11 Sep

Humility and the Sunrise Part 4

They entered the palace grounds and made their way into the hall of the Empress Kogyoku.  The sound of the musicians playing their flutes, drums and bells could be heard all through the grounds.  But when Naka no O’e entered the hall, his eyes fixed on Iruka.  And there he was, sitting next to Naka’s own mother, the Empress.  Naka no O’e and his guards with him bowed low to the Empress with their faces to the ground.  She acknowledged them gladly, but her face was slightly pinched.

Naka no O’e stood first and then his guards.  They all bowed slightly towards Soga Iruka.  The Soga wore his naga-bakama which surrounded him on the floor where he sat on his legs.  Yet his face wore a broad and confident smile, his moustache perfectly trimmed.  To Naka no O’e it seemed like his enemy was gloating, satisfied in his place of power at the Queen Mother’s right hand.  Then Soga Iruka’s eyes caught sight of the swords that Naka and his guards carried with them on their belts.

“This was to be a peaceful meeting, Naka no O’e.  The invitation came to me with full assurance that there would be no weapons among the court.  Why then do you come with swords?”

“Iruka,” Naka began.  “You and your Soga have wrongfully taken power which was not given to you from heaven.  I know that you plan to overthrow the Empress and take the throne.  How could I trust that you would come unarmed?”

At this Soga Iruka frowned and the Empress put her hand over her mouth.

“We will have none of this language in the palace hall,” the Empress spoke firmly.  Her lips were already very small on her somewhat portly face, but after she said this she puckered them even more tightly.  Then she said again, “You agreed to come here in peace, my son.  And you will stop these angry words.”

“This day all plans to overthrow your rule will cease forever, my mother.”  And he bowed low to her quickly from his hips.  Then Naka and his guards after him took their own seats to the left of the Empress with her personal servants and guards.  She then called for the music to cease and the Memorials to be read.  Soga Kurayamada Ishikawa no Maro entered the room and bowed low with his dark-skinned face to the ground before the Empress.  One of her servants brought a set of wooden books to Kurayamada.  He took the first book in hand and began to read from it with much expression.

As soon as Kurayamada’s voice started to read, the sound of the palace doors shutting could be heard all around the palace hall; all twelve of them were closed quickly.

Naka no O’e turned toward his guards… find the rest on the media page: http://www.envisionmission.org/media

04 Sep

Humility and the Sunrise Part 3

 

“My master needs access to Her Majesty’s palace hall.”

“I thought that was what you said to me.”

“Then why did you ask me to repeat myself?”  Kagetoki’s thin face was unflinching.

“You cannot be serious, Kagetoki.”  The courtier’s buggy eyes fixed intently on the servant.  “I cannot allow even Naka no O’e to enter alone without Her Majesty’s knowledge of it.  What is the Crown Prince hiding that she cannot know?”

“He is hiding nothing from you, Courtier.  There are things that are too terrible for Her Majesty to know, too dangerous for her.  She must be protected.”

“And it is my duty to protect her; I am a shield for the Empress.  Therefore I must know his intentions.”

“But must she know?”

“Why do you speak in riddles, Kagetoki?”

“You know what I speak of, Yashimoto.  The Soga have ruled in place of Her Majesty far too long.  I know you share our ideals.  The power of the Imperial family comes from the Deities.  These men have built statues in their own honor, but they have no right to the throne.  You must help us stop them.”

“Her Majesty favors Iruka and his father.  I can do nothing to stop them.  I must do the will of Her Lordship.”

“Empress Kogyoku is a trusting woman.  She cannot be blamed for their manipulations.  She cannot see their motives.”

“Are you questioning her royal wisdom, Kagetoki?”

“Do not be foolish, Yashimoto.  You know what I say is true.  Help us.  My master seeks the best interest of Her Majesty that she may rule this land truly and not only in appearance.”

“Your master looks out for his own best interest, not the interest of Her Majesty.”

