Thursday, January 31, 2013

Trying to figure out the marketing campaign...

The local Seiyu grocery store has a marketing scheme that has me a bit confused. Seiyu department stores became wholly owned by Walmart in 2008.  We've seen signs of Walmart here and there, with "every day low prices" and the banners with the smiley faces. We can buy a few items under the "Great Value" label.

Recently they have been featuring this pleasant woman under a advertising campaign title "BASUPURA" * which is short for Basket Price.  The general gist of the campaign is that while they aim to keep the basket prices low, their prices are so reasonable, you can even fill it and feel that you are getting deluxe goods.

Things I've noticed in looking at these advertisements...

The model is contrary to all usual Japanese advertising conventions because she is -- well, in the words of our dear Japanese doctor -- obese.  This is a country where eating disorders are rampant, people strive for health, and it seems the nation as a whole has an intense fear of "metabolic syndrome."

Of course, she is not Japanese, either, which is another mystery.  While there may occasionally be a print advertisement with foreigners on it, they are usually thin fashion models.

One of my daughters did some modeling work for a while here, and I just spent some time looking through the "catalogue" of a couple of her agencies for this woman... I didn't find her.  Nor did I find anyone with this body type!

I am a strong proponent of healthy body images being projected in advertising, but I feel a bit uncomfortable by this image.

So my question is--what is the message trying to be communicated to the Japanese shopper?

I am also a bit surprised at the food being featured --

The full basket shows a little bit of fruit and vegetables, but potato chips and popcorn in packages, Ghana chocolate bars, Reeses Peanut Butter bars and Haagen Dazs icecream.

The banner above has a Japanese rice cracker as well as the Ghana bar within the deck of cards.

And the lovely curler and bathrobe banner to the right shows her sharing ice cream with someone off camera. I guess the Reeses come later.

Another one shows her with Ritz Cracker hors d'oeuvres and a glass of wine. (My photo of that one wasn't good enough to publish...)

My experience has been that Japanese are for the most part quite healthy in their diet, so this stress on what we would consider "Junk food" in the advertising is another mystery to me.

So my next question is -- do these foods represent luxury (the "deluxe") to the Japanese shopper?

If you were going to create a marketing campaign to motivate people to shop at your store because the prices are so good you can get "deluxe" menu items for an inexpensive price, what would you feature?

* this link goes to the current BASUPURA website--feel free to click it to see what new advertising campaign they are featuring now!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Help me overcome my unbelief!

This week at our ICCS Ladies' Bible Study we will be looking at Mark 9.  This is a very full chapter (as have most of them been this year). I enjoy going through the survey of Jesus' ministry with these ladies. Their insights are encouraging and helpful.

In the middle of this chapter is one of my favorite verses.  The disciples had been unable to cast  a spirit out of a boy and the father approached Jesus as he was returning from the Mount of Transfiguration begging him to do something, anything if you can.

Jesus told him that Everything is possible for him who believes.

Here comes my favorite part--the father answers immediately, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!  

I have found myself saying the same thing in many circumstances:

I DO believe. Yet at the same time I'm struggling to believe. Jesus, help me to believe.

 And I find comfort in the fact that Jesus doesn't criticize the man in this situation. He doesn't refuse to act because of his wavering.  He heals the man's son.

I suppose it isn't surprising that one of my favorite hymns is "'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus"  by Louisa M. R. Stead, with it's chorus:

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I've proved Him o'er and o'er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

As I find freedom to believe while voicing my need for Jesus' help to believe, I find rest and peace and an increasing ability to trust.

Do you ever find yourself needing Jesus help to overcome your unbelief?

Remember... Celebrate...

This morning I read in 2 Kings 23 and was struck by verses 21-23.
And the king commanded all the people, “Keep the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.”  For no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah.  But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah this Passover was kept to the Lord in Jerusalem. (ESV)
Remembering the significance of the Passover to the people of Israel, these verses were a stark indication of how disassociated the people had become from the God of their fathers and the practices that God had put into place to use as reminders of His greatness and power.  Moses had instructed the people: And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’  you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord's Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’ (Exodus: 25-27, ESV)

We also read  Jesus instructing his disciples to remember Him at the celebration of the Passover just before he was betrayed.   “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.  (Luke 22:19-20, ESV)

This line of thought reminded me of a family event that we used to celebrate to remember God's work in amazing which we  backed away from more recently.


