Monday, April 25, 2005
Quiet Time in the cedar grove behind my house which overlooks the Tsugaru Straight and Hokkaido beyond
On Sunday afternoon I heard the most convincing argument yet for removing my beard. A middle-aged gentleman—let us call him Mr. Bluemountain, since that is the essence of his name—whom I had not seen in about a decade earnestly reasoned with me that I speak Japanese decently enough that I should make the extra effort to blend in to my surroundings by shaving. “If you are to develop good relations with people like farmers and fishermen,” he said, “it cannot be done with whiskers.” That part was not convincing. I shall devote a future post to why I think the equation “Japanese = no facial hair” is wrong on many levels. And experience and observation tells me that apart from artists and educators, farmers and fishermen are the very people most likely to grow facial hair in Japan (not counting “tough guys” with their little sculpted growths). A man of Mr. Bluemountain’s moral stature, however, is not to be brushed aside, and he is my elder. Consequently the conversation developed further. He expressed his belief that the first impression projected by a person’s outward qualities is a fairly clear signature of that person’s inner condition. And is not a beard, in a sense, a means of drawing attention to one’s self, especially in a society where there are so few beards? Is it not the way of Christ-likeness to subdue self, that no attention be drawn to one’s person except by the quiet, humble reflection of the divinity of Shiloh (“Him too whom it [the sceptre] belongs”). From there the conversation drifted to the lost spiritual disciplines of the body of Christ. If Mr. Bluemountain sensed that I am in my current condition a rusty sword, I would concur. If he believes he sensed this fact through my facial hair, though, I am inclined to employ the metaphor of a doctor who senses that his patient has a nasal infection but is also convinced that the patient’s freckles has something to do with it (because . . . “Japanese people shouldn’t have freckles”). The most important result of the conversation, though, was that I came away with a deep awareness of my need to immerse myself in scripture every morning. Dawn is the hour of healing and cleansing when the soul, if exposed to the elements, is rendered naked and alert. I have missed too many dawns in my life. Even this past week I have squandered my early rising indoors, doing odd chores around the house. Not so from today. God has given me the beautiful spot pictured in the photograph above just a forty-five second walk from my doorstep and henceforward that is where I will spend the first hour of each day alone with my Bible and the Holy Spirit.
Stopping for Lunch on the Way to Sunday Evening English Service at Itayanagi Chapel: It’s a three and a half hour drive, but it takes me along some beautiful coastal road along Mutsu Bay.
My Dream House, which I Found in the Woods along the Ikokuma Forestry Road (The photograph is out of focus because I was training one of my first year junior high students to be my keitai cameraman.)