“I must disregard that insult, but I assure you, my master seeks the best interest of all the Imperial family, the traditions of our people, and to do the will of the Deities.”

“And why do you expect me to trust your master’s motives more than the Soga?  You speak of their manipulations while you try to manipulate me also.  What do I have to gain from trusting Naka no O’e?”  The Courtier smiled thinly.

“Do you seek Her Majesty’s best interest or your own?”

Yashimoto gave no answer and Kagetoki shook his head.  “Yes, you will be rewarded for your help.”

“What does that mean, servant of Naka no O’e?”

“He is offering each of you three golden sheaths with long swords in each, given to the Imperial family from the Tang Dynasty.”

“So I will help him.”  And Yashimoto’s grin grew larger.

Kagetoki bowed slightly.  “My master will be pleased to hear it.  The palace gates must be closed after everyone has entered.  He instructs you also to tell no one of this, but the palace guards.  If you fail, you will all be less than rewarded, eightfold.”

“Tell you master not to threaten after he has offered rewards.  It does not leave his friends with sweet tastes in the mouth.  None will know of this here but the palace guard and whoever else has joined with your master’s cunning.”

28 Aug

Humility and the Sunrise Part 2

Humility and the Sunrise

 

He raised his fist to heaven.  “It is rightfully mine.  I will take it for myself.”

But the sound of someone approaching caused the plank floor of the nightingale corridor to sing its eerie tones in Naka’s ears.  He quickly stood up from his cross-legged sitting position and turned to face his guest.  Naka no O’e was amazingly swift even though he was a stout man.  “Who approaches?”

“Your father-in-law, Kurayamada.”  Kurayamada stopped near the silk sliding door to Naka’s meditation room.

“Why did my servant not escort you?”

“I came with silent feet, of my own accord, so that no one would see my coming.”

“Why did you come in secret?”

Kurayamada slid the door open, with a smile on his dark-skinned face.  “Why do you plot in secret, my son?”

Naka reached for his sword from his left side.

Kurayamada bowed to Naka no O’e from his hips, then put his hand up, still smiling.

“Naka no O’e, our friend Kamatari has already told me everything.  I am with you both.  I have agreed to help you.”

Naka sighed heavily, his shoulders relaxed.  “Sit down then and please do not approach without my servant in the future.”  Naka motioned with his hand to a mat on the floor nearby.

“I wanted no one to know of my meeting with you, Naka no O’e.”

“My servant would give his life for me.  He knows of my plans, Kurayamada.”

Our plans; I will assure Soga Iruka of your trustworthiness.”  Kurayamada sat down on his legs gladly.

Naka did the same.  “And what do you have to gain from this, Soga Kurayamada?  The Soga will lose their power if we are successful.  But Kamatari assures me that you are not with them in spirit.”

“I am with you, my son-in-law.  I expect to gain your favor from it, since you will ascend the throne.  That is what matters to me, Naka no O’e.”

Naka looked him in the eye.  That moment seemed to last longer than a thought.

21 Aug

Humility and the Sunrise

  Before 30 years old I kept my hair long. 

After 30 years old, I tended to shave my head as a reminder to lay down my “crown” before Jesus.  (: 

Before I turned 30 years old, I envisioned a new day in my ministry work.  I thought that when I turned 30 I would be baptized into service, like Jesus was baptized at 30 and come into a new level of power.

But shortly beforehand I had a dream about a Japanese Crown Prince from ancient times who was supposed to take the throne as Emperor but was kept from the throne by a political party.  In my dream he assassinated the leader of this party.  Then, when he realized he was about to take the throne he was overwhelmed by how lofty a thing it would be.  Then I woke up and sense God’s Spirit telling me I had something to learn from this man.

I researched Japanese history and found a Crown Prince from the 7th Century had been kept from his throne by the Soga clan.  He assassinated Soga Iruka in exactly the same way as in my dream.  But history doesn’t know why he abdicated the throne and took a tonsure as a monk, which means he shaved his head.  He abdicated the throne over and over again until the end of his life.