On  January 24, 1996, Stan and I were in a "Baby House" in Kazan, Russia to pick up underweight twin boys who became our sons.  The stories are many that took place around our gathering them and bringing them "home."  Without a doubt, it is clear that God orchestrated many things in order to expand our family this way.

From that point on, we would make an effort to celebrate every January 24 as "Gotcha Day."  This is a term that is common among adoptive families to signify the day the child enters their family.  We usually went to a local steak restaurant as a family to remember together the significance of the day.

10 years later...

As the boys have gotten older, they have resisted this, probably because it implies they are different from others. I am sure the term "Gotcha Day" hasn't helped too much, either.   For some adoptive children this term is associated with loss of their birth family since another family gotcha. In looking at adoptive parent sites now (how much has changed with the easy access to internet!)  families are using different terms like "Family Day."

It has been a few years since we celebrated together on January 24. This year, though, I wanted to be sure we marked it in some way.  Rather than going out to a restaurant, I chose a favorite meal and we were able to actually have good conversation around the table. I then pulled out copies of documents related to the process, and gave them to the boys--one quickly scanned them while the other didn't show any interest in looking at them. I also brought our photo album from the first months to the table.

The boys didn't hang around, but Stan and I spent time looking through the pictures, remembering, celebrating, thanking God for His people in Moscow who helped us in those early days, and for His faithfulness and mercy each day since then. Truly our lives have never been the same...and we seriously think these two wouldn't be alive if we hadn't added them to our family. WE need to remember and celebrate.  

Do you have celebrations that help you remember a special work of God?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

It's me?

I recently subscribed to Michael Hyatt's Intentional Leadership Blog posts. He posted a blog early in this year that included ten lessons from Robert D. Smith, the author of 20,000 Days and Counting: The Course for Mastering your Life Right Now (which I haven't read so this isn't a direct endorsement.)

 I've been mulling over one of the lessons:
 Assume YOU are the problem. When you do, you quit becoming the victim and begin shaping the outcome.
I know that many times I have been frustrated with a situation or a person and just knew that if THEY did this or changed that, everything would be better.  I doubt I'm alone in this!

I was introduced to Henry Cloud's book, Necessary Endings in a class last year and devoured it on my kindle flying back to Japan.  On this topic he wrote:
"If you focus on all of the bad things that are happening that you have no control over, your map of what to do every day changes." He refers to this as "learned helplessness. It is a condition in which the person adapts to the misery because they feel that there is nothing they can do about it. It is totally out of their control."  Dr. Cloud went on to say he saw a  "troubling pattern in some individuals—an even deeper sense of loss of control over things that were, in fact, still in their control." (p. 55, 56)

I wonder how often we fail to see progress because we have refused to accept that we have a part in making changes.  Sometimes the changes will disrupt a system that is unhealthy, and may create discomfort in the others who we think are the problems. Taking responsibility for our part of the problem gives us hope and helps us become "unstuck" and no longer "helpless."

I've been trying to apply this thinking more mindfully in the past few weeks. I don't think I'm the only one to fall into a victim mindset  Sometimes we even spiritualize it.  (Makes me think of a fellow language school student who always wished the Lord would come back before his next test...easier to complain than study!)

In no way am I discounting the command to "wait on the Lord." There are also times where we truly are the victim, and we pray for justice and wisdom. That being said, I am aware that there are times that if I assume "I am the problem" I have a part in being the solution, too.

Today I ran across this cartoon that kind of sums it up on the Radio Free Babylon Facebook page:

If you were to approach your situation with this mindset, what difference might it make?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

So long, farewell...

The Christmas visit is over. Thursday we took our daughter to Narita Airport to send her back to the US.  Among her luggage was a bookcase she made in middle school "Industrial Arts" class filled with memories.

We opened up a box that hadn't been opened for nearly 9 years and found dolls of various sorts and lots of stuffed animals including those "prize" Beanie Babies that were supposed to be so valuable (but are no longer according to our research).  After that long, it truly is possible to decide what is special and what isn't...

We are anticipating our departure from Japan to be mid-July. That means we are at the 6-month point.  Saying farewell to people and places will be important. And then there is dealing with the stuff-- lots of decisions are ahead about what is special and what isn't, and we expect surprise discoveries in unopened boxes. And emotions. LOTS of emotions. 

I think we did a good job of helping our daughter say farewell.  It wasn't her first time to do this having done much of the work when she graduated from high school. But realizing that she is losing her home--her home base--the place where she can take her future special someone back to see where she grew up--was hard.  

