Redeployed and Repositioned Part 3: Periwinkle Quantum Mechanics

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I know the title is weird but bear with me.

In high school I wrote a poem on the plane from Lima to Cuzco about being a periwinkle particle in the grey abode between ying and yang. It was about being queer. It manifested a lot of the gender insecurity I had that time that never took a transgender direction, and I am glad I was going through that a little bit before now because the juggernaut transgender ideology can be merciless to those who lack gender security. That’s another story so I will leave it be.

The grey abode, it felt like that. The line between ying and yang is just a line, its not a great abode but it was foggy and dim and I couldn’t see beyond it nor could I see many around me in that season of life. God eventually asked me to repent of this identity. It was one of the “false visages of the ego” I wrote about earlier. It was not just rooted in insecurity but also pride. I am not either or but somehow I can transcend them both and be some thing greater. “I will ascend to the heavens,” said Lucifer of old. He would not stay in the station allotted to him. But the Lord has given me a good station. “Male and female he created them.” And, “He has set my boundaries in good places.” Once the Lord told me, “It is written all over your body that you are a man.”

I am very grateful for this. This was good news. Through it, I could find the courage to “man up.” And although that can have a ring of “toxic masculinity it,” and it can go in that direction, I don’t mean it that way. I don’t mean it in the stuff your emotions in your boot and move on kind of rugged individualistic pseudo-stoicism that is a toxic form of masculinity. But I mean it in the sense of rising to the challenge, proving myself on the grand stage, not isolated, but under the loving presence and affirmation of my Father. The deep boyhood longings that were always there could begin to find fulfillment in real life instead of fantasy land. I am still in the unfurling of that journey.

This growth in gender security is what I am most grateful for in my various stints at reparative therapy. But I didn’t come out heterosexual. Oh well. Lol. God still has plans for me. I have more clarity about my own manhood and masculine call and am grateful for that. But now that I have unpacked the context of my metaphor I want to employ it some.

A periwinkle particle between ying and yang. Not one or the other. Eclectic. Not having my own clique, belonging in many but belonging in non. Growing up Lutheran and Pentecostal but belonging to both and neither. Growing up in a broken family (read two families) and belonging to both and neither. I am in process to grow in belonging in my own families of origin and that has been a feat living most of my adult life half way across the planet. Then,,, being queer and growing up in church…

I have tears, and tears, and tears that could probably picture what trying to belong has been like. I am still struggling with that. And all the deconstructionists be like what is the church really. Well, this much I think we can all agree on, the Church is the People of God. Sometimes those people suck but everyone of them is valuable and cherished by God so much that he sent his Son to die for them.

I must tread careful lest I, in reaction, think I can undo all of that and therefore crucify the Son of God all over again and subject him to public disgrace.


Factor 1) the struggle to belong b/c of upbringing

Factor 2) the struggle to belong b/c of queer experience

Factor 3) the struggle to belong b/c of personality and temperament (quimsical and having wide curiosity)

Factor 4) the struggle to belong b/c of becoming virtually third culture by living most of my adult life outside my home country

So, like a periwinkle particle floating in the grey abode between ying and yang, I can relate to Andy Raine’s words, yet again:

INTEGRITY means not separated or even distinct. This may be a pride issue for outliers who define themselves as standing apart from the crowd. But then YOUR crowd, your TRIBE, may unexpectedly feel like a natural fit: I was made for this time, this moment, this people. It is quietly a moment of destiny. It was worth having been born just to have this happen.

Andy Raine

So Jesus is continuing this work of integration. I am not separate from my own gender. Okay, that was good news. I am not separate from my family. I am not separate from that body of sinners called the human race, nor the hospital that ministrates them unto sainthood.

I want a moment for this right now. I just want to repent of all of the pride that says, I am apart in any way that I have decided to be apart. God is the one who sanctifies. He sets us apart. But when I do that I am playing God’s role. No oh baby, I cannot do that.

And so as I approach the end of this new year, I examine my heart and I repent. Others may connect with this and I invite you to repent. Jesus is waiting for you.

(Up and coming, writing about factors of being an outlier or my crowd/tribe, and or more repentance stuff).

Wend with the wind

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From the Newsletter

 One of my favorite scriptures is John 3:8. Usually if I ever meet someone who likes this verse I almost immediately like them. I have met at least two people who have had some part of this verse tattooed on their body and they turned out very likable people to me.

