Boys Day 2015

I would think it would be a little bit hard to be a boy growing up in an era where the advancements of women are continually lauded but any success by men is just par-for-the-course and probably unfairly earned.  Imagine seeing “Girls Rule” t-shirts all around while the slightest bit of enthusiasm over your own gender is met with disapproval and downright disdain.  That’s why I am such a huge fan of the Japanese holiday, “Boys Day,” which is still celebrated every May 5th here in Hawaii, although it is slowly morphing into the more politically correct, “Children’s Day.”  After finishing up a rather dismal series on “Industrial Waste,” it felt good to give my boys a chance to celebrate being boys.  While our Boys Day celebrations have taken different shapes every year (click here and here for examples) the following 5 elements are absolutely essential:  comrades, competition, Japanese cuisine, candy and carp.  The carp comes first.

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This fish is revered for it’s energy and power which enable it to battle it’s way upstream and thus symbolizes spirit, strength, courage and determination to overcome all obstacles.  These aren’t exactly the traits most cultivated in our boys today.  Traditionally each family hangs out one giant black carp-shaped wind sock for the Dad and then a smaller, brightly colored one for each boy in the house.  Since the big ones cost about $75 here, we just hang out our five small small ones, which sadly aren’t nearly as brightly colored as they used to be. After paddling practice at 5:05 (since 5 is the special number for Boys Day, I thought the party should be at 5:55 but they weren’t about to wait an extra fifty minutes), the boys met a couple of their buddies by the pool where they did some Japanese calligraphy.  Sei’s mom is a very talented artist and is always ready to share her finer skills with a bunch of rowdy boys.

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Then we played a couple games which included a rather violent Japanese version of “Paper, Rock, Scissors,” and diving for nickles in the pool.

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After an amazing feast of roll-your-own sushi it was time for another competition, this one involving racing to pick up tiny beans with chopsticks.  Our Japanese friends were kind enough to use their left hands but I was still so proud of my winning score that it is now posted on our fridge.  I guess the boys aren’t the only ones with a competitive spirit in this house :).

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By the way, there is also a Girls Day celebrated on March 3 and whether you have boys or girls I think these are great holidays to honor the unique God-given design and characteristics of each.  Happy Koinobori, everyone and remember to let your boys be boys!


Industrial Waste… part 5

I do apologize for not being able to wrap this up sooner. It’s a big topic and I’m trying to do it justice, but at the same time there are oodles of other things going on here that I’d like to write about and scant amount of time to do so. Here are 7 points I would like to throw out there. No pictures. No frills. Just my two-cents worth and a hope that you will add yours.

1. Boys are made for work. I’m not pigeon-holing males into a meat-head role here, but Genesis 2 is very clear that God created Adam first and “put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” This was his primary created role and he was perfectly equipped to fulfill it. This role was also the subject of his subsequent curse, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground.”

2. For thousands of years that is exactly what boys grew up doing. They worked. And when they weren’t working, they played. Except for a few exceptions who were devoted to scholarly work at a young age, most would already be apprenticing for a career by 14.

3. With the advent of the printing press, Reformers like Martin Luther envisioned an entire population that could read the Bible for themselves (a noble and worthy goal) and primary schools were born.

4. The Industrial Revolution took this concept to an entirely new level with the effort to create a uniformly educated workforce universally equipped for factory operations.

5. Until the last century the purpose of schooling was to either provide a rudimentary
understanding of reading, writing and arithmetic or to prepare a student for a career particularly conducive to academic rigors.

6. Fast forward 100 years and social engineers now have boys as young as 3 years old spending the vast majority of their time in a classroom setting for the next 15 years of their life. Add to that the immense pressure to continue into higher education and another 2-6 years in an industry they possibly neither like nor excel at. Nor is this prolonged existence in academia any guarantee of a profitable career. There are some careers that necessitate a long and arduous classroom education. And I reiterate my awareness of those boys who thrive in a classroom setting. But the sad by-product of the education industry is the vast population of boys who not only fail to thrive in the classroom setting, but are also deprived of years and years of potential development actually doing what they were created to do.

7. Boys want to be good at something. It’s part of the drive God instilled in them. If they find out early on that that something is school then by all means cheer them on in that regard. But if the classroom is just not their thing, then give them a chance earlier on than 18 to find out what is! By 18 that drive to succeed may be already wasted due to the years of frustrating failure being forced to do what they are just not made for! That is industrial waste of epic proportions.

The video below has been widely circulated for a while now but I thought it illustrated a few of my points well.


