joy and grace


(I wrote this in the days following my 92 year old mom admission to a nursing home. It was my soul processing)

There is a saying from the Good Book: You reap what you sow. (Gal. 6:7) Some sow trouble… The Book says, Those who sow with trouble reap it. (Job 4:8) Some sow with generosity… The Book says, Those who sow with generousity will reap also generously. (2 Cor. 9:6) Some sow with tears… The Book says, Those who goes out weeping carry seed to sow, will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with her. (Psalm 126:6)

My mom loved her garden and planted many seeds. She planted for beauty. She planted for love. She planted for joy. And that’s what grew in her garden- beauty, love and joy.

There were times when strangling weeds came up in the soil of the garden. Weeds that devourer the nutrients of all the soil. So other plants were in danger of destruction. The weeds looked deceptively attractive at times. So it can be confused with the flowers. But left to themselves they would go out of control and take over all the garden. Fortunately mom realized this and worked hard at getting rid of these weeds, painfully pulling them out one by one. Thus she saved her garden.

One day, mom was offered a very special seed as a gift. It came with a promise that it would increase the beauty, love and joy of the garden. It would be a magnificent tree, the centerpiece of her garden. It would endure when all other plants and flowers withered.

Mom grew to love this tree. It provided shade for her to rest under and fruit for her to enjoy. She shared her garden freely to many people, often making baskets of fruit and flowers for visitors to take home.

Gardening got more and more difficult as she grew older. It became much more painful for her to get on her knees and weed. Many of the flowers and plants withered. Mom was so sad.

But the tree remained strong. And under its shade she found beauty, love and joy. The Book says, He is the Vine and we are the branches. The branches bears fruit as it abides in the Vine. (John 15:5) The Book also says, The world and its desires pass away but those one who does the will of God lives forever. And, This is the will of my Father, to believe in Me. (John 6:29)

The tree sustained her life here. Her faith in that Tree gives her life beyond this one.

I imagine one day, when my mom is in heaven, she will have a garden where there is beauty, love and joy.

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Provisional faith terms are precious only as they reflect our encounters with Jesus. Then they become descriptives in testifying and teaching of Him.

That’s why I love the word grace.

For Asian-Pacific Heritage month I have been posting on facebook various you-tube videos that remind me of aspects of my heritage as it relates to my growing up. Included is the band Hiroshima, Mustard Seed faith, my mom’s restaurant menu cover, Zatoichi and various others. I also posted a short clip of the Obon Festival held at the Midwest Buddhist Temple in which I attended in my high school years. I smiled looking at so many people doing the obon line dane (laughing particularly at those who didn’t know what they were doing but having a great time).

Then a though came to me. I have had this thought for a long time since becoming a Christian. That is I wished my church would dance. I attended a Japanese Christian church when I first started following Christ and was sad at the lack of things that were Japanese such as the obon dance. I am still sad that we don’t do something like that and just dance. Don’t we who have the blessed hope have the most reason to – to dance?

I introduced Resisting Grace with this story of my daughter: “One particular Sunday when my daughter, Joelle, was three years old, we visited a church where I was a guest speaking that morning. As the worship leader started to play a song that Joelle was familiar with, she pulled me out into the aisle and proceeded to dance to the music, which she had done many times at our home church. Being a father who wants to encourage freedom in worship and bless her in her expressions, I proceeded to join her in the dance. Trust me, she looked cute, though I…well, I am not blessed with any dancing abilities. As the song progressed, she looked around and noticed everyone else around her in the pews. No one else was dancing. No one else was even moving—they were stiff as boards. Joelle paused. She became self-conscious, stopped dancing, and slowly returned to her pew. She no longer danced. She simply fit in and did what everyone else did—nothing at all. Sad to say, this is a part of the developing brokenness every child grows into in our fallen world.”

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, … Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.” (Jeremiah 31:3-4)

Let’s dance.

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