Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Just Thinking Out-Loud

People die. That is true for everyone. There has never been a time when I was not aware of this, but I have never been around dieing people. The reality has rarely hit home.

Once, I went to a hospital to sing for a man who was dying of cancer. I had never met him before. He was old. His hair was falling out due to his sickness. His body trembled and his eyes announced his happiness, emitting tears; a weeping founded in joy. He was joyful because he knew the blood of Christ. He has seen it wash his erroneous nature. I trembled too… witnessing a soul so close to the gates of paradise.

People were not meant to die. People say that death is natural. It is not. It has never been. It will never be. The death of a plant is natural. The death of an animal maybe… but the death of a human being has no hint of natures doing. Death is the doing of a curse. We all live beneath the curses reign…

“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” –Gen 3:19

There is a story in the gospel of John where Jesus hears of Lazarus’ sickness. He knows that Lazarus will die. He knows that he will bring him back to life. Yet when he arrived and saw Mary and the people with her weeping, his spirit was moved and he also wept. I often wondered why Jesus would weep when he knew that he was about to bring Lazarus back from the dead. Jesus wept because he was seeing one of the most tragic results of sin. He was a friend of Lazarus... loved Lazarus. Jesus also loved Mary and the other people who were weeping there. He saw the pain in their eyes… could hear the grief in the sobbing. Jesus wept because he was experiencing the effects of sin on humankind first hand.

Jesus was human. I forget that.

There is good news in the midst of darkness. Good news is an understatement. Jesus says in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and every one who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

These words breathe life. Fashioning hope, they grant freedom to live knowing that death is inevitable.


Death exists, but Christ is the resurrection and life. By his grace I shudder at the sound of these words. By his mercy my once-dead soul believes in what sounds foolish to the world. I pray that by his strength I might be like Jesus to whomever God sends me.

Lord, make me salt.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sunsets from Parking-lots

Yesterday, I stood on the top floor of a shopping center called Apita. The weather was perfect. There was a cool breeze, clear crisp air, and miles of visibility from my concrete perch. For a brief 15 minutes as the sun set on this city of 8 million people I forgot that I was in Japan. I forgot that I was seven thousand miles from my family and friends. I forgot that I had things to do, music to learn, Japanese to study. God spoke that sunset into being. I listened with my eyes. I listened more intently than to any opera or recital. This mere sunset was more beautiful than what any human voice could sing. This art came from God’s mouth. It was but a stage prop in his show… and I, an ant crawling on the wall at stage left.

I was alone of that roof. No one else seemed to care about the beauty in the sky. No one even seemed to notice. It is instances like these… rare glimpses into my own smallness when I feel at home in the Lord. I had nothing to offer God in return for his show. I couldn’t sing and impress Him…. the equivalent of a child’s scribble art. At most it would be cute. I could offer nothing but a bowed head… a meager sign of respect. Even this He helped me to accomplish.

It felt real to me yesterday… that God has taken the rubbish I offered Him and traded it for blood… blood from Christ Jesus… God.

I fear the beauty as in that sunset, because it reeks of power… power that is above me, that is better than me in every way shape and form. At the same time I long to know it. I long to know that goodness. I long to be fluent in the language of Him who speaks things into being… He who creates something out of nothing. It is an infinite language, impossible for a finite being. It is rhetoric that human senses cannot taste.

I felt at home for the first time in two months upon that roof. I am no more comfortable with living in Japan than the day before. I still can’t speak Japanese, or read kanji. I still don’t really know what I am buying at the grocery store. If I eat too much rice I still get constipated ☺ But God is here even though his people are few. He is still speaking, though few have ears to hear. His love is evident. His patience is vast. His grace abounds, and I love Him for it. I don’t understand it, but I love it!

For those of you who were hoping for an update on what I have been up too… I am sorry… maybe next time. I will be sending out update emails soon. ☺

Friday, August 19, 2011

I Am A Foreigner

I have been in Japan for over two weeks now. I feel about as adjusted as I could wish for. I have an apartment filled with everything I will ever need. I have battled the Japanese grocery store and reined victorious… relatively speaking. But as I have been thinking about what to tell everyone back home I have been stumped. So much has happened in two weeks that to tell you all of it would be extremely long so I will try and give a short account of a few funny circumstances.

