Nine Lives?

I thought only cats had this privilege, but apparently ducks are proving the old maxim wrong. Perky's back from the dead again, and she's sassier than ever.

Remember my blog post from a few days ago? A quirky little ducky was found alive in a fridge after being shot twice by a hunter and presumed to have web-footedly kicked the bucket.

She's had surgery, she died yet again, and this story is all about her second resurrection.

Unbelievable.

I just have one question: Exactly how do you do CPR on a duck?

There's Something in the Water....

Andy Game is staying with us at the moment and getting to hang out with godson, Matthew. Anyway, today he decided to have a well-earned rest after the breakfast Alpha get-together this morning in downtown Osaka, so he headed off to the south of the city where there is a huge installation called Spa World. He tells us he enjoyed the Asian baths and had a relaxing time, but looking at the brochure, he made a smart decision in avoiding the 8th floor....

88.6 Fushigi FM

Fushigi FM is a great new radio station that has started broadcasting in this area, and it always has music and shows that are just to our taste.

Perhaps because it is broadcasting from our computer.

That's right, we have set up our own little radio station here broadcasting in the Satsukigaoka area on 88.6 FM.

The point is that we can listen to anything playing on the computer (BBC and other radio stations, Pandora, Last.fm, podcasts etc.) through our stereo, or any radio in the house, without having wires trailing around everywhere.

Although does it stop at our house? I was looking for a powerful transmitter as our building is concrete and steel, which is why I chose the Linex one after I read a comment another purchaser made:

It works well, perhaps too well. When I am in my car, I can pickup my "home broadcasts" a bit over a mile away and a neighbor has asked "if I have heard the new radio station at 107.5 that plays beautiful music?"

Embarrassed, I explained what was happening, but he is delighted and wishes that I would keep it going during the day while I am at the office.
So who knows how many other people are listening in to our eclectic listening selection? And that reminds me that I have to be really careful to switch it off when we are talking on SightSpeed or Skype, or everyone will be able to listen in!

... is the controversial title of a book that has stimulated a lot of thinking for me in the last month or two since my friend Chuck down in Kyushu sent me the link to download the pdf for free. (You can get a paper version on Amazon if you want, although I was surprised at how easy it was to read on the screen.)

The operative phrase is "go to church". The thesis being that there is no church to go to; there is one church (the body of Christ - the people who believe in Jesus) which is not a building, nor an organized institutional structure. Now, this can seem fairly obvious, but have you thought of the implications? Well, this book walks you through a number of these by taking you on a journey with a guy called Jake Colsen (the fictitious author) as he struggles with these issues and is challenged by a mysterious man simply known as John to re-examine the status quo.

Take this passage on leaders in the church:

“If church can be this simple, John, how do leaders fit in all of this? Don’t we need elders and pastors and apostles?”

“For what?”

“Doesn’t someone need to be in charge and organize things so people will know what to do?” Marvin was almost beside himself. I cringed inside knowing he wasn’t going to hear what he wanted.

“Why, so people can follow someone else instead of following Jesus? Don’t you see we already have a leader? The church gives Jesus first place in everything and it will refuse to let anyone else crawl up in his seat.”

“So leaders aren’t important either?”

“Not the way you’ve been taught to think of them. One can hardly conceive of body life today without an organization and a leader shaping others with their vision. Some love to lead; others desperately want to be led. This system has made God’s people so passive most can’t even imagine living without a human leader to identify with. Then we wonder why our spirituality falls so painfully short. Read through the New Testament again and you’ll find there is very little focus on anything like leadership as we’ve come to think of it today.”

“But there were elders and apostles and pastors, weren’t there?”

“There were, but they weren’t out front leading people after their personal visions, they were behind the scenes doing exactly what you have on your heart to do, Marvin—helping people to live deeply in Christ so that he can lead them! Elders won’t end up managing machinery, but equipping followers by helping them find a real relationship with the living God. That’s why he asked us to help people become his disciples and why he said that he would build his church. Let’s focus on our task and let him do his.”
And don't think that non-traditional churches get away with much either:
“Is that why Jake says you are against house church?” Marvin jumped in again.