     What I won’t be tattooing anytime soon is my address. I am finally starting to get writing the Chinese characters of my address down. It’s much easier than my last two addresses and so the learning curve is shorter. Getting a physical at a new clinic, appealing for a reduction in my national health insurance payments (four months of unemployment on top of reduced pay takes a hit you know), and I feel like I have been writing my address a lot these days.

     Growing up I did a lot of moving too. Not all over the place but with my mom’s family I moved across town seven times. My dad moved around less. After high school I moved around geographically a lot more. Copenhagen, Escanaba, Minneapolis, Nagasaki, Kansas City, Fukushima, Kumamoto, and now Oita are the cities I have lived in since leaving home. Each place has profound memories, friends, many have faded, but when I recall them I still cherish them. Each place had its investment in the process of establishing a community of support for myself. Each place came with the leadership of the Lord and his caretaking despite my lack of faith at too many junctures. 

     The quote from Bilbo above is his second rendition of the poem. He turns the word eager into weary. Weariness does not replace eagerness for me but it casts it in shadow. And maybe this is the end of my quest. Wandering in the desert, camping at “lonely mountain,” and growing among mighty men and brave sisters has exposed I think some faults in my foundation that going back to my own source waters in the Fox River Valley might help tend, fill, and set. 

     Just off of the cuff, I can think of economic vitality, taking more ownership of a place amongst my people and having a sense of rootedness, therapy, addressing loneliness with the backing of friends and family instead of venturing out on my own, and finally, realigning in my relationship with the body of Christ. These were many of the things I had tried to do while in Kansas City my second time around there. I thought it would be my Rivendell. It ended up being more like my Mirkwood but there was an eleven kingdom there and I was ministered to in many great ways that advanced the journey of my heart. 

     I suspect that Lord took me to Kumamoto to help me realize my need to say no to compromise, to career/professional ministry that is not backed on a life submitted to the Word and full of the Spirit, that is not vibrant in brotherly love, and to gird up what remains in me and was about to die. I know my heart needs better soil and Oita has brought a lot of that. 

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

– John 3:8, NIV
     

I am so grateful for the faithfulness of God. I trust he used me in places where I have gone and I am grateful for those who have become followers of Jesus from Nagasaki, Fukushima, and Kumamoto but I can also see how he has been faithful to me in my wanderings. One of the things we talk about in YWAM Oita is that God is big and God is good. I know God has more adventures for me in Oita before the next change of address.

     And so I wait.

     And I watch.

And I intend to go His way, confident he fulfills all of his promises. 

Redeployed and Repositioned: according to our integrity and authenticity

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Currently there is a downfall of rain from the typhoon over Tokyo where I am in quarantine because we live in a pandemic still. Its been like a super nice mini-sabbatical where I have been able to stay with renewing Lutheran missionaries who know their stuff and have heart and hospitality. In some ways, I am in the shadow of what I am leaving behind but I am also gaining insights as to what leaving the ELCA behind could mean in terms of keeping relationships and and keeping vigil. But I am not writing about that transition today. I am in quarantine because I went home for a month to bid an eschatological see you later to my grandmother, see her buried, and be with family.

Let me just say that my time home was in one word: restorative. My last blog, in this miniseries I left with a lot of questions. One of those was, what is in the cards for me to get well? Well, a trip home was one of them. It offered a lot of time to just be and to just be with some pretty amazing people I am lucky to call my family. One of the great conversations I had while home was with my sister-in-law who sent me a podcast and book by Martha Beck, The Way of Integrity. The premises of the book based on what I could hear in her podcast (I have not picked up the book yet) are a bit post-Christian while also new aging, so if I read the book it will be like eating fish but more important than that is the conversation with my sister-in-law about integrity.

Whew. That is right in a line with what rang a pulse through my body when I read Andy Raine’s post about outliers where he says:

INTEGRITY means not separated
or even distinct.
This may be a pride issue for outliers
who define themselves as
standing apart from the crowd.
But then YOUR crowd,
your TRIBE, may unexpectedly feel
like a natural fit:
I was made for this time,
this moment, this people.
It is quietly a moment of destiny.
It was worth having been born
just to have this happen.

