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New Family Dynamics: LTS Testimony 2018

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LTS stands for Life Transformation School and is a program offered by Navah Church, where I currently attend. Below is my testimony from the three plus weeks of lecture, prayer, small group and spiritual transformation.


From the ends of the earth I call to you,
    I call as my heart grows faint;
    lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:2, NIV)

There is a rock that is higher than us and that rock is Christ. When we build our lives on him and his teaching there is a solid foundation to things that makes the rest of the things which proceed from life much more stable and secure.

Attending LTS is tending to foundations of one’s life. More properly stated, it is letting God address our foundations so that being set right the rest of life may be built well. If it is a shame to be unable to finish the tower we have set out to build (Luke 14:28-30), how much more if it tumults on a faulty foundation. Through LTS the Lord has addressed the holes, cracks and crevices in my foundation. He has pulled out the lies and booby traps the enemy has planted to compromise that foundation with his tender hand. The whole process has been saturated with the reminder that unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers labor in vain. Whatever is built on this foundation, it will not be my project, rather, it will be ours and he is the Master Builder, I am just a son in his house. This is the big picture of what God has done in my heart through LTS this year. I now want to focus in on three more subtle but critical turns the Lord has made in my heart.

1) In the midst of a broken family on a broken planet, the Lord stands good and righteous over all.

I have tended to downplay the impacts of growing up in a broken family because its not that bad and divorce is so common now its not that big of a deal. But actually it is. God hates divorce because it lies about who we are and it damages everyone involved. The lie that I tended to believe was although it was great to have more family I didn’t completely belong in either family. This wasn’t a strong, consciously held belief but somehow it was there in the backdrop of too much of my growing up years. The fragmented nature of the Church didn’t help. There has been a long and deep striving to belong and failure to enter it fully has felt like an orbit of rejection around much of my life.

This orbit has been spinning around my head and heart as I have tried to come, or be brought home at Navah. Will they accept me with all of my flaws? Or the uglier, how can I prepare to write them off (just in case they do reject me, maybe then it will hurt less). Previous work has been done to establish that God, in all of his ways is good and He is good to me. The new work was that God’s way of working through humans, the Church, is his plan and it is good and although still human and therefore part broken it will be overall good for me. There remains a particular call to the local expression of that Church that is Navah. I need this holy family and I do belong. The invitation to come into the family remains open and its a gift that I can receive even as I hesitantly but courageously and in good faith offer myself as a gift to this body.

2) God the Father loves me just the way I am.

This seems as simple as the Gospel 101 but somehow it just remains so persistently difficult to really, really believe all the way down into the deep and dark crevices of our inner life. God has been working on the deepest levels of this interior world of the soul even before LTS had started. What happened during LTS was the strengthening of and reaffirmation that this is true. This truth filled me all the way up and overflowed around me. I always could see it better for others than myself but now I could see it more for others than I ever had before. I could see it through them back at me like the real people of the Church around me beginning to look like agents of Trinitarian love. This is how local churches become places of harboring the healing energy of God for damaged and robbed, left to die men and women on the cosmic roadside of life.

3)  There is a Way forward and beyond permeable boundaries of ego.

LTS helps exorcise us of a spirit of independence that prevents us from entering the proper dependence we have on the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and the proper interdependence we need on the holy, universal gathering of fellowshipping Family. That’s a mouthful but it establishes us rightly. We are not meant to live as autonomous agents of our own power and faculty. We are meant to live in union with God, with such a dripping intimacy that every breath is as if he were moving in our very being. He Is actually. All the things of life, if properly established, or planted, grow from this foundation of original solitude. The Japanese have an excellent way of describing from the Chinese character for person, how we need each other. 人, hito, meaning human, is made up of two lines leaning on each other. And so is mankind how it ought to be. If we listen to Jesus’ new commandment, which is like the old, love one another will orient us towards each other in a way that challenges the mode of living centered and from the self in exclusion of a permeating union with the Father and with the Divine Logos through which he rules the universe and manifests that reign in us as the Bishop and Shepherd of our souls.

