Bible’s story I mentioned was weird).

There were points where the Holy Spirit would speak and say, “they’re using this tactic” and I’d label it and counter and they’d be dumbstruck, but quickly move on to another approach.

After I’d shared the Gospel and my testimony, and they seemed to get angrier and use woebegone-s on me, I gave them a tract (which one tried to give back to me) and left, rebuking anything they might have said over me that I didn’t understand.

It was a big challenge for me in Japanese, and honestly, a side of religion here I’ve not encountered before. Most people are rather apathetic toward Buddhism or Shintoism.  As I looked into their eyes and saw their delusion, I realize that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against very real rulers and authorities and powers of evil in this place.

Jude 20- But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit…

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers… Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in.  Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty.” Psalm 24:1-2,7-8

Praying the ancient doors of Japan be opened!

Two sides to every story

I love Japanese history.  Reading through it, it is easy to see how various influences and events shaped the Japanese way of thinking and acting.

On Sunday, we were talking about the saying Japan is known for: “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.”

Many of us can relate.  We are ministering to people, we see openness and a movement of the Gospel in their lives and then WHAM.  Disappear.  It’s almost as if an invisible hammer knocks them back into place and we lose contact or just something happens.

I understand that this phrase originates in the Edo period- a period when Japan closed its borders to outsiders and began a violent suppression and almost annihilation of the small growth of Christianity that had begun some 50 years beforehand.

Apparently Tokugawa Ieyasu (the leader at that time) established a five family system.  The five families each had to report to the local Buddhist priest and keep each other in check.  If one person in one of the families was found to be a Christian (or have committed other offenses), not only were they punished, but all five families were punished.

Thus the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.

And while I’ve heard this and read it somewhere, I saw other Japanese nodding during this talk, which makes me think it’s pretty accurate.  I’ll do my research though.

Our focus was to pray so that the nails would be protected from the attack of the hammer… that our prayers would in essence create a force field around them.

As we spent time in prayer, I felt that God showed me a block of nails.  There are two sides to the hammer. As we prayed, the hammer was turned around and with prayer, the nail became lodged between the claws of the hammer allowing it to be pulled out. I get so excited when I write this, for real.

Prayer is not only preventative and defensive, it’s offensive and producing change.

Once the nails are out, there is only a useless block of wood with holes in it.  I felt that this system that has been keeping them in bondage is what the wood represents.  But what’s awesome is that the nails are free.

So, we pray and pray and pray.

Jason Mandryk, co-author of Operation World, said:

“When man works, man works.  When man prays, God works.”

Martin Luther said:

“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”

Let’s pray on, knowing that our God is more than able.

Good and Perfect Gifts

You know how we have jokes in America about lawyers and blondes and all those kinds of… jokes?  Well, I found out today that Japan doesn’t have any jokes about lawyers.

See, it’s these kinds of things that are good to find out!  Sometimes humor just does not translate into other languages and cultures.

Just like between Vicente and I… we realized that in Spanish, “yo momma” jokes (A: You’re slow! B: Your mom’s slow!) are actually “yo grandma” jokes. It’s just one of those things where the wall paper doesn’t line up.  We each grimace no matter how we try to adjust those kinds of jokes.

On that note though, we’ve been talking about getting a tv here in Japan.  I actually prefer NOT having a tv…but in this case, we both feel like it would give us much more practice with Japanese and that we could learn a lot from their news and tv programs.  Not the crazy game shows they’re known for.  But just regular sitcoms or educational shows.  The way they express themselves in different situations and interact with others will show us things we might not pick up on being in the moment with people.

When I lived in Mexico, my roommate had a tv. She was primarily the one who operated it since it was on her side of the room, but I learned a lot by observing what was going on and asking questions.  My Spanish definitely improved as I learned to keep up with a quicker pace of speaking.  Watching dramas unfold, it gave me a great opportunity to really pick out things I hadn’t seen in the previous year living in Mexico.

So we’ve been thinking about that for here.  We’d been going back and forth and were going to look at prices to see if it was actually an affordable option.  Turns out it’s not really a cheap option! HA!  They’re about twice the price of tvs in America, just taking a brief look at Target prices.

However, the Lord knew we were talking about it and that our heart was really to understand the Japanese more and not for selfish gain. We mentioned our consideration when hosting some visiting pastors for breakfast last week. We found out a couple days later that the Lord had kindly led one of them to help provide a tv for our family.

We were stunned!  Honestly, we were talking about learning culture (that was the point) and the tv thing was mentioned in passing, and bam!

I kept thinking about that all week.  Wow- that must be the Lord.

Every good and perfect gift is from the Father.  Lord, please bless this generous giver and may we produce so much in response to this wonderful gift.