Monday, May 26, 2008

Prince Caspian - First Impressions

I (Scot) just got back from seeing the movie "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian." I may write a fuller article about this later on, but for now let me give some quick impressions. First, is it any good? Yes, very. I wouldn't rank it with the "Lord of the Rings" movies, but it's definitely on par with the best of the Harry Potter movies. It's worth your time and money.

Also, though the book is a little bit lighter on the Christian themes than the first book, the movie actually has more. Part of this is because the writers re-structured the events of the book in order to add more dramatic tension, and yet, suprisingly, most of the really potent moments come from scenes written only for the movie. (mild spoiler alert) As a result, Aslan doesn't appear to the group. Instead, Lucy has to go off on her own to find him, whereupon the two have an amazing conversation about how Lucy had to take a step of faith and come to him, even though none of her friends and family were willing to do it. That conversation alone is worth taking your Japanese friends for. Also, when the white witch shows up in the movie (you've all seen it in the trailers), we are treated to another amazing moment.

Oh, and the movie has Reepicheep. If that doesn't mean anything to you, it will after you see the movie.

So, after my first viewing, I highly recommend it. Strictly as a movie, it's good. As an adaptation of a book, it shines. As a dialogue starter with Japanese friends, you don't want to miss this opportunity.

Stuffing Humans on Trains in Tokyo

This video, taken on our train line, is for real. It shows one aspect of what life is like in Tokyo, it happens almost every day of the year, over the years we have experienced it many times.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tokyo::Passion -- Interview with Jake Jelinek

Passion World Tour -- Tokyo Event

Among US college students Passion is influential, gathering large numbers of students for events featuring high production standards, quality worship music, and inspiring speakers. Passion is going international this year and will hold Passion::Tokyo on October 13, 2008 at C. C. Lemon Hall in Shibuya. The program plan includes worship leaders and speakers from England and the US.

Passion Home Page

Following is an interview I (Paul Nethercott) did with Passion::Tokyo coordinator Jake Jelinek. Jake, a lawyer in Indiana (USA), will make several short visits to Japan in his role as volunteer coordinator for the Tokyo event.

1. What is the purpose of Passion?

Passion seeks to gather college and university students across the nation and around the world to seek the face of God, asking Him to ignite in our souls a passionate pursuit of Jesus Christ and a desire to spread His fame to everyone on earth.

3. Why a world tour? Why Tokyo?

Passion is off on a crazy journey to the cities of the world in 2008, uniting university students around the globe in a story so much bigger than our own. We will be hosting tour events in 17 major cities around the globe. There are hundreds of thousands of university students in or near Tokyo…there was an indelible sense that God is moving in Tokyo today and Passion could be a part of that movement.

4. Do you have a philosophy of contextualization?

As we embark on this undertaking, we are seeking, in every way possible to speak into the specific culture of each of the cities at which we will host events. However, we also recognize the practical impossibility of significantly altering the program for each of the seventeen tour stops. While we recognize that there will be points of minutia where our style and process diverge from the local culture, we believe fully that the heartbeat of Passion::Tokyo transcends culture and that God will use the Passion World Tour to accentuate the unity of His message.

5. Is the "practical impossibility" primarily related to production issues?

While there are some production issues, our bigger concern is that there would be accountability concerns with utilizing local leaders and worship artists. That is certainly not to suggest that there are not leaders and artists who share our vision and who are trustworthy in each locale but we feel led to utilize the teachers and worship artists who have been integral in developing the Passion vision. We are trusting God to overcome the prospective cultural hurdles inherent in that decision.

6. How will you handle language issues?

Our plan is to utilize subtitles true to the spirit of the worship songs for the majority of the music. We may also integrate some element of music in the native tongue of the venue, Japanese in this case. Recognizing the significant language barrier, our production will rely heavily on imagery -- which transcends language in communicating the message of Jesus Christ and His grace and love.

7. In a nation where most people conceptualize Christianity as foreign, do you think that there is danger that your program could inadvertently reinforce that impression?

We are certainly aware of that danger and continue to prayerfully evaluate how to best avoid that outcome. We are making an effort to ensure that nationals staff our most visible volunteer positions, so that the leaders with whom students are interacting are not Westerners.

