Saturday, April 27, 2013


When I was first presented with the opportunity to live and work in Japan almost 4 and a half years ago, one of my chief concerns was that I would not be able to adjust to city life.

The countryside was my natural habitat, and to my eyes, Bellingham, Washington, with its population of 80,000 was the big city.  I couldn't even fathom living in Tokyo, whose total metropolitan population is roughly 446 times the size of Bellingham.

Yet four years have proven me wrong.  Sure, I am still a country-boy at heart, but I have also grown to appreciate city-life.  At the very least, it has not been painful, stressful or difficult as I once imagined it to be.  I often tell people that I do not miss the countryside while I'm in the city--it's only when I leave and see wide open spaces and the color green that I remember how much I love the countryside.  Basically, I am finding that I can be content wherever I'm at.

This being said, I must say that living in the city has multiplied my appreciation of spaces with trees, fields, lakes and streams.  As it turns out, Tokyo is full of such locations!

My girlfriend is an aficionado of Tokyo parks and gardens, and she has introduced me to such wonderful places as Shinjuku Gyouen, Rikugien, Kyu-Furukawa Teien, and Korakuen.

Visiting these sites, I have realized that Tokyo has done a splendid job of maintaining its parks.  In the midst of this vast city, there are many spacious, lush and peaceful parks, each an oasis...

An oasis from the sound of cars.

An oasis from large crowds.

An oasis from the color grey and a return to greens and other colors of life.

An oasis in which to enjoy a moment of tranquility; to collect one's thoughts; to reflect on the beauty of God's creation.

It's been many years since I first learned that word--oasis--and only now do I truly understand it.  While I love the city, it is so incredibly refreshing to be able to step into a world whose perimeter is guarded by trees; whose ponds and lakes are the home to so many koi and ducks; whose benches are shaded by branches that rustle gently in the wind and stifle the city-noises; whose flowers and blossoms generate not only extra fresh air, but a pleasant aroma.  In such a place, I find myself recharged and revitalized for the task I'm called to in the city.  In such a place, I can rest and think.

Yet a physical oasis is little more than an analogy.  The true oasis is a spiritual circumstance: resting in God.  When I visit these parks, I am reminded of where true revitalization comes from.  I am reminded of where my hope truly lies.  God is our oasis in a busy world.  May we seek out shelter in His shade and enjoy the peace and quiet of His protecting arms!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Deepening the Calling

It has been quite a while since I last wrote something.  Over the past few months, each time I thought about sitting down and writing, I decided I was too busy, but I would write "soon".  To be fair, this feels like "soon" from February, January and even further back than that!

The past few months have been quite eventful.  On Easter, I officially became a member of Grace City Church Tokyo.  Summer and Christmas vacation aside, I've been attending regularly for one year now (though I'd visited the church several times in the months before that).  This has been a tremendous answer to prayer--since I came to Japan in 2009, I had been praying and longing for a church community where I could feel at home... tough competition, since I truly believe I was spoiled to have grown up in as high-caliber a church community as Wiser Lake Chapel.  Yet, God answers prayers, and God affirms callings.  By leading me to Grace City, God has called me to faithfulness and obedience in my job at CAJ all over again.  I love my job and I love CAJ, but no job is so wonderful that it can replace or make up for the fellowship and community that church brings.  In other words, if I had not found a church community where I felt I belonged, and where I felt enriched and energized in my faith and walk with God, I might have bid CAJ and Japan sayonara.

Yet, just as God called me to Japan through what seemed to be unbelievable coincidences, He also led me to Grace City through similar means.  When I think back to how I found the church, God's hand is clear to me: What are the odds that the first hit on a google search for churches in Tokyo would yield a video about a church-plant by one of my favorite pastors and writers, Dr. Tim Keller?  What are the chances that the worship songs on that first Sunday I attended were all standard, familiar Wiser Lake Chapel songs (songs I'd only ever heard before at the Chapel)?  What was the likelihood that one of the pastors had attended Covenant Seminary with someone who I'd actually known at the Chapel?

So, as Jeremiah 29 suggests, I am settling down.  I'd always thought of my time in Japan as being temporary to one degree or another, but now I am putting my suitcases into storage.  With a church-home, I can BE at home regardless of where I'm at.  True to my late-blooming TCK tendencies, my definition of home, I'm increasingly discovering, is a community of faith and fellow believers.  I've joined the worship team, am participating in an affiliated monthly Gospel choir, am attending a weekly community group.  I have even recently started dating a wonderful, Godly woman, a friend who I met through church and got to know better through Gospel choir.

It has been just over four years since I decided to stay in Japan beyond the six months I'd originally planned.  I applied for a full-time job at CAJ because I liked it there, and wanted to spend a little bit more time at the school.  I didn't ever consider that I'd still be in Japan four years later, and that I'd be making myself at home.

Tonight, amidst a number of things I could worry about ranging from global conflict to the grading that I'm scrambling to catch up on, I feel peaceful and blessed above all else.  God called me to Japan and I can still hear His voice assuring me that I am right where I need to be.  May my heart never cease to be grateful, may my lips never cease to praise His grace and providence, and may my feet never cease to follow His call.