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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Your Dying Spouse 187 - The Hidden Song Of The Samurai {FMF}

Once again it is time for Five Minute Friday, the keyword-driven weekly timed writing challenge hosted by Kate Motaung.

The work this week - which I requested, and to which Kate graciously agreed, is HIDDEN.

Because I have found some hidden truths along this road.

We have a problem in dealing with death, here in the West. We don't like it; we try to keep ourselves looking young, we often send older family members to hospice care in a place where they are surrounded by strangers, and we pay a lot of money to have cheerful and attractive corpses at open-casket funerals.

We use euphemisms; he passed on, she went to be with the Lord. When was the last time you heard someone say, "He died."?

We don't like it because we see death as defeat and loss.

But the truth is that when we push the awareness of death to the edges of our consciousness, like an obnoxious party-guessed shouldered outside, we're losing something now.

We're losing the present moment to that hidden fear we don't want to name, and we're losing honour, in the way a dying man may shamefully try to bargain with God.

Why do we hide from death? Is it that we find life of such worth that we must cling to it at all costs?

Is it that we want one more chance to make our lives right, to erase regrets, and to die with a clean balance sheet and our goals reached?

Is it that important to cross out every item on your Bucket List?

Do we really think we can find a way to hide from death?

Before I married I was a different breed of cat. IAs you may know I'm Asian, and practiced Zen Buddhism (thought I did then believe in Christ's divinity and sacrifice, as I do now). I meditated long and regularly, and took every moment to be sure I remained in the moment. I tried to make my soul a still pond, a mirror of whatever the sky chose to show.

I was a happy man. I needed little, and wanted less.

But when I took on the mantle of the householder I felt I had to be different, for Barbara's sake and for the sake of her family, that I would not be too weird to accept.

It didn't work well. I tried to keep what I truly am hidden from others, and for sure hidden from myself.

I tried to be the Western Christian churchgoing suburbanite. (And they still thought I was weird.)

And it led me to fear pain, and illness, and death. I spent far too many moments regretting the goals I would not reach, and hoping to outlast the reaper for another season. I took things of great importance far too seriously, and those of little significance I treated with shameful neglect. (This is not the fault of Christianity...it was my error in trying to be that which I was not, and bury that which I was, which is a Christian Zen Buddhist.)

But hidden streams have a way of resurfacing, and mine has. I've come to realize that very basic, hidden truth...

Accepting death is the way to freedom in each moment, and the acceptance of death comes at the death of ego.

We all want to live, but the only way to really live is to be present in each moment, not looking ahead with anticipation nor back with regret.

The next moment will be what it is, and if I live, fine. If I die in the next minute, this post won't be complete but my life will be, and I am OK with that. I am ready. I would like to see tomorrow, but I'm not desperate for it. Better to enjoy today, and tomorrow in its time, if it comes.

Ego wants to catch us in a cage of clocks and calendars, bound to past and future by tendons so tight that they can only be severed with pain.

When we really need to be flowers, which are born to be cut, and which beauty always was transient, and meant to be so.

My honour is not lost by the mistakes I've made in the past. If I have my honour at the moment of my death, that is as much as any man can ask, and it is enough.

Life is composed of the small and the large, and it''s incumbent upon me to treat the small with respect and value, and not to puff up the large to the size that it dominates all, leaving no room for Life.

Make no mistake, I'll fight with everything I have to live. And I can fight all the harder, knowing I have nothing to lose, and nothing to fear.

Hagakure, the sayings of Yamamoto Tsunetomo which were recorded 1709-16, is the book that codified the concept of bushido, the way of the Japanese Samurai. (You can find a summary of Hagakure here.)

It's all about accepting death in order to live more fully, and live up to one's responsibilities, and maintain one's honour.

The title, Hagakure, can be translated as hidden by leaves.

Interesting how the most basic truths are the ones we don't often clearly see.

Time to go sit zazen.

And yes, there were Christian Samurai.

(Side-note - I wrote this, and it took more than five minutes, ahead of time...and death nearly came for me a few minutes ago. I could feel my heart slow, and stop, and hesitantly start again, aided by Ladron leaping onto my chest when she saw what was happening. I'm a bit shaky at the moment.)

