Well, it's been a pretty full week. I've met some great people, I've Skyped some great people, I've had the highs (and lows) of language school, I've begun to see the diary start to fill up for the next few months, and I've got a couple of essays ready to submit.
So. Many. Answers. To. Prayer.
I really love productive weeks where you know Holy Spirit close to you in the productivity. But you know what? I also truly value and appreciate days of total rest.
A planned day of no essays, no classes, no meetings, and no heavy brain power.
Me and some friends headed out to Hoheikyo, which is known for it's hot springs. We ate ghengis khan BBQ in a kamakura (we ate BBQ lamb and vegetables in a giant ice house) and spent the afternoon in an outdoor onsen with the most stunning scenery (we sat in some outdoor hot springs surrounded by snowy mountains).
It was amazing. And relaxing. And I didn't realise quite how tired I was until I slept pretty much the whole bus journey home just now.
So, this collection of photos gives you a pretty good insight into my day:
Obviously, it's not really appropriate or cool to take photos in an onsen (remember the whole guy/girl/separate onsens/nudity thing I've mentioned about Japan before… ;)) but I did want to show you this place in the snow, so here's a little picture from their website:
Which is seriously what this place looks like.
Hence my thankfulness.
I am now just in the door and about to chill out with my rather cool Japanese old ladies… I'm currently weighing up if I could get away with doing that in my pyjamas… I think so…
So, this is blog point number 1. Remember it.
Now unless you've been living under a rock this week, you'll also have realised that yesterday was Valentine's Day.
Which is quite frankly, totally complicated in Japan!
Because the Japanese keep Valentine's Day for the boys. So yesterday the boys got chocolate (from girlfriends, friends, colleagues… Pretty much everyone just seems to give chocolate of differing quantities away here!) Language school was a tad chaotic in the afternoon 😉 BUT, before you go getting all outraged on behalf of the girls, we get White Day on the 14th March. Where all of the gifts get returned. Maybe. It's like having two, very segregated days of excessive-and-slightly-romantic-gift-giving.
I was talking this through with my language tutor this week, because she was telling me that it can be a bit tricky. 1) The girl has to wait to see if the guy likes her back… And wait for… A whole month!! So super harsh. 2) You also give presents to friends/colleagues etc, but you have to get the level of gift right. You don't want to be excessive and give someone the wrong impression after all.
Complicated stuff really.
Anyway, here are some photos from our afternoon celebration at JaLS. A few of these guys were finishing their course so it was double cause for chocolate.
And here is blog point number 2, remember it.
So last night, I also went to the local shopping district to check out and join with some StreetLive outreach that Jesus Lifehouse Sapporo were doing. Basically, joyfully praising Jesus in a jam packed undercover shopping street, giving out chocolate and meeting people in order to share the love of God. Super, super cool. I met some of the most incredibly open, loving and dancing people who just overflowed with a passion for Jesus. And it was really encouraging to my heart.
Here's a picture of one of my new friends from the evening (because you obviously have to take a photo if you're wearing matching scarves… ;))
Right here, this is blog point number 3. And you don't need to remember it because I'm going to try and wrap this up and bring us down to land in the next couple of paragraphs.
Because as I was sleepily travelling back home today my thoughts and my heart landed somewhere.
Thinking about this word, shalom.
'What's shalom got to do with it?' I hear you ask…
Well, shalom, has I think, everything to do with it.
Shalom is a Hebrew word that we translate in our English Bibles to mean 'peace'. But the word actually means so much more than that. I don't even really think I can do the explanation justice, but it means something more like completeness and wholeness and total health and total peace and safety and rest and fullness… (And related words in Hebrew mean 'fully paid', which I just think is cool).
It's really, completely and totally awesome when you think about it.
Shalom is transformational. And rooted in every way out of who God is. This God who has done everything to be close to us, and to find a way that we can be reconciled to Him, to others and to our world. Fully.
Shalom changes everything.
It a concept that brings so much hope to my heart in every meditation.
So I was thinking on my way home today, about this physically great time. I was thinking about how relaxed I was. I was thinking about the fun conversations I had shared with friends and the stunning scenery we had been in. But I got to thinking about how shalom changes everything. Because you can sit in this exquisite mountain location and miss it. You can miss the fullness of responding in worship to the Prince of Peace. You can be physically relaxed but not enter into rest. Real rest. His rest.
One of my friend's said today, 'This is almost like heaven…'
Today was amazing in every way. But it wasn't complete wholeness. It was temporary. We left that place, we got back on a bus, and we came back to the bustling city.
But His shalom changes us from the inside out. Complete transformation. That we take with us. Because Holy Spirit dwells in us.
And so I thinking about yesterday, and the desire that we so often have for relationship and to know and to be known. It's a big one. I definitely saw in people it this week and I've been sharing my own story and testimony with some friends. Because part of the meaning of shalom is to be satisfied in who God is. It's more than that, far more. But that's part of it. And sometimes we get go caught up being anxious about so many things that rob us of peace.
Today we were barbecuing next to 3 older Japanese ladies. So there were 6 of us, reasonably young people, around one BBQ, and they were directly opposite, already mid-BBQ when we walked in. And their BBQ skills… Were amazing! They had neat rows of perfectly roasting meat and vegetables. Their cooking space was immaculate. They quietly and calmly cooked and ate every morsel of their food.
And then there was us.
Who were perhaps not the most natural 😉
We had no order to our meat, some of it burnt to a crisp, one guy set his vegetables on fire, and it looked like a bit of a mess.
And the temptation, would be to despairingly compare our cooking space to the ladies next to us, and give up. But truthfully, our food tasted great, we had fun, and in the end the three lovely Japanese ladies next door donated us a plate of perfect food and came for a chat.
And I thought that sometimes I live life in a comparison like that instead of resting in the shalom of God. I compare my relationships and my situation to that of others and go 'Oh Lord. It's such a mess compared to… How could you ever do anything good with this?'
But the shalom of God is transformational, restorative and completely healing. And that gives me more hope for the future than I could ever say.
And a trust that He satisfies my soul.
But where I finish with shalom, is that it's so much bigger than us and our personal relationship with Jesus. Because shalom is about the nations and the world and the cosmos. It's about the way things are meant to be. It's not about God giving us enough of His Spirit to heal us personally and make us feel good. It's about us joining with this redemptive challenge of Yahweh to see Holy Spirit change everything and invite us on a journey which is less comfortable and more about being ruined for anything less.
And really, that's what these guys were doing on the streets of Sapporo last night. That's what we were doing. Being vessels of our Father to bring His shalom to the the people of this city. Speaking about a message of wholeness and sharing a testimony of healing. And believing in the God who makes all things new.
P.S. Kayoko just leant over to me and said, 'The source of all genki is food.' Which made me laugh out loud considering that I'm trying to talk about something a little bit more profound.. 😉