“I don’t think I’ve ever said that,” John said turning towards me with a questioning look on his face.

“That isn’t how I think.But I did try to get him to think beyond it, as I want you to do.”

“We thought house church was a more biblical way to do church. It offers more participation and is less controlled by clergy, less demanding of time and resources, and more relational than institutional church. Isn’t that true?”

“Just because it meets in a home?” The skeptical look on John’s face said it all. “That isn’t always true of home groups I’ve been with. Many have people in them who try to control the others. Don’t get me wrong; I love the priorities you just outlined and I’m convinced that a home is the best place to live them. But I know people who meet in buildings who are incredibly relational, and some who meet in homes who are not. The location isn’t the issue, but whether you are caught up in religious games or helping each other discover the incredible relationship God wants with us.”
Remember that I am only giving you tiny little slices of this book to digest, so if you are getting your back up about one or other comment, I would suggest that you go and read the whole book (it is a free download, so it only costs you your time) before deciding what you think.

For me, I think it has helped me to start to get free of feelings of "should" that come from Christianity the religion rather than Christianity the life with Jesus. One of these is that I should be involved in missionary work in Japan. Not that we have plans to leave Japan, but that if we are here it should (ha ha - pun intended) be for positive reasons of genuine calling and not out of guilt.

The book has also helped me to see that there is no "structural" answer to the question of what is "church". It is not about having an organization set up in a certain way, it is about people in relationship with God and each other - and like a family, it does not respond well to hierarchy and structure. You cannot put your hope in an organization or a method, or you will be disappointed. That was my conclusion.

One practical implication of this has been that when our church group here (called "Gospel Life") asked us to become official members, we ended up turning them down for the simple reason that this "membership" was all about the norms of the institution: The fact was that we had been meeting with this group for a large part of the time we have been here, and we have met with people from the group outside the official "church" time to build relationships on many occasions, so it seemed reasonable to say that we were already members of this group. Even if we did not have the certificate to prove it, I felt that we were already proving it by our actions. I think the pastor was quite surprised, but said he understood our reasons when I explained to him. I don't know how much he really understood them on a deep level, because he is very much part of the denominational "institution", but at least he did not think they were unreasonable or grounds to ask us not to return.

(Although I was glad that he had asked us, as it showed that they consider us to be part of their group. And I would not have found out that one thing that prospective members must promise is to inform the pastor in the event of their death. I am not kidding.)

Happy Family Portraits

It has taken a while for me to get these up, but here are some portraits we had done as a family when we were in Florida.

Lucky Duck

A little ducky in Florida (just the sort of wildlife Matthew loved watching paddling around lakes and coming up to visit him in his stroller) has survived two gunshot wounds and two days in a fridge! When the hunter's wife opened the fridge door and saw the little winged creature still kicking, I'm surprised the hubby didn't get his gun out again. My guess is that his better half would not have been very pleased with bullet holes in the kitchen.

What a shock to find a living thing in your fridge! (Mind you, college dorms and bachelor pads around the globe deal with this issue on a constant basis, I've heard.)

Give the bird a medal of valor is what I say. The duck deserves one, too.

Ten Months!

Here's Disney Tigger/Auburn War Eagle Matthew with his friend, Pa's (Abigail's grandpa) favorite toy.

What a month! Matthew's grown (Pop--Abigail's dad-- said he could tell a difference in just a couple of weeks in Florida), met lots of new people, and has generally just had a grand time. What a special day the ten-month mark was: Matthew got to meet his godmother, Holly M, on that day (his Auntie TT had mono, poor thing, so he'll get to meet her, Uncle Tony, and Baby Z on the next trip).

