broke down. Ding. 😂 Isn’t it terrible to have so many breakdowns in one year?
Even if the foundation is not shaken, when the top is shaken, it’s pretty depressing.
At times like this, what has been Life-Giving for me?
(1) Devotions in the morning, when I light a candle and make a cup of hot tea.
(2) Playing ball with my dog at the dog park.
(3) Jogging and yoga.
(4) Eating delicious sweets.
(5) Using a foot massager to prevent swelling.
(6) Meditation while doing the labyrinth walk.
(7) Having a place to share your thoughts and feelings such as bible study and spiritual direction.
I am very happy to be able to do these things. When I write them down like this, I realize that it is “one-off events” that shake me up, but all the things that help me build-up are “routine.”
So by developing habits to energize even when shaken, we can build back up again, broken or not. As long as the foundation is not shaken, you can rebuild as many times as you want.
What is a Life-Giving routine for you?
The following is a quote from C.S. Lewis that O-kun shared with us during the first EC Executive Committee meeting. These words have also been a great support for me this past year.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
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”:
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
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
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/
As the 4th of July approaches, American life, which kick started the regeneration process, seems to be gradually coming back to life.
Half a year ago, I mentioned that I’m working on my rhythm for:
🌿Connect, and 🌿Create
I expected our anxiety and stress that we have had since before the pandemic would be exacerbated by stay-home life, but oddly enough, I find myself freed from them after a year.
During this year, we re-evaluated what are the essentials for us, and made an effort to protect them dearly. For me as a pastor’s wife, the biggest challenge as well as joy was the online church service we broadcasted from our living room. While the stay-at-home order was in effect, we were concerned about the mounting anxiety for our church body, so we recorded videos of the pastor’s Stay Home Life and uploaded it on Youtube, and increased the number of phone calls and visitations. As a result, our days of being chased by an increased business begun, quite contrary to the rhythm of rest and restore.
Yet it was a timely offered grace of God that I had the chance to ponder what it is that my soul is truly seeking, in contrast to the previous days when I lived my life in constant comparison with others, driven by something.
It was a great comfort and encouragement even in the midst of quarantine to be able to hold online service every week, and get connected to people from all over the world through JCFN conferences and other opportunities.
The happiest moment after the pandemic subsided was when I saw people attending the service for the first time as the church reopened. She has never come to our church before, and was put in a situation where she has to live apart from her family and friends. The pandemic begun while she is still in that condition and was able to get connected with the church and God’s family through online service and ZOOM Bible study. Her husband, who have been a seeker, was able to get baptized this Summer with the support of the church community 🙌. This was a major event that taught me how essential the “rhythm of connection” is.
The “Rest” and “Restore” are the rhythms of input in order for our busyness and stress bound souls to be filled by the peace of Jesus.
The latter “Connect” and “Create”are the output rhythms that can get us out to a new world where we can receive joy and blessing, while without them we tend to shut ourselves in with fear and anxiety.
The Rhythm I’m talking about is the contemplative way of life to retreat in silence, and then proactively go out in the world to connect with people, as Jesus did. Through the “forced quit” of this year, I learned personally that this contemplative rhythm and balance are important to our souls.
Right before the stay-home order was put in place, I attended a retreat. Until then, I saw going to a retreat for “rest” and “recovery as a treat to myself, and the time of equipment for the next, higher step and self actualization. However once I was there, I had the time of reckoning with myself that could not be satisfied even when I rested or had my wishes come true. Moreover, I saw my weaknesses and shortcomings, ugliness, and easily-hurt self. Later I realized that the retreat was not the time for me to learn a new skill or merely rest, but a superb gift of grace from God to help me to notice important needs for my soul.
Now that I look back, the whole ear was the time of retreat for my soul. Grace I received through online CC, EC, GRC, and weekly services became milestones that led me from the bondage of self-affirmation, anxiety, and fear to freedom as a child of God. In each step I took this year, there was a gaze of Jesus who is with me in pain, and through it my soul was able to see myself from a new vantage point. The peace I was given at each moment showed me the meaning of what I’ve been through, but also the meaning of the connection with people God has placed in my path.