1. I was sitting and listening to a Japanese conversation and was only partially aware of what the topic was. Suddenly everyone started laughing. I obviously missed the punch line, but I was still determined to have input in the excitement. I attempted to say the word for “that’s funny or interesting.” Instead I recited the following phrase with the utmost confidence and assurance that it was the appropriate response: “Oishashiburi des” which happens to mean, “long time no see.” And thus a humiliating moment for the white guy.

2. Japanese toilets are a species set apart from all other bathroom technology. No wiping is necessary for many of these contraptions because they will clean you, dry you and from what I understand, sometimes spray your behind with perfume. I knew all of these things before coming to Japan and once again my pride was cut down by the Japanese culture. All the other bathrooms were occupied at this restaurant called “Yeast Paradise,” so I decided to use the handicapped bathroom. After all, there were no handicapped people in line! I would have considered the bathroom visit a success until the very end when the time came to flush. There was no handle to push… and no visible button. All that existed was an electronic key pad with a bunch of similar looking options all written in Japanese. I chose the biggest option and pressed the key only to set off and alarm! The toilet was calling for assistance for the handicapped guest (me) who apparently had notified the restaurant staff that he couldn’t get up! At that point I knew I had to get out of there fast! I ignored the gift that I left in the toilet and ran out of the building acting as if nothing had happened! Strike two for foreigner!

3. I live by myself in an apartment situated on the third floor of the building. Since I don’t have a roommate, I feel no qualms about walking around in my underwear. Don’t judge me! You would too if it was this hot in you kitchen! You’ve got to cool off somehow! Either way, I am not used to living in a big city… where people can just see into your windows. I looked out the window to see a few children pointing at my window and laughing… it took me a few seconds to realize that they could see me standing there in my undees! I have learned to close the curtains! At least I wasn’t dancing to the music I was listening to!!

Not all of my actions have ended in failure! Just the funny ones! School starts this week and hopefully the gospel choirs will be up and running soon as well! I will update about those things as soon as I can. Hope you all are well! And thanks for your prayers!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Leaving On A Jet Plane

I have had such a great summer. Really. I spent time with my friends, time with my family, did a fantastic show with some very talented people… good times. Some people assume that I will never come back from Japan. I chuckle to myself. Five years ago when I did my English teaching internships in Japan, if you asked me to stay I would have said yes, and never looked back. Funny thing is I seem to already be looking back and I am not even gone yet! I think I know why.

A week from today I will be on a passenger jet, in route to a far-off place full of far-off stuff and far-off people. Many people treat this year away like it is my funeral. I am still going to be alive in Japan (lord willing ha!) so please don’t treat goodbyes like you will never see me again! I cant take much more of it. It makes me sad that everyone thinks they are losing a friend. You are not. Granted, things will be different, but that’s ok. The last five years of my life have been great. God provided a greenhouse for me to grow in. The people I am leaving in America are the people God used to water and nurture me in that greenhouse. Hopefully I helped you grow too. I love you all very much and am so grateful that God put you in my life. I have every intention of keeping in touch and I expect you all to do the same. I will be mad at you if you don’t. ☺


PS. Lots of people have asked me where I will be in Japan. The best way is just to look on a map. Its a city called Nagoya. The population is about 8 million.

PPS. Also the weather is very similar to Birmingham. Lots of people wonder about that too.

PPPS. The tsunami happened in northern Japan. Nagoya was not physically effected.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tacos Anyone?

I wasn’t hungry, but I was making tacos anyway. It was time to eat. I knew that I needed to eat regardless of having an appetite or not. As I was cooking I remembered a question that a friend of mine asked me at least once a week last semester. “How do you know when your hungry?” Truthfully I always thought it was kind of a strange question. Everyone knows the answer. You are hungry when you are hungry… and that’s that. Or so I thought.

