Why Intelligent Design Should Be Left Out of the Classroom

Its been a longtime since I've been controversial, and often I am merely controversial for the sheer challenge of being a devil's advocate on an issue which is so apparent for what side I would naturally lean towards. Once again I want to take a page out of my former roommate and good friend Matt Gambill's blog and discuss why intelligent design should not be taught in school. Or at least the science classroom.

Intelligent design, the latest dressing of creationism, has become a hot topic amongst evangelical Christians and the scientific community. The long and short is that proponents of I.D. believe that the universe is so complex that it could not happen by random occurrence and evolution. Thus we are led to believe, although God is not inherently always mentioned, that there is a designer. Naturally I subscribe to this theory.

What I don't subscribe to is that this theory should necessarily be taught in science class. Science, at its core, is a deductive model of looking at the universe around us. Basically science eventually hinges on full exploitation of the scientific method where we observe, formulate hypothesis, and test our predictions to see if we can create a repeatable phenomenon.

The problem is that belief in an intelligent designer eventually leads to a leap of faith and will never be provable inconclusively. Faith defined is usually stated as belief in things not seen (or for our discussion, observed). Since this cannot be done, the institution of science will never be able to say without a doubt that there is a creator (although it does give us a lot of evidence to believe so).

The point I'm getting at is that perhaps intelligent design, creationism and other like theories are better left taught in a philosophy, English, or history class. However, I would also assert that evolution should not be stated as fact and always remain as a theory until it can be proven inconclusively as well. And to that extent all data that conflicts with evolution should be brought to the table and discussed.

I'd like to end my little diatribe here with one last thought. If our goal is ultimately to teach people about God, losing the battle in the classroom should not be our biggest concern. Rather we need to fight the battle of the heart and help people overcome the hurt, struggles and pain of this world by showing them the love of God and the grace given to them.

Side note: I know I said I would discuss the answers behind my quiz, but I think I've talked to the majority of interested people about my quiz. If you are still curious email me or leave a comment and I will go ahead and post it next time. Just thought it might be seen as a bit vain.


Want to Be Like Matt

I wish I could be as cool as my former roommate. In an attempt to do so I am copying his last blog post. Try to get higher than 50% on this quiz. It's so hard I can't even get a 100% on it.

Take the Quiz!

**Editor's Note: I will post some of the more surprising results and an explanation to my answers either late this week or early next, after I'm satisfied everyone who probably wanted to take it has taken it. I've found some of your answers quite illuminating thus far! :)


Wanderlust...in America

In the summer before my junior year I discovered that there is life beyond the borders of this great land known as America. Until then I thought that the only way to get around was in a minivan, listening to tapes of the Beach Boys all the while restraining myself from dismembering my infuriating little brother. Our wonderful van took me across many a great body of water, namely the Mississippi, but ne'er did it take me across the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean.

And then, in one life-altering summer, I stumbled upon Europe and encountered more countries then I would states that year. A whirlwind tour exposed me to Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Sweden. I discovered people who did not speak my language nor shared my customs. Recently I've had the great opportunity to go to Australia and Japan. One country seemingly similar to America, but oh so different, and one a far cry from anything remotely close to the US (except their equal fetish for American pop culture).

But a recent trip to Seattle has reminded me again of the treasure known as America. My friend Peter and I used to discuss what a great country it is that we live in, and not merely for its economic wealth that it has provided us. No, America is great because it literally contains a bit of everything. Every type of landscape you would hope to see out in the world you can find in some part of America. And you even find a wide array of culture too! You can bet the people here in Seattle, if we sat down for a chat over coffee, and of course it would be coffee here in Seattle, would think that I'm about the biggest good ole boy they've ever encountered and would tell me that I should have gone out of style at least fifty years ago (talk about a run on sentence!). And I would be horrified by their trendy viewpoints and moral stances as well, thanking God for the good ole Bible Belt despite its many misgivings.

No, America will probably never hold the same allure for me as the great ancient cultures of Asia, or the refined European nations, but it does hold a special place in my heart. And whenever a three day weekend does occur, it's probably a safe bet to put your money on Mr. Honda hitting the highways for yet another road trip.

Now if we could ever just get a rail system built...



I will be taking a brief break from blogging. I'm not sure if that means a few days or a few weeks, but I need a little bit of time to gather my thoughts. Thanks.


Engaging the Beautiful

"...Blake, the next time you're at a big social event, I want you to walk right up to the prettiest girl in the room and say, 'I've come to talk to you in spite of the fact that you're the most shockingly gorgeous woman in this room.'" --Watch out beautiful girls, I've been given a charge and I'm not going to let my dear friend Peter down!

Actually Peter is right. There are a lot of times that the victims of so-called discrimination actually become the discriminators themselves. It is easy for many groups to feel that it is the world that owes them the time of the day, the red carpet, the best bagel in the shop all because they feel that they have been oppressed so long.

While I won't push the gender or the racial card tonight (believe me Ann, I'd love too), I will instead focus on a group of people I feel intimately in touch with -- short people. Too long have I looked up to my taller counterparts and thought, "Well aren't they something special because they can stuff me in a game of hoops" and not even given them the time of day. Ok, just kidding, but indeed it is true that I tend to shy away from actually mingling with what could be considered the social upper-class, the beautiful, the guitar-playing, the Hillary Clintons.

And I think this is unfortunate. While I sit around and think of them as shallow, I have neglected the fact that they are real people with real problems, as much if not bigger then my own. I have avoided getting to know people who perhaps would be quite interested in speaking with someone who loves DOS as much as they secretly do. And why? Because I have reverse discriminated against them and put them on a pedestal that is out of reach.

Thank you for that reminder Pete. I needed it! :)

Be Scared Lord Voldermort - We Are Proud, We Are Strong, We are HP Fans!

Last Thursday night was the Harry Potter premiere. Unstinking-believable. I have been to many premieres in my life but this is the first one where the theater actually broke out in sports arena type cheers. The upper half would yell out "Harry" while the lower would echo "Potter." Wow!

Harry Potter with the Magic Spoon


Oh to be a Monk

...A monk is supposed to give up the idea of possessing anything, and, in this culture, that includes women. Ideally, in giving up the sexual pursuit of women, the male celibate learns to relate to them as human beings...I've seen young monks astonish an obese and homely college student by listening to her with as much interest and respect as to her conventionally pretty roommate. (The Cloister Walk)

Being single isn't easy. But particularly for a Christian young man who wants to exude the spirit of Christ in all his relationships. As I was reading a chapter in The Cloister Walk I was astonished by Norris's candid remarks on the differences between celibate monks and your average Joe. Monks come off as genuine, concerned, and interested whereas average Joes come off as seeking a goal, be it a long lasting monagamous relationship or more likely, sex.

You see, the thing is, its easy to be like the Average Joe. If you walk into a group of people, you most naturally are going to gravitate to the most engaging or attractive person and want to join their conversation or become a part of their group. It is more difficult to seek out the hurting, the emotionally needy, or those who don't seem quite as exotic.

My desire is to be more like the monks, who are easily approachable and refreshingly enjoyable no matter who engages them, or who they engage in conversation. I continuously try to make an effort to talk to everyone, no matter their appearance or popularity. Yet that isn't always easy, and it is something I have to continually battle everytime I am in a group of large people. However my natural inclinations feel amazingly transparent when I do try to talk to everyone.

The thing that is difficult about monks is that it appears that they have actually controlled their inner desires and stripped away the superficialities in their hearts and minds. That is a point I have yet to achieve, and something that will take a long time to arrive at. But it is a battle I want to win and one I will continually be actively engaged in. Tarry on!


Wooing the Ladies with the English Language

Language took on a whole new dimension once I went to Japan. I now can almost visually see words and sentences coming together, much as if I was regularly partaking of LSD. I also had plenty of downtime while waiting to go to work, so I read some fairly decent novels including Brothers Karamazov and Great Expectations. Both of these books convinced me that peasants in Russia and England respectively have far greater vocabularies then I do, not to mention a firm grasp on poetry and being bi or trilingual to boot.

So anyways, in an attempt to advance myself, or at least prepare for the GRE, I attempt to use the best possible word I can muster when ever talking to someone. Generally this probably makes me look like I am a bit slow rather than remarkably brilliant, but perhaps diction proficiency only improves with time.

This got me to wondering, at 5:45 this morning, does this impress females? Will I be able to woo them with my firm grasp of vernacular? In a time of sadness would they rather hear "I am so sorry" or would they be much better soothed with words like, "Woe is you in this hour of dark despair." Personally the latter would send me in the throes of the dashing young gentleman who used such words, but alas, I am not female and certainly not Lizza Bennett.

Ladies, please, provide me with some insight into your minds so I will know how better to sweep you off your feet!