Andy Raine, Outliers #31

A common theme between Martha Beck, my conversation with my sister-in-law, and what Andy was writing about is this need to have integrity in which we are not internally separated. Separation is the same as duplicity, except it can be divided in more than two ways (although the double mindedness maybe shouldn’t be understood that literally). These divisions usually are rooted in some kind of dishonesty. In a culture that values the truth greatly dishonesty comes when one tells lies. But part of me wants to imagine, that regardless of culture, their is a human longing to be true and authentic. Lies come out of the need to protect oneself from unsafe environments where it is not safe to be one’s authentic self. What is needed for the emancipation of the authentic life, in order to live as a whole person, fully integrated or with integrity is unconditional love (including unconditional positive regard), forgiveness, and grace. Grace is critical because our true self is not merely buried in our created self but is actually hidden with God in Christ and emerges out of our dynamic and vivifying encounter with him and transformed by that encounter through the Holy Spirit.

Interesting that each of these things can relate to a person of the Trinity. The Father, who is our creator, holds us in perfect love and longs for us to thrive. The Aaronic blessing goes “May his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.” That sounds like the perfection of unconditional positive regard, and I don’t have to do it for myself, its not dependent on me holding myself up it comes form the Almighty One who’s very Word holds the worlds in motion, and holds my heart in affectionate love.


Forgiveness is critical because, obviously, we make mistakes, make messes, are hurt and hurt others. As the Small Catechism states about the Sacrament of the Altar in response to the catechumen’s question “What benefits does communion give?

The words tell us: Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
Through these words are given to us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation; for where there is forgiveness of sins there is also , life, and salvation [healing].

Luther’s Small Catechism, tr Sarah Hinlicky Wilson

So God the Son comes to bring both forgiveness, cleansing, and healing. He is the sign of this and is our great reconciler and advocate, championing our true selves even has he reveals it to us through the ministration of his lordship and the authority of his life giving word and work.

Finally, God the Holy Spirit comes to take residence in us and enact the work of transformation in us in a new synergy with God’s own nature.

I’ve digressed a bit from the emotional journey I’ve been on but its helpful for spell out how what is needed for integrity is provided in our relationship with the Triune God. God is not withholding anything from us. We should not think, like Eve of old that our true self is unlocked by the power of knowledge of good and evil, our own judging and judgements, but on the basis of God’s Word. We should be like Mary who says, let it be thus, according to your Word. What is this Word that God brings? While it is Torah, it is Jesus himself, it is the Holy Spirit saturated Word that is not like a two-dimensional piece of information on a page nor a simple law, its a new and living way. We are invited on way. Jesus says I am the way.

So I want to reconcile to myself but I cannot do it by myself, I need the Father’s work of loving definition, the Son’s work of saving, healing, restoring, and protecting work as the true shepherd who lays his life down, and the Spirit’s transformative and sanctifying work which empowers and recreates me out of false visages of the ego and into my true self.

I thought I would get how being an outlier complicates all of this but this is enough for now and I will write on that next time.

Saul’s armor, heavy burdens, and the way out.

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Unplugging used to mean something similar to decompressing, or unwinding. The world compresses us, and our jobs and/or other responsibilities have us all wound up and sometimes we we need to unplug from all of that.

Nowadays, unplugging might have more of the connotation of a break from digital technologies which also now compress and wind us up in some kind of web. As I write from my quarantine residence in Tokyo I have been talking with my hosts a lot about the surveillance nature of digital technology and the companies that take advantage of us. We watched The Social Dilemma together as a part of this conversation.

When something doesn’t fit it becomes a heavy burden. This was David’s experience with Saul’s armor. It was my experience with my former job and denomination, and at a much deeper level its our human experience with sin whether that is in a superstructure of plastic market consumerism, imbibed with other systemic evils, or any personal vice that promises life while actually robbing us of life.

Sin is slavery. The Israelites were slaves and this is often used as a metaphor for how sin is slavery. In some ways, this narrative goes all the way back to the beginning. Originally, we see sabbath rest as a command of God because he rested on the seventh day. He set the example for us. Slaves don’t get to rest and both Genesis and Exodus were written in the ancient near east where most creation stories had the creation of human beings as some sort of slavery for the gods. This often justified the rulers who were the only sons of God. But Genesis shows us that all humankind are sons of God in the sense that we are decendents of Adam and Eve who were children of God, given rule, and not slaves.

