Loving people. Loving Japan.

Right now I'm pausing for a break in the middle of finishing a handout for a class I'm teaching on Wednesday.

And this is NOT an English class.

I repeat, it is NOT an English class.

It's actually a lecture at the local university in Community Learning and Development, which is both super exciting and super nerve racking at the same time. In answer to the questions you're burning to ask… No, I am not doing the lecture in Japanese, yes, this is the same kind of area that I've lectured in before in the UK (kind of) and OK, I am pretty nervous. It's one of those opportunities that I really and honestly have no idea how or why it came about, but God has opened this particular door and I'm following His lead. It's also my first Hokkaido University lecture and I would super value your prayers about it.

Ok. And with that slight-but-important aside, please get ready for an altogether more random blog.

This evening I've sat in Starbucks for getting on three hours with two of my most wonderful friends here in Sapporo. They've been helping me translate some of my testimony into Japanese, amongst a whole lot of crazy and random conversation and laughter.

It looked a bit like this…


I am known for ordering Lavender-Earl-Grey in Starbucks, which the barista always abbreviates on the cup as L.E.
Ayumi tells me this stands for 'Lovely English'.
Tonight Ayumi and Mai joined me in my tea-drinking endeavours and ordered Extra-Hot-Lavender-Earl-Grey, which the barista succinctly abbreviated as X.H.L.E.
I decided that all things considered, this should stand for 'eXtra Helpful and Lovely to English'.

You know, the great thing about hanging out with a social group that is pretty-darn-multi-cultural is that you start to affectionately notice the differences and influences you have on each other. As I was clearing up our Starbucks tonight and conscientiously separating our rubbish into 6 separate garbage options, Mai said to me, 'You are so Japanese…' Which is hilarious, because I am possibly the most obviously non-Japanese person you will ever meet. Like, ever. If the ginger hair and freckley skin didn't give it away already…

But yet, Japan is definitely having it's effects on me. As are the many friends and individuals that I am privileged to share life with here in Sapporo.

It's a good thing. This doing life and loving life and loving each other and building community deal…

People keep asking me about some of the influences Japan has had on me in my almost 4 months here, so I've constructed a list of 9 for your entertainment. In no particular order…

1. I now give the peace sign the moment anyone pulls out a camera/mobile phone/picture taking device. It's almost like an autopilot I just can't stop. Seriously, even if I wanted to, I just. Can't. Stop….

2. I've run for a subway in a mild panic about missing it at least three times, even though I know that there'll be another subway in less than 4 minutes time. Which makes no sense when I stop to think about it… Which I never do until I am on said-run-for-subway.

3. I wear a face-mask if I show the ever-so-slightest sign of getting a cold. And I don't feel ridiculous. Which is something I never-ever thought I would be able to say.

4. I drink canned coffee about once a week. Sometimes I even drink canned corn soup. Which sounds super gross, but yet is strangely enjoyable. In a really-weird-yet-really-convenient kind of way.

5. I say 'はい!' a lot in conversation. Which I actually blame completely on my friend Fah, and she's Thai, so I'm not sure if that can really be classed as a Japanese influence or not… 😉 I also say ね and そう and other random Japanglish selections as if they make complete sense… (see my last blog…)

6. I sing karaoke at an increasingly alarming frequency. Including home-made karaoke… 😉

7. I chose my Japanese bank based on the cuteness factor of the cartoon characters and the colour of the logo. I read an article once that suggested this as a joke, but I have to confess that it was a green bank with cute mascots that drew me into it's fold. It's amazing how in the absence of being able to understand the detail of language, you succumb to the most basic marketing…

8. I go to onsens regularly, and seriously believe that they have some kind of therapeutic healing qualities that I don't understand. Like, if I have a headache/bad knee/am tired/whatever… An onsen is my first port of call for treatment…

9. I genuinely enjoy restaurants where you get to cook your own food a whole lot. Like ghengis khan. Or okonomiyaki. Or you name it, I'll cook it.

Ok. So they are pretty lighthearted…. But the influence thing works in so many ways and there is a serious conclusion to my thoughts this evening. I was talking with one of my non-Christian Japanese colleagues earlier today. We were talking about openness and realness in friendships and what real community looked like. At the end of the conversation they said to me, 'Peta, I think wherever you go or wherever you are, you will be able to create community… It just comes out of who you are…'

But the thing is, it only comes out of who I am, because of who I am in Jesus. Because it's only when I'm hidden in the Beauty that is Jesus, that anything beautiful can come out of my life. As Jaye Thomas sings, 'Because You're Beautiful and I'm hidden in You, You call me beautiful. I'm becoming what I'm beholding…'

Last night two of my precious not-yet-Christian friends came to my church young adults group. Which was an awesome example of belonging to community in a process of faith. We were praying at the end.

Five girls. Three Christians. Two not-yet-Christians.

Three Japanese. One Thai. One English.

But five open hearts. And five open lives. And five who are loved by Jesus with a love so deep it changes the cosmos.

And I was praying for these other four girls and I honestly felt so much love for them that I felt like my heart could burst. Because they are so beautiful and so talented and so anointed and so full-to-bursting-with-potential and so incredibly loved by Jesus. And as I prayed for them, I felt just a tiny bit of that love well up within me.

And I want us to love and influence each other in a way that brings out the best in each other because Jesus is bringing out the best in us.

Real community.

Real change.

Real friendship.

Real faith that the messiness of life can become the beautifulness of grace.

You know, that's a thought to keep our hearts full to the end. That's a thought to keep our hearts full always.

Please keep this city and this nation and these people I love so much in your prayers.

Because Holy Spirit is moving.

In no particular order the last few days have involved…

A family breakfast…

Dinner with a beautiful friend…
An evening with some of my favourite people…
Some more picnic-times…
Some silly faces…
A girls' night…
And some farewell Thai-tea-time to Fah… A girl I am going to miss so incredibly much!!



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