On June 15th, the restrictions for quarantine were lifted, and I started reconnecting in relationships with church and others.
Where there is regeneration, there is also pain. Not everybody can easily jump the distance after experiencing enforced social distance and political division and discord. For example, don’t we sometime regret confiding in our friend, parent, souse, or lover our innermost thoughts? We have already experienced the hurt and pain of not being accepted when we wanted our core being, opinion, and vulnerability to be known. We live in an era when we don’t know how to regenerate our connection with others just because the world reopened again.
To be honest, I’m quite uncomfortable with small groups. I am a shy person😅. I probably had negative images (too much work. hard) towards small groups before, and was the type who couldn’t wait for it to be over. I think it was because the past pain with connection made me uncomfortable with sharing something that I’m not interested in or inconsequential surface matters. Also I was not open to sharing the innermost part of my soul that I haven’t really recognized myself. Yet if stayed afraid of connections, the soul will sooner or later be isolated and be in the optimal condition to doubt God and others, which is what the enemy who wants us to be alone.
Since I got married, I lived in three countries 🇯🇵🇨🇦🇺🇸 and moved 12 times. That was a memory of repeated desolation and pain, the accomplishment I’m not even proud of. In my 40’s it has been my major goal to rebuild the connection with trusted friends and church in a different location. For me, who are not comfortable with crowd and social situations to interact with many people, it was a struggle to go along with others. I might have looked normal to others but in my heart I was like a crown who are juggling frantically.
I’m thankful though, that I was always able to share my feelings and thoughts with my husband Suke-san (while there might be other challenges in our marital relationship😅). Through this pandemic, I learned that the connection that is important to me is not just the ones to share time and fun, but people who I can share what’s in each other’s heart, responsibility, and aspiration, even if we live far away from each other.
Especially this year, I remember instances when God has timely placed a fitting person or connection in my life. Starting with retreat, even if it was a short and limited time to share, Mrs. K who I had the honor of being in the same small group at EC, a young person who is filled with the joy of salvation and desire to serve, a person who is fighting valiantly with trauma, or someone else who sent me a surprise gift. By focusing on God’s timely placement such as these, the connection with others that used to feel like a bothersome chore transformed into the connection of grace where I can face my soul.
I made prayer Lei for my daughters. I heard that Lei has a meaning of “beloved child”, so I have prayerfully woven raffia and flowers together for every graduation. There are connections prepared for us, which God himself planned and leads us to meet those people. The connection that provides rest for the heart, by simply being there, and the connection to provide encouragement and sincere interaction through just sharing time together. Even the connection that pains us or cause suffering, when it is connected and woven by the hand of God, it becomes a one of a kind, original “Lei-a beloved child”, even though it may appear a little awkward. At each milestone of our lives, God gently place it on our neck and lovingly utters “You are my beloved child. In you I am delighted”, and teaches us that the connection has become a beautiful Prayer Lei. As I thought of my children and prayed, wouldn’t God instead of counting our shortcomings and weaknesses, to remind us of these connections and communicate how much we are loved and blessed?
From now on, instead of seeking connection for self validation or for pride:
→ I want to re-receive the connection God gives with thanksgiving.
→ I want to choose to bless others sincerely and love them.
→ To be a friend who others want to be friend with.
This pandemic was the time to give thanks again for Jesus Christ who became my friend friend and loves me as a whole, weakness and shortcomings and all. I hope to enjoy the connection with Jesus who walks with me, and the true freedom as God’s beloved child in this era of new regeneration.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
I was nervous every time since I was not used to sharing in this way. With thanksgiving for such precious opportunity, I would like to keep writing in my blog about the rhythm of soul. Thank you for reading, everyone! 🌿
Santa Clara Valley Japanese Christ Church pastor’s wife. Mother of three daughters born in 🇯🇵🇨🇦🇺🇸. Hobby: Observing my husband, aimlessly change interior decorations. Saty-at-home wife blogger ＋＋Violette ＋＋https://violetteivory.wordpress.com/