Have you registered for GRC21 yet?
As you know, GRC21 will be held online due to COVID-19.
Please join us from wherever you are.
Date: Sunday, May 2 – Tuesday, May 4
Theme: in Jesus’ name…
Main Speaker: Rev. Eiko Takamizawa, Rev. Nobuyuki Toyoda, Rev. Mitsuru Fujimoto
Subcommittee Lecturers: Ms. Hiromi Kakehashi, Rev. Akiya Shimomura, Ms. Sachi Nakamura, Rev. Kiyoshi Mizutani, Rev. Grant & Miho Buckholtz, Dr. Kimihisa Murakami, Rev. Shohei Yamato, Rev. Yoshie Yokoyama, Rev. Yasutaka Yoshioka
Broadcast method: Zoom
Fee: 4,000 yen (4,200 yen if paid by credit card)
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As my March schedule nears to the end, I found myself a little bit scared to turn the next page. I try to refresh my mood and get ready for the new life, while locking regrets of “what ifs” and “I could haves” in a corner of my heart.
March was perhaps a mixture of anxiety and hope.
The other day in Santa Clara County, Northern California, where I live, the COVID cases tracker color codes went down from purple to red to orange. Schools started meeting for the first time in a year in person, and cities and churches suddenly became abuzz with activities toward the Spring of joy. Now our bodies and minds are in full throttle to get adjusted to the new changes, with no room left to reflect back on the past year.
10 years ago I encountered this Dallas Willard’s quote.
The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it’s who you become.
Ironically I feel like I spent the half of the 10 years since, seeking “what I can accomplish” and “how to become worthy”.
It’s not that I intended to strive for a lofty goal to “accomplish something”. I think I was just envisioning small and seemingly attainable hopes, plans, and ideals within my capability and resources. But at one point, I was able to come to a stop because of a “forced power off”, and looked back on these words to ponder what kind of a person I really wanted to be. I think God has led me to a journey to learn “the most important thing in my life” so that He can set in motion “God’ plan”, which is far more spectacular than my little wishes and plans.
We go and get new uniforms and suits for a new semester, new life, and in a new place. We receive this university’s or that company’s IDs. At home we wear our uniforms as wife, husband, or parents and set out for the new semester with fresh minds. From that point on, we make efforts to achieve, following the suit of people who are ahead of us and around us, and try to change ourselves. We try frantically, even skipping the process of setting our own pace and adjustment, maybe because we want to establish our standing and feel secure once we put on the new uniform.
A few months ago, during a Spiritual Direction session, my SD (Spiritual Director) asked; “Did you put on the uniform yourself? Or is that something somebody else has put on you?” I had thought that I have handily managed being in and out of several uniforms, and I looked rather good in them. Up until then, I sometime received grace and privilege because of these uniforms, and felt proud of them. At other times I was hurt, lonely, and in pain. When I looked closely, I realized my uniforms were getting pretty raggedy. Yet I didn’t feel ashamed or repulsed. Rather, I even felt that was “like me”, just like a vintage that increases its value with the passage of time.
When I closed my eyes next, it was as if God’s warm eyes and Jesus’s hands were extended to me, and I imagined myself reaching out to take that hand.
“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
The words of Mark 1:11 came to my heart and several months from that point, I pondered these words numerous times and I felt myself gradually being freed from the strong attachment to the search for “my style”, “my role”, and “my worth”.
I used to constantly wonder “what if…”, but now it doesn’t feel like such a big deal
even if I lost these uniforms,
and couldn’t find out if I put these on,
or others put them on me,
or what is “truly me”.
This is because I was able to embrace that there is nothing greater than the joy of knowing myself as “God’s beloved”. When Jesus met Peter, he said in Mark 1:17:
Follow Me, I will have you become fishers of people. (Mark 1:17)
This is the word with which I dedicated my life to ministry, and I realized for a long time I’ve been clutching on to it. Probably because I felt like there was nothing else I can be proud of, such as my worth or accomplishments.
Peter didn’t receive any uniform or company ID, admittance notice or Visa, other than Jesus’s words and that he was made a disciple. So, maybe sometimes we become anxious and try to obtain an ID.
For some people:
・To be acknowledged as a good disciple and a Christian.
・To be a capable boss or a subordinate.
・To be a wife who can perfectly execute house work and child raring.
・To have a personality to get along with everyone.
・To be a master fisherman whose ministry always leads to people’s salvation.
・To be a preacher who can knock out a hit every time.
・To be a person of love who can meet any needs.
・To be a person of integrity who is trusted and relied upon.
・To have mercy and a capacity deeper and wider than the ocean.
If possible, I want all of these IDs, but I would be weighed down and could hardly walk.
The words Peter received from Jesus were just “follow me” and “I will make you…” That was also a promise to make him become an original being, which only Jesus could do.
From the beginning, it was not about achievement by my Doing, nor did I need to obsess over Being in my style. He just invited me to “follow Him”, so that I can joyfully enjoy the journey with the one who lives alongside me.
After I came to a stop, I gave up the method of reading the Bible as if it was a duty or a discipline. Instead, I begun to yearn for the experience of deep fellowship with the One who speaks to my soul through the Bible reading. My desire is to live in that joy every day.
For me, meditations and Lectio Divina that I learned from Sachi Nakamura over a long period of time, and participation in the spiritual exercise and contemplative retreat were helpful. Before I know it, my grip on the questions of “who is my true self?” “What kind of me is the most authentic me?” become loose.
When I desire to enjoy and rejoice in the rich time I spend with God, I lose interest in various identifications and titles that I used to want. Moreover, God has shown me my daily transforming self (soul?), and set my heart free. Then I became assured of my never changing identity as “God’s beloved” even when I struggle to fit and get adjusted to the uniforms that change as I moved across three countries, lived in different places (country and area), and belonged to different entities (school, company, organization, and my space). To the question, “who I want to be”; it’s not that everyone will be the same, but if Christ was formed within each of us, church will be a wonderful temple of God in the age of Phygital Church, too.
Some time in silence, and other time through service, each of us rejoice in the life of profound fellowship with the one who make us beloved children. I hope we can always listen to the word of Christ, who journeys with us, daily atones us, and continue to make us, and together rejoice and enjoy.
I would like to share with you 5 words of Jesus (Matthew 14) as we turn the new page in April with our souls oscillating in various emotions such as anxiety, wariness, impatience, tension, hope, and joy .
- 🌿Take Heart
- 🌿It is I
- 🌿Do not be afraid
- 🌿Why did you doubt?
Which word resonates with you today?
I hope we can embrace the fellowship with the one who comes alongside my heart and speaks to it, above all else this coming month.🌿
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