But then comes the usurper. He enslaves humankind through his deception. In Exodus we see another type of this as a false narrative of Pharaoh being the only son of god being the basis for his rule and ability to enslave and oppress God’s people. So in Deuteronomy we are given a new reason to practice sabbath, because God rescued his people from Egypt. Sabbath is anti-slavery practice.

Jesus also rescues us from another kind of slavery, religious slavery. “For man was not created for the sabbath but the sabbath for man.” God’s Torah, his teaching and law are not given to enslave humankind in rules, like God is some divine rule master, but are supposed to show the way of life and to guard and dignify that life. That is the right use of Torah. In fulfilling the Law, Jesus offers us in his own life given on the cross, the power of an indestructible life. This life comes not only his divinity but also is perfectly applicable to us through his humanity, a humanity lived in perfect obedience and completion of Torah. He doesn’t give us Saul’s armor, he gives us a yolk which is easy and a burden which is light. He is the way out.

Capturing a flow of water on my way to home fellowship with YWAM Oita.

“You have to understand, most people are not ready to be unplugged…”

Morpheus, ‘The Matrix’ (1999).

So as I have been trying to unplug from burnout, a toxic and traumatic time in the last few seasons of life, how do I actually do this well? I can plug into Netflix, or plug into complaining; I can plug into human saviors or comfort foods or endless other masters that just bring more compression and bondage. I need to plug into Christ, who is my true rest and healer. Through him I am offered a new and living way where I can enter God’s rest. This Jesus centered practice of sabbath is my lifeline for getting out of this mess. Since last spring, I have started a new job, moved to a new apartment, went back to America for my grandma’s funeral, helped my niece bury her grandfather, been with family through their and my own mutual grief. And there is a lot of grief: losing grandma, living on the other side of the world and feeling the pang of lost time together while anticipating I am going back to do it again, COVID grief. And so, we all need to unplug and we can only really get free by plugging into Jesus Christ, the Author of Life. He has a way that is organically just fit for us and it comes by the Holy Spirit he puts inside us to inhabit and guide us on our way. It’s symbiotic. The Spirit of truth and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, the knowledge of God does life with us.

Redeployed and Repositioned

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Tonight I am writing from the twenty-second story of the Japan Rail building adjacent to the station. From here am overlooking the night sky, I can see my own apartment a couple of blocks away. Redeployment in some ways describes the transition from Kumamoto to Oita. But before I rush myself I need to be honest, for only by the truth can we make a good confession.

I am tired. I am broken. I am sad. I am afraid. I am making it because Jesus still carries me, he still calls me to rest at his feet, he still binds me up, he still collects every tear dropped and he still calms the waters.

At summer school the children have been singing Calm to the Waves (ELW 794). I never intended for them to sing along, its a difficult song (and we are not supposed to be singing) but I cannot really stop them either, not without the logical consistency of stopping summer school. Likely not knowing what the words mean, I thought the tune would be soothing for them but its become one of the very few soothing things in a chaotic day.

I am tired.

Tonight might start a miniseries on of bounced on reflections from something Andy Raine of the Northumbria Community wrote on the last day of last month. This community has intersected my life at a variety of junctures beginning with my time with the Source Boiler Room back in Minneapolis, my involvement with 24-7 Prayer, and my own personal use of their take on the Daily Office.

Yet I digress. Raine’s post was about repositioning and redeployment. In summary, it was about how we as the body of Christ need to reposition ourselves to be were our unique giftedness can have the most influence among outliers and marginalized people. However, often we run out of steam before we get there.

I get that. From the article:

REDEPLOYED = availability to be sent,
repositioning ourselves to be
where we feel we should be
according to our integrity
and authenticity.

Andy Raine

So first there is the call to be available and to be available I cannot be burnt out. So I am making it because I am not burning out yet but what is in the cards for me to get well? To be a missionary is first and foremost to be a minister of the Gospel, that core is shared with the pastoral office. But how can I do that well if I don’t even believe the Gospel for myself anymore?

And I don’t mean I am having a crisis of faith in the intellectual, doctrinal sense. This is my heart. Do I believe fully in the goodness of God and do I believe he can provide a good community to heal in for me? Do I believe there is a place for me in the church? I have long felt called to the outliers but I have always been an outlier myself. Will there indeed be rivers in the desert?