The Cloister Walk

This month the MRCC Singles' book club is reading a book called The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris. Norris was the inaugural speaker at the McBride faith and literature lectures and she was unbelievably good. There are times that words almost seem to take visible form where they are just floating around the room and connecting together in pleasing and easily comprehensible structures. Listening to her that night was one of those experiences and thus fellow book clubee Melissa Shumate and I decided that she would make a great read.

And indeed she has. Amongst other things she has inspired me to become a monk! Ok, well I probably won't become a monk but a life that's day to day moments are dedicated to living and experiencing God and His son is inspirational. I really do think that if I find myself single at around 35 I will join a monastery for a few years just to gain the enlightenment that comes from that experience.

One of the things I've learned from a mere sixty pages of reading is that monasteries aren't self-encased safe havens that totally remove an individual from the world. Monks, and nuns for that matter, are truly trying to live lifes separate from worldly pleasures yet they still make an evangelical impact on those that come to contact with them. I think too often in the past I have written them off as living in a bubble and not in touch with the world they live in. However I think this is great ignorance on my part, and there is more to this lifestyle then I originally thought.

I sometimes wonder if those of us who live in the world try to have the best of both worlds. Work with me because this is an idea still in development and not fully thought out. But we are blessed with so many worldly pleasures in America and become so busy and distracted with entertainment, technology, and activities that we spend less and less time actually focusing on God. Yet we at the same time try to bring God back into those crowded spaces and attempt to be "spiritual." I'm not sure you can actually do both.

Perhaps thats why we try to impose spiritualism on our society and why we focus on things like morality so often as opposed to a relationship with God. Morality is not always tied to righteousness, or for that matter, spirituality, but we figure that as long as we are doing right then we are being spiritual. And if we lead others to have to live by our moral code we are fighting the war against the evil powers that exist in this world all the while forgetting to focus more and more on God and less on ourselves and this world.

More rambling will ensue from this book, but as I'm just starting it I wanted to give you some insight into what Kathleen has to say. If some of these thoughts seem strange or off the wall, remember, she's a poet! I blame it on all these artistic people for being not so systematic in my theology!


I Love DOS

Blogs are amazing. Some blogs clue you in to ever so helpful information as to what type of food the blogger ate today and whether or not they walked their dog. You might also get stunning insights into their favorite color as well if you are lucky and check back often. Other blogs are much deeper and tap into spiritual, philosophical or even political musings. And then you come upon a blog ever so rare as to wonder what the person behind the keyboard is actually like. I encounted one of the blogs last week and have been going back regularly ever since.

The name of the blog? DOS. Now some of you may have never heard of DOS, and thats ok. Our wonderful friend, who we will call Marvin henceforth (I hate to genderize a person but I think it is pretty safe to assume that this writer is a male), has provided us a wonderful synopsis of DOS as his first post. And the posts just get better and better from there.

The question that comes to my mind is whether Marvin is pulling our leg, or is he really and truly this cool? This is a guy I'd like to go out with on a Friday night, as I'm sure a majority of my female readers would too and perhaps fight me for that very right. I mean, it is hard to keep up with M-Dawg because he always informing us of some new and unheard of feature in DOS. Simply incredible!

That's it for today. I just wanted to pay tribute to a truly awe inspiring blog. I am not nearly as worthy of my piece of internet real estate as Marvin has proven himself to be in just a week's worth of writing. Keep up the good work my comrade!


Three Days and then let the Greetings Ring!

Less then three days away till November 1st. I think we all know what that means! Actually, I don't think that most of you do besides a few of my closest friends who have had to share in Christmas music bliss nearly a month longer then they'd like. You see, on November 1st, its Christmas season! Or at least in my mind it is!

For years I've struggled come the end of October to hold off to listening to my favorite genre of music. I believe it happened sometime in college that my roommates finally agreed upon November 1st being an acceptable day to start listening to Christmas music. And so each year I eagerly await the moment where I can blast Noel and We Three Kings from my computer. Just this morning I had to restrain from the urge of queuing up iTunes and blasting away a little Mannheim Steamroller.

One of the reasons I love Christmas music is because of a very special band, Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Before I came into contact with TSO I was of the illusion that Christmas music had to be very sweet and melodic. Boy was I ever wrong! Noel sounds amazing to the tune of several rock guitars! Wow! This year, for the second year in a row, I will be attending their holiday concert and I am prepared to jam the holidays into existence once more!

So Merry Christmas everyone! And don't listen to those naysayers who would lead you to believe that we must wait till after Thanksgiving. Its just not right!


Say No to Castes

I like people. I also like people who like people.

My friend Peter and I always like to talk about group dynamics. We love to watch people and how they interact, and especially the groups we interact daily in. Needless to say this created endless conversations while we were in Japan in relation to our fellow AETs and also in our relation to the Japanese, and the Japanese amongst themselves.

Friday night was an interesting study into groups. Eight of us found ourselves at Pei Wei for an evening of good eating and good entertainment (Dum-Dum Head and Chairman Mao). The thing that made the evening interesting though was that the group consisted of eight people who normally don't hang out together. We came from multiple walks in our church. Sure we shared the same faith, and we were all middle-class single twenty-somethings, but beyond that we were as diverse as it comes: athletic and non-athletic, engineers to waiters, popular and unpopular, beautiful and average looking.

As I was going over the night in my head as I laid in bed, I cannot imagine the night without any one of those people. The uniqueness of the group was what made the evening work, and without any one of those people, it would not have been as enjoyable. Add another person, and the whole situation could have been quite different. Subtract a person and again the evening would have turned out differently.

I'm not sure I really have a point tonight. But I do enjoy being in a group with no agendas, no social jockeying, just plain enjoyment of one another's company. That's why I like people. That's why I like people who like people.


This World is Not My Home

The year 2005 has been a very nomadic year for me. I have lived, or rather stayed, in four places this year. I started out the year at Dimaggio's abode, moved to Japan at the beginning of April, and returned home late July. Now, on the eve of my return into perhaps a more stable life, I find myself at Matt Gambill's place for the time being.

My point being is that I have not been in one place long enough to become completely familiar with my surroundings or settle down. I have more or less learned to be mobile and roll with the punches, however they might fall. Yet, during the course of it all, God has provided for me whether it be with help on air fares, income from Japan, or someone providing me a place to stay until I got back on my feet.

It makes me think of a verse in the Bible that goes "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." What must have it been like to be Jesus? Undoubtedly he had no health insurance, no retirement plan, and no monthly income. Shoot, he perhaps didn't even know where his next meal would come from! But he always knew that his father provided for the birds and the lilies of the ground, so surely God would provide for him.

Jesus knew his time on this earth was short. He knew that this world was not his home and that he was just a passing through, if you will. And I think its important to live like that as well. I'm sure over the next few months and years my material possessions will once again pile up and I may one day have a dresser and bookshelf to put my clothes and books on. And over time I will have more gadgets and trinkets then I need. But I hope that as life stabilizes once again for me, as I save for retirement and have health coverage, as I look towards buying a house, I will remember that this world is not my home.

After all, I'm just a passing through.


History and Philosophy of Science and Technology

So I decided to combine what I thought were two distinct set of words in Google yesterday and see what the all-mighty search engine would spit out. I typed in "Sociology" and "Information Technology." Well lo and behold the coolest degree program in the world came out! There is actually a masters program called the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology! Concatenating those four words together just makes my cranium tingle!

For those nerdy enough to want to read more, here is a Wikipedia article that actually clued me in to what the degree is and where to acquire it:


I also am thinking about becoming a member of SHOT (Society for the History of Technology) which entitles me to the scholarly journal, Technology and Culture. That certainly promises to be a great read!

This is totally the program that I've been dreaming of! Now I can study the positive and negative ramifications of the Industrial Revolution, explore the Internet Boom, and find answers to whether or not technology is benefiting the world socially, economically, physically and even spiritually!

Anyways, how great is that? If your a nerd and you know it, clap your hands!


"Death Be Not Whatever"

Today's title is ripped from an episode of Joan of Arcadia, certainly one of the best television shows I've ever watched. And by the way, I need to take this opportunity to thank my dad for getting discs one and two from the library for me. Thanks dad!

Anyways, this particular episode dealt a lot with the issue of death, an issue that is continually on my mind whether or not I speak about it much. However, it made me realize some pretty cool things that frankly had not crossed my mind until watching this episode. Or perhaps that were there, but the show fleshed out those thoughts into a much more understandable picture. What I realized is that once we die, the events, troubles and concerns of this world are no longer relevant. When we die and go to be with God, we "get it." What I mean by that is we finally understand the mysteries, the things we didn't think were fair, and the heartaches we endured. Being with God illuminates the truth that He was trying to show us all along.

