Friday, August 17, 2007

Leaves of three, let them... oh never mind

Any plant buffs out there?

I've heard the "leaves of 3 let them be" thing. The only problem is, every other plant in Japan seems to have 3 leaves. I've had extensive skin contact with most of these, and at least 2 or 3 other types, one with shiny leaves, that I never took photos of. I never got a rash though. I don't think I'm resistant to poison Ivy/Oak, because I'm allergic to Cashews, which are a related plant species. I tried a google search to find out what the plant leaves look like out, but there's like a million leave types, and I suck at identifying them. Anyway, the last couple days I decided to take photos of the 3 leaved plants I see. Most of these are on the side of the path up to my work place:

Here's some interesting facts:

1) The toxin in the plant is called "Urushiol." This comes from the Japanese name for the plant, "Tsuta Urushi."
2) The glossy finish you see on Japanese wood products is made by coating the wood with the same oil (that makes you miserable) in the poison ivy plant. They cut the stem on the lacquer tree, gather the urushi oil, and coat the wood. Then they heat treat it, which eliminates the toxic effect of the plant. [I wonder who discovered this the first time around.]
3) Almost everyone gets 1 free lunch with the plant. On first exposure your body learns what it is, and you don't get a reaction.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Count the cost

I heard a lot of arguing, a little while back, on the exact significance of Baptism. I'm not to good at arguing, especially online. Every time I venture off of my own weblog page and attempt to interact with people on theirs, I always seem to put my foot in my mouth. For these reasons, I try to limit my interactions with people outside the scope of my blog.

At the same time, I witnessed something that was really amazing last Sunday and I think it pertains to the issue of baptism in a round-about way. I also found out that my church has a new tomb. "What is the significance of that?" you ask. Often, when a Japanese person becomes a Christian, their family disowns them, and they can no longer be buried and honored with them. In the individualistic states of America, where ancestor worship is not deeply rooted in your world-view, has never been practiced, and your afterlife is not affected by your children honoring you, this may not be such a big deal. But Japan is not so individualistic. Being disowned by family, and cast from their burial site is a disgrace.

The moment they get baptized is the moment they lose their earthly family. But, they gain a new family. The church's new tomb is for the church's members. They can't be buried with their old family, so they are buried with their new family.

So, if you want to argue with great passion about the exact significance of baptism, that's fine and all but... how much did yours cost you? Did your dad and mother refuse to talk with you afterwards? Did your best friend, your sister, hate you afterwards? Were you taking the shaky step of abandoning a many-thousand year old belief that your eternal destiny lie in the hands of your children, and children's children honoring you, and trust that it lies in the hands of God instead?

None of these happened to me, and I'm not saying your baptism means nothing if they didn't happen to you. But I do wonder if, by making very direct and significant sacrifices, these Christians have tasted a little more directly the meaning of entering into a new family. They might actually understand the meaning of baptism more fundamentally than someone who is technically correct in his arguments about the subject, but his own baptism is not very close to his heart. And, if you really want to deeply, internally know the meaning of your baptism, the key might not lie so much in getting the arguments right, but in sacrificing for, and loving, your new family the body of believers.

Photos from our trip to Kawasaki, where our new sister Anna-chan was baptized

Monday, August 06, 2007

These last days