Photo of The Day: Boating Down the Hozu River

boating down the Hozu River

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Photo of the Day: Train Near Ogoto Onsen

train near Ogoto Onsen

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Life As A Bridal Minister

Since returning to Japan, I have been involved in many projects to earn a living for myself and my family, and as a seminary graduate I sometimes work part-time in Japan’s bridal industry.

The bridal industry in Japan has a bad reputation because most of the people getting Christian weddings are unbelievers, as are in fact some of the so-called ministers. Indeed, the largest provider of bridal ministers in Japan has lately been stipulating in its job ads that the only real requirements for a foreign bridal minister are to be able to read a prepared script in Japanese and to look good at the front of a chapel. No Bible training is necessary, and presumably they do not even care if the minister believes in God.

All of this has led many people (ministers included) to believe that the weddings are just a show, and are not taken seriously by anyone. However, while I do not necessarily feel all that comfortable doing these weddings because in many ways they are a show, and pageantry is always given a much higher priority than spirituality, it is truly striking to me how most of the couples treat the wedding ceremonies as very real, and consequently take them much more seriously than many of the ministers or staff members involved.

This can lead to some interesting experiences.

For example, the other day the groom was perfectly relaxed before the ceremony. However, as soon as the ceremony began, he suffered a nervous meltdown. His hands shook so badly that he could barely manage to slip the ring on his bride’s finger. As a part of the ring exchange, the script went like this:

Me: Kono yubiwa wa … (Groom repeats)
Me: watashi no ai no akashi desu. (Groom repeats)

The English translation is, “This ring … is a testimony of my love.” When we practiced this in the rehearsal, the groom had no problem at all. However, during the wedding, after I said, “Kono yubiwa wa …“, instead of repeating after me, the groom said in a very loud voice for all to hear, “watashi no ai no katachi desu!” The translation? “This ring … is the shape of my love!”

Prior to this, the bride was so full of emotion that she was almost about to cry. After this, it all went downhill, and if there were any tears at all, it was from laughing so hard. And the more everyone laughed, the more mistakes the poor groom made. He was very much relieved when the ordeal was finally over. Yet, the couple looked very happy and all appeared to be forgiven and forgotten by the time they left the wedding chapel to ring the wedding bell.

This was but a minor hiccup compared to what transpired a few days later at another wedding, when the bride fainted at the altar. Apparently, she was too nervous, too overstressed, too tired, and too hot wearing her elaborate wedding gown in the chapel. Fortunately, her father was sitting within a few steps of her, and he noticed that she was going down. Thinking quickly, he shoved a chair under her before she could hit the floor. Crouching nearby was the hotel staff member in charge of the wedding. I looked to her and asked quietly what I should do. She looked to the groom and the father, and they both motioned that we should continue as planned, so I soldiered on with the bride passed out in a chair in front of the altar, and the videographer catching everything on tape for posterity.

We came to the vows, and she was now somewhat conscious, but was still unable to hold up her head. Her father nudged her, and whispered “Hai! Chakaimasu!” (“Yes, I swear!”). She uttered a very feeble “Hai! Chikaimasu!” and we continued. Then came the ring exchange. The groom slipped her ring on, and then his own. The next part was trickier, as they were both supposed to sign their names to the wedding certificate. I brought the wedding certificate out and the groom signed it. Then I put it in front of the bride. “Sign it!” her father whispered. Somehow, without really having her eyes open, she managed to scrawl her name.

Next, came to pastoral prayer. I had the groom take her by the hand, and I prayed over them. I gave the longest prayer I could, praying in English that God would give her strength and that she would be able to complete the ceremony so that her wedding day would be a blessed and joyous occasion for her. I continued praying long after the harpist had finished the musical accompaniment.

