It’s been some kind of crazy few days.
If I rewind to Thursday and a late evening dinner party that looked something like this…
And then to Friday morning where I baked two (yes two) birthday cakes that looked something like this…
And then to Friday evening where we threw a surprise birthday and pancake party for a friend of mine (and ate a selection of the most random food in the entire world ever… Yes, pancakes, beef stew, potato pizza, fruit, sausage, cheese and cake. Eat your heart out!)
So then it hit Saturday. And some friend’s of mine got married. It was a truly awesome and beautiful day and celebration.
A little bit like this…
And then after the fun and craziness of wedding parties and late night Italian food with friends, I finished the day with a ukulele concert.
So… That brings us to today. Where I went to my church’s first service (we have a 9am and 11am), and then our pastor a bunch of us drove out to a rural church plant that our church supports to encourage the greatest bunch of people ever there! They cooked for us, gave us a tour of the land that they’re praying for God’s provision in and shared their heart. It was an awesome few hours.
Here’s a sneeky polaroid of me and my friend talking with our pastor that an old guy from the church took and gave us as a gift! Haha!
Needless to say, it’s been a super full, super brilliant, super in every way… But kind of tiring weekend! Haha! Right now, I’m sitting in the kitchen of two of my greatest friends, drinking tea, and planning an onsen trip as the only Sunday evening activities of our friendship group.
So, I’m actually going to share some of the thoughts I wrote after a friend’s wedding last year. Because they’re super relevant.
To put this into context, yesterday, in true wedding form, I wore a dress. And make up. And generally took way more time getting ready than I every normally do.
So that was fine and that was nice and I didn’t think too much of it.
My friend picked me up and we headed to the church.
And when we arrived a big bunch of our church elders (who I know really well) were outside. And they asked my friend… ‘Who’s that girl with you?’
They actually didn’t recognise me. Despite the fact there are only about 4 foreign people in our entire 300-odd person church.
Which was pretty funny.
Except it happened about 5 times yesterday.
I was still wearing my wedding party clothes when I saw some other friends later in the evening and one of them actually screamed in shock.
Clearly, lipstick has some kind of transformational qualities…
And so with that in mind… Here are some still-very-appropriate thoughts.
Praising God with you all on this beautiful day 🙂
And as well as the obvious-massive-spiritual-and-emotional-blessings-of-a-great-wedding there is also the humorous-side-blessing of getting to see loads of your friends dress up in clothes they don’t normally wear. A few of us were enjoying this fact over the wedding-tea-party-lunch. Guys and girls that we are so used to recognising through their jeans and converse trainers and altogether-casual-clothes, suddenly appeared in tuxedos and dresses and the poshest of outfits. Excited Japanese words for ‘Waaaahhhh, that looks so cute/pretty/beautiful…’ could be heard all over the place.
It’s good fun right? To dress up posh sometimes? To put on the clothes and the colours and the styles that you don’t normally wear in order to celebrate a great occasion?
I was thinking about this as I walked the 30 minute stroll back home from the reception. The sun was shining. It was good to be outside. I’ve still been fighting off a bit of illness this week so it felt good to be breathing some fresh Sapporo air. My playlist was a selection of Rend Collective sunshine-suitable-worship, and I had some people in mind to pray for. And as I walked, slowly-but-surely, I became very aware that I was still wearing my wedding-party outfit. My posh clothes. The more people I passed, the more aware I became. My clothing drew attention to me.
Sometimes in subtle way. It was like I could tell that people were thinking, ‘Where has she come from?’ or ‘Where is she going to?’ But sometimes more obvious. A couple of older ladies gave little compliments as I passed a shop. That kind of thing. Now, I’m used to standing out a bit in Japan (I mean, check ginger hair and white-as-the-snow skin in a crowd), but this was different. It was because of what I was wearing.
And right there, at that moment, the Lord spoke to me.
It was more of a picture actually.
I was there, walking along, thinking about nothing profound other than the impact wearing posh clothes could have on random-passers-by, when my thoughts were invaded with a different image.
A different picture.
In this image a young man walked slowly down a long dirt road. He was dirty, dusty and unkempt. He was wearing rags. Barely rags. Less than rags. He looked thoroughly undernourished. He was pensive, his thoughts troubled. He wiped his brow and paused to frown at the sky, muttering under his breath. ‘I am no longer worthy to be called your son. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. I am no longer worthy to be called you son….’
He shook his head, looked to the ground, and spoke his thoughts outloud. ‘I am no longer worthy to be called his son. Look at me?’
Spent up and burnt out. The prodigal. The one who had taken his rightful inheritance and squandered it away on the lusts of the flesh and the sin of the body. The one who deserved nothing but rejection. The one who deserved nothing. Nothing.
He took another step. And another. Eyes to the ground. Tears mingling with the dirt he stepped onto.
Another step. And another.
If he had only looked up he wound have seen the dust in the distance begin to shift. If he had not been so consumed with his own thoughts he would have heard the pounding sounds of footsteps in the distance. He would have seen a race begin a long way off.
He would have seen.
That as he shuffled slowly forward, thoughts of unworthiness and the weight of guilt filling his mind, he had been spotted. Sighted. By his Father. A Father who had watched and every-day-watched, waiting and every-day-waiting, hoping and every-day-hoping, for the one day that his watching would reveal his beloved prodigal coming home.
Taking one step down the dusty path.
A tiny figure in rags on the distance of the horizon.
A figure who had never been absent from his Father’s heart for a moment.
And so his Father ran. Even though his son was still a long way off, he ran. A reckless-running-in-the-dust kind of love that surpassed dignity and reason. A compassion that embraced the guilt of imperfection and the clothing of rags with the kiss of a Father who knew only mercy.
This, this was the picture Holy Spirit invaded my thoughts with. This running-undignifed-overflowing-with-love-collision. This Father-doing-everything-to-be-close-to-his-prodigal-embrace. This messy-emotional-beautiful-forgiveness. This bigger-than-our-rags-and-our-regrets-reality.
Because what does the Father say?
Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet… Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.
Stunning isn’t it?
His Father clothes him. In a robe of righteousness he doesn’t deserve, with a ring of authority he hasn’t earned, and with sandals he has no right to. The Father clothes him. Beautifully. Abundantly. Extravegantly. And all is grace.
When we have been clothed by our Father, we’re never the same again.
We’re never the same.
We’re dressed in the finest of garments. We’re clothed in the most radiant of outfits. And we shine with a reality that means we can only overflow the words that share who we were but where we’re going to. The answer to the question of all who see. The visible and transforming difference.
Or as my favourite Jon Thurlow song sings it,
You put the ring upon my finger, You put the robe upon my back, You throw Your arms around me and say, ‘You are my son, my daughter, don’t forget it’.
He gives us the best kind of posh clothes.
The ones we are given by grace.