In, Joan of Arcadia God continually appears to her and in this particular episode she was frustrated with Him for all the pain that is in the world. Yet, being in the presence of Him, she began to realize that she did not understand everything and that somehow He does know what He is doing. Perhaps at times we feel so far removed from Him, even in the midst of prayer and reading His word, that if we can just imagine Him talking to us the words spoken in the Bible it might seem more real then perhaps the disembodied persona we sometimes fictiously create. In Joan God is never an apathetic, heartless God, He is simply just someone who is above our comprehension and all we can do is have faith and realize that He knows best.

If none of that made sense, tis ok. But really, if you ever get the chance, watch the show! It may not sit perfectly with your theology but that's ok, it drives home many important lessons in a medium that can connect with you like none other.


Don't Be Evil

Google is revolutionizing the world one step at a time. I love Google! Tonight, finally, I found a person who would test Google Talk with me, and boy is it ever amazing. The clarity of the conversation was better then my cell phone by far, and best of all its free. All it takes is a computer, an internet connection, and a Google account.

The problem is that it hasn't caught on quite yet. The majority of people are still using AIM, MSN, or ICQ. But people, its time to jump and make the switch. Its like being in a bad relationship and not knowing when to get out. If this was not an internet forum, I would gently take you aside and gently console you and then urge you its time to move on.

The huge advantage is that it could revolutionize long distance and international calling. No longer will you need to have either a cell phone or a special international calling plan, just both people have to be on at the same time. This of course in the long run could take out landlines and the telecommunications market as we know it. As my kids in Japan used to say, "Unbelievable!"

On another random note, does FaceBook scare anyone besides me? Maybe I just don't understand it. Just a random thought.

...and the Google revolution continues!


Blogger Makeover

Taking a page out of TLC and Matt Gambill's book, I've done a complete blogger makeover! And folks, if you use blogspot, you do not have to miss out on this revolution that is sweeping the nation. Just go to Blogger Templates and you can do the same.



Praise the Lord!

The past few months my posts have been contemplative and melancholy in nature. Certainly there is nothing wrong with posts of these sorts, in fact it was almost necessitated by life's circumstances. But today I come with praise! I got a job back at Chesapeake and I couldn't be more thrilled!

Many people have been praying for me for many months during this intense decision making process. I first had to decide whether or not to return to Japan. While I still wish I was there continuing the good work, after much prayer and discussion with many wise people I decided the place I need to be was back in the states near my family. This choice still weighs heavy with me even though I know it was the right one, but it is hard to leave a place who so badly needs God. However, those working over there are doing a fine job and will continue to do so.

Then I had to decide where to get a job. I at first wanted to move out of Oklahoma City and try Kansas City or even St. Louis. However after accepting a job in St. Louis and coming within hours of signing a lease I realized the place I needed to be was a place I was already comfortable and loved in. Naturally that place right now is in OKC.

So I will be joining Chesapeake within a week or so, as soon as the contract is drafted and approved. The job is incredibly nerdy, which I love. I get to work on something called GIS which is an acronym for Geographic Information Systems. Basically something like Google Earth on steroids. Way cool!

Thank you God and thank you for all those who have been persistent in prayer for my family and myself.


Effective Ways to Fall Asleep

For the past two years I've found a great way to fall asleep. It is fast, effective, and best of all it doesn't require medication! What may be surprising is that we've all known this solution but have never implemented it. The secret? Listen to a sermon! I mean, we all struggle with the temptation to sleep at church from time to time, why not put it into practice a few minutes before we go to bed?

My mom always wanted me to listen to two of her favorite preachers, David Jeremiah and Chuck Swindoll. Not ever having the time to actually sit down and listen to them during a day, I eventually discovered that I could put one of those two on and hear a great sermon as I go to sleep. Nearly ever time about five minutes into it I'd be put to sleep, but best of all I've got a few good minutes of truth (the best part is the intro anyways, right?)!

Well last night was the first night I've been able to do that thanks to WiFi internet at Matt Gambill's house. Last night's message was particularly relevant to me. It reminded me that God is in control and that I need to trust God whose ways are not my ways, and whose plans are not always my plans.

Isaiah 55:8-9

8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.

9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

A great reminder in a time that I am trying to figure things out. When we trust God, then circumstances, while ever sometimes disconcerting and confusing, will work out as He intended and not as we manipulated them to be.

Another great way to fall to sleep: read Gabe's Blog!

p.s. Just kidding Gabe, just thought you wouldn't mind the shameless plug!


Joan of Arcadia

When trying to determine who the thriftiest person I know is, I ultimately have to decide between two individuals: my dad, Hacksaw Jim Blackwell and my best friend, Travis Powell. Let's examine the facts. My dad will buy fifty bars of soap at Walgreens if he thinks he's found a steal of a deal, thus eliminating our need to purchase soap for the next two years. Travis on the other hand can come up with great date ideas like going to the OC cafeteria or using clips to secure his jeans so they don't get caught in the bike chain. Amazing! But, and this did not occur to me till I came home because of my B&N/Blockbuster (I'm anti-Blockbuster by the way, but Randy's M&M would only speak to a portion of people who read my blog) mentality. My dad rents DVDs from the library! How cool is that? Naturally you always have to wait because you are generally the fiftieth person in line for any given DVD, but if you constantly have twenty holds out you're likely to have one DVD per week. I almost forgot you could check out books!

I said all that to basically explain how I got my hands on Disc 3-6 of Joan of Arcadia: Season 1. This show blew my mind the first time I saw it on television, and I really didn't like it at first. It starts out with the song What If God Were One of Us by Joan Osbourne, also a song I really never liked. The premise behind that song and the television show is that God could be an average person walking around on the streets. Joan of Arcadia takes it one step further by having God, in the form of an average person, talk to Joan to give her "advice" in which she then follows in one emotional episode after another. I really think people fifty years ago would have rolled over in their grave with this concept. And while I'm not sure its always Biblical, I must say I like and enjoy the show and even feel challenged by it.

So while it initially shocked me in perhaps its boldness, I've really started to like it. Joan deals with a lot of good faith issues, and the family shows a great cross-blend of real people with real problems. The father is largely agnostic but a good guy, the mother is struggling with faith and teenagers (this is all season one knowledge I have by the way, not season two), the older brother became paralyzed due to a car wreck and is frustrated with himself and can't fathom the concept of God doing this to him, and the younger brother is a science genius who fleshes out the scientific questions involved with faith. And then of course there is Joan who interacts with God on a very personal way. She is often frustrated, confused, and upset yet ultimately thankful and reflective upon seeing God's ultimate beauty in the plan He had for her.

And perhaps Joan really resonates with me. Or perhaps all of humanity. God is immutable and He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. But as I continue to grow in my understanding of God I am inspired by the real relationship that God and Joan present. Joan can communicate just as she would to a friend, or better yet to a father. Not only in reverance, but also in trying to grasp life's mysteries. And that is Biblical! The Psalms are ripe with passages of confusion, frustration but ultimately hope and belief in God's will. Jesus pleaded with God himself to "take this cup from me" but also accepted God's will. And so does Joan.

So I like the show. And perhaps even the song.


Restoring Hope

The last couple of blogs have been a myriad of frustration, despondency, and sadness. I seemed to have lost my anchor, my rock of refuge. However today, for reasons unknown, I finally realized that in large part these problems were due to my lack of trust in God.

I was reminded today as I read the Psalms (particularly Psalm 71, 77, 86) that God is there in the darkest and deepest of times. God has a much better outlook on our lives and on the events that have occurred then we do, because He is the creator and sustainer of this universe. I also realized that He will take care of me and that if I trust in Him, my life will be put to good use.

Its hard for me to remember that at a times. I'm a person who likes to be used, who likes to be active all of the time. If a few hours are spent not doing anything I generally feel slothful. Yet God is using this time as I wait and search for work, as I think about my life goals and aspirations, for a variety of reasons that are sometimes hard to see. I get to spend time with my dad and have meaningful discussions about the loss of mom, or just to help him paint a room. I get to spend time to reflect on the loss and what a good life she lived. I get a chance to grow in my dependency on God.

And so I will once again be thankful and praise God. He is in control. I am not. Believing that is easy in times of plenty and in times of great joy; believing it in times of sorrow and uncertainty however is when God is truely testing us and helping us to grow.

So I apologize for giving up and the despair displayed in those prior posts. However, God continues to work on all of us and all we can do is put our hope in Him. I will close with a song that I really like:

Raging Sea
by: Michael W. Smith

Sometimes the journey makes you weary
Feels like a long and winding road
Sometimes this life can lose it's meaning
But you might be surprised to find some hope
Maybe you're wondering where love is
You may feel it's far away from here
Maybe you're wondering where I am
You might be surprised to find I'm near

And when your life is tossed and turning
And your on the raging sea
I'll come and pull you from the water
Then you will know that you are free

So if you're stumbling through the valley
Or if you're tempted to give up the fight
Reach out your hand and I will lead you
I will be your strong arm in the night


Failure to Communicate: Part 2

A few people have mentioned a little bit of surprise to my last blog, and I must say that in hindsight it was probably poorly written and perhaps even of bad taste. This was certainly not my intent, although it has made me to realize the difficulties I'm undergoing and perhaps the stress that came through when I wrote that blog.

