Tuesday, April 25, 2017

In the Right Place

Today’s coffee… is whatever Tokumitsu is serving with their lunch set. This morning I had Tokumitsu’s lovely 春色ブレンド (Spring-colored blend… but actually it’s coffee-brown like normal. Because spring in Ishikari is coffee-brown before the daffodils come up?)

I decided that I need to start writing again. Writing helps me to process what is going on in my life. Practicing cello and puttering around in the garden have also helped a lot.

Crocuses in our garden
God has a sense of humor. I told him, I think back even before I went to Regent, that I did not want to be a pastor (too much responsibility… I’m more of a team player). I also told him that I especially didn’t want to be a pastor’s wife (too many unspoken expectations, and I don't fit the image).

Well… essentially, due to our current circumstances, I have unexpectedly become both a pastor and a pastor’s wife. Of course, missionaries are somewhat different than pastors, but what we’re doing right now boils down to preaching, leading prayer meetings, providing training for church leaders, following up with church members and seekers, planning worship services, and sitting through (sometimes leading) lots of leadership meetings… that doesn’t look so different than what pastors do. Yep… God has a sense of humor. Mental note: be careful what I tell God I absolutely don’t want to do.

This really isn’t what I wanted to do, and I’m feeling completely inadequate to do what I’m currently doing. It’s kind of weird that people trust me and listen to me as much as they do. Japan is like that… I have a seminary degree, so that makes me “Sensei.” Perhaps this is what Moses felt like when he asked God to send someone else. There’s no way I would have said “yes” to this calling if it hadn’t happened seemingly by default. But people keep telling us that God brought us back to Wakaba “for such a time as this.” On good days, that’s encouraging. On bad days, I just want to run away from the pressure and the pain.

Still, shortly before we found ourselves in our current situation, God seemed unusually insistent in telling both of us that he was there, and he was walking with us. Both of us had an uncomfortable sense that something big was coming, so when it did, we weren’t all that surprised. “Ah, so that’s what it was.” That odd realization helped confirm in our hearts that we are in the right place, however difficult it might be at the moment.

I started doing an inductive study of the whole Bible last October. It turns out, that was a really good idea. I set a pattern of spending a lot of time on my “quiet time,” which has really helped me lately. I began to see that spending time with God was the only way I was going to survive, but beyond mere survival, I would even have something to share with others. (More on that thought later, probably.) That’s how I was able, despite never having preached in Japanese, to commit to preaching once a month--each sermon (so far) flowed out of my morning study/devotion times. From next month, I start a series in the Psalms! My very first sermon series!

Preaching on Easter Sunday
I still feel rather like I’m on a roller coaster riding between despair and joy… and there’s no end to that in sight. But I’m trying my best to find joy in remembering all that God has done for me, giving thanks for those little confirmations that we are in the right place, and God is right here with us.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Tea in Kyoto

Back when I was thirteen, my family went to Europe for the first time. I still remember my excitement as we arrived in Salzburg. To a budding cellist like me who grew up on a steady diet of classical music, being in the same places and breathing the same air that Mozart had breathed was a magical experience.

After four years studying tea ceremony, our recent family vacation to the Kansai region (Kyoto and Osaka) had some of the same excitement. It was a much-needed break, but it was also an opportunity to visit historical sites related to tea ceremony! And also, it was a welcome opportunity to feast on good-for-you foods, since Kyoto is known for vegetables, pickles, and tofu. (I’m sorry to say that cooking is one of the many things that has gotten dropped around here lately…) Of course, we saw lots of other stuff too.

I was thinking of fangirling all over this blog post and dropping all sorts of names and such that most English-speaking readers have never heard of… but on second thought, maybe I’ll just do pictures. Read the captions if you are interested. Yay, Kyoto eye-candy!

Visiting the tea room at the Sen no Rikyu museum in Sakai!
The "nijiriguchi" door: can't bring a sword inside, because it won't fit. Everyone stoops to come inside; everyone is on the same level. Tea is all about reconciliation.
The site of Sen no Rikyu's home in Sakai, where he was born. 
We visited Kitano Tenmangu shrine to go to the flea market... and then I remembered afterwards that it was the site of Hideyoshi's massive chakai (tea party)! Also, the ume/plum trees were in full bloom; I remembered the "Tobiume" story that my tea ceremony teacher once told me; the hero of that story is said to be the god of this shrine. Yeah... as some of our friends from church say, Kyoto is so beautiful... conflicted feelings.
In the background is the garden and tea house built by Hosokawa Tadaoki, husband of Lady Gracia (a famous Catholic) and disciple/friend of Rikyu. It is called shokoken (松向軒), meaning "building facing pines." I planned the tea room in our house inspired by this one, so it was great to finally see the original!
The interior of 松向軒/Shokoken
The garden, appropriately with a pine tree
Before tea, guests wash their hands and mouth using something like this. I can't think of what we would call this in English... outdoor stone sink? This one in Hosokawa's garden was famous for being large.
This has nothing to do with tea, but Gion is very picturesque, even in the rain.
Yasaka pagoda at night. We stayed near here.
We wanted to climb all the way to the top of Mt. Inari, but... it got dark. The gates made interesting shadows.
Pickle buffet! Keith and I were thinking that this would be a good idea... and there it was! Very popular too; we had to wait about two hours to get in.
The buffet... I'm getting hungry again just looking at this picture.
I hadn't had enough pickles yet, so Mom and I had pickle-high-tea. Everything had pickles in it, even the desserts! This is also a great idea.
Plum blossoms at Nijo Palace, the Kyoto home of the Tokugawa family.
 And... if you want to see more pictures, there were over 700 of them. For once I took more pictures than Dad. ;)