Jesus operates also as our great high priest and lives to make intercession for us. He reveals to us the Father, seeing him is seeing the Father. His role as priest and advocate has reformed my practice of confession and repentance in a pivotal and crucial way. I primarily thought I needed to repent in a way of using the law to prove how utterly worthless and disgusting I was before God. It was always with these emphasis that I came to a resounding conclusion that I was a failure. However, the Father does not see me this way. The repentance of the Gospel is to actually to change my thoughts based off of the Father’s thoughts about me which in Christ is always that I am beloved. Seeing repentance in this new way  gives me a powerful tool to reorient and realign myself daily or however often necessary, as lies and assaults threaten to undo the mind of Christ which has been established through these Gospel teachings in LTS. This kind of repentance is also a doorway into quick and powerful intimacy and union with the Father.

These shifts have given me a new excitement and hope for life. I feel a readily accessible, real and daily joy that has not been there for a long, long time. It almost seems beyond memory. Its an excitement saturated in joy and established in victory that charges me to go out into the world with the exciting and simple news that Jesus loves you! I eagerly desire to join friends and siblings in Christ to voyage with the community of the Trinity into the fray of the many countless still left to die on the cosmic roadside of life.

So help us God and Sola Dei Gloria!

 

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Journaling for the life of the world

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Life.

One word summarizes much of the longings of the human heart. Why do I write? Firstly writing comes as a thing of a necessity. I write because I am. Like all communication, writing comes from somewhere deep within the inner life of a person. The energy and intention of the written word may be heavily gravitated towards topics of expertise, abstract ideas such as philosophy or strategy, or about subjective topics like people, biography or memoir. Whether the subject matter is objective or subjective all writing is something for or to another. It is addressed.

Its the addressed nature of our writing that personalizes and hopefully humanizes it. One writes a love letter to a distant family member or friend or they write a blog to other pilgrim travelers trying to navigate the complexity and strain of whatever niche they co-habit. Whether amateur or expert, what is written is meant to land somewhere and to someone who inhabits that space. It is the intention to share one’s life and thus give life to others that is humanizing energy of writing. However, this energy needs a personal and contextual field of thought to bring life into the words. It is this contextual and relational dimension of writing that seems to be under increasing threat in the world today.

The ubiquity of written and visual media and communication brought forth through the various technologies of the ongoing digital revolutions and information age threaten both the personal quality of our communication and the life that lay at the kernel of it. This is no less true of writing which has gone through its own revolution. For instance, typing is writing, and inputing things into a smartphone is at least called writing in the sense of labor. Or maybe this is just putting or texting. But whatever it be called, the life in the written word is cheapened by the demands of efficiency, expediency, and the relative anonymity that the inter-web has in flattening personal address into a global, public, and faceless address. Even the linguistic boundaries of the world’s cultures and people’s are pressed and squashed through technologies of online translation.   It can help us reach more but it we reach with so much less.

So this two fold desire to share life so that others receive life and nourishment through writing is something I think must be fought for because it goes against the tide of much of the mediums through which one now writes. I have not addressed the flaws in our human nature which could charge our words with destruction, damage, and hate— a kind of anti-life. These are not new fronts but they are exasperated by the technologies of our emerging age. If it is true that “it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45, NRSV) its also true of our writing. Spirited words bring life, not dead, heartless ones. And the hurried, harried, and anonymous landscape of our present time does much to diminish if not outright kill our hearts.

Thus I write for life, first for mine and then for the life of the world. And I trust a superior Word to aid and sustain me in the vigilance we all most certainly need to be a good neighborly people.

Peace.

 

Monday night musings 2

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It’s my first free day of Spring break, I saw the rabbit on the mountain today (this signifies that Spring really has come to Fukushima). The English School is resting and I am trying to as well. I am moving this week. The current house I am residing in has been sold by the owner so it on and out. Not far, and I could probably use a transition in my process to simplify my life ala konmari method. If I get time I would like to apply the same to the classroom as well.

I actually don’t have anything profound to say at this time other than that I am really tired and I am very grateful to have this break.

 

Also, hoping to write more so I hope you’ll be hearing more from me.

 

Peace out.

