I’m an achiever.

According to my Strengthsfinder assessment, that means:

You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by “every day” you mean every single day — workdays, weekends, vacations.[1]

Yes, I’m the kind of person who writes something on my “To Do List” after I’ve already done it — just for joy of crossing it off.

Perhaps the only thing I enjoy more than getting things done is visioning how to get more things done.

Which is why I like April 1: the start of the fiscal and school year in Japan. It’s another chance to set new goals, pray, and plan.

Thanks to friends visiting from LA this past month, I’ve been able to fuel my visioning with books from my library in LA that I haven’t touched for 4.5 years. As I flipped through the faded pages with dog-eared corners and highlighted sentences, I came across the following quote:

Nothing is so antithetical to true religion [spirituality] as lukewarmness…Out of vigorous, fervent, affectionate love for God arise an intense hatred and abhorrence of sin, a dread of God’s displeasure, gratitude for his goodness, delight in God when we sense his gracious presence, and grief when he seems distant.[2]

These words jolted me like smelling salts to my soul.

“Vigorous”? “Fervent”? “Intense hatred”? “Abhorrence”?

I can’t remember the last time I had a whiff of any of those words from any preacher. (It’d help if I listened to sermons in English.)

Maybe once upon a time. At a Christian camp. At college fellowship. Before job hunting, cubicles, and balancing budgets.

But how foreign they seemed now. How extreme. Like when Josiah stumbled upon the Book of the Law caked in several generations of dust, the conviction of these creased pages hit me hard.

How ironic that we who plan, strategize, and vision cast, often neglect that which is most important: our own heart. Like spiritual zombies, we go about our daily concerns — yes, even our ministries — unaware that our affections for God are asleep. We speed through the daily congestion on the highway of life, weaving through lanes and dodging potholes, not realizing that we are headed in the wrong direction. Only weeks, months, maybe years later will we realize it.

Missionaries backslide too. We have our spiritual winters. Our hearts grow cold. We have times of tearing our robes and repenting like Josiah, though we don’t always write about it in our monthly email updates.

Yet as the warm rays of spring beckon pink sakura petals to wake from their slumber, we thank God for the light of Christ, who rouses us from our spiritual stupor, year after year.

Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. (Eph. 5:14b)


[1] Rath, Tom. Strengthfinder 2.0. New York: GALLUP PRESS, 2007.

[2] Storms, Samuel C. Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards’ “Religious Affections”. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007.

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  • Daryl Chan says:

    Think of you often Ian. Praying for continued peace and comfort both in your spiritual and relational lives. Hope you and Chi are enjoying the wonderful blessings of marriage.

  • Auntie says:

    yes. yes! the seasons of our journey. may those seasons fuel your longing and musical writings, Ian.

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