This whole sad event (I can't find suitable terms to express the loss of my mother, so sad event will have to suffice) is becoming tougher to handle that I thought, and my attempt to go to St. Louis was an effort to produce some stability in my life. Sometimes you need something to hold on to, and when you've been thrown out of one endeavor you thought meaningful and God-inspired to deal with another experience you can't even fathom to be God's work, and are then enduring the aftermath of loss on top of culture reentry shock, you want to hold on to any solid ground you can find. To me, having something worthwhile to do is that solid ground.

Therefore I jumped at the first solid job opportunity which came my way. And my mind was so jumbled I couldn't see all the variables clearly. Thus, my whole failure to communicate how hard I am taking this is a huge part of the problem. Not only do I have trouble admitting that to myself, but to others. I am afraid it is me who has the inability to comunnicate.

Part of the problem comes in my lack of understanding God as well. It is natural as humans to throw things at God and say, "Why would he do this?" Why would there be a hurrican so devastating that it uproots entire cities and strews families apart? Why would a tsunami hit Asia and kill thousands? Why would a disease exist that we can't even fight? Yet while I want to throw these questions at God, I don't really see the validity of them. God asks Job to explain the mysteries of His creation and like Job, I come up speechless. The questions I want to ask really do not appear valid. But this confusion, this speechlessness, does not help either. Ahhh how frustrating it all is!


Failure to Communicate

This post is not meant to be critical in a negative sense, but critical in a constructive manner. Having decided not to move to St. Louis I noticed two divergent modes of communication that arose through the whole process. Prior to going to St. Louis, people were generally supportive and expressed their hopes that all would go well. After deciding against St. Louis, the majority stated their relief that I would not be going up there and how tough it would have been. This dichotomy existed not only in communication towards me, but also in the dialogue going on in my head. This leads me to believe the real problem wasn't a failure to communicate, but something deeper.

Truth is, we as humans generally want to make the best of any given situation. Even when we think decisions may not be the healthiest, we have a general belief that God will help us out and that we will be able to handle the difficulties that lay before us. So we can rationalize a potentially bad situation into something manageable.

However, are there degrees of good and bad? Are all things equal? If there are degrees of quality (stolen concept from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) in our decision making process we must evaluate and decide between perhaps even two necessarily good options. In this case a good job as opposed to a stable way of life in a time of tumultuous change.

Not really sure where I'm going here except that I hope that we can not only communicate, but intellectually decide when we have decisions of significant magnitude to make. And perhaps I'm the only person who struggles with this problem. After all, in hindsight, it was my failure to listen to the naysayers in the first place. :)


My Faith is Like Shifting Sand

Sometimes you realize you forgot to put God in the picture. Sometimes you realize what you really need is friends. Sometimes you realize...you are human.

Today I really struggled with my choice to move to St. Louis. My life has more or less been a roller coaster the entire year and I nearly ran off the tracks today. I forget that I've been through a lot including quitting a good job, starting a challenging position in Japan, watching my mom suffer terribly and finally passing away, to handling the loss of her while searching for a job.

I got to St. Louis feeling incredibly depressed. By lunchtime I could hardly even talk to my dad and did not feel good at all about moving up there and living by myself in a town where I know no one. Having already verbally committed to the position I felt ethically obligated to keep the position even if it meant suffering through it. While it may have worked out, after much heart wrenching toil and thought, I decided it best not to make the leap.

Somewhere along the way I really need to grasp that money and opportunity is not the most important thing. I've got to realize that God will take care of me. I also need to realize that being an autonomous human being is not really what's best for me either. Being independent and free spirited is not always incredibly healthy. God did after all create the church for strengthening and edifying.

And thus I find myself once again searching. But now I'm no longer searching for a job but for purpose, for meaning, and for what God really wants. Hopefully this time I'll get it right. Or rather, hopefully this time we'll get it right.


What's Next?

Well, while I feel I could continue to write more about my mother and the spiritual challenges/questions that surround this part of my life, I feel like it would be best to take a different path with this blog. Yet I can't decide what this path should be. So you, my wonderful readers, get a chance to decide!

I really think it would be quite funny to write my own eHarmony blog, much like Auvrey did. I doubt I can even compare with her blog in terms of content, simply because her blog was just way too hilarious and she is a far better writer. Yet I must admit its a great idea, and while it may be plagiarism, it would be fun.

The second idea I've come up with is perhaps writing a bit of commentary on the books I'm currently reading. Perhaps using them as a springboard for random thoughts and ideas. Currently I'm in the midst of reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and computer books on .NET technology. I'm sure I would lean towards the .NET books for much of my insight into this unpredictable world we live in. Thank you Microsoft.

And thirdly, there is always my random and tumultuous life that I could depict for you since I'm now moving to a town (St. Louis, MO) where I know absolutely no one. I could go in to my rides on the metro, my explorations of the town, and the incredibly interesting people I will meet.

The choice is yours! Weigh in and let me know!


Well since today has been an especially rough day in my decision to move to St. Louis, I completly skipped over discussing it on purpose. But since I was caught in the act, here is the scoop.

I will be working with Bryan Cave, a large law firm in downtown St. Louis doing programming/web development type work. The job is a contract to hire and has me employed till the end of December. From there we both decide whether or not its a good match and I will either be hired on full-time, extend the contract, or find something else.

The hesitancy comes because I heard from Chesapeake today. After spending a weekend with friends and being at my old church in OKC, I realized how much I missed the place and really had a strong urge to return to my former job. Yet I had already given my verbal agreement to join and thus being a man of my word I will honor that comittment.

Why St. Louis? I really don't know. I think I'm primarily mixed up about a lot of things and really went for the first good looking job opportunity came my way. So yes, I probably should document how it goes and will do so since I am far better at blogging currently then I am emailing.

I will be emailing out my cell phone number soon once I have a new St. Louis number.


My Mom

The following obituary was composed by my dad and myself and will be in our local newspaper, so I wanted to post it here as well for everyone who does not live in Springfield, MO. I want to thank everyone who has been supportive in all of this.

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Marcia Blackwell was a cherished wife, mother, and friend who understood that her most important relationship was with her Savior, Jesus Christ. We mourn her loss yet we gain comfort because of her faithful life.

Marcia was a quiet, gentle spirit. Her life overflowed with love and determination. She continually displayed her love and determination to her husband, sons, and family by supporting them in every worthy endeavor and guiding each to happiness and success. These virtues carried over into her relationships with her Christian family and friends.

Marcia was born in Lima, Ohio on January 10, 1951. She was a graduate of Elida High School of Elida, Ohio and attended Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. She met her husband, Jim, while working at Commerce Bank of Springfield. They were happily married for twenty-nine years. She was a valuable employee on the New Mothers Unit at St. John's Hospital for sixteen years.

She passed away in Springfield, Missouri on August 25, 2005. She is survived by her husband Jim, eldest son Todd and his wife Jill, two younger sons Blake and Marc, mother-in-law Viola Blackwell, and brother-in-law Don Blackwell. Her parents, George and Velma Nixon, and siblings Sue, Ed, Candice and Anne also survive her.

The funeral will be held at Sunset Church of Christ on Monday, August 29th at 10:00 AM. Visitation will be at the Greenlawn South Funeral Home on Sunday, August 28th from 2:00-4:00 PM. Marcia has requested that donations be made to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Ozarks in her memory if people wish to do so.

We will miss her deeply.


Nowhere to Look But Up

During the course of the past several weeks I have tried to maintain a positive outlook. I hope in some way I have relayed little truths of what I've discovered during this arduous journey while ne're complaining about the lot my family finds itself in. Yet tonight I'm not sure if that's possible.

I am quite down. We have had several seemingly near death experiences starting last Sunday morning at 1:30 AM. I use the word seemingly because every time my mom has pulled through. On Thursday of this week she had a terrible choking, coughing episode that lasted nearly an hour. It was perhaps the scariest experience I've ever encountered and since that time she has been unresponsive the majority of the past few days.

This marks day thirty-three of our time in the hospital. Being there, that long, has its effects on a person. I went to Wal-Mart today and almost experienced culture shock because unbeknownst to me the world has continued going on outside of the hospital. It's been almost two weeks since I felt like it would be appropriate to go out with friends and have a good laugh. All of these stresses wear on a person.

And I've decided not to return to Japan. This choice, which I deliberated and pined over for nearly four weeks, did not come easily. In many ways I feel ashamed of my decision yet I feel in no way capable of handling a foreign culture right now or any time soon. A foreign culture is difficult enough as it is without going through the loss of a family member. This unfortunately leaves me unemployed and thus I now am starting to face the scary reality of not having a job for awhile.

