30. Setomono

Everyone in Japan knows the word setomono, because you find it on quite a few boxes you get in the mail. It means “fragile,” but it also literally means “product of Seto.” Seto is an art village known in Japan for its ceramics with over a 1,500 year history, longer if you count the indigenous people who lived there before that time. And today that pottery tradition is alive and well. Last week, I went to Seto …

29. Cow Pie Water

All forty were completely empty. I lifted each plastic gallon jug just to be sure. Hikers in the previous town promised a huge cache of water here. Whatever drops had been left quickly evaporated as the sun mercilessly beat down. The hot dry wind blew in my face, bushes and cacti too short to provide any useful kind of shade at all. My wife and I were on the Pacific Crest Trail …

28. Ryokan Taigu

I’d like to introduce you to a little poem by Ryokan Taigu, who lived in the late 1700s and early 1800s, and is one of the most popular figures in Japanese history, known for his poetry, calligraphy, and a very unique way of looking at the world. “Taigu” is a name he gave himself, and anyone who can read Japanese will immediately recognize the meaning. It means “big fool” or “great fool,” so Ryokan called himself “The Great Fool.” In this short poem about food, Ryokan asks a very basic, and seemingly very foolish, question. And that is “Why do people eat?” …

27. The Hotel

In the city of Minami Sanriku, on the northeastern coast of Japan, the Kanyo Hotel sits on a high cliff overlooking the ocean. This is a really nice hotel, which usually costs well over $300 a night to stay there. The food is amazing, and there is a really cool cave-like hot spring built into the side of the cliff, so you relax outside in hot spring waters while feeling cool sea wind blow in your face, and watch the sunset over the ocean. However, I didn’t get to experience any of these things. …

26. The Water Child

Tremendous pain and suffering can give birth to life and beauty. For reasons I am just beginning to understand, pain and suffering in this world are catalysts for creation, especially for creating beautiful things. In the mud, in the devastation, in the dark, we crave something with beauty and hope and light. And we will do anything we can to hold on to it. This is the unmistakable power of art. This is the tool in the Creator’s hands, which he has lovingly put into our hands. May we always have the strength and wisdom and love to use it. …

25. Finding Hope in Hard Things

During the month of March on this podcast, we’ve been telling story after story from March 11 and the terrible earthquake that struck Japan 10 years ago. The trauma that people experienced will impact them their whole lives. So many were lost, and there is nothing we can do to bring them back. Some things in this world can never be fixed. So, what do we do with that? Do we just despair? If we don’t make a conscious effort to do otherwise, this trauma will not only ruin our lives but the lives of everyone around us as well, and I’ve seen that time and time again here in Japan. …

24. The Cathedral

Japan is no stranger to devastated cities. As I traveled giving concerts through city after city ravaged by the 2011 tsunami in Japan, my thoughts eventually turned to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No other city in the history of the world quite compares with their destruction. …

23. Our 3/11 Story

For the past couple of months, I’ve been sharing stories of my experiences after the 2011 earthquake in Japan. For this episode, I want to go back to the very beginning. I want to start with Day 1, the day the day the earthquake hit and how we got involved in the relief movement. I hope you’ll find it useful as we all think about how God may use us, all of us, especially as artists, in the tragedies and traumas of the lives of everyone around us. …

21. Be Still and Know

What’s that noise? Where am I? Heavy creaking in the ceiling above my head jolted my sleep-numbed mind into consciousness, as my eyes flew open to darkness. Nigero! Okiizo! “Everybody out! This is a big one!” someone behind me yelled. That was all it took. I blindly fumbled for my flashlight, always kept near my head for emergencies like this, and then grabbed my jacket. The floor moved chaotically, making it hard to keep my balance. But somehow I reached the door frame, grabbed it, and pushed my way outside. …