And here's a musical theme, which you may remember from the 80s (does anyone want to remember 80s music?)

And yes, given my work history, Barbara does call me her Secret Asian Man.

Marley update...he's received a lot of support, but STILL NEEDS HELP TO BE SAVED.


If you have a mment, I'd like to ask you to visit Change.org to consider a petition to free a 'death row dog' who has been separated from his family for ten months over a misunderstanding. Marley was saved from Afghanistan by a US serviceman; please help make sure this story doesn't end in needless tragedy! Marley's gotten a lot of support...but he still needs our help.

If you can, please do leave a comment. I am trying to answer all, and I am failing, but please know this - I read and treasure each one.

Below are my recent releases on Kindle -please excuse their presence in the body of the blog. I haven't the energy to get them up as 'buttons' in the sidebar. You can click on the covers to go to the Amazon links.


  1. "Ego wants to catch us in a cage of clocks and calendars, bound to past and future by tendons so tight that they can only be severed with pain.
    When we really need to be flowers, which are born to be cut, and which beauty always was transient, and meant to be so." THIS.
    Praying for you tonight!

    visiting from FMF - Sarah Jo

    1. Sarah, thank you so much for the prayers, and for being here!

  2. Aw, shoot! Sarah beat me to quoting your flowers. I suppose that's a girl thing, to focus on flowers. But I loved your imagery of beauty meant to be transient.
    We're image-bearers, not meant to be worshipped ourselves, but to reflect the beauty of the One in whose image we were made.
    Andrew, there is so much peace in your post tonight. This is your wealth of wisdom put in poignant phrases, each that could be stand-alone or bound in a book.
    I am thankful that you are highlighting the need to be transparent. This was the fail of Moses after the veil. He hid the fact from others that the glory was fading from his face.
    Grace enables us to walk unveiled amongst the rest of our friends on this journey. We are not looking at the missteps, but gladly bearing each others' burdens as we all journey together to the same destination.

    Just as your pups are so faithful to love you and be fed by you and not care how human you look or smell or act, they know you are a human and expect nothing else.
    We should treat each other as humans. :) Frail, insecure, and yet so valuable and precious to our Creator.

    You are precious, Andrew. Remember that with each breath of your lungs. There is not a moment that God does not delight in having created you!


    1. I want to think and write just like Tammy Belau.

    2. Tammy, thank you so much for this. And I loe the way you brought in Moses' rather epic fail...it's just perfect.

      And Tammy, the affirmation of your last paragraph is so wonderful, and so valued. Yesterday was a full-on horrible day, and today I feel a bit suspended between death and life. Your words warm my heart.

    3. Susan,
      my best posts are in the comment sections on other people's posts. Ha! That's that encouragement gift I came out with. I thank you.

      And dear dear Andrew, I'm so glad that I can be a blessing to you on the horrible days. It was your boldness that first made me comment on one of your posts. You shocked me. And made me laugh (perhaps nervously at the irreverent humor), but laugh nonetheless.

      May you experience deep joy today.
      "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.
      His mercies never come to an end.
      They are new every morning."
      If He grants you another Earthly morning, then may His mercy be upon you-each one of them!

  3. Andrew, what an amazing post. Seriously. You said so much that struck chords in me. True confession: type-A person that I am, the thought of not finishing my bucket list, or those things I want to accomplish in "my" lifetime hit a nerve, in some ways. I'm learning to release all "my" dreams and tasks to be sifted through the Father's hand, but that type-A in me still rises up, still pushes me to achieve from time to time. Yeah, the Western mindset has attempted to dig it's way into my thought processes.

    Living each moment being in the moment has become something I'm purposing to do consistently. You're right. That is how we truly live.

    And this: "My honour is not lost by the mistakes I've made in the past." Yes, yes. Our past doesn't define who we are now.

    I could keep going, but I won't. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Know that you continue to be in my prayers, friend.

    1. Jeanne, I so appreciate this...you've given an insight into the struggle so many share!

      And we so appreciate the prayers. Yesterday was world-class bad. Pretty shaky tonight.

  4. Andrew, your post is, as usual, filled with wisdom, insight, willingness to say and go where others shy away. I so appreciate who you are and I'm glad you're not anyone else! Praying for your continued peace which is so evident in this post.

