Monthly Archives: October 2012

“He has put my brethren far from me,…..”

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Yet another eerie sense of timing and once again described too dramatically (eerie?).

Yesterday I was thinking about some of the political issues that are dividing America right now and I was reminded that no matter how we try to define the rights of the individual we end up wrestling with how often that overlaps with what’s best for the group or others in the group. We cannot completely separate ourselves from community. We are relational beings, we need each other and we affect each other profoundly. I’m not sure there is an individual decision we can make that will not have a ripple effect on those around us, for good or for bad, however we define good and bad. That of course is part of the problem. But I digress.

This morning I read another chapter in ‘The Hungering Dark’ by Frederick Buechner. Chapter 5 is titled ‘Pontifex’, I had to look it up. Again, these words of Mr. Buechner spoke to me on many levels, from the beginning verse, through the poetic and historical references and ending with a beautiful, wisely worded, prayer. There are only 4 pages but I want to repeat and comment on every paragraph. I’ll try to limit my words to increase the probability that someone will read what I have written (why that is important, is something to think about).

“He has put my brethren far from me,

and my acquaintances are wholly estranged from me.

My kinsfolk and my close friends have failed me;

the guests in my house have forgotten me;…

I have become an alien in their eyes.”

Job 19:13-15

I am living in Japan with my husband. The rest of my family and friends of 52 years live in America (well, a few live in other parts of the world, but you get my point). For almost 2 weeks now my husband has been on a business in the States and at this moment is preparing to have dinner with our adult children and their significant others. Last weekend he was with dear friends in Texas; eating, drinking, watching movies, talking, laughing, listening to music, and of course working very hard. So I related to that first line: “He has put my brethren far from me.”

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While the Rice Cooks

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Earlier today I wrote this Tumblr post , then I sketched this rough draft . Then I had lunch and went to the gym. I tried the Salsa Dance class and planned to only do that for 30 minutes, but I was lost enough that I still had enough energy to start, but not complete, the Zumba class afterwards.

I must say I was very surprised to see woman my age (mid 50’s) and older really rockin that Zumba so well. The class had less slow version training steps than my classes in California usually had. They just go full speed right from the beginning.

The best part about the day was that Wakae (pronouced Wuki – long i), the mother of the young woman I met last week, that lives in the building next to mine, noticed me and talked with me before both classes, saved a spot on the floor for me and met me afterwards with an invitation to go see some Ikebana flower arrangements in the mall. She also wanted to show me a grocery store that has imported foods for expats. Both were quite enjoyable. I plan to take more time at both places in the next few days.

She was so excited to practice her English and feels very insecure but she actually does very well. She just has to search her memory for some words and we do a little of trial and error as we communicate. After we strolled through the mall and the market I invited her to get Beignets at Cafe duMonde. I had a 50% off coupon given to me by my other neighbor.

We continued to chat as we sipped our coffee and enjoyed our hot fried dough then we walked home as the sun was setting past the newly planted flower beds in this beautiful brisk fall air. I was inspired to cook myself a little meal so I stopped at my nearest market and stocked up on a few items. I thought I had microwavable rice but didn’t so I’m waiting for the rice cooker to finish my rice before I stir fry my lotus root and warm up the prepackaged sauce for MaPo tofu.

I’m not real thrilled to hear the concert through my opened window but I doubt it will go late and I’ll put my tv on soon anyway. I figured there would be nights we could hear the cities festivities, we are in the middle of it all and that knife cuts both ways. These evenings that my husband is away it’s most important that I stay up late enough to sleep through the night. The first few nights I was ready for bed by 7:30…I’m not that old yet!

Time to start frying my lotus root, the rice is almost done.

Confusion of Face

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Coincidence, Fate, Luck, Karma or God’s Sovereign Plan….we humans have many ways of looking at how timing plays a role in our lives. When I experience something that seems to have been timed to go together into some sort of theme or pattern, it catches my attention. This happened again recently.

The day after I wrote this blog post about seeing my face in the mirror, I read a chapter in a book that talked about how inaccurately we see our faces. When we moved to Japan, I brought a few books from our home in California, the rest were put in storage, and a few weeks ago I chose the Frederick Buechner book “The Hungering Dark” to begin reading.

The name of the second chapter is “The Confusion of Face” and the Bible passage on the first page is Daniel 9:1-8 from The Revised Standard version. This title and the theme of the chapter is taken from the 8th verse: ” To us, O Lord, belongs confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee.”

Some of the quotes from this chapter that struck me follow here:

“You catch sight of your face in the mirror….and often you say, in effect, ‘Well, there it is again, the same old washed and slept-on thing I saw yesterday…’ But sometimes, I believe, there is another response which is deeply jarring and which involves your asking in effect, ‘Is that really me? Am I my face?’…..Beneath the face there are many layers of self, and the deepest layers are for the most part hidden from us.”

He quotes a poem by a Japanese poet named Yagi Jukuchi, I don’t know the title of the poem but it starts with “I first saw my face in a dream….” and ends with “About the face was a gold-tinged blackness. The next day when my eyes opened, the fever raged no less, but in my heart was a strange calm.”

Buechner talks about the need of looking into the depths of our true selves and the difficulty in doing that.

“The voyage into the self is long and dark and full of peril, but I believe it is a voyage all of us will have to make before we are through. Either we climb down into the abyss willingly with our eyes open, or we risk falling into it with our eyes closed – a point on which religion and psychiatry seem to agree. And I believe that what is said in the language of the Japanese poem is true also in the language of fact; that if we search ourselves deeply enough, we will begin to see at last who we really are, we will begin to see, very dimly at first, our own true faces. And then, although on the surface the fever may rage still, I believe a strange calm does begin to come, a peace that passes understanding.”

“Selfhood in the sense that you are one self and I am another self begins to fade. You begin to understand that in some way your deepest self is the self of all men…You begin to understand….as a reality, an experience, that their pain is your pain, their need your need; that there can really be no getting ahead at their expense, there can be no joy for you until there is joy for them.”

“I believe that by God’s grace it is our destiny, in this life or in whatever life awaits us, to discover the face of our inmost being, to become at last and at great cost who we truly are.”

And then Mr. Buechner ends with a prayer, it’s too good to shorten so I will add it here…it’s a prayer I would like to pray for myself.

“Thou God in Christ,

There is no ground anywhere that is not holy ground, for in the cool of the evening thou has walked upon it and in the heat of the day thou hast died upon it, and at the coming of the dawn thou hast returned and art always and everywhere returning to it and to us who walk upon it too, this holy ground, though heedless of its holiness. O make us whole. Set us free.

Thou didst shape us each in the darkness of a womb to give us life and thou knowest us each by name, and not one is forgotten by thee, not one but is precious in thy sight – the ugly and the beautiful, the criminal and the child, the enemy with the friend. Lord give us eyes to see each other and ourselves more nearly as thou seest us, to see beneath each face we meet, and beneath even our own faces, thy face.

Help us to know that for each thou hast died as though he were the only one.

Amen”

First Trip to Tokyo ‘Alone’

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First Informal Dinner Party

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October 7 we had our first little dinner party. We met both couples at the Union Church our first Sunday here. Karl and Linda are from Gilroy/San Jose, very near where we lived before moving to Yokohama. Jeff and Yoriko have lived here for many years.

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