So, I need to apologise for the distinct lack of blogs the last couple of weeks (not including writing songs, which is a little bit of a lazy bloggers attempt at keeping up with things!)
I basically finished a first draft of my dissertation and then flew back to the UK on the 23rd December, where I have been touring around the country ever since.
As I’m only here until the 3rd January I’m trying to touch base, hang out with and grab coffee (by that I actually mean tea, but it doesn’t sound as good!) with as many of the people that I love as is feasibly possible, covering a rather epic amount of miles, and driving the length and breadth of the country.
It’s a bit mad, (and I have actually been accused of being mad on a few occasions.)
Right now, I’ve just arrived in Sheffield, but this morning I was at my church in Inverness (about 8 hours North), and three days ago I was in Exeter (about 4 hours South).
But the thing is…. I totally love it.
Life’s to short to not embrace the madness of living life to the very full.
I love people. I love the chance to talk to people in actual-person, (I mean Skype is awesome, and I’m pretty good at the whole keep-in-contact-thing, but it doesn’t replace real-life tea and cake time). I love to hug people. I love to laugh with people. I love to cry with people. I love to just be real with people. I love to remember that although I spend my life in another country and although I know that Japan is the place for me, it does not mean I am disconnected from the people that are for me in the UK. Or America. Or Thailand. Or the countless other countries that I am now privileged to have some of the best friends in.
My heart is full and happy.
And I guess there’s a bigger reflection for me about the fact that I am a very different person than I was when I was last in the UK.
Holy Spirit’s healing and restoration is something incredibly beautiful.
And in the stillness of the pre-church-early-morning, about 14 hours ago now, I borrowed a guitar and sat in the same familiar place of worship that I so often find myself in.
Singing my prayer to Jesus. Pouring out my heart. Remembering that above any calling or ministry or title, I am above all called to be nothing more and nothing less than a lover of Jesus, which leads me to be nothing more and nothing less than a lover of people.
He is the only point of everything.
I loved the sermon in church this morning.
Our pastor was talking from the story of Gideon, but his focus was on going into battle. He made a couple of statements that remain lodged in my heart.
Firstly, that it is only those who go through suffering who develop real compassion for others.
Secondly, that any form of religion without compassion and radical love is unChristlike.
I’ve been totally and completely broken at points in my life. Those experiences have changed me. They gave me the gift of compassion. Not a distant empathy, but a genuine desire to be totally real in my relationships in a way that loves people into their potential.
This is about real relationships.
First, a real relationship with Jesus. One that changes everything and will forever change everything.
Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
But then seeing the outpouring of that love in the relationships we form with others.
Genuine, real, raw, love. Not a tiptoeing kind of safe love. But a vulnerable, not strong, pointing to Jesus kind of love.
A love that remembers that we can be theologically right, but yet miss the point of everything Jesus came for… If we don’t have love. We can win an argument, but miss the point of the conversation… If we don’t have love. We can even have wisdom and holy living, but live lives unpleasing to Holy Spirit… If we don’t have love.
Normally when I fly from Japan to the UK (or vice versa), my route is simple. Sapporo. To Tokyo. To London. Easy.
Except at Christmas, on the specific dates that I needed to fly on… That route became like super-duper-expensive. Like, way more expensive than I could justify paying for flights home. WAY more.
So instead, this time round… Because I am English (a.k.a. cheap), I was flying from Sapporo. To Hong Kong. To London. Also easy. But a little bit longer.
It’s about 5 hours from Sapporo to Hong Kong, and then 11 hours from Hong Kong to the UK.
I end up with a few hours to kill in Hong Kong International Airport each way.
Which is okay. I’m relatively content to plug into some free wifi and drink tea in Hong Kong.
It’s a bit dull, but it’s okay.
EXCEPT, when I was flying here, I didn’t have to do that.
I instead got some great free food, unlimited clipper earl grey tea, my own bathroom and a great shower.
Because my friend got me entry into the luxury of the business lounge.
It meant that instead of just killing a few hours in Hong Kong in a bit of mindless boredom, I actually used a few hours in Hong Kong to wash, change, have dinner with my friend, eat great food, be totally refreshed for the next leg of my journey.
It was a gift. I didn’t pay for entry. My friend gained access for me into that greater experience.
And it made me think about the choice we have before us in life.
Because sometimes I think we live life like we’re sat in Hong Kong airport with a few hours to kill. We actually use words like ‘boring’ to describe our relationships with others (if not in speech, in our heads). We just kind of hurry through life in the stress and and survival mode that sucks the joy right out of it. We don’t truly connect, and in that, we don’t truly love.
I mean, Jesus didn’t just die for us to gain access to heaven when we die, He died and rose from death so that we could… Live. Really live. Lives of love. Lives that count. With Him. Forever.
Metaphorically, He died so that I could live life in the business lounge. That in everything I do, I would be changed, and thankful and overflowing with compassion. That every action that I undertook would be laced and graced with love.
Shane Claiborne writes, ‘All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe. Run, hop, skip or dance, just don’t tiptoe’.
Because here’s the thing I will come in to land with.
Genuinely loving people is risky.
If you want a safe life, you can’t choose this one.
Because genuinely loving people means genuinely being hurt by people. Sometimes.
Sometimes it means having your heart mangled… In a way that only Jesus can restore.
But we weren’t created to tiptoe unlovingly through life.
We were created for so much more.
And the adventure of Love is the greatest adventure.
Knowing God is the greatest adventure.
And with that, I need to take my thankful heart off to sleep and leave you with a few photos of the last few days.
Love and peace people.