    1. Oh, Katy, thank you! I really treasure your comment and your friendship. I am so glad you're here!

  5. Thank you, Ladron. Andrew, my friend, I want you to know something. IF you go I want you to know that you have taught me a lot in the short amount of months we've known one another. TOday's post teaches me much. You are not one-of-a-kind but you are definitely unique. You dance to the tune .... of a .... you know the thought. I love you without knowing you in person. I am so glad you know your eternal destiny and IF you get there before I do? Will you look for my mom? She looks like Queen Esther - at least that's what the Lord allowed her to see before she entered the gates in October 2012. http://hopehearthome.com/one-year/ Andrew, friend, brother. hubs to Barb, dog-lover, writer, odd-ball, hero, Merc. Just in case? I want you to know, I'll see you on the other side of those gates - in the fields where the dogs romp and play. (((xo)))

    1. Susan, likewise. I am a better person for having met you; those aren't idle words.

      I so appreciate your comment, and yes, I will be looking up your mother when I get there. When I tell her about her daughter the high-wattage pride that shines in her eyes will make me glad I'm wearing Oakleys.

      Nearly went yesterday, actually. It was a world-class Bad Day that I can't describe because I can't remember it, and The B does not WANT to describe it. Today I feel a bit like I am suspended between earth and Heaven...and odd and unsettling feeling, though not unpleasant.

      XOXOXO WagWagWaggyWag!

  6. Bea has been interested in death lately - we watched an eagle grab a baby bird the other day; she came across a snake eating a chipmunk; we read about it in books. We wondered how we should approach death with a young child and soon realized that we need to be up front. It's part of life. When she asks if she'll die, we say yes. We talk about GG (great-grandma)'s health and old age. It's made me reflect on my own views of this life and death process. Thanks for your honesty, as always.

    1. Thank you for this personal example, Annie. Processing the idea of death can be pretty hard for a child, and we often remember what WE went through...and want to pull far away from the problems.

      But I think you are right. Better to simply be up-front.

      Thank you so much for being here!

  7. Beautiful, Andrew...sorry to hear you almost didn't make it through writing this post; yet, you ARE ready when the time comes...each time you share a post, you unlock hidden truths...guess I wasn't aware enough to figure out you were Asian...and I love that..."Secret Asian Man" that Barbara calls you!!!

    Prayers still going up for you both!!

    1. Barbara, yeah...this was a post I really wanted to write, and I was a bit miffed that I might not get it out! But by God's grace and through Ladron's vigour...it's here, and so am I.

      Yes, I am Asian...the Mongolia/Western CHina area is interesting in that it's rather a melting pot, and Alexander the Great's genetic legacy is quite apparent. Recently Barbara and I saw a program on missionary work in Mongolia, and she commented that it must be nice for me to see a place where everyone looked like me.

      She was right.

      Thank you so much for the prayers!

  8. Well written. Well thought out. Well delivered. One of your best. Boxes that keep faith inside do not work. You are at peace in a phenomenal way and I like that. Many of your statements in this blog are rich and mind expanding. Bravo!

    1. Thank you so much, Norma. Your comment makes my heart sing after a particularly hard couple of days. Thank you!

  9. So much truth in this post.
    So much peace in this post.
    Going to re-read it.
    Thank you for sharing your hard-won wisdom with us.

    1. Oh, Beth, thank you!

      What wisdom there is...a lot of it comes from the truths I have learned from people like you.

  10. Andrew this is one of my favorites. It is interesting that you wrote about this because my mom and I were talking about this with my grandma who is this absolutely amazing Christian woman who has Demetria provoked by a failing heart. She still has a purpose here on earth even though it would be so nice for her to go to heaven with no more suffering. But she continues on living moment by moment. Thank you so much for sharing this. Lifting up a prayer for you now.

    1. Kristina, thank you! And thank you for sharing the story of your Grandma. God has reasons that are beyond our understanding...and in my heart I would like to think that it is kind of a fun secret between Him and your Grandma.

      Thank you so much for being here today!

  11. My son is very curious about the Christian Samurai. :) All three of my sons are very interested in Japanese manga and anime. Actually, we all take karate, though I've had to drop out for awhile, and have learned some of the language. One son is well on his way to earning a black belt.

