(日本語) 「日常生活」という修練

Dr. Sachi Nakamura(Christian Books Translator, Spiritual Director, JCFN Board Member)

Over half-a-year ago, I read an article in Christianity Today. The article featured a conversation between a woman doing her doctorate studies at Regent College in Canada and Eugene Peterson. The student had a new-born baby, and was feeling frustrated about being occupied and distracted by her baby whenever she tried to read the Bible. She asked Peterson if he could recommend any spiritual disciples for her to help her get out of her spiritual rut. Peterson asked her this question.

“Is there anything you are doing regularly every day without fail?”

She thought about it. One thing she could think of that she did many times a day was breastfeeding. When she told Peterson that, he replied, 

“That is your spiritual disciple. From now on, pay close attention when you do what you are already doing. Be present.” 

The student (now a pastor’s wife) reflected on that conversation and said this:

“I had a strong temptation to do something for Christ rather than to be in Christ.I was starting to see my daily responsibilities in the home as obstacles to living as a devout Christian. However, in reality, those were the exact places where God wanted to meet with me.  Upon realizing that, my understanding of “submission to God” was expanded to include the simple act of “being in Christ (John 15).”

 

As I read that section of the article, I was reminded of the time when my daughter was battling cancer. Although I had just begun my courses for becoming a spiritual director, I was having to miss many classes. This is what my teacher told me. 

“My heart feels so much compassion and care for you and your daughter, as well as your entire family.  You are living life as it is, not as an interruption to a program.  You are living what you are learning, that God is in the midst of every sacred moment of your life, and that of Miho’s.  You need to put your attention there, and what is happening each day for her, and for you.  ……

Do not worry about deadlines, papers, or anything.  Let go of pressure to finish on time.  What we are about is reflecting on how God is active in your real life, now.  ….”

Taking care of my daughter battling cancer was quite far from what people would call as “daily life.” However, the point is that we need to realize that God is at work in the midst of our daily lives. We need to simply respond to Him from that place. It may be when each day seem monotonous  and repetitive…. Or else, when you find yourself in the midst of suffering that totally alters your course of life. Whatever we are facing, we are called to live out our “daily lives” intentionally while remaining in Christ. We do not need to scramble to live the way we think we should be living. Rather, we need to discern what the Lord is inviting us into; the here and now

As we respond to this invitation, many areas of your daily life may start to look differently. God may bring to light some of your habits, thoughts and response patterns that are distancing you from  God or robbing intimacy with those around you. God may also lead you to incorporate new activities (disciplines) to help you draw closer to Him. At that time, my daily routine included making soup for my daughter in the morning. That became my prayer time. As I chopped vegetables and cooked them, I did them prayerfully as if I was offering them to God. By becoming more aware of God’s presence, each step of preparing the soup became acts of serving in the temple for me.

What are you facing in your “daily life”? What are some things you do routinely? Some of you may feel that you are too busy to find time to be quiet  before God. Spiritual disciplines do not have to look very “spiritual.” Even your commute to work, whether in a crowded train, or through bad traffic on the freeway, can become your place of prayer, a monastery. As you take care of a baby, pick up your children from school, wash dishes, fold laundry, even engage in a difficult relationship with someone at work or school, those can all become opportunities to meet with God as long as you are remaining in Christ. 

God invites us to start now, in the midst of our daily lives. Lord, please help us to respond to your invitation.

Blessings from WIT

Hikaru Miyazaki (WIT19 MWP) 