And so before I reposition myself to other outliers, apart from whatever mini-assignments the Holy Spirit gives me, I need to reposition myself to be where I feel I should according to our integrity and authenticity. I can only discern my integrity by continuing an all in submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. That is part of why I am queer in Christ, I am not trying to lob parts of myself off–Jesus can put to death what needs to die but I cannot save myself. All of me, before the Lord and then all of me before others. That is the call to authenticity and vulnerability. And I can only discern authenticity by having a deep trust in the goodness of the Lord and faith in the good work that he is doing in me in spite of so many attempts to self-sabotage. This is the Gospel for myself. Do I believe it? Can I live?

Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief.

Belonging to and with the whole inhabited earth for the sake of Christ.

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When I look back on the friends I have made in Kumamoto, my friends wedding, the people I am meeting in Oita I remember that the reality of accompaniment continues. I belong first to and with God as his child but then through my union with Christ I belong to and with God’s holy people and with those people I belong to the nations.

So Oita has become at least a way station. Over the last half year as I have discerned whether it was really sustainable for me to continue in Kumamoto I was also receiving a call and invitation from a group of missionary friends and a Japanese pastor and apostolic worker (church planter) to join the pioneering of a missions base and the ongoing life of a dynamic protestant congregation in Oita City. And at the last, I said yes.

I am in no rush to join in any great work. I was privileged to be invited into some of the apostolic strategic planning of the new base as a outside observer/advisor and the YWAM (Youth With a Mission) community has offered incredible hospitality for a dear friend and I to live with one of the families here as we transition. My friend and I were both seeking a deeper experience of Christian community that felt faithful and authentic. The next season is primarily about healing and finding a place to belong in this new international community.

Whatever mission work develops will develop out of these relationships and friendships which have the priority. Logistically, I have to change my visa and get a new job and have signed a contract to work at an international preschool as a means to both stay in Japan legally and have a source of income even though it is much less than before.

We belong to our Triune God and through God we belong to the nations as salt, as light, as a kingdom of priests.

Why I left Luther, Kumamoto etc.

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In some ways I have been eager to write about this and those nearest me have probably heard about it from word of mouth. Why? Well, its a bit dramatic and cathartic to talk about the stressors in my life, and in a certain sense stressors ultimately drove me to this point.

On the other hand, I want to be careful to be as honorable as possible while also being honest about what has been my experience as an ELCA missionary in Japan. I want to honor the eighth commandment as best as I understand how it might restrain a full telling, in order to protect the reputation of certain persons. So rather than give a narrative I will give some themes and give vague accounts of what occurred and how it spurred me to come to the place where the only choice I felt I could do and keep either my integrity or sanity was to leave the work at the school and congregations I had been called to accompany.

False Teaching

This was the biggest reason I left. In every corner I turned I found unbiblical teaching present. Although I believe in the the Moravian sense of In the essentials unity, in the nonessentials diversity, in all things charity, I consistent came across things that I discerned violated fundamentals of the faith or by the open preaching and teaching thereof erode the faith of the faithful. There were various issues of praxis that arose that as far as visibly possible remained unrepentant including remarrying while a relationship with the former spouse still exists, drunkenness, contempt and hatred towards a brother (of whom I was the recipient), disregard for avoiding idolatry or its appearance in the name of experiencing the culture, philosophical materialism, belief that polyamory is acceptable for Christians married or unmarried, the praise and advocating of abortion, assumed universalism, the open confession and practice of fornication (hooking up) from one involved in local leadership, the teaching that Christians are not called to holiness or to live a holy life, whereby the doctrines of grace become a license to sin (basically a form of antinomianism), and finally the disparaging of the sacred scriptures which were given for our salvation and the open teaching that they are not worthy of trust, and the private counsel from a said leader that he does not believe in most of the Bible, not even all of the Gospels, just the Jesus that he apparently picks and chooses out of the Bible.