So I find myself worn out, lonely, unemployed and despondent. This post however was not meant to garner sympathy. I write this, perhaps to vent, but also to assert that God is still good. He can do immeasurably more than I can imagine and He has told me not to worry, that He will provide. While I perhaps do not internalize these beliefs too well, I do at least want to vocalize them in hopes that soon I can believe this not just with my lips but my heart as well.


Love Defined

Love. This oh so elusive term in my life has always been a mystery. I turned to movies to solve my questions and unfortunately wound up lacking. Girls do not actually fall in love with the nerdy sweet guy who is persistent; they do however fall in love with Matthew McConaughey. The illustration of love found in literature from works such as Pride and Prejudice only befuddles me more while music leads me to believe it is some sort of possessive act.

However, over the past thirty days I have seen what love is truly about. And through this demonstration I've also realized its been under my own roof this whole time.

My dad has been the most caring, loving and faithful husband a woman could hope for. Over the past month he has been at the hospital an average of 18-20 hours a day. Not once has he ever came home to sleep in his own bed and rarely does he leave mother's side. He has served her meeting every request with a willingness to bid every entreaty she might put before him. He holds her hand and has told her multiple times, when it looks like her time has finally come, how much he loves her and treasures the time they had together.

Yet this love has been going on not thirty days but for over twenty-nine years. I tried to recollect times when I recalled my mother and father fighting. While I'm sure they had their arguments not a single door was ever slammed nor was either voice ever raised. They spent nearly every evening together at the dinner table laughing, listening and crying while discussing their days. Many vacations were spent exploring the US together as a couple and as a family. And these details are merely the visible, readily accessible memories that I possess. What went on between them is undoubtedly even more special.

If love decides one day not to be so elusive than I hope that I can model my relationship off of my parents. May it be an example of peace, stability, reliability, happiness and joy. Perhaps these aren't movie, book, or song worthy attributes but its what love defined looks like.


A Tough Day

Today I have nothing deep or profound to offer. Today might well have been the toughest day in my life thus far. At around 1:30 AM we received a call from my dad to rush up to the hospital because he thought the end was near. However it wasn't, and that scenario then repeated itself twomore times during the course of the day. Its hard to say goodbye, and then be given more time only to say goodbye again. Its also hard to witness someone you love in so much pain.

One of the great blessings however has been the opportunity to say goodbye. A few years back when my grandpa died we received no warning at all. While he was in his early 80's at the time, there were no failing health signs, no warning that his time was drawing short. Instead he got hit on the way out to his farm and died in the emergency room. However, I have gotten to spend almost four solid weeks with my mother and have learned more about her then most people ever get a chance to. Also I've had the opportunity to share how much I love her by spending this time with her and telling her the things that need to be said.

So today has been a tough day. I'm weary by the whole experience. But I continually remind myself that these are important times and special times and thus I put all that I physically and emotionally can into them.

Have a good night.


A Brief Respite

You all, my faithful 15-20 readers a day (What can I say? I monitor these things. I'm a nerd), deserve a brief respite from all of my serious posts that I've been hashing out as of late. While others may say differently, I don't know that I'm ever been the least bit humorous in my life without the aid of my goofy smile and ridiculus laugh. So I won't attempt my hand at wit or banter this afternoon. I did however stumble upon a great blog the other day that had me rolling!

I am quite jealous that I did not think of this idea myself. In fact ever since I've discovered this blog I have kicked myself for an opportunity lost. The beauty of this blog is it takes such a hilarious online phenomenon such as online dating and delivers a great parody of the whole event. And while I don't know Auvrey hardly at all, I do know that she is a great writer which adds to the joy of reading this blog. So go check out Auvrey's eHarmony Blog. Enjoy!


Chicken Foot

My mom's condition has just been pronounced terminal. While it may be perfectly healthy for me to vent all my emotions at this point in time, I don't believe the Internet is the place to do it even if I do think Blogger is the most respectable blogging tool on the world wide web. However, since I find myself in a place distanced from my friends, and writing can be therapeautic, I'd like to write about a few good times I've had over the past few weeks.

It is odd the things we take so for granted. Not until you are spending time with someone you love dearly and you don't know how much time is left with that person do you really realize how precious our days on this earth are.

The first incredibly good time I had with my mother since I got back was about ten days ago. She had reserved enough strength to sit in a wheelchair and go down to the front entrance to be outside for about twenty minutes. Since not but five days earlier we thought she was going to pass away this was a huge accomplishment. So my entire family went outside with her and enjoyed the coolness of the evening with her. Everything seemed a bit more real that night. The sounds, the smells, the sights and the people. I think it was because I knew my mom had not gotten to experience the outdoors for several weeks and might not ever get to again.

The second time I was blessed with was when we got to share a meal with another family and my mom was able to join us in the visitors lounge. The family has a real sweet and precocious two year old boy who has physical and mental difficulties. My mom loves that boy so much and they just both made each other smile. It was the last really good meal I've gotten to share with my mom and it will be an event long remembered.

Then this past Saturday we were able to play three rounds of chicken foot until my mom got too tired. And wouldn't you know it she beat me! I hate getting beat! But this is one loss I will take gladly.

The coming weeks will be rough but I've been blessed to be home to experience some last times with her and to spend quality time with my family. I will treasure times like these, and realize that God has granted us these last few weeks with her for memories that we can hold on to for a long time.


Problems of a Cookie Cutter Faith

Most of you who read my blog know of my mom's very unstable status in the hospital as she fights ovarian cancer. The below post is not to criticize those who offer encouragement in times like this, but to examine and perhaps even start a discussion over what we say and believe in times of crisis.

I've been having a lot of problems with my faith lately, and I realize that it is a faith immature, not a faith in crisis. Ultimately I still believe in God, I find it hard not to given the overwhelming evidence of creation, the spread of His kingdom, and the truth of the precepts that God and Jesus taught us in the Bible.

However, I feel like I have been living on cookie cutter theology now that I am starting to run into bigger questions. First the question of God's will. I have been struggling for a month over prayer and the results of prayer. James 5:15: "And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well..." What if it doesn't? What if a prayer, offered in full faith by thousands of people in dozens of churches across the world doesn't heal? Do we simply write it off as God's will? Many times I hear the results of a seemingly unanswered prayer to be rationalized by, "Well it simply wasn't God's will..." So why then pray? Why if you offered a prayer with full faith was it not answered the way you want it?

I understand that God knows better than us. I've had prayers answered in a different way then I would have liked, and have later understood the blessing of God answering in that way. But what about when it comes down to life and death issues?

Which raises the second issue that I'm struggling with and that is the afterlife. Most people attempt to comfort with, "Well she [my mom] will be in a better place if she passes away." I'm not sure I have assurance that she is immediately going to be rushed off to heaven. Do I believe she will go to heaven some day? Yes! Of course! But I'm not sure she is going to exit this world of suffering instantly to go to a better place. The scripture seems confusing on this subject at best. I Corinthians 15:51-52: "Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." The entirety of I Corinthians 15 leads me to believe that after we die on this earth, nothing happens till the resurrection, till the trumpet sounds. Yet Jesus tells one of the men hanging on the cross, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (Matt 23:43).

Quite honestly I don't have the answer to these questions. Nor do I feel like I've ever been given solid answer or direction to these questions. I am hoping to evolve from a cookie cutter theology that makes quick and easy answers like, "It's God's will" or "It's ok, their in heaven now." God cannot be summed up in sound bites and I'm afraid that's what my theology feels like it has become.

Once again, I do not judge or criticize those who say such things. I am guilty of saying and believing the same myself. It's hard to know what to say in such a situation. I do feel though that in times of great need of God's help and comfort we would be far better served if we had really worked these issues out. Maybe we have and I just missed it somewhere along the lines...or perhaps I should have worked them out myself by now. At any rate, that is what I'm attempting to do now.


Third Time's a...Nightmare!

This may be a short post today. Why? Because I have one arm.

When I was a sophomore in college I innocently went to a school banquet dressed as George Bush Sr. My date of course was the lovely and delightful Barb (that's what those of us who are close to her call her including some members of the Associated Press). In the moon room (a big boncy, air-cushioned, child proof room) I saw my friend Peter. Wanting to demonstrate the strength of our friendship I decided to tackle him. Bam! I hit the side of the entrance and was quickly rushed off to the ER where they thought I was pulling a practical joke on them. I was not.

The second time I was polka dancing. Thinking I knew more then the veterans I demonstrated a new sliding move. Off again to the ER.

Last night apparently I must have been having a nightmare. I woke up with my arm out of socket once again! Is it possible for my arm to actually come out in some place/activity that would actually seem harmful?

Wow! Needless to say there is more to all three stories but you try typing one hand and see how much detail you want to provide! :)


No Regrets

When the end seems near in our lives, or in the life of someone we love, we often draw near to that person and look back on the past. In looking back we often have two types of thoughts: regret or joy.