I wondered what this meant.  The next day one of the baristas at the coffeehouse named Charlie came in with a t-shirt he bought for me at a garage sale.  He had no idea about the dream.  The t-shirt had a Japanese symbol on it.  When I asked friends who knew Japanese what the symbol meant they said, “Dream.”

Now I was praying about what this all meant and at a prayer meeting the LORD highlighted the part of the book of Revelation where the elders lay down their crowns before Jesus the Lamb of God and give him the glory.  Then I started to understand.

On my 30th birthday I took part in a Christian conference about the glory of Jesus.  I was part of a worship team for which the sole purpose was to help people give glory to Jesus.  We were kept behind a black curtain so no one would notice us, but only Him.

I realized that the purpose of my life wasn’t to come into great power in “my” ministry, but to learn to give glory to Jesus alone and help others do the same.  Who is equal to Him anyway?

So with that i’m going to share a short story I wrote on our website called “Humility and the Sunrise” about Emperor Tenji from the 7th century.  I’ll share some tidbits on my blog and then it will be available on the media page in its entirety.

Apparently the current Emperor of Japan is also planning to abdicate his throne, which hasn’t happened in over two centuries- interesting… anyways, that’s why the shaved head- because it reminds me of my purpose.  Check out the story on our media page for a donation of any amount: www.envisionmission.org/media

17 Jul

Big Balloon

It’s so important for Dads to play with and spend time with their children on a regular basis.  We need to stop being so busy and make sure we take time, even if just to read a short book when we get home from work or whatever it takes to spend time together.  These years when our kids are smaller go so fast and we don’t get them back.  May God help us to cherish every moment we have with our families and friends.

This song is written with that purpose in mind.  Often my kids and I would check out the rental tractors at Hardware Sales in Bellingham here and then we would buy something and get some balloons from them for free.  Then we’d take them home, blow them up and have all kinds of fun just running around the house with them or trying to keep them from hitting the ground.

So goes the song:

Having fun with my sons, playing til the day is done

Rolling and a laughing and a smiling until the living room becomes

A hurricane disaster site, Mamma’s got a frown tonight

Better pick up our toys sons, I got to teach you to do what’s right

We’re playing with the big balloons, playing with a big balloon…

Keep a handle on your hey de hey, a lid on your ho de ho

Keep your chin up and keep on smiling if it’s not going where you want to go…

 

This song is on the “Jimmy Rig” album which is available on this website on the www.envisionmission.org/media page if you follow the instructions for download for a small donation of any amount.  Hope you enjoy- shalom!

 

03 Jul

Because I’m Loved

The motivation for everything for me is because I’m loved by God, I do what I do.  This song: Because I’m Loved says it all:

There’s a song in my heart of peace and joy that i can’t explain

It seems to come from somewhere beyond this world you might say

I was feeling down, suddenly it came and now it remains

I think it comes from love that loves and keeps on giving it away

Yes, I love, because I am loved…

It isn’t that we need to love ourselves more; we’re actually obsessed with ourselves most of the time.  It’s that we need to know we’re loved by Someone who can love us with an everlasting love.  Then we can deal with anything, because that’s what we were made for and to love Him back and others too!

Soon we’ll have this song on our newest CD “Celebration” on the website on the media page.

26 Jun

Lessons from India Part 3

(This is a photo of my friends Joshuva and Martin.  Often we had chai together and visited in the hot afternoons in India.  I miss them very much because they became like family to Timothy and I while we were there.)

Take the time

Although our friends in India work hard and are busy, they also take a lot of time for the Holy Spirit.  Right now I’m sitting on my couch, resting, writing this on my day off.  I’m thinking about how busy I get and mostly because I say yes to a lot of requests from folks.  It’s all really good stuff, but how can we slow down and live at a healthy pace?  God help us learn how to do that.