I do not know if the prayer itself helped, or just if the length of the prayer gave her some much needed time to rest, but when I moved back behind the altar, she suddenly sprang to her feet and stood next to the groom. I made the wedding pronouncement as quickly as I could, and then reminded her in a whisper that there was one more hymn on the program before the exit, asking her if she really wanted it. She nodded her head “yes”, and so we started the hymn. The hymn was one of those that I have only ever heard at a Japanese wedding, and which very few people–even Christians–really know the words to, but she sang both verses without looking at the wedding program. Then, somehow, she was able to stumble out of the wedding chapel to the applause of the guests.

When I was on my way to the dressing room after the service, I saw her and the groom sitting alone in the hotel photography studio trying to catch their breaths. I went in and asked her how she felt, and she explained that she was feeling better by the moment, and that the wedding chapel had been too hot.

She was positively beaming with joy. I have never seen a happier bride.

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A “Personal” Email From Mitt Romney

Here is a screenshot of a portion of a “personal” email I just received from Mitt Romney:

Romney email

This is fascinating on so many levels.

First of all, how did he get my email address? I work fairly hard to keep my email addresses off mailing lists, and have been quite successful thus far. Certainly, I have never signed up for anything related to Mitt Romney.

Second, when I click on the links or look at the return address, I see that it is not really from Mitt Romney at all. It is from the National Republican Congressional Committee. Now, I am all in favor of the Republicans gaining control over both chambers of Congress, but anyone who knows me or has even spent one second reading my blog would know that I have no intention of sending one dime to the Republicans, for any purpose–it is part of what is wrong in the US. If something is not part of the solution, it is part of the problem, and the GOP is definitely part of the problem. People who have money and wish to donate it should send it directly to the campaign of the candidates of their choice. It certainly should not go to the Republican Party.

At the same time, Mitt Romney has enough money to fund all of these congressional races himself. Yet, when he last ran for president, he did not spend one dime of his own money on his own campaign. Given that right now I have serious concerns as to how my family will eat next week, it is kind of galling to get a letter from a multimillionaire begging for money, when he himself is not willing to put his money where his mouth is when all is on the line. If he is so worried about Obama and his agenda, he should have gone all in back in 2012, and run a better campaign.

So, no. I’m not interested in donating $45 to the Republicans, and find it less likely that I would ever donate to them after receiving this unsolicited email.

If they want to win elections, they need to support better candidates, and stop sabotaging the candidacies of people who represent new ideas and new blood.

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Why Punctuation Matters

hunters please use caution when hunting pedestrians(H/t Mashable)

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Barack Obama Is So Cool

Yes, Barack Obama is so cool. I mean, like, he’s black, you know, and I’m so proud that America has a black president, and he’s so cool, and we are all so cool for electing him, and everyone is cool just because we like Barack Obama and he’s cool.

And Barack Obama is so cool because he likes children.

In fact, he’s cool because he was once a child himself.

And he is cool because he likes the snow.

And he likes the rain too.

Oh, my gosh! I can’t believe how cool he is!

He also likes his wife.

Now how cool is that! (She’s cool too. In fact, here’s her cool page to prove it.)

And he fist bumps janitors and service people.

And he’s cool because he likes to dance. (The other guy couldn’t do that.)

And of course he is into all kinds of sports. (I bet the other guy couldn’t do that either!)

He’s so cool, that I can’t imagine why some people don’t support him. It must be because he’s cool and black. They are just racist haters. That’s all there is to it. True, the world is in flames and America is being turned into a run-down trailer park, but it is an unprecedented achievement for America to have a black president, who is so cool. And we are so cool for having elected him.

In fact, I feel cool just talking about how cool he is.

(To be clear, this would be satire if it were not for the fact that such a webpage already exists. That any mature adult–whether a supporter of Obama or not–would think that any of these things makes a person cool, or that any of this matters one whit when it comes to policy and the welfare of the American people, is a sign of the dry rot that is eating at the American soul.)

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The Obamas’ 9/11 Tribute

From the first lady’s Twitter stream:

As in “kaboom”.

At this point, it is no longer just an issue of optics. The issue is that the president and first lady are educated idiots.

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