A Noiseful Joy

The week before Thanksgiving our memory verse was Psalm 100:3.
“Know that the Lord, he is God! It is He who made us and we are His;
we are His people, and the sheep of his pasture.”
The next week we cancelled school and instead used the time to memorize the rest of the Psalm in it’s blessedly brief entirety, verse 4 being particularly timely.
“Enter His gates with Thanksgiving and His courts with praise!
Give thanks to Him and bless His name!”
But the part that really hit home with me was Psalm 100:1.
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth!”
I suppose this really “struck a chord” because the boys have recently started bagpipe lessons. Now I’ve never considered bagpipes a “joyful” kind of instrument, just kind of “noiseful.” But a neighbor of ours happens to play the pipes and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed our little concerts on the beach. So when he offered to teach the boys and even ordered them a practice chanter straight from Glasgow we jumped at the opportunity to learn something new.

Most memorable bagpipe concert ever:  a salute to some old Marine Corps Veterans Nov. 2013.

Most memorable bagpipe concert ever: a salute to some old Marine Corps Veterans Nov. 2013.

10, even 5 years ago, I never imagined my children would be learning to play the bagpipes, nor that they would pick up the instrument in Hawaii of all places. Before moving here I had visions of those delightfully refined chamber orchestras made up entirely of siblings from the same family. You know the ones- the oldest boy standing straight and tall behind a string bass while his graceful sisters hug a harp or cello and all the younger ones hold up violins of varying sizes. That’s exactly the kind of family I envisioned.

Joel trying out their new practice chanter

Joel trying out their new practice chanter

But I got a whole passel of boys and a one-way ticket to Hawaii. And then I got another boy and an Ukulele for each of them. And then none of them really cared to learn to play one, which in Hawaii is a bit like a Brazilian not caring about soccer.

Titus, rediscovering the Ukulele after 3 years of neglect.  Entirely self taught.

Titus, rediscovering the Ukulele after 3 years of neglect. Entirely self taught.

Then God led me to our neighbor, Linda’s place where I spied a piano- quite a rarity in the islands. Turns out she had given lessons for decades before retiring here and she offered to teach the boys if we got a keyboard to practice on. For months I prayed that the Lord would provide a keyboard for us and of course, He did! Only Titus and Nathan were interested in lessons though, and having learned from the whole Ukelele endeavor that you can’t force an instrument on kids I settled for a slightly smaller talent pool. But after spending a year in the recital audience Joel and Sam decided it would be much more fun getting all the applause than giving it. So now dear, gracious Linda has all 4 boys under her tutelage and they are flying through their books.

Nate basking in his piano teacher's approval

Nate basking in his piano teacher’s approval

My friends, just imagine for a second how at any given time I have the joy of hearing in our little condo a bagpipe chanter, keyboard, or ukelele often all at the same time.

Substitute choir members

Substitute choir members

Oh, and did I mention they can also sing? Our entire bass and tenor section was absent from choir for a couple weeks so I volunteered Tom and the boys to fill in (if there’s one thing I can provide when called upon, it’s “man”power). I thought you might enjoy hearing the vocal talents of our two youngest choir members.

Yes. Mine is indeed a noiseful joy.


Small Tokens I was overwhelmed seeing images of the display of 880,000 poppies (one for every British soldier lost in WW1) surrounding the Tower of London.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to see it in person. Looking around on-line I was disappointed that there didn’t seem to be any comparable observances here in the United States in honor of the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War.  In fact, I’m not sure my generation is aware of any form of Armistice observance other than more sales at the shopping mall or a piddly parade.  Even our neighbors to the North still carry on the tradition of pinning on a bright red poppy. It’s just a small token, but it at least brings some sense of decorum to the day, which is something we Americans seem to have flung overboard as effectively as the proverbial tea.

small tokens

small tokens

In Joshua 4 we read about God stopping the waters of the Jordan so the Israelites could pass through. Then He commanded one man from each of the Twelve Tribes to take a stone out of the Jordan and to carry it on their shoulder to the other side.  “When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them… So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever (v6,7).” photo 1-5 Americans need more stones of remembrance.  At the very least, they remind us to be thankful.  To show gratitude to God and others, because there is really nothing at all we’ve accomplished, achieved, or acquired on our own accord.

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Yesterday was a day for small tokens.  Tom read us a story about a lady who used poppies pinned to the shoulder just as the Israelites used stones to teach future generations to remember the great events, the great sacrifices, and The Greater Hand of Providence that governs them all.  The boys cut out little paper poppies while I made coffee and muffins for a small crowd of neighbors we had invited to gather on our beach.  Alec, our resident bagpiper, played a few tunes in remembrance of those who have given much fighting for the freedoms we now give away.  And we “talked story,” as the Hawaiians say.  Small tokens.  Plain stones.  But I hope each one there walked away a little more thankful and a little more determined to remember.

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Make sure you watch this next video, too!