Find Your Niche


Career counseling has always been a sort of side-hobby of mine. Why? Because I am passionate about helping people reach their fullest potential; to achieve the highest potentiality of their nature; to fulfill their destiny. Very Maslow, I know.

I believe everybody has a niche, an ideal God-designed hand-in-glove fit, although many may fail to find it in this life. Ambitious, I encourage everybody to seek to become the very best in the entire world at one particular thing.

It baffles me when people are unsure of what they want to do with their lives because I can’t relate. However, over time I developed a “Three Question Test” to help people gain clarity on their academic or vocational pursuits:

  1. What are your skills and talents? What are you naturally good at?
  2. What are your interests and passions? If you see something on TV or read something in a book or newspaper that makes you stop and pay attention, what is it?
  3. What unique experiences, opportunities, or open doors have you had so far in your life, career, or schooling?

Usually, when a person is able to think through and articulate responses to those three questions, an obvious pattern begins to emerge and a path forward can be sought. However, I recently came across a Japanese concept that made me realize my “Three Questions” are lacking. That concept is Ikigai.

Ikigai means “a reason for being” or “a reason to get up in the morning,” and a popular diagram to help one find their Ikigai caught my attention:


In all my ambition and idealism, I hadn’t really included the very practical concept of earning a living! Rather, I believed that pursuing one’s true life passion would be its own ultimate reward. But bills don’t pay themselves! And, with changing technologies and economies, passion may need to adapt to fit the zeitgeist.

I see that a fourth question needs to be added to my repertoire, one that addresses how one’s skills, interests, and unique experiences can be put to use in a manner that society will reward. And, to really highlight my personal philosophy of finding one’s niche, a fifth question should be added. Finally, to acknowledge the ultimately sovereign role of God’s design in our individual makeup and life experience, I need to slightly rephrase the questions.

So, my new and improved “Five Question Test” for finding your niche:

  1. What are your God-given skills and talents? What are you naturally good at?
  2. What are your God-given interests and passions? If you see something on TV or read something in a book or newspaper that makes you stop and pay attention, what is it?
  3. What unique experiences, opportunities, or open doors has God allowed you to have so far in your life, career, or schooling?
  4. If you could be the absolute best at one particular thing or the foremost expert on one particular subject, what would it be?
  5. What are the unmet, under-met, or ongoing needs of your community, society, or the world that your combination of skills, interests, unique experiences, and potential expertise can address?

Support my Mission Trip to Japan!


I am seeking to raise support for a short-term mission trip to Japan at the end of July of this year. Although I have a deep love for Japan and it has been a lifelong dream to visit, this is not a vacation or sightseeing excursion, but rather a working trip to support and encourage a young, growing Christian church. In connection with Carolina Lighthouse Ministries and Discipleship International church, I will travel with a small team to the Ishikawa Prefecture, on the Sea of Japan side of the main island of Honshu. We will be sleeping on the floor of the church at night and rolling up our sleeves during the day!

Japan has been historically resistant to Christianity, with periods of violent persecution of both foreign and domestic believers. Even today, Shintoism and Buddhism dominate the spiritual landscape. Current estimates are that only 1% to 1.5% of the country’s population is Christian. Compare this to Syria, which is 10% Christian! The good news is that God loves the Japanese people. I am praying for an awakening!

The $2,000 I am seeking to raise will go toward roundtrip airfare and passport fees, with whatever is left going toward basic day-to-day expenses. I am spending the next six months immersing myself in the Japanese language and prayerfully considering what message God might have for me to share to encourage my Japanese brothers and sisters. Thank you for your support!

“And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” – Matthew 10:42

Divine Wind & Plum Wine


A couple months ago I walked into a Starbucks and saw a guy studying from a premium Bible at one of the tables. “Is that a Cambridge Clarion?” I blurted to the stranger excitedly. He confirmed that it was. “Nice!” Later, as I saw him hard at work, we began a brief dialogue and I asked him if he was in seminary or perhaps writing a sermon. He told me that he was actually preparing to move to Japan that upcoming Thursday to be a missionary – indefinitely. Wow. Here was a young man setting off on a divine adventure, leaving relationships, home, and native language – doing something courageous that I have only dreamt about doing but cannot due to family, vocational, and financial reasons.

According to the CIA World Factbook, Japan is 1.5% Christian. That is not a typo. I love the people, the language, the cultural aesthetics, the history, and the food of Japan, but it is one of the spiritually darkest countries on Earth. Despite the many ways that Japan has thrived and prospered, I detect a pattern of fatalism and ennui when examining their pop culture art, which I believe reflects the spiritual undercurrent of the nation.

One recurring theme in Japanese pop culture art is uncontrollable, world-consuming destruction. Perhaps this is a remnant in the cultural consciousness of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Godzilla is an obvious symbol. Others include the enveloping headless forest god of Princess Mononoke, the rampaging No-Face spirit in Spirited Away, and the Tokyo and Neo-Tokyo obliterating destructive force of the titular Akira. Another theme is boredom or feelings of emptiness as motivation to engage in violent or extreme actions. Both student Light Yagami and the Shinigami Ryuk cite boredom as contributing to actions that eventually result in mass killing in the manga series Death Note. Not one but two murderous antagonists in the videogame Persona 4 cite boredom / emptiness as reasons for their diabolical actions. Even satirical manga superhero One-Punch Man struggles with the drudgery of lacking meaningful challenge. No wonder. English writer and psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple states that people who are bored, alienated, or not spiritually anchored may find that “danger absolves one of the need to deal with a hundred small problems or to make a thousand little choices – danger simplifies existence.”

In March of 2011, I awoke in the middle of the night. I was trembling, shaking uncontrollably, much to the alarm of my wife. I thought my body was cold, so I tried to bundle up with extra clothing and get back in bed. It didn’t work. I wasn’t cold, my body was just trembling. I had no idea what was happening to me and I begged for God’s help. After quite a while I was able to stop shaking and fall asleep. In the morning, I read that there had been a devastating earthquake in Japan, followed by a tsunami. It happened at the exact same time that I woke up, half way across the world. As the ground in Japan was shaking, so was I.

Interpret that however you wish, but when I shared this mysterious occurrence with a Japanese friend of mine, she later told me how encouraged she felt upon hearing it. To her, it meant that God still cared about Japan and the Japanese people, and perhaps he had good plans for that Land of the Rising Sun.