Part of the  "RAFT"  is "Think Destination."  I hope that we can create a "home base" for our family when we get settled in the Charlotte area--where even though they won't know people from their youth, they will still have a place they can come to and find the books we read to them at bed-time, the dolls they played with as children, the special dishes we used at Christmas, and feel like they belong somewhere.

In all of this, we remember the Apostle Paul's words:
 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3:20,21
Ultimately, we will find a place to belong.

Sunday, January 06, 2013


As we wrapped up our time at church this morning, Ken (back left) asked for several of us to gather for a photo.  His mom (center) visited church today.  We continue to pray for her to know and love Jesus. She spent some time with Ken at the church in Fukushima where he works over the New Year holiday, and was willing to come today as he worshiped with us at his "home church." At the moment she doesn't really "get it" and is amazed at how Ken is loved by this church family.

Also in this photo (besides the De La Cours) are Ayako and her son. Until a few years ago, Ayako "didn't get it" either.   But God has worked in her life and is strengthening and encouraging her faith.  There were times where we wondered whether she would make that step of faith...

We continue to pray that Ken's mom and others like her who are connected to the chapel increase in understanding, and finally make the decision, as Ayako did, to surrender to the call of Jesus. It's not impossible...

For nothing will be impossible with God. 
Luke 1:37

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Building our RAFT

We spent a few hours this afternoon visiting the puppy that our daughter persuaded us to take home from a beach vacation in August of 1998.  We haven't been able to have him live with us in our past two housing situations, and the Lord provided a wonderful home for him in our old neighborhood. This family has loved Teddy in his later years--and blessed us, as well.

Yesterday we talked with about the possibility that this girl might not make it back to Japan before we leave this summer. She will be auditioning and looking for work when she returns to the US, and realizes that she may not be able to return in June as we had first had thought. With that in mind, we are making sure that she has a chance to do some important transition tasks.  In spending the time with Teddy today, she was able to say farewell to the dog she grew up with. She looks happy here--she also spent time alone with him in tears.

Below is an article I wrote about preparing for transition for the Japan Harvest magazine in the Spring of 2008.  As you read it, please pray for us as each one of us builds our RAFT.


This is the time of year when many people prepare to leave Japan—whether they are missionaries on home assignment or ending their service, or missionary kids returning to their passport country for college. The late Dave Pollock, an authority on third culture kids (TCKs), transitions and internationally mobile families, prepared very helpful transition materials including this tool to help missionaries and family members leave well.

Imagine building a raft lashing the following four “logs” together before we leave:
   Think Destination

Reconciliation—Any time we face a move from one place to another, it’s easy to deal with tensions in relationships by ignoring them.  We think “I won’t see these people again, so why bother trying to work out our differences?”  When we refuse to resolve our interpersonal conflicts we ignore the whole process of closure and are unable to move on and build the rest of our RAFT.  We carry with us the mental baggage of unresolved problems.  Old discontentment can interfere with starting new relationships.  Reconciliation includes both the need to forgive and be forgiven.  How that is done depends on many factors, but we have to be sure we are doing all we can do to reconcile any broken relationships before leaving.

Affirmation—Acknowledge that each person in our relationships matter.  Do things like tell your coworkers how you have enjoyed working with them, your friends how important their friendship has been, give a note of appreciation to your neighbors for their kindness, reassure your parents and siblings of your love and respect and that you don’t leave them lightly.  Part of closure is acknowledging our blessings—both to rejoice in them and properly mourn their passing.

Farewells—Saying goodbye to people, places, pets, possessions in culturally appropriate ways is important if we don’t want to have deep regrets later.  We need to schedule time for these farewells during the last few days and weeks.  Openly acknowledging this time as a true goodbye is important.  If you have children, be sure you schedule time for them to say goodbye to these significant ones in their lives, as well.

Think Destination—Even as we are saying goodbye, we need to be thinking realistically about our destination.  Where are we going?  What are some positives and negatives we can expect to find once we get there?  What are our external support structures and our internal resources for coping with the problems we might find?  Who can help us adjust?

There is no way we can avoid the chaos and confusion of the transition process.  We can keep in mind that it is normal, and that it will pass if we hang on long enough.  Keep this in mind: Leaving right is a key to entering right.  By preparing our RAFT we can go through proper closure.

© 2008, 2013, by Faith De La Cour

For more materials on the transition process see Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken (available on