But today was different. It was time to eat but I didn’t feel hungry. There was nothing that I did to spoil my appetite this afternoon. I simply did not feel the need for food. For a moment I considered not eating. After all, if I wasn’t feeling hungry then why eat? I ended up eating despite my lack of hunger because I knew I would need the sustenance to get through tonight’s Urinetown rehearsal.

I have a point I promise! Just read on!

When my friend asked the question “How do you know when you are hungry?” he was talking about physical hunger… But this got my mind spinning. As I pondered the different kinds of hunger I thought of spiritual hunger. How do you know if you are spiritually hungry? If it’s possible to not know when you are physically hungry then wouldn’t it also be possible to not know you are spiritually hungry?

Think about a day where you skipped a meal because of your schedule. There were many days in college, especially during exams, where I would unintentionally miss a meal. Usually it was because I was so hyped up on coffee and studying that my mind blinded itself to the reality that I needed food to survive. But the actuality was that I needed food more in my intense studying than in normal life.

The following is my theory. (I’m sure you have all been eagerly awaiting this! ha!) Many people have a spiritual hunger and don’t even realize it. They have gotten so used to the sensation of being hungry that they are no longer aware of the feeling. If it can happen in the physical since then I think that it is only reasonable to think it applies to the spiritual part of us too.

Level-headedness suggests that food, real physical food, is all we need… This simply is not the case. Jesus said in Luke 4:4 that “man shall not live by bread alone.” Furthermore in John 6:35 he says “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger…” Whether or not you believe in the Bible, you must agree that humans usually long for something more than what this life offers… We at least long for something better. But often, better things never seem to come. As a result we get bitter, depressed, angry ect. As I examine my life, the times when I recognize my spiritual hunger and eat, are the times when I sense joy and fulfillment. It’s safe to say that realizing spiritual hunger is not quite so simple as physical hunger but it is equally important for your health and quality of life.

It doesn’t really matter how you know if you are hungry (at least in the spiritual since). If you haven’t eaten in a while then you are hungry! Plain and simple! So why not eat? It can’t do any harm.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Where is Santa?

Waiting is a strange concept. In my experience it makes me cringe with discontentment. To wait leaves the mind feeling uneasy… wanting to do something… It is natural to want to get things over with just to end the wait. Of course everyone knows that learning to wait is good for a person. It teaches discipline and patience. It also makes the thing that you have been waiting for even sweeter when it finally comes to fruition.

Since graduation I feel like I have been playing a waiting game. I have been support raising and planning lessons for classes, but these things seem to only produce more anticipation. My heart and mind are not in America any more. They are in Japan. I therefore feel that restless sensation you get when you just want to get something over with. It’s the feeling achieved when you have only one more exam to take and you have studied all that you possibly can, yet the exam is still a few hours away.

Every day I see friends and wonder if I will see them again before I go. Sometimes I wonder if being far from my close friends will be as hard as I anticipate. I hope not.

One thing that God has been teaching me thus far is that I rarely grow closer to him if I am comfortable. Fear of graduating, support raising and leaving friends has forced me to rely on him much more than I am accustomed to. There have been so many things that I have had to rely on God for that my nights are filled with prayer. Without prayer I wouldn’t be able to sleep knowing all the change that is about to happen in my life. All in all, I have enjoyed being terrified of going to Japan… as strange as that sounds. In response to all the fear, doubt and worry God has provided contentment, assurance and peace. Seeing God provide has given me great joy.

On august 3rd I will board a plane in North Carolina and embark on what Satan tells me will be a very long nightmare. Usually when Satan tells me something is not good for me I can trust that it probably will be great. If he says it will be bitter then sweetness overflows.

Truthfully I can’t wait any more! I am like a kid on Christmas Eve! Just give me Santa! Please!!! And by Santa I mean a ride to the airport and an earlier departure date!

To bad Santa doesn’t exist!