8. How do you see the event this fall strengthening the church in Japan?

We anticipate the church being strengthened as a wide cross-section of ministries from across denominational and theological lines unite and work together to make the event a success. Passion’s experience with its events in the United States has been that students leave the events and return to their campuses energized in their relationship with God and committed to reorienting their own lives around the pursuit of His name and renown in every aspect of their lives.

9. Who will be on the program?

We anticipate Louie Giglio and Francis Chan as the main speakers; Chris Tomlin, David Crowder Band, and Matt Redman as worship leaders.

10. What is "success" for this event?

It will be a success if God’s name and renown are made known to the hearts and lives of the students in attendance and those students are inspired and encouraged to live lives radically changed as a result of an encounter with Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Einstein: quote regarding imagination

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world”

- Albert Einstein

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Vincent Van Gogh

Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high.

Then life seems almost enchanted after all.

Vincent Van Gogh


I taught a class yesterday for a group of ladies who are part of our new CLTC Communities (this is a Japanese site)initiative. The class is called 自分らしく生きる (literally "Being Yourself & Living it Out").

Recently, I have finally become convinced that the traditional approach of imparting knowledge simply does not work. Connected with that, I am committed to avoiding the lecture approach to teaching -- because it is not effective, and getting less so. I want the students to be involved in the process, and to help them integrate knowledge (truths) into their lives (application). So, we did several untypical things for this class that I thought worked well:

1. To start the class I asked the students to make a sketch of where they are at in their life journey. We had large pieces of paper and a basket full of my daughter's colored pens and crayons, they used this stuff to draw the place that they see themselves existing in at this time.

One person asked for an example so I drew a simple sketch on the white board of me jumping off a cliff, heading down, but looking at some nice hills in the distance. This has to do with my plunge into film making, very exciting but scary too. The class "got it" and got to work on their masterpieces -- the results were awesome. Several of the ladies have a lot of artistic talent, but all the drawings revealed a great deal about the person who did them... more then they realized.

Finally, I asked each person to tell about what they drew. So, not only was it a good time of personal reflection for each person, it was also a means of building community by getting to know each other better. Below is a photo of two of the students drawings:

2. Instead of just lecturing about the Bible (I have done way too much of that, although there is a place and a time for it). I divided the class into three groups and asked each of the group to study a section of I Corinthians 12. After they huddled for ten minutes each group reported what they had discovered -- again it worked out very well. Instead of me telling them, they found it themselves, and they did a good job, probably better than I could have done in terms of content. And, I think they are far more likely to remember what we covered and apply it to their lives.

3. We also watched a section of "Walk the Line" a movie on the life of Johnny Cash. I used this movie because there is a scene early in the film that shows young Cash struggling to make a go of it as a singer. His wife doesn't believe in him, they have no money, but he wants to sing so he tries to find a way to make it work. He goes to a recording studio, hoping to get a contract but he is told that the gospel music he is singing sounds stale. Johnny finally plays one of his original songs, with honesty and conviction, and he lands his first recording contract.

Cash had a rough life, complicated and full of problems but he eventually met God and became known as one of the most authentic musicians in the industry, and was deeply respected for it. For the class we discussed the obstacles he was dealing with, and how he found his genuine "voice" or way to express himself -- something it is so important for all of us to do. The students seemed to connect with this, one them talked with me after class about how difficult it is to figure out what her gift is and then how to use it. She expressed her frustration with the realities of having to make money and dealing with the expectations of others, struggles I am sure most of us can relate to.

Two weeks before Cash died, he recorded a moving music video. It was a cover of a song by Nine Inch Nails called Hurt. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend taking a few moments to view Johnny's incredibly authentic rendition of this song.

I want to acknowledge coach trainer Keith Webb, who contributed a lot to the way this class was taught. In other words, I blatantly stole ideas from him. I attended a coaching workshop in Tokyo that Keith facilitated. Not only did I get to learn a lot of great stuff about coaching, Keith used "interactive discover-based training" methods. It was wonderful -- a creative and highly effective way to teach. It is also a lot more fun than typical approaches. I highly recommend Keith, his web site is Creative Results Management.

Aesthetic Changes

Just a quick note. I (Scot) am doing some work with the template and graphics in order to make this site look more pleasing and feel more professional. So, in the next few days, you are going to see a lot of *ahem* different things around here. Unfortunately, blogspot forces me to make the changes incrementally, instead of being able to make them all at once. So, you'll see graphical errors, color errors, and the like. Please ignore them. I promise, in a week it will all look pretty.

EDIT: It's finished. How do you like it?