It might seem crazy to some that I even remained as long as I did given such a long list of things but the only thing I can say is that I felt there was also a corner or base from which I might stand together in witness to the truth and join in the work of discipleship that had regard for the whole counsel of God. But at the end it seemed like I had no partner in this and I was totally alone and given that the final revelation put me in direct and consistent work with one who taught against the scriptures quite openly, despite my external call to continue in the ministry the internal call resonant with scriptural teaching (see 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Ephesians 5:3-6, Titus 3:10) drove me to resign in order that I could leave what has become a spiritually toxic place for me, and sadly I felt, most who would come under the tutelage of those about me.

Interpersonal Conflict

Some of this did not come from those in the number of those called saints but most of it did. I had come out of a church context where I was in some ways kicked out because of coming out as queer (and celibate) and I had not quite come over that when I was finding a gaggle of people opposing me. The first opposed me because I had a Pentecostal experience which they found threatening, another because I was pro-life, and then for little reason, I became the target of bullying at first by a teacher at my school and also outright contempt and hatred from one of my colleagues. This was very hard. Some have given me counsel that worldly Christians are often easy conduits for demons to attack you through and that couldn’t better describe and summarize what I was experiencing on a daily basis for two solid years straight, and I mean that just about literally. I had to work with some individuals on a virtual daily basis who hated me for no reason other then I didn’t fit their jibe.

Overwork

This is the nature of many jobs in Japan, and these are often referred to as black companies. Most teachers in most modern nations I know often work an absurd amount of hours and this is often why its called a calling. Although I felt personally called to accompany the church in Japan I did not realize how much more or less I was simply an English teacher at a high school. And although this is very good work, and maybe even more rewarding if you are called to it, it was a challenge to try and ignite passion for it especially given the above two issues I was constantly facing. Why am I doing this? If its for God, or the church, or the mission, okay but then what is actually being built here? And am I doing this for people who don’t care enough about me or the well being of the team members to make the systemic changes needed to align the work with a Christian ethos? Maybe that power isn’t in their hand but it was too much to take the work load, even as rewarding as some of it was, with the toxic environment that had remained. Some of the experiences I had at the school were honestly traumatizing and it was not possible to get rid of the association of that pain with what had become for me the lonely land cold halls of Luther.

“I’m now much less of an asset to the company than I could be. I keep my head down and for self-preservation just do my work with little conversation with anyone. Yet the irony is this: in my self-preservation, I’m actually destroying myself. In bottling up my unexpressed feelings, I’m making myself sick emotionally and physically.”

― Gary Chapman, Rising Above a Toxic Workplace: Taking Care of Yourself in an Unhealthy Environment

Chapman writes very well about how I was feeling more and more everyday including the fight or flight responses. So, that is why I left working with the Lutheran stuff in Kumamoto and boy am I glad to be done even thought its still very sad and I am still grieving. I gave a hallmarky thank you in my last newsletter so next month I might write a more substantial one about the good that did happen and I also want to write about where I have moved to and what is next.

I am so thankful the Lord has the last Word.

Leaving Luther.

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You hear the wind’s sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

With regret, but also with resolution and conviction I have decided to end missionary service with the ELCA and my work at Luther High School.

My heart is broken. My mind is there, assaulted though it be. And so I look for new ground, for safer pasture, for still waters and I trust my Lord to lead me there. He is the good shepherd. I don’t know yet where I am going, although I will probably remain in  Japan. I have missionary friends who have a community starting in Oita that seems like a likely place to go. I don’t know yet if it will be a way-station on my way home to America or if I will put my hand to the plow there in some fashion. 

I don’t want to go into many of the specific reasons of why I chose to leave but I do want to say thank you. I am thankful for my dear friend who often comes to my side, I am thankful to my students who’s smiles show forth a warm vitality, preparing to emerge on the stage of adulthood, I am thankful for Pastor Hitoshi’s gentle attempts to encourage, to counsel, I am thankful for my colleagues who have given so much to teach, to admonish, to be with, I am thankful to the church for this opportunity, even though it never quite materialized like I might had hoped, I am thankful to the Japanese teachers who have made space for us to join them in task of teaching English, I am thankful for my friends here with whom we could share our life and love, sometimes over the smoke of a a barbecue, in the healing hot springs, or out under the wonder of stars. 

Accompaniment has come to mean so much. 

Thank you Jesus. And thank all of you who have prayed for and supported me in so many ways!

The Blood of Christ and Unrealized Potential

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Chapel Message

Given on the twelfth of January, 2021 A.D.