While my mom's life still seems to hang by a thread, one thought has rung through my head over the last week and that is the fact that my mom does not have to sit at the hospital steeped in regret. As I watch the loving care that my dad has provided her I see a marriage that has been full of joy, challenge and triumph. My parents have spent an abundance of time with one another, not in argument or struggle, but in joy and love. They have struggled as has any married couple but they've always worked it out and always worked together on everything they've done since they've been married.

When it comes to my relationship with my mom I also have no feelings of regret. While it took my mother many years to teach me how to really hug her, she finally taught me how by the end of my senior year of college. That has perhaps been our biggest challenge! Both of my parents were there for me in some of my most difficult trials all throughout my life and because of both my dad and mom I have developed into a growing Christian. Also we have been a family who has spent time together whether it be on family vacations or by playing a round of chickenfoot at the dinner table. Many a nights when I was younger did we share a good laugh at dinner time.

No regrets. Not a single person has come to my mother's bedside asking for apologies for past hurts or pains. Not a single person has come because not enough time was spent together or true feelings were not spoken. Not that I've witnessed anyways, and I've witnessed a lot of people in the past week.

I shall strive to be the same all of my days.


More Than a Mom

I have been quite surprised to find out my mom is, well, more than just a mother. It seems like an obvious conclusion that any normal son should draw within the first few waking hours of ones' life. But no, it's just now dawning on me at the ripe old age of 24.

As most of you know, my mom is undergoing an intense battle of cancer. Since I prefer to only expose my private life at will, I will keep hers' at that short description. However this has been a very serious week which has necessitated all of my family to return from all over the country and also for me to return from Japan.

The thing I have discovered is that my mom is more than just a mother. She is also a sister, a friend, and even, get this...a troublemaker! I have listened to some of her friends recount stories of what they did when they were kids or even as college students. Frankly I've always thought my mom simply did her homework and perhaps read Laura Ingles Wilder. But no! She too went to college parties, was adventurous and traveled the countryside on road trips and more! Can you believe it?! I can't!

Fascinating what you can find out about one's life. I will truly have ammunition on her now when she gets out of the hospital to say, "But when you were a girl you did..." Don't think I don't plan on using this new found knowledge to my advantage!

Seriously though, it is great to see the outpouring of love that has been dedicated to my mom. In my selfish mind she has only lived to serve me and perhaps my brothers. But behind the scenes, outside of the Blackwell household, she has been doing the very same for many others throughout the years. Hopefully we can all hope the same holds true for us when our critical point in life comes.

Love ya Mom!


Oh Billy!

Well I'm back in the US. Sunday morning I was awakened to the news that I should immediately fly back to be with my mom and family due to her fight with cancer. After a lot of help from dedicated friends I found myself at Tokyo airport Monday evening and back in OKC on...Monday evening. I love how that works.

Thankfully I had several gentle waves of reentry shock that helped me reorient to the US before I was even back on American soil. The chief wave came from a bunch of noisy college students who apparently had been on a mission trip somewhere. I was too terrified to ask; I hadn't seen that many Americans in ages and I was afraid to talk to them. I also sat by a person who was probably the first person I had meet in four months who wasn't even vaguely interested in my life so I was able to get used to the idea that I'm only cool and popular (in at least what we call the orthodox views of coolness) in Japan. So needless to say when I stepped off to be met by airport personnel wearing a cowboy hat, belt buckle, and boots I wasn't shocked in the least.

Language continues to amaze me. Only a week prior my English was fairly clean, precise, and even for the most part grammatically accurate. Three days off of the plane and I have slipped back to saying such things as "Oh Billy..." and "Well, I'll be..." Amazing how we can't forget our roots.

As for my mom, it makes me uncomfortable to post much on the web so I won't. I will say that we have our up days and our down days. Cancer leaves you with an air of uncertainties that is hard to ever quell. But then life is full of uncertainties and still we push on.

I'm not sure if this post really flows, and I'm only going to proofread for grammatical and spelling errors but I felt the need to post. Take care.



Three and a half months later, I'm not the same Blakewell.

It amazes me the adaptability of the human spirit given the right attitude. Now, not to rag on my American readers (is rag still used in the English language?), but those living in America have got it made. Basically everything your heart has ever desired is at your disposal. Every type of food, every first run of any movie (Star Wars comes to mind here), and having a bedroom twice the size of my apartment is easily available to any American.

Yet, when you move outside of America, your whole world begins to change. First, one of the most basic needs according to Maslow is food, and boy does that ever change. We're not talking about eating seaweed, squid or even octopus as a neat "International" experience. We're talking about eating seaweed as a way to survive!

However, that is merely one side of the coin. One of the things that has really amazed me is that you become content with what you have, not with what you think you need. If you have a car you are blessed. No longer is the fact that you would like to have Mr. Honda important; a car with a steering wheel on the right-hand side will do just fine. If you get ice cream, and it tastes pretty close to vanilla for 300 Yen (roughly $2.85) you're also doing good. Forget the gummy bears, birthday cake ice cream, and sprinkled-covered cone.

Also, going from a house with probably has over two thousand square feet to an apartment with maybe a bit more than two hundred square feet is also not as bad as it sounds. The old hallway at Dimaggio's house has probably more room than my shower room, toilet room, kitchen, and entrance combined. But you learn that is also survivable too, and sometimes you wonder what to do with the extra 50 square feet you are currently doing nothing with.

All that said to briefly harp on two things. One, if you live in America, realize how blessed you are. No other country in the world has it so good, not even a country so affluent and technologically advanced as Japan. Japan's biggest advantage over America is the toilets which will spray you with water after you're done with your business, make a noise to prevent you from being rude, or create a nice scent if you're getting a little out of control. Two if you do live in a foreign country realize how much God has blessed you in any situation. And enjoy yourself! The seaweed really isn't that bad!


Natsukashi Neh (Remembering the Good Ole Days)

I have not completly longed for home until I heard this here fantastic story about the "Lord God Bird" down there in the delta area of Arkansas. These people speak my language, know what I mean? Here, I got ya some good quotes for ya to listen for and like:

'Now if it was a new duck it'd be the greatest thing in the world...'

'...The woodpecker, sittin' on his nest, doing whatever it is woodpeckers do...'

'...like he'd been ressurrected or something...'

'...if they can pay taxes, and go to Walmart...and free enterprise. Oh! That's America! That's what makes us great!'


The King and I

I think David and I would have been good friends. Now I don't believe I could have held my weight against his friend Jonathan by any stretch of the imagination but certainly it would have been nice to hang out at David's pad every once in awhile and shoot the breeze.

By now you may or may not have guessed that I am talking about King David, the 2nd King of Israel. But besides wanting to hang out at the palace my longings for being his friend might not be clear.

You see, this has been a crazy week. The reason I haven't even attempted a blog is because I just haven't felt like writing due to all of the many things going on right now in my life. Chief among those concerns is my mother, who I found out has cancer nearly a week and a half ago. And so this week I have lived in confusion, concern, doubt and hope. Thus I turned to the Psalms, a place I usually turn to in the darkest of times.

Why I like David so much, and why I would love to be his friend is that he is always positive. Even in his dispair he is positive. When you read the Psalms you get a glimpse into what he's thinking at different points of his chaotic life. Take for example Psalm 13:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
my enemy will say, 'I have overcome him',
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
for he has been good to me.

I love how his Psalms always end overwhelming positive and prasing God for His goodness. I hope that my family and I can do that in the coming weeks and months ahead. I hope as Christians we can always do that no matter the circumstances of our lives.

Sorry, I don't mean to preach but like David I don't want to have just an overwhelmingly down tone even in times of saddness and confusion. And thus lets praise God for His goodness at times like these!


Lord Vader...Rise!

In approximately seventeen days Lord Vader will do just that in Japan! I cannot wait! As such I have stepped up efforts to an almost feverish pitch by watching the trailer at least four times a day and still getting more giddily excited with every viewing. Its like I've never seen the trailer before (although I think I am rapidly approaching 500 viewings) and I still scream in horror when ever I hear the words, "You were the chosen one!" or "Lord Vader...'Yes Master'...Rise!" Almost every time!

But alas, I am not alone. Last evening one of my good friends sent me this great picture that shows that Japan is about to go crazy waiting for this movie! My jaw dropped a good literal two inches when I saw this. Take a good close look!

My People

So we are ready. I know, I know. You people in the United States have already been there, done that and are on to the next big thing. But the hype is building here in the land of the sun. I'd write more, but I've got to go watch the trailer again...