    You said a lot of profound things in this post, Andrew. "We all want to live, but the only way to really live is to be present in each moment, not looking ahead with anticipation nor back with regret." If we could remember this all the time, I think we'd be much happier. Thanks for sharing your heart. Blessings to you. I'm in the #66 slot this week at #FiveMinuteFriday.

    1. Gayl, two prominent daimyo that became Christians were Otomo Sorin and Kuroda Kanbei, and they were pleased to have Christians as their retainers.

      I'm so glad you are here, Gayl. I have had a really awful weekend but will try to get to your post; I really enjoy your writing!

    2. My son was familiar with the name Kuroda Kanbei bc it's the character he plays in a video game that his brother has, so he thought that was kind of cool.

      Thank you for your kind words. I'm glad you enjoy my writing. God bless!

  12. So glad you're still with us, Andrew. More insights emerge as you so steadily stare death in the face ... as you do, we learn from you how to live.

    1. Beth, thanks. I'm kind of glad to be here too, especially after yesterday (Saturday July 30). I don't remember much, and The B does not want to talk about it. It was apparently pretty bad, and included a serious fall (so that's why my head hurts!).

      I am finding that death is no enemy, and can't really even be anthropomorphosized. It's simply there, like the clouds and the rain, and there is always a clear sky on the other side of every storm.

      Thank you so much for being here!

  13. Andrew, yes. We so often don't deal with death until we are forced to. As part of confirmation, I used to take my students to a funeral home so they could learn about death. We need to teach them death is truly a part of life. I'm in the 68 spot this week.

    1. Tara, excellent idea! Helping teach about it, giving guidance...far better than leaving a kid with nothing or, at best, platitudes.

      I'm a bit shaky this weekend - it was rough - but will try to get to your post, my friend.

  14. Wow! A lot to take in. Very honest though which I like about your posts. We need to number our days. I have become more comfortable with death as many friends and family members have passed on and now I see it as another part of the life process. We must be fully present, but also keep in mind there is that appointment we will all make. blessing and peace to you! Stopping by from FMF!

    1. Leigh, I LOVE the way you phrased this! "...there is that appointment we will all make."

      YES! Just perfect.

      Thank you for being here today, and bringing this bright light of gracious wisdom.

  15. Actually, I did not know that you are Asian or had come from a Buddhist background. How did I miss this? As usual, I learned a new thing by reading your blog today!

  16. Oh Andrew! I am so thankful you were not taken from this earth yesterday. I cannot imagine how you are feeling, suspended between heaven and earth. Yet, this most helps me to realize we are all in that place, between heaven and earth. We are not promised tomorrow. There is so much wisdom in this post that I will save and come back to reread. "The only way to really live is to be present in each moment, not looking ahead with anticipation nor back with regret." This is something I've striving to do in my life. No regrets. Love to you dear Andrew and thanks for finding the new link up! You are an inspiration to so many.

  17. I'm so glad you wrote (and God gave you grace, strength, and life to finish it).
    To live in the the awareness of God's presence is one way I try to be more present in my life. In a real way, it's like practicing for eternity. The difference will be that I get to be in God's presence fully after I die.
    On Sunday, someone had some kind of medical issue during the service. (Not sure what happened.) But it got me to thinking that I would love to die in the middle of a worship song and continue it in heaven. Apart from it upsetting the people around me, that is. But dying while writing what was on my heart would be a close second.
    May you know the close presence of God and be all the way engaged with your present, here-and-now reality.

  18. Andrew, this post was quite timely. I didn't get around to read it until today(Wed.) because my own dad was in the hospital. You bring much wisdom. We do try to fight death. We don't want to leave this life. But the words of this post have made me realize it is because we have been wired for eternity. We have a DNA in us that longs to live forever. And one day, we all will. Grateful for your transparency as you have made me think so many times in ways I probably would have looked to avoid. May our God give you more days! Blessings!

  19. Ah, Andrew. We struggle against the unknown, but God offers us life in Christ when we die to self--so if we choose that path, we are, in essence, experiencing death on a daily basis and it should not have any 'unknowns' for us.