I normally go to Gospel Siloam Church in Pasadena, California. Through participating in WIT recently, I met many new people from different states and regions, made many connections and experienced many new things.
A few things about my background. Since I was young, my mother would take me to the local Catholic Church. I was baptized sometime during 5th grade. My high school was a Christian school and my dorm in Tokyo was a Catholic girls’ dorm where the sisters lived together with us. However, despite being closer to God in such an environment, not once did I ever think to read the Bible or pray of my own volition. At this time, I didn’t understand God’s love at all.
When I came to America, my host family was Catholic and they occasionally took me to church, but going to church felt like nothing more than an obligation and I gradually stopped going.
Around this time for the first year or so, I couldn’t get used to my surrounding environment and I came to fear associating with people. I didn’t really want to associate with anyone outside of school and I would run from everything else. At that time, I really wanted some place to run away to.
Some time later, I began going to church again through a ministry called “Friday.” At first, because I wanted to avoid people and I was surprised by the difference in worship atmosphere from Catholic churches, I didn’t attend very regularly. But because the people at that church were always really kind to me, I started to attend more regularly.
Though it took a lot of time, I gradually came to know more and more about God’s love and the meaning of the cross, and in May of last year, I was baptized for the second time in my life at Siloam Church.
Since the theme of WIT was “True Worshipper,” I started wondering what that “true” meant, and whether or not I had leadership skills. Then I was told about worship ministry and was asked if I’d like to lead worship. While I was very happy that God was using me, this was my first time leading anything and I was super nervous and scared because I had no confidence being in front of people. So I started having stomachaches the closer it got to WIT (lol I prayed for the worship lead and team, and many others prayed too.).
I was so nervous leading worship and there were times I just wanted to give up and go home, (lol) but the whole team and Yuri, who lead together with me, encouraged me a lot. The kids in my small group and together in the same room also prayed a lot for me. I once again felt that God really does hear prayers. At the same time, I also realized how difficult it is to give God all of your heart and to praise Him sincerely with all your heart.
I was very inspired by all the testimonies I heard during WIT. There were people from Christian backgrounds as well as those who believed inGod coming from various backgrounds. It was very interesting hearing about all their worries and troubles after coming to God, and I felt just how amazing God’s plans are. I was shown how God always prepares the best path for each and every one of us and we can trust and follow Him. And I now really look forward to seeing how God will lead and use me and the people around me.
And I was very grateful for all the WIT staff who spent a lot of time and energy planning and preparing things like presentations.
In the month right after WIT, even right after it ended, there were moments my sin was revealed to me and I had to face my sin and filthiness. I really hated seeing my own filthiness, saw no value in myself, and I really wondered how God could send Jesus to for someone like me.
But then I was reminded of the extent of God’s love and grace, that God’s love for me is infinitely more than enough.
Though I really can’t do much, I want to become a vessel that serves God more, I want God to use me. Even though I can get very weary of daily life, I want to remain in God’s love, trust in His grace and the plan He prepared for me, and live a life of faith.

Being Grounded in the Absolute Love of God

Dr. Sachi Nakamura(Christian Books Translator、JCFN Board Member、Spiritual Director)

 

 

Few years ago, I came across these words by a Catholic Trappist monk, James Finley. 

“(God is) the infinity of the unforeseeable; so we know that [the unforeseeable] is trustworthy, because in everything, God is trying to move us into Christ consciousness. If we are absolutely grounded in the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing even as it sustains us in all things, then we can face all things with courage and tenderness and touch the hurting places in others and in ourselves with love.” 

“…the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing even as it sustains us in all things,…” Thinking that I had misread this phrase, I read it over several times. However, that is surely what it said; “…the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing even as it sustains us in all things,…”

                     It does not mean that God does not protect us from anything. However, whether it is a natural disaster, illness, losing a job, or a bereavement of a loved one, such things that happen in this world may happen to anyone who believes in God. God’s love does not protect us from experiencing tragedy, suffering and pain. We all know this from our own experiences. No one can say that they have not experienced some kind of sadness, hardships, or things they cannot understand why it happened. Nonetheless, God’s love sustains us in the midst of it all, no matter how tragic the circumstance is, and how difficult and painful the experience may be. Many of us also know this from our personal experiences. 

                    When you look back at your life, can you identify painful and difficult times that had made you wonder why God didn’t protect you from such circumstances? The pain might have felt unbearable at that moment. You may not have felt His presence during it. However, now turn your thoughts to the truth that God did sustain you through it. The fact that you are reading this sentence right now is proof that the Lord was with you during your difficult time to sustain you. At that time, how and in what ways did the Lord abide with you in your difficulties? Maybe you were not able to notice Him then, but as you look back on it now, you may be able to recognize how His hand was at work. 

                     What about you now? Maybe some of you are going through a great deal of suffering at this moment. You might be facing a painful time and are wondering why God is not protecting you from it. Others of you may not feel like you are going through any specific trials, but are somehow feeling suffocated by the chronic burdens of life. Regardless of the circumstances, how is God sustaining you? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you become aware of Christ’s presence and comfort in the midst of your life. 

                      As we look into the future, there is absolutely no guarantee that we will not face any troubles. In fact, Jesus told us that in this world, there will be trouble. Although we are unable to avoid troubles, we can ask the Lord to help us become absolutely grounded in the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing even as it sustains us in all things.

 

“(T)hen we can face all things with courage and tenderness and touch the hurting places in others and in ourselves with love.” Let us also reflect on those words of Finley.

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