Cultural Exchange

Saturday night my friend Jessica and I decided to continue to extend the arm of positive foreign relations between Japan and the good ole U.S. of A. In an effort to catch the Japanese up to speed on all things that are cool about America we were given the task by our fellow partners in crime Raelynn and Travis to get a picture of some gangsters giving out a gang sign. I unfortunately missed this entire part of American culture, as I believe did Jessica, and we were at a loss for what a good gang sign was. Then it hit me! The "Live Long and Prosper" sign, a favorite amongst my people (Trekies) dawned on me and the exchange began. See below:

Jessica and the Homeboys

Blake a.k.a Mr. Culturally Sensitive

In exchange I got a free break dancing lesson!

True Style

I think this will go a long way for helping the two countries to understand each other better. Don't you?


The Ride to End All Rides

Being in Japan can be equated with a roller coaster experience. Before you get on there is huge anticipation and giddy excitement for what is to come. Sometimes, if you're a wimp like me and really dislike riding roller coasters, you don't even want to get on which was certainly the case when I was first thinking of coming to Japan. However, you know its going to be great once the ride is over so you get on anyways.

But like any roller coaster there are highs and lows. My last few posts were written on extreme high points of my journey where I was looking out from the top of the ride and seeing nothing but the whole amusement park known as Japan. However, since Friday I have felt all mixed up inside and have felt like I'm falling perilously to my death (ok, well not that extreme but it worked well with my analogy).

And so I came upon today where I barely made it through my classes and prayed several times that God would give me something to salvage my day and change my outlook. And then it happened. My Japanese father, who I haven't really bonded with in the past several days probably because I have had more of a stand offish demeanor at school decided he was going to spend an entire hour just practicing kanji (those funny Japanese characters) with me. It was so great! I had started to feel distant from this school and with that one simple kanji lesson I had people all around trying to help and teach me and I once again felt like a part of the community even though I am quite different from them.

To top it off I then went to language class with my friend and afterwards another girl who I study with on Thursday nights came to the library to study English with me. We got to talking awhile and I told her about the English Bible lessons we have at church and she seemed interested and may come one of these days. So yet another inroad in the most unlikely of places!

So with all of the highs and lows, I conclude the best thing is merely to get on the ride and enjoy it for all its worth.


A Hundred Times Over

"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mothers or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields - and with them persecutions) and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first." Mark 10:29-31

Before coming to Japan I read Matthew 19:29-30 over and over to remind me why I must go to Japan. I've quoted Mark's version of this passage since it seems to flesh out the meaning a bit more, but this scripture is what got me here. I honestly believe that without it I would still be in the U.S.

You see, in the U.S., I had it good. I worked for a great company, I went to a great church, and had great friends all around me. Life really didn't seem like it could get much better except for the nagging fact that something seemed to be a bit missing. Yet, how could I be crazy to leave a life of comfort and joy to go to a country of a thousand unknowns and a less secure future? I'll be honest, I trusted in my abilities of computing and in the security of my paycheck, and really could not make sense of leaving a life I enjoyed immensely.

But now, two months into this crazy journey known as Japan, I am beginning to get a glimpse of what both Matthew and Mark are saying. I didn't at first, and yes, persecutions are sure to ensue, but after every Sunday and another week of life in Japan down I realize, "Wow! Jesus was dead on once again!"

I wish I could fully give you a glimpse of what I am thinking and feeling right now, although really it is quite impossible unless you go through much the same experience yourself. But I am beginning to form friendships and finally starting the work that God has set out for me and I am beginning to realize the hundred times promise that Jesus himself gave to those who leave to serve Him and the gospel. It is amazing!

While I don't want to sermonize, and I'm afraid this blog fell way short of what I was hoping to convey, I beseech (I really like that word) you to pick something that doesn't make sense in the Bible and "test [Him] on this." The beauty of God and the Bible is that it continues to turn common logic upside down and just puts me in utter awe of how wrong and foolish I am, and how I must always trust what God is trying to teach me even if it doesn't make sense.

All that said, I'm glad I'm here!


The Joys of Being Cool

Sometimes, we as AETs (Assistant English Teachers) have the tendency to be a bit negative about our current situation in life. This could be a human disposition as a whole, and perhaps it is only amplified in a foreign country. Whatever the case may be, tonight I want to highlight all the joys of being an AET for both my friends and family back home, and for my friends here.

1. I'm Cool!

Let's face it, all of my life I've been a nerd. Shoot, all of my life I will be a nerd. Always picked last in dodge ball games, always laughed at because I like books and Star Wars sometimes more than girls, and the list goes on and on. But in Japan, I am way cool! I may be the coolest kid in school for all I know! I shout at least a thousand hellos in a day, give high fives like no other, and always get jon-kened (Rock, Paper, Scissors) for dodge ball. How great is that?

2. Being American is Fascinating

In America, being an American, is well, typical. The abnormal is normal, and everyone strives to out do everyone in uniqueness. It's a bit tiresome to a degree. But in Japan the "group" is in which means that everyone is trying to be like everyone else. And to some degree, especially concerning politeness, I try to fit in too. But I'm hired to be an American and that naturally means I possess my weird traits that I get to exhibit daily. People are fascinated by America, and as an AET I am a walking textbook of American life. Scary, neh?

Not only though do I get the chance to be quirky, I also get to teach about more important lessons. Today I had a broken conversation about whether the song "Ten Little Indians" was racially insensitive or not. Let me just tell you, in Japanese that is hard to explain but it is great that they are curious about racial issues and hopefully in the future other issues.

3. Cultural Confusion

It is hilarious to see the confusion that goes on in Japan as they attempt to mimic American culture. My favorite example can be seen on my last blog in the picture of me posing by Yoda-Batman. Can you think of a more heinious mix-up then mixing these two cultural icons? I can. How about little boys and girls who wear the Playboy bunny icon and think it is a cute pink rabbit? Or what about stores called Save-On or Hard-Off? Or cars called "Move" and scooters named "Let's" or "Let's 2?" Wow!

4. Japanese People

Japanese people are extremely polite and courteous, almost anywhere you go. When you go shopping you can bet you bottom Yen that they will go all out to serve you and will serve you with a smile. McDonald's included! We could learn a great deal about how to treat others in service industries by studying the Japanese.

Not only are they polite, they are extremly fun delightful people that are insatiably curious, hard working, and enjoyable. It is hard to get to know Japanese people on a real intimate level but they are probably my favorite people in the world.

5. Ministry

The last, and perhaps most important benefit, is the opportunity to serve. It never occured to me until I came to a place predominately atheistic and almost wholistically untouched by Western Christianity how many service opportunities abound. We are not trying to overcome the scars of Christianity's mistakes here, we are simply trying to bring the gospel message to these people who so desperately need it. And that is a unique and tremendous challenge that each AET is blessed with. I hope to write more on this issue later.

So tonight I will go to karaoke with my Japanese friends, sleep on my futon (hopefully for the last time since I'm getting a bed!), and be thankful for the opportunity that God has given me at this point in time. I hope wherever you are you can do the same, no matter what place you find yourself in.


A New Hope

I have a renewed sense of hope in Japan. I have been trying to discuss Star Wars with my teachers at school, and I have received no sense of enthusiasm when I've brought up the subject. However, today at school, Batman-Yoda has led me to believe there is perhaps a trace of excitement although perhaps a bit of confusion about the up and coming movie. All I can say is, "Wow!"

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Clear and Present Danger

After a fulfilling and educational class of reciting/yelling the numbers 1-12 to first grade students, I long to reach the teachers office where I can have a few minutes of solace before we begin practicing pronouncing fruits in my next class. However, to get back to the office and rest I must first escape the classroom. This is a clear and present danger which I am now aware of.

First I must get out the door. The classrooms at my school have sliding doors. Today I thought to myself, perhaps if I only give a narrow opening in the door then they won`t be able to follow. Sounded reasonable except for the fact that I didn`t realize that they would just all collapse in mass hysteria and laughter at this technique. However, now I`m out the door and as a result of my failed attempt I`m surrounded en mass by twenty students. I am getting hugged in all directions, conchoed* in all sensitive areas of my body and fearfully I fight the possibility of falling to the floor (which actually happened last week).

Alas! I break free! Using all of my former running technique I sprint, yes literally sprint, for the teachers room. But the little rascals have already thought of this possibility and now they have somehow magically formed a multi-tiered attack. The first wave stops me twenty feet from where I just escaped. The numbers aren`t quite as strong and I only have to fight off five screaming children. After breaking free I hit the second wave which comes kamikaze style at me. Thankfully this wave is weaker and I am beginning to believe there is hope! I escape and now its students flying in from all directions, mass chaos has ensued and it looks like I might be victorious and even get to sit down for one minute as their plan is beginning to fail. Once I`m finally in sight of the teachers room the fear of Koucho-Sensei (the principle) strikes them and they decide to join ranks with me and hold my hand the rest of the way back.

Yet another victory for this crazy gaijin (foreigner)!

Please note: If you have any good solutions to escaping such a well coordinated attack, please let me know!

