A Time for Reflection

Fall is my favorite season of the year. But I have noticed that at some point, I started to feel down or lonely in Fall, and even be apprehensive of the approach of this season. Having a reading break in October in the U.S. and February in Canada might be related to the need for a pause or slowing down.  

The other day, I re-read “Here and Now” by Henri Nouwen that I encountered for the first time in 1997, and pondered on the importance of “Reflection”. I have had an opportunity to learn from the translator of this book, Rev. Koichi Otawa last year, and received a recommendation to read the chapter on “In Search of Meaning”. This process is also described as “Examen”, “meditation” and “reflection” in “The Good and Beautiful God” by James Bryan Smith. In “Here and Now”, the author touches on devotional reading.    

Below is the an excerpt from “Here And Now”: 

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Most of us read to acquire knowledge or to satisfy our curiosity. When we want to know how to repair a car, cook a meal… give a lecture, etc., we have to do a certain amount of reading. … The purpose of spiritual reading, however, is not to master knowledge or information, but to let God’s Spirit master us. … The great value of spiritual reading is that it helps us to give meaning to our lives. …The issue is not just what we read, but how we read it…We have to keep asking ourselves: “What does it all mean?  What is God trying to tell us?  How are we called to live in the midst of all this?” 

“Here an Now” by Henri Nouwen

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Often times, I’m unable to easily find answers to such questions and instead find myself fallen asleep. Yet I notice my heart being calmer through the reflection rather than being filled with the matters of the world that stir up fear, anxiety, and compulsion.  

Perhaps, there is an important meaning in applying myself to look for a meaning, more so than finding the meaning to the answer itself. It might be because through the process of reflection, I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, walking the journey beside me today, and get to know God, who works within my life. 

Another point; when reflect on “What meaning does this event or issue hold?”, I’m led to a question, “Why do I react in this way, anyway?” When that happens, I realize I’m not necessarily reacting to the “issue” itself, but reacting to somebody else’s reaction to me. These steps provide me an opportunity to recognize what is holding “my current self” captive, and what is driving me. 

However if I use this time of reflection for the purpose of self examination and self analysis to judge words and actions of myself and others, I end up being controlled by my false self, who is obsessed with how I acted and how others might evaluate me. 

Jesus Christ came to this world to tell us that “the image of you this world conjures up is not your true self. Your true image is a child of God who is atoned and loved.” The book reminds me of this after 24 years. Since when the words “false self” and “beloved child of God” resonated in my heart, I have set out on a long journey full of struggles and gradually come to savor the depth of their meanings. To read the Bible, needless to say, and other devotional reading and reflections are so very important. 

Worship is also a time of reflection, to which God invites us. To receive the Bible message from the passage we have read many times before, this time communally with others. If we could take the time to look on with the spiritual eyes our hearts that frantically raced through the past week, at the same time noticing the warm gaze of God and His love, with what peace would we able to welcome the new week! The delight of Fall I have forgotten completely, and the joy of worship in the temple of God. I hope we will savor it together once again, and enjoy.    

from Santa Clara Valley Japanese Christian Church Bulletin “Hydrangea” published on 11/3/2021

Makiko Nakao  

Santa Clara Valley Japanese Christ Church pastor’s wife.
Mother of three daughters born in 🇯🇵🇨🇦🇺🇸.
Hobby: Observing my husband, aimlessly change interior decorations.
Stay-at-home wife blogger ++Violette ++https://violetteivory.wordpress.com/

 

 

WIT21 was great

Keito Okamoto (in Texas)

Hello, good evening, and good morning to everyone who reads this testimony. My name is Keito Okamoto and I am a college student in Houston, Texas, USA. This is the first time for me to write my testimony, so it may be difficult to read, but I hope you will read it until the end. So now, I would like to share my testimony.

I came to the United States on January 1, 2020 as an international student. As soon as I arrived, I could not understand English and only said “Yes” and “No” like a robot. However, when I began to understand English to a certain extent and was able to lead a reasonable daily life and university life, I suddenly had a question. Why did God send me to America? Why Texas? Why Houston? That’s when I started to wonder. Through daily Bible reading, prayer, and looking at the current situation of Japanese Christians in Houston, God gave me the answer. “God gave me the task to “share God’s word with Japanese students in Houston. When I found out about this, I immediately started a FB group to take action. Let’s tell people about God! But I had never created such a community before, so I didn’t know what to do even if I started it out of the blue. When I was praying and worrying, I received an invitation to join WIT21. At first I was like, “What is WIT? But when I heard the explanation, I thought, “This is it! What if! I had no choice but to join!” I thought, “God has heard my prayers for my problems and is leading me!” I decided to join.

I was so excited and nervous when WIT21 started. 4 sessions were held in 2 days and all of them were wonderful. There were four sessions in two days and all of them were wonderful. One of them was from 1 Corinthians 12:5-6, there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”  This is a session that was spoken from that here are differences in theology, differences in thinking, differences in gifts, and differences in the way we serve, but the God we serve is the same. I learned that we are united by God. This was a great session for me as I am now thinking about building a community. He also talked about the importance of accountability partners. What is an accountability partner?

(1) A relationship where people listen to what needs to be heard
(2) A relationship in which we watch each other in our spiritual growth.
(3) A relationship in which we can share, report and point out to each other for that purpose.
(4) A relationship of intentional and voluntary involvement.

I learned that it is important to have people who can support me in my faith life in order to build a community.

I would like to continue to follow God as an agent of His plan. I would also appreciate it if you would remember to pray for the gospel for the Japanese students in Houston.

Thank you to all the staff at WIT21.

 

WIT 21 Testimony

Saki Nishikori(in New Jersey)

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 2:1-5)

Those who served in the WIT program led workshops on how to grow as a community leader. They also shared their testimonies of their ministry experiences. They talked and reminded us to be humble leaders like Jesus, not just socially acceptable leaders, but leaders that God would be pleased to see us become.

I’m currently studying at a state university in NJ, serving at a Japanese Christian church I’ve attended since before I was born, and in youth and college ministry on the East Coast. Specifically, I have a desire to connect with and evangelize Japanese and Japanese-Americans in the NJ/NY area.

At this year’s Central Conference, Rev. Kurisu talked about whose neighbor Jesus would have been if he were in today’s society. Since then, I have been thinking about who I should be a neighbor to. Then the faces of the people around me who needed Jesus the most came to mind. And through this WIT, I realized that I want to walk in the same way that Jesus approached and showed His love to those people who may not be easy to get along with or to be friends with, but who need God’s love. Through WIT, I was able to learn a lot about how to humble myself, let go of my pride, and live a life centered on Christ’s love in both Christian and non-Christian communities.

I still have a lot to study and learn, but God spoke to me deeply as I prayed with the friends and staff I met at WIT. Ministries are not something you do by your own efforts, but something you give with gratitude and joy, just by God’s grace and love. And that God would provide us with the friends and needs we needed, regardless of our own shortcomings and weaknesses. As we build up our new community, I hope that great blessings will be poured out as we seek God in every process.

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