Let’s cherish the time we do have with family and friends.  I’m sure Jesus knew how to do that on earth.  He certainly still knows how to do it from Heaven.  Shalom and blessings to all who read this in His Name.

 

19 Jun

Lessons from India Part 2

Do you believe there is more to the universe than what we see with our eyes; that there is a spiritual world too?  “More than meets the eye”!  One of my kids was just watching episodes from the 1980’s cartoon “Transformers” and that is one of the main lines in the theme song. (More than meets the eye)  It got me thinking, and then I thought about India: they believe that there is more to the universe than what we see with our eyes.

In fact, the strategy that Christians have for sharing Christ with people there is that they pray for the sick to be healed, and they are healed in Jesus’ name.  They even cast out demons from people and the people are set free, just like Jesus did in the Bible.  They also experience dreams and visions of Jesus and then people are open to hearing about who He is and His love for them, and they trust in Him, even in Him alone.

I believe there is a battle between light and darkness in the universe and that Christ is the light.  We too have seen folks set free from demons and have seen miraculous healings, but the greatest evidence for God is the effect He has on people.  It has been said that we cannot see the wind, but we can see its effects.  So it is with God.  Though we cannot see Him, we do see Him in those who believe in Him, when they love sacrificially and that is the greatest evidence for God and Christ Jesus.

I have learned from India, that these are also our greatest evidences  in America.  No amount of arguing will help, but lives lived in real love (and some miracles that flow from that love) are our greatest allies in the battle.  It is the Holy Spirit of God that convinces people of the Truth.  We don’t have to try to convince them, but we can share what God has done for us in Christ.

 

 

22 May

Entitlement

Entitlement:

That would be my word to describe the mindset of Americans after spending time in India. I never saw a child whine; not once. And their lives are much harder than American kids with much less toys, conveniences, etc.

And the poor: we had church on a road, so people just didn’t use that road while we were there for the church service. The rains had ruined their yard and leaked into their very poor home/hut. That’s why we had church on the road. The family wanted to feed us but didn’t have the resources. Their son was working in the salt fields as a teenager for $3 a day to support his mom and sisters. When the Pastor’s wife tried to give them money they put their hands up to refuse it. She insisted, they still refused. She finally put it in their hands and said it was from the LORD.

This is a far cry from what I encounter daily in my work. People ask for money after they have foolishly spent it on cable television, outings, fun stuff from the mall, and run out half way through the month. When we refuse they tell us we’ve rejected them and are not a compassionate church. This kind of thing is a common occurrence. I hear complaints about how difficult it is to get free services from the American government and when it doesn’t come through enough for them, we hear about it over and over again. I’m probably in the midst of culture shock, so I’m sorry if this is negative, but I don’t want to have an entitlement attitude. I want to be grateful for salvation, grateful for life, grateful for so much that I don’t deserve and live in great joy! May the LORD help us all to this end. Shalom.

24 Apr

The 7 Trumpets

The 7 Trumpets

               When I was in high school, the LORD put seven sins on my heart that the Church in North America needed to repent of, myself included:

1-     Apathy (not caring about the things of God; being lukewarm)

2-     Fear of man (caring more about what people think than what God thinks)

3-     Divisions (being divided against other believers who don’t agree with us on points of theology or practice but are in fact our brothers and sisters)

4-     Self-righteous traditions of men (trusting in our own little traditions we’ve come up with as our righteousness)

5-     Busyness (being caught up in the things of this world)

6-     Love of money (making comfort and affluence our master, rather than God)

7-     Insincere worship of God (worshipping God with our lips but not our hearts or actions)

I still believe these are relevant today and I repent of them daily for myself and the Church here in North America.  May God give us zeal, boldness, unity, dependence on His Word and Spirit, simplicity of heart, treasure in heaven and sincere worship of Him!  Shalom in Jesus