Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Sunday, September 12, 2004

September 12 Update

(for those of you who missed it, here is the update I sent out a couple weeks ago...)

Hi everyone!

Back by popular (and even pastoral) demand, it’s the Ramone & Yoko update
straight to you from above the Abiko Chuo Shotengai in Osaka, Japan! It’s been a long time since I’ve sent out an update (2 years?), and I don’t know how regularly it’s possible, but hey, let’s give it a shot anyhow. This new, September 2004 edition will contain clever subject headings! Yaay!

Shakin’ & Quakin’

Well, first news is that Yoko and I are 100% okay… maybe you heard about the two
big earthquakes we had last week (a 6.9 and a 7.4 on the Richter scale), or the multiple typhoons that decided to visit us during the aftershocks from the earthquakes. We had an aftershock on schedule every morning after the earthquakes (which were last Sunday, the 5th) until Thursday. The typhoons hit other parts of Japan very severely, particularly the northern island of Hokkaido. Down here they just got very windy, but didn’t even rain very much.

The earthquakes were interesting. Somehow Yoko and I *missed* the first one
entirely. We were walking back from a Christian bookstore and saw our friend Mark Wilmot on the way and talked for a bit. Then we stopped in at a church that is pastored by a man who used to be yakuza (Japanese mafia). They were very friendly, gave us tea, and talked to us maybe half an hour. Sometime between talking there and walking down to the subway, the first earthquake happened and we didn’t know it until we saw the subways running cautiously slow. We thought it was a little one, then.

The second one, however, was at midnight and we were reading peacefully at home
when we started rocking back & forth. Yoko said it must’ve lasted at least a good three minutes, during which we prayed and just waited for it to finish. The interesting part is how when it finishes, you feel like you’re on ocean waves, and you wonder if it’s just you, or if the ground is moving like that (probably both). We felt a little motion sick in our stomachs afterwards. Though they were strong, the quakes were about 140 km out to sea and then another 40 km under the sea, so it didn’t do much damage. By contrast, the deadly 1995 Hanshin earthquake happened right under the city of Kobe, so it killed several thousand people.

Raiding California

On a different note, thank you to Scott Arany & everyone else who helped me out
last month when I visited Riverside for Dave Kendall’s wedding. I surprised the heck out of Dave and quite a few others by popping up there unannounced. Hehe, that was fun. BUT, I’m sorry to all my friends who I didn’t get to see while I was there! In order to surprise Dave, I told as few people as possible that I was coming. Next time I want to run into you! (^_^) There were lots of you I wanted to see. Time ran out fast, and I didn’t get to go to Loma Linda Japanese church, eat mochi ice cream, or eat Wahoo’s fish tacos in Laguna, either (truly tragedies on all counts). But somehow I did manage to get sunburned. Go figure.

Thanks to all of you who were at Hazel’s home that Monday night and shared your
love & lives with me! My spiritual family is blessed and a riot! God is a very, very crazy guy! He’s too much fun, too much love, and now I begin to know why He said His love was better than wine! Somehow He says the same thing about you and me----that our love is better than wine to Him!

Attack of the Chura!

Yoko wasn’t able to come with me to California because it was the busy season at
her job. She and her sister recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of the opening of their footcare salon, "Chura". They opened last year on September 10th. It started slow, but the summertime this year picked up and they were blessedly swamped with people who wanted calluses & corns removed, ingrown toenails cleaned, and the nice reflexology massage that follows. A great amount of customers came from two seemingly random (**wink at Jesus**) offers from a magazine and then later from a TV show to interview the salon. The magazine was the West Japan version of “Hanako”, a popular women’s magazine. The TV show was one of the daily variety shows they have here. When they finished displaying the salon’s information at the end of the show, however, they wrote a price higher than what Yoko charges. So Yoko called them and told them it wasn’t that expensive, and the next day the TV show corrected the mistake, showing a picture of the salon and giving more information and the correct price! Hey, who said mistakes were a bad thing? (^_^)

A Mountain of English

As for me, I’ve been teaching English at the Berlitz Language School in Tennoji (the
southern hub of Osaka city). I’ve been there for over a year now, and while the schedule is erratic and often tiring, it’s been paying well so we can start to take care of some of my debts. I don’t love English teaching, but my students are very nice and I’ve been asking God for more of His passion for them. Whenever I get tired, He gets me through somehow. He really had to break my pride in order for me to accept the English job… somehow I had a great fear of going back to that kind