They triumphed over him

    by the blood of the Lamb

    and by the word of their testimony;

they did not love their lives so much

    as to shrink from death.

Revelation 12:11, NIV

When I was in high school a teacher once told me, if it doesn’t matter in 1,000 years, it probably isn’t very important. Most of us will not be here in 100 years, let alone 1,000 years. So, what were they talking about? They were implicating that we should have an eternal perspective. A perspective that does not just consider our life in our bodies but our eternal lives. This doesn’t mean our life now doesn’t matter. It means it matters much more than we might realize.

In the 1999 movie, the Matrix, the protagonist Neo is offered an opportunity to take the red pill and wake up from a false virtual reality or the blue pill and forget he ever had the conversation he was having about the world outside of the matrix. If you have never seen the movie, I highly recommend it. This movie gives a commentary on the false reality we live in this world if we are not awakened to what’s really going on. This false reality is called the matrix. Look at anyone addicted to video games, panchinko, or their smart phones and you know that this “false reality” is not just science fiction, it’s the world we live in today.

In the Bible, this is called the world. But when the New Testament talks about the world, most of the time it does not mean the created earth. God’s created earth is good. What the New Testament authors are talking about is the world as a system organized in its rebellion against God. It includes politics, and economics, religion, philosophy—all of the things we might come across in the world.

In the Christian tradition, the world, in this sense, is one of the traditional enemies of the soul. So, when John says in today’s passage that we can “overcome by the blood of the lamb,” part of what he means is that we can overcome the world. How? By the blood of the lamb!

The blood of the lamb? Why blood? Well, the Bible says that life is in the blood and in this case, the lamb is a reference to Jesus Christ. You may have heard that Jesus came to die for us. But why did he die for us? In dying for us, he gave us his blood. And if the life is in the blood, it means he came to give us his life. It is by the power of his life that we can overcome the world, just like he did. It didn’t seem like he was overcoming the world when he died on a cross, but when he rose again from the dead on the third day his victory was clear.

The blood of Christ is our red pill. It helps us escape from the matrix of this world. It gives us power to see the messages of this world for what they truly are—empty lies.

Buy this, and you will be happy.

Get this and you will be happy.

Live for today, today is all you have.

The world we live in today doesn’t see us as human beings so much as consumers who can be manipulated to get our money. The Gospel of Jesus Christ says something else. It says that Christ’s blood was the price paid to buy you out of the world system and put in God’s Kingdom. This blood speaks from the ground: you are valuable! You are loved! You are a child of God! You are not alone! Come home! It gives you power of Christ’s indestructible life, so you can overcome the trouble you will have in this world.

So, where are you living? Are you stuck in the system of this world or are you in God’s Kingdom?


                  Will you take the red pill? The price for your freedom is has already been paid with the blood of Christ. If you will surrender your attempts to control your own life and confess that Jesus is the lord of your life, you can experience this freedom. He will give you power to overcome in this life with a peace that you cannot get from this world.

We live in darkness, but his light shines in the darkness. Do we realize it? What we chose to do today will echo in the halls of eternity, not only 100 years from now, but 1,000 years from now.
Let us pray.

Holiday Moments and Looking Ahead

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Holiday Moments and Looking Ahead

December was a month of grit as with renewed vigor I was trying to get as much work done before the winter holiday as possible.

We had a beautiful Christmas Eve service at the school and then later at Kuwamizu Lutheran Church. I was very blessed to be able to join the choir at the church and sing at the New Years Service. The evening was also spent with a special friend who joined me at worship. 

Christmas day was less eventful and I spent most of it just chilling at home. Later in the evening I met my friend again and we had dinner and watched the Christmas movie Elf. Later the following Saturday I came back to church to rehearse for a Christmas concert that took place after the youth service. The Pastor’s son shared a powerful testimony of a moment when God became real to him for the first time. We closed worship with a dinner with real Turkey and Christmas cake. Christmas cake is a Japanese Christmas tradition.

New Year’s day was also opened with worship at church although with the celebrations put off as a precaution against the spreading of COVID-19. As I look ahead to the new year I sense the Lord asking me to wait and watch. So I am moving slowly into this new year, with renewed vigor and focus but also with the desire to be wise in how I spend my time, my energy and so forth as I look for God to lead forth from a place of quite and careful watching and waiting.