In the meantime I will wait.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Alabama Tornados

Last Wednesday afternoon was anxiety-filled for much our my beautiful state of Alabama. In the past few months I have heard of earthquakes in New Zealand killing many people and the tsunami in Japan killing thousands. Never did the fact cross my mind that Alabama had the potential for any real natural disasters. People here are used to hearing the tornado sirens sound. At most we expect a small tornado that destroys a trailer or two. This was obviously not the case last week.

I watched a live feed of the giant tornado as it obliterated the city of Tuscaloosa knowing that I had good friends in its path. It was an afternoon spend in prayer. Several tornados went just around us here in Montevallo, and Birmingham was hit very hard. I got texts messages from friends who thought they might be experiencing their last few moments on earth. "If I don't make it through this I just want yall to know that I love you..." This is not something that calms your heart when you see the rotation on the weather map just over your friends area of town!

The next day a couple of my roommate's friends from Tuscaloosa came to my house in Montevallo to charge their phones. I heard first hand from a student who had been pulling crushed dead bodies out of rubble the night before. I heard of people who's bones were protruding from their skin... or whose skin was literally falling off after the debris caught in the wind was thrown at them. This is the kind of stuff you don't hear about on the news.

The reason I am saying this is to remind everyone to keep praying for the people effected in Alabama. As the media quickly moves on to new stories it is easy to forget that it happened. People are still in shock in many areas. Its is almost a week later and thousand still don't have power or safe water to drink. Keep praying for the people here, and that God would work mightily in the hearts of people effected!

The 1.5mile wide tornado passed by downtown Birmingham.

Friday, April 8, 2011


This is a video that was produced by the team that I will be working with next year in Nagoya. They have been bringing supplies up to the northern part of Japan since the earthquake/ tsunami several weeks ago. Please don't forget to pray for Japan. I know it is hard to remember to pray for people who are ten thousand miles from here, but please keep Japan on your thoughts and prayers.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Summer is near... *gulp's with fear*

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself." Luke 9:23-24

This is slowly becoming my theme verse... Not because I follow this verse, but because I need to engrain it into my hard heart. As most of you know, I am moving to Japan next year to be a missionary. The more support that comes in, and the closer it get to time for me to graduate and leave, the more I want to throw in the towel. I am terrified of leaving my school and friends. I am terrified of directing choirs. I am terrified of teaching elementary music. In a few short months all of these things that I fear will be my everyday reality. Every bit of my flesh is telling me on a daily basis "Just tell them you can't do it... that you feel God calling you to stay in America and... pick up a third major. Or maybe you can tell them that you have a life threatening disease!!! Just give back all this support and go to graduate school! Live your own life. Get a job. Buy a dog ect."

Its funny how the subconscious will mess with you! Even in all my anxiety and uncertainty I find true comfort in scripture. "Deny himself daily." I naturally seek to save my life. Going to Japan just might break me in two... but I will be better for having been broken.

Its just that... being broken in two... eaten alive... and the like... doesn't settle well in my stomach : ) Good thing there is grace for all my insecurities and lack of faith.

Now that I have talked about myself enough... please remember to pray for the Japanese as they are going through a world of heartache. Many people are experiencing pain and grief beyond what any of us could ever imagine. Pray that God could provide comfort and hope during this dark time.

MTW - Disaster Response in Japan from Go Global on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A New Musical

Last night I went to see the Broadway show “Spring Awakening” in Huntsville. I really had no expectation going into it. I had listened to some of the music previously, and I knew it was a little edgy… not a show that you want to watch with your grandma.

I still don’t know my thoughts about the show. It was done extremely well. It is understandable why it won something like seven Tony awards. The performers had exceptional voices, and the music was absolutely beautiful. But I am not sure that I agree with the message being conveyed. It is the story of a bunch of hormonal adolescents in the late 1800’s who are fighting the system/ standards set up by society and the church. They desire to explore their freedom and sexuality in the face of oppression from family members and school-teachers. Issues like pre-marital sex, homosexuality, suicide, and abortion are all addressed with sometimes beautiful, but not entirely valid arguments.

I almost think I would need to see it again to be able to decide whether it was truly a good show. Any of you who have seen it, please give me your opinions!