Under The Weight of Grace

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Under The Weight of Grace

The reality we live in, under the weight of grace. So beautifully put.

Fongs For Japan

The image in this post may represent the single most important image I have had the privilege of creating since coming to Japan. People who know me understand that I love to dive right into editing my images as soon as I can get them downloaded on my workstation. But I allowed this set of images to sit for a while so I could reflect on the man who is the subject of these photos and his life’s journey that brought him to where he is.

Anyone familiar with Japanese culture knows that when they see the tattoos and the severed pinky finger, they are looking at the image of someone associated with the yakuza, Japan’s organized crime syndicates. It is true that this man was once a member of the yakuza, but it has been decades since he was miraculously released from the service of his crime bosses to…

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Christmas Prayer for Fukushima

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We have escaped like a bird
    from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
    and we have escaped.

(Psalm 124:7, NRSV)

It is not from Fukushima City that I write. I am sitting with my nephew and brother in his underground, home office. Outside the snowfall barely sticks to the ground as the winds of a winter storm blow with gusto. Yet we are safe in the warm coziness of this space. Warmth, shelter, family and even a little bit of work. It is here that I write.

Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs from the first years of our Saviour’s life. In a world seeming to grow in violence and oppression there is a word that the Word frustrates the designs of evil. And whereas Satan, through Herod could not abort the deliverance of God, then so it is true that Satan now defeated, the snare now broken, cannot stop the advance of the Gospel of the Kingdom in this or any age. We are as birds escaped from the fowler’s snare. The snare is broken. Thanks be to the Lord.

As my heart now turns to thoughts of Fukushima I am reminded of my former student who’s son committed suicide last year. Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more. And yet, the last Sunday of Advent, when the Japan Lutheran Church celebrates Christmas, her and her husband became followers of Jesus in the sacrament of Holy Baptism. Satan cannot  abort the deliverance of our God.

My student’s story is sadly one of a large number who is taken victim by him who holds the power of death and whose native language is lies. The experience last spring of this young man’s premature death is a call to wake up, to be alert; for while we are idle, Satan is busy working to destroy the race of men and Jesus weeps.

But the truth of the Gospel is present in this one line—”the snare is broken.” If Satan is the fowler then death is the snare and its teeth and bindings sin. This contraption, this device of hell is broken. Therefore, where the enemy is bringing attack against Fukushima, where people take their own lives overcome in despair, where individuals reclude themselves from the fellowship of others because they are bound in fear, where people doubt their capacity so much that they refuse to venture into the world I pray love, love, love came down, on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day and the snare is broken! People of Fukushima, fly as the freed birds you are on the wind of God’s Spirit!

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer Request: The newly baptized couple at Izumi Lutheran Church who are still grieving the loss of their beloved son.

Monday night musings

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It has been raining and raining for days. Half-week old, reheated curry and the new letter writing occupy night hours between vespers and compline. Mostly letters of gratitude. Thank you friend, thank you stranger, thank you universe there is still good in you, highest thanks to God of All who alone is good.

The summer makes its way to an end. Everyone acts as if its fall but I would like to remind them that fall starts with the equinox. Yet, my favorite season approaches. In the meantime I try to take in the season passing which has drug on more slowly than the way time has felt anytime recently. That’s a good thing. I’m part elven; I like time to be slow mostly. Of course when you’re in love and separated with those you love all of time and space has a different ring to it.

So much is stirring, so much is good in the Lord’s hands, in this heart, the Lord’s workings, saving everything like rainbows and shooting stars exploding from a fountain of life. So good is the Lord to me. Give thanks, give thanks, and praise his name. Amen.

Meditations in the Desert: Rebellion

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The way is shut.

We have not ceased our rebellion

And the Lord’s patience, tried again and again,

At last has rendered judgement.

Banishment from the promise

Exile

In the desert, death.

Their bodies fell.

For they treated their maker with contempt and their Redeemer with hatred.

They thanked him not but grumbled and complained.

A warning to my heart.

Let the Lord’s desert slay my rebellion

Before my rebellion corrupts my heart to hate the Creator and be banished from His promises.

Meditation on Numbers 14: 20–23