Here are some milestones from this past month:
  • Got his seventh tooth, with the eighth on its merry way.
  • Stood to his feet a couple of times in Japan in December by pushing up on Stephen when he was lying down on the living room floor. But when Stephen and I went out for our one date in Florida while my parents watched Matthew, he stood up using the TV entertainment center. Of course it was while we were out!
  • Matthew's hair had gotten straggly over his ears, so he had his first haircut! (And yes, we kept the hair, though it wasn't much.)
  • Has continued his babbling (especially when he's tired and wants a snuggle): "Ahbooboo," "Goo," "Babababa," "Mamamama."
  • Went swimming in a pool for the first time.
  • Loved the animals in Florida: squirrels, fish, ducks, seagulls, pelicans, turtles, dogs, and cats.
  • Met his cousins Elise and Ethan for the first time, and had a blast with them! Even now, when he sees pictures of them, he gets a huge smile on his face, as if they are bringing back fond memories.
  • Got two very bad cases of jet lag going to Florida and returning to Japan.
  • Caught his second cold (or was it allergies?). When we came back to Japan, the congestion and cough cleared almost immediately.
  • Entertained all sorts of people on the plane going to Florida. Folks were taking off their headphones and missing the movies so they could smile at the very energetic Matthew! (The Northwest flight attendants were much nicer to us now that we have a baby. Maybe we need to have a few more to really get on their soft side.)
  • Had a fun Japanese grandma sitting next to us on the flight from Detroit to Japan, and Matthew just fell in love with her. He sat in her lap quite a few times.
  • Enjoyed walks on the Cape Canaveral beach in the early mornings, watching the sunrise and letting the breeze waft through his hair.
  • Ate a huge helping of macaroni and cheese when the gregarious Great-Aunt Lorrie was the one feeding him.
  • Inspired Great-Grandma Sue to draw a very creative picture of him with purple crayon on the paper tablecloth at Macaroni Grill.
  • Made his Auburn University alumnus Great-Grandpa "Pa" very happy with his tiger outfit (pictured above).
  • Enjoyed Great-Aunt Tina's nickname for him ("Little Peanut").
  • Had fun playing with an antique metal jack-in-the-box with Abigail's Mommee Melt (Abigail's dad's mom).
  • Continues to bring joy to his parents' hearts!!!

Icky

I know some people can't stand mushy, hot cereal-type foods, but my slow-cooker recipe for meatballs really shows how the author was feeling when she called for "ick-cooking oats."

Refreshing Rain

We came back to Japan on Sunday evening amid a fog of jet lag, and yesterday learned the sad news that some good friends of ours are going back to their home country very soon.

Matthew woke up between 1 am and 4 am yesterday morning and this morning, so when I was up with him this morning, all I could think about was our friends, and the sorrow I feel.

As I read Hosea 6 later, I was filled with renewed energy and hope:

"As sure as dawn breaks, so sure is his [God's] daily arrival. He comes as rain comes, as spring rain refreshing the ground."

The weather forecast calls for precipitation today, so when it comes, I will think of God's arrival, and thank Him for His goodness and love. He never fails us.

But friends, that doesn't mean that you won't be missed. You go with our prayers and love.

Water Boy



We've just spent three refreshing days at Port Canaveral beach (unfortunately for Stephen, we could see the Vehicle Assembly Building a bit down the coast at NASA, but there were no scheduled shuttle launches while we were there). Matthew turned out to be a regular water baby, kicking his feet in the pool, loving it when we spun him around and pulled him along. The ocean was full of man-of-wars, so we didn't feel like trying our luck there, though. (We noticed nobody else did, either.) We had lovely walks, a nap or two, read our books, and generally just chilled out! It was just what the doc ordered.

Matthew and Catherine

Matthew met Catherine on the Internet a while back (OK, Holly - her mom - sent us a photo by email) and it was love at first sight. The chemistry was definitely there when they met in person as well, as you can see from this picture.


Kids Say the Darndest Things

The Melton/Kuiper/Palmborg/Munday clans got together for a unique family photo experience this morning, and my soon-to-be-three-year-old niece, Elise, tickled my funny bone in between shots.

The conversation went something like this:

Elise (with her finger stuck in her ear): "I've got something in my ear."
Auntie Abigail: "Is it your finger?"
Elise: "Yeah."

Santa Mommie

It may be a week after Christmas, but we had Christmas last night on New Year's Eve.

Pop Plays Banjo for Matthew

New Year's Day Open House

Great-Grandma Sue Meets Matthew


 

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