*concho (v), pron. kan-cho

1. An Ancient Japanese form of torturing AETs. To be effective, place both hands together in the form of a gun and extend forward aiming for sensei`s derriere.
2. Another effective method is to aim for the sensei`s frontal regions.

Example: You won't believe how many times I conchoed Blake-Sensei today.


The Power of 7

First, an admission of inadequacy. My written ability to tell a story is quite lacking. I do not have the command of the English language that my dear friend Peter extols with eloquence, nor the brevity that my comrade Gabe has. Fortunately when I tell a story verbally I have one powerful ally, and that is my ability to erupt into debilitating, near paralyzing laughter which typically can shut my respiratory system down for a brief period of time. So as I attempt to tell this story, if you begin to dose off, just imagine a huge grin breaking out on my face and then eruptuous laughter.

I go to a small church in a small town called Shiromatsu. We do not have a consistent preacher, and thus every sermon is and can be an adventure. This morning's sermon was doubly so.

The topic was Christian evidences. Enter exhibit A: the number seven. Most of you view the number seven with deference, ignorance, and perhaps even scoff at this "perfect" number. Not any longer. You see, seven represents how we can know God.

1st: There are 7 days a week. Every time you look at a calendar you can see that God is there because there are 7 days a week. Ok, certainly God originated the 7 day week with creation so I can see the point on this one.

2nd: There are 7 colors in the rainbow. Again, God created the rainbow so I can see how this is also plausible evidence although not something that is going to make me jump off my agnostic or atheism ship.

3rd: There are 7 sounds in music. Do - Re - Mi - Fa - So - La - Di. Starting to get a bit sketchy, but sure, I'm still on board.

4th: And this is where I began to about lose it and instantly covered my mouth trying to give off an appearance of intense thought. There are 7 seas in England!? What? There must be a God!

5th: American sports teams sometimes use the lucky number seven. With every fiber of my being I try to restrain myself from erupting by this point. I suddenly start to feel disappointed that I only have five fingers on each hand or else I could submit them for evidence as well.

This is of course compounded with joy when you realize this all comes out in mixed Japanese/English. I do want to say I have immense respect for this man, and though I'm only had an opportunity to spend a couple of Sundays with him I consider him a dear friend and brother. He is incredibly intelligent and deeply spiritual and he has a vision for the church of Japan that is inspiring. Also, a fact I later found out was that the Japanese actually have a fixation on numbers and it has cultural significance to them that I yet don't know about. So something was inevitably lost in translation and the sermon I'm sure was very effective to the Japanese which is what is most important, neh?

So please, show a little reverence to the number seven.


Eigo Kai (English Meeting)

To give you an understanding of what teaching, or working for that matter, in a foreign culture is like I want to give you a bit of a walk through of my day. Now granted, today was a special day, which I was alerted to way back in late April to start preparing for, but of course the importance of the day was totally lost to me. With that background information, let's begin:

I get to school about 15-20 minutes early which I do every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This is always great fun because it freaked my teachers out at first since I'm American and expected to do the bare minimum since I'm lazy. So the fact that I would work an extra minute was just completly unfathomable. Anyways, I head to the school gate and greet each student with a 'genki' good morning and the day starts off like most.

The morning goes by pretty normally until I'm told that I'm not eating lunch with the students like I do normally. I'm told to sit down at the teacher's table, and so I eat lunch with the teachers. Or at least for awhile. 10 minutes into lunch, and only halfway through the meal, I am whisked away to the announcement room to be broadcasted throughout the school. Unbeknownst to me, this had been in the works for some time, and thus I give out a cheerful, "Hello my name is Blake!" and thus concludes another enlightening period of English with me and students.

Then at 1:00 PM the head of the English program for Mito city comes for my evaluation. My head english teacher, the vice-principle, her and myself all sit nervously and have very uncomfortable, unnatural conversation for a while in half-English, half-Japanese. Then at 1:30 my evaluation begins...

Apparently I have no clue how important this evaluation is because I thought it was a normal class with a bit of extra preparation and the head of the program watching. All of sudden teachers pour in from all directions, some even repelling off the roof and diving through the window trying to find space on the floor between the 20 adults now watching these thirty very nervous children. Class goes well, as I perform various clown acts of teaching English before thirty students (not a problem to be goofy to them) and twenty or so adults who have no idea that I might have an intellect beyond saying the days of the week. Then I'm whisked back to the principle's office, and eventually to the Eigo Kai.

The most hilarious, and frustrating part of the whole day then comes. I'm like, "Good! I'm finally going to get some real feedback here." Do I? No! Because its all in Japanese. They completly forget that I'm there seemingly and randomly I hear "Bulaku" (Blake) and realize that they are talking about me. A few lines are translated for me, but not enough to really know whats going on. Finally, out of nowhere I'm asked to speak on my impressions of the class and totally caught off my guard I throw in some polite evaluations that were definitely very political in nature since I'm not going to say anything derroagatory in such a group. And then back to full blown Japanese and the meeting is finally over.

Crazy, neh? That's life in Japan.


The Force is not With Us

Today I am depressed. Oh only superificially of course, but today I had major longings for being home. The reason? My people, labeled perhaps scoffingly as nerds by those in 'cool' circles, were out in full force today. And yet I could not be with them.

You see, I love huge nerd outings and a Star Wars premiere has got to be the largest gathering of crazy fanatical people in this galaxy, if not the universe. What's worse, those friends who I would have attempted to culture were sitting lazily at home, probably in their beds at 12:01 AM. I do not know of a single person who went to the opening show. That is a plum disgrace and thus I wish I could have been there to urge at least twenty of my good friends to see this spectacular display of story telling and witty dialogue.

Alas, I will have to wait till July 9th till it opens here. I actually really contemplated going to South Korea and seeing the film today, and given my emotional state I certainly wish I would have. But as Yoda says, so poetically, "Do or do not. There is no try."


Reincarnation: The Third Life

This is my second attempt at the reincarnation of my blog. Theoretically the success of my last reincarnation should determine the success of this incarnation. I hope Buddhist philosophy does not hold true since I only held to that idea for less then a week.

I am a bit at a loss for what to do with my blog. I've always been annoyed at blogs which chronicle peoples lives and perhaps I've been wrong on this point. Perhaps that is one plausible way for people to communicate with those they cannot email or call on a regular basis. That possibility seems more plausible thousands of miles from home in a far away land. And while that may or may not be the outcome of this new endeavor, I do feel a need to share the transforming process of God and of a foreign experience. Also Japan gives me immense material to work with since it is totally different from any Western experience I've ever had.

And thus I've stolen the clever title from Bilbo's book, "There and Back Again." Japan can seem quite like Rivendale and also quite like Mordor from a spiritual, emotional and psychological standpoint. Therefore, hoping against all American hope that the title is not trademarked, I've decided to use this title to begin the chronicling of my life here in Japan.


p.s. The secondary purpose of my blog will be to keep Peter's dad up to date on what his son is doing in Japan. :)


How Do You Do?

I didn't realize this until I moved to Japan, but apparently in America we are accustomed to saying "How do you do?" I now realize this after saying it approximately 1500 times in the last month. I am trying to wean my teachers, and students off of this phrase and use the more appropriate phrase "How are you?," but its an ongoing battle. Unfortunately the reponse to either question is "I'm fine, thank you, and you?" Explaining the emotional significance of the answer "I'm fine" will prove to be quite challenging as well. But I am up to the challenge!

So hello everyone! I have not been able to write on my blog for over a month, and I've only sent out two group emails so I feel totally disconnected from you all. I am sorry and now, after a long month of Internet silence, I have Yahoo BB, the greatest thing in Japan! I tried to post at school but the Mito watchdog, Bess would not have it and blocked the site from me. How terribly sad and disconcerting.

Nearly one month in Japan and life is just now settling down. I think it won't be till probably the end of May or June till I feel like I am settling down. I can say that living in a foreign country is quite different then going on a six week campaign. Each has its challenges, but living here is ultimately more difficult. One of the reasons is that there is no eventual "escape" that you can long for that happens after six weeks, or a couple of months, or however long your stay is. Therefore you have to live with the reputation you create for yourself and your people (Americans). So as oppossed to being a tourist you are actually a citizen which totally changes your perspective.

I've found so far that being in Japan is totally disorienting. Western culture is so foreign to people in Japan, and thus Americanism is quite foreign. We pride ourselves on our individualism and who is the most unique, the most comfortable being themselves, etc where as the Japanese see this as not only odd but something to avoid at all costs. Instead the value is the group and the sense of "We" not "I." Natually either extreme is not optimal, and the healthy individual finds themselve somewhere in the middle of "We" and "I" but for now I am struggling to see how that works for me. Being a loud goofy American with a funny laugh may get you laughs here in Japan, but not because you are jovial but more because you are strange and weird, and should probably be avoided.

Ok, this was a bit too James Joyce style for me but I did want to get something up and let you all know how I'm doing. Talk to you soon!