a good day

today was a very good day.

autumn

The leaves are changing now in Kurabuchi. The air has gotten colder, and everyone is enjoying the last weeks we have before the long cold sets in. Yesterday I commemorated the start of the season by buying a new kotatsu blanket. I'm sure I've written before about the wonders of the table heater, and those who visited in colder months have no doubt experienced its joy. My last kotatsu rig was quite janky. The blankets were most likely not in fact kotatsu blankets, but just blankets for I had to use two of them to properly keep the heat in. Even then it was not the joyful experience that snuggling up under a kotatsu ought be.

The new set is quite nice, and I spent a long afternoon beneath them yesterday. I didn't think it might ever be, but I might actually be a little bit looking forward to winter. Actually, no. I wish it would stay right like it is forever. The daytime weather warms up to about 21 or 22, and at night it gets down around 10. It's a nice range that gives you the opportunity to wear whatever you want in the day time and have the joy of snuggling up cozy in bed.

In any case, the heater has been warmed up and the dust blown out. My winter clothes are ready to go. So bring it on!

(With talk like this invariably the next few weeks will be record temperatures)

looking to write

I want to post, but the activities in my life really aren't that interesting right now. Lots of work, but not much to write about. I've been organizing events, preparing for a presentation tomorrow, and started practicing taiko for Haruna Festival taking place later this month. Beyond that things are much the same as they've been. I'm still running, still working, still doing kendo, still studying Japanese, still going to Bible study.

Actually, that's a good topic to talk about; faith. Over the course of the past year things have changed a lot in that department.
I'd always considered myself Christian. I mean, after all I went to Christian school my whole life, right? But, I think I took it for granted. "Hard to notice the forest for the trees" seems applicable here. While I was surrounded by Christians, and even in many cases studying the Bible (although in high school that quickly became non-existent) I wasn't going to Church and was floating through. I didn't have faith, but the ghost of a child's faith.

It's hard to recall clearly so far back, but as I child I remember how actively the church played a role in my life. I remember worshiping Jesus on my own in my room, writing my parents notes telling them how God loves them, and even telling my (few, non-Christian) friends about Him. Unabashed, unashamed and living in a real way for God. (“Let the children come to me; do not stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these" - Mk 10:14) What changed?

Thinking back though, I don't think it's what changed, but rather, what didn't. Surrounded constantly by the faithful, there were few challenges of faith. Without challenge and without reflection can we grow in anything? School, as much as it teaches you facts, teaches you even more how to think. Math, Science and English have their unique approaches, but at the end of the day it's about taking in the problem, analyzing it, proposing an answer and testing it against reality. Whether it's poetry or compound interest the general approach is roughly the same. You can't analyze a poem if you haven't read it, neither can you calculate the amount of money you'll have in 10 years at a given rate if you haven't analyzed the problem enough to know that's what it's asking.

My biggest failing, and probably that of many, was not being an active participant in my faith; not applying the same thinking learned elsewhere to it - not being critical, posing questions and answers and comparing my thinking with that of others. Sure, we memorized and read... but the questions we were asked in Bible study were easier than ones we were asked in history class. Complacency won and nothing evolved. I suspect that if I'd been thirstier for Him - participated in youth group or, for that matter, gone to church more often I might have been introduced to heavier doctrines and more interesting paradigms. As it was though, my child's faith stayed a child's faith and Friday followed Thursday.

One success in my Christian education was drilling into me thankfulness. ("Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" - James 1:17) While I wasn't good at pursuing God, coming to know his character or growing in my relationship with him I was recognizant of the fact that his hand of blessing was in my life. A friend asked me earlier this year "What do you talk to God about?" - and this was my answer. I think she thought I was full of crap (which I was, at least more so then than now). More interestingly though was how I had interpreted her question. What she meant was 'What things did I challenge God with? How was I coming to know Him? In what ways was I probing His character?". I don't remember how I answered, but at the time the most truthful answer would have been that I wasn't really doing those things at all.

Another side-effect of my stagnant faith, was I wasn't confident as a Christian. I was, frankly, at times a bit ashamed. A childlike understanding of Christianity, while pure and easy for a child is dangerous for an adult. I think there are really two possibilities: zealotry or shame. The zealot is stubborn in his faith, and unshakeable in his tenets. Not because what he believes is unshakeable or without reproach, but because he won't listen or accept anything that changes his world. The other option isn't much prettier. Not wanting to give up on something that was so personally meaningful in the past, but fully aware of faults in reasoning and and lack of understanding the shameful hide the fading bits away from the world. Only through examination and continued pursuit can either of these be avoided.

It was with some trepidation that I joined the Bible study this year. I wanted to know more, but I was scared of the Christians. Ashamed because I knew my own heart so little, how could I ever know God's? I'd long suspected there was more to my beliefs (how could we have nearly 2000 years of art, music, buildings and wars dedicated to my small understanding of it? It didn't make sense), but I had no idea. Starting to peel away the text, finally applying the tools of understanding to what had been a somewhat esoteric set of documents revealed a world I'd never seen before. Ideas so big that they must stir the hearts of men. I had no idea.

The importance of change, the grasping to be better than we are have been important themes in my life of late. It seems obvious to say, but without movement and growth we go nowhere. If we never challenge ourselves to get better, we'll never be better. I'm glad my faith is changing and growing. I feel no shame any more in my beliefs, because they've been analyzed, considered. No. They're being analyzed and considered. I've yet a long way to go. It hasn't always been easy - in fact some has been quite hard, and will continue to be. But with each changing day, with prayer and passage meditated on I'm moving around the Immobile and finding pieces of the Unknowable.