It’s the first day of the New Year here in Japan and I have noticed and learned a little about the emphasis on luck in this culture. I heard this song again today and wept as I remembered how upside down God’s economy seems at times. I heard Eugene Peterson talk about trying to translate the word Blessed in the Beatitudes to a word our modern cultures could understand better and the word he thought of was Lucky. In the words of Lacrae “So weary and broken, hopin’ His arms will open. Unconditional love has got us locked into His focus (I guess we the lucky ones, huh?).”
In Japan, Christmas lights, called “illuminations” (イルミネーション) in Japanese, go up as early as mid-November and can remain on display as late as March. Businesses, main streets and big parks go all-out with spectacular LED reveries and exquisitely decorated Christmas trees for passersby to experience. The illuminations play an important role in creating the festive and romantic mood of winter in Japan and they are more astounding with each passing year.
The Kobe Luminarie (神戸ルミナリエ) in Kobe, Japan, is one of the most striking displays every year. Kobe hosted its first illumination festival in December of 1995 in memory of the Great Hanshin Earthquake which struck the region in January of the same year. The Italian-designed illuminations were donated by the government of Italy, and the soft, solemn glow of the hand-painted lights became a symbol of remembrance and hope. The Kobe Luminarie was originally meant to be a one-time event but, with the strong request from local citizens, it has become an annual event now its 19th year.
Want to see more illuminations? Visit the location pages below to view photos and videos from the best Christmas lights in Japan this year:
I think hope is not simply looking around and saying that everything’s great – that’s just ridiculous. For hope to have substance, it has to acknowledge the pain. But hope is saying that’s not the final story. It’s not saying pain doesn’t exist, but it’s saying there’s not a period at the end of that sentence. It’s still being written.
My paternal Grandmother was cheerful, alive, active, caring, sensitive, hard-working and devoted. She was talkative, friendly and laughed easily and often. She was courageous and strong. She lived with heartache and whistled while she worked, literally. I would not have described her as beautiful but she is one of the most powerful images of love I carry with me.
I don’t think of her as often as I used to but I’m a little surprised at the timing of those memories now.
I remember Grandma every time I put on make-up. It’s during the very last stage, the part where I smile and find the plumpest part of my cheeks and move the brush of pinky blush powder or rouge in a circular motion.
I remember her then because I am looking like her more and more. Between my eyes and cheeks there are a series of deep wrinkles that remind me of the pattern I saw on her face many years ago.
I’m not sure how old I was, maybe 9, but sometimes I would spend the night at her place and I would stand and watch her get ready for the day. I remember thinking ‘Why does she put red powder on her cheeks, she looks fine without it and besides, it looks silly next to all those wrinkles.”
If I remember correctly she only put on make-up once a week for church or maybe for a special occasion. Maybe that is why I questioned it.
I know now that it’s not just about trying to look younger. Yes adding rouge to one’s cheeks helps restore the color we have lost with age. But without it people might embarrass themselves by asking if we are ill when in reality we are just getting old.
Well, now I’m old(er) and I question my application of make-up each time I sit before the mirror. Like my Grandmother I prefer to get on with my day to day life without fussing over my face. From a distance I look better with makeup but up close, sometimes it just seems silly.
I’m glad I have the memory of my Grandmother to remind me that love is more powerful than beauty.
There is always the choice between resentment and gratitude because God has appeared in my darkness, urged me to come home, and declared in a voice filled with affection: ‘You are with me always, and all I have is yours.’ Indeed, I can choose to dwell in the darkness in which I stand, point to those who are seemingly better off than I, lament about the many misfortunes that have plagued me in the past, and thereby wrap myself up in my resentment. But I don’t have to do this. There is the option to look into the eyes of the One who came out to search for me and see therein that all I am and all I have is pure gift calling for gratitude.
The choice for gratitude rarely comes without some real effort.But each time I make it, the next choice is a little easier, a little freer, a little less self-conscious. Because every gift I acknowledge reveals another and another until, finally, even the most normal, obvious, and seemingly mundane event or encounter proves to be filled with grace. There is a Estonian proverb that says: ‘Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.’ Acts of gratitude make one grateful because, step by step, they reveal that all is grace.
Henri Nouwen, from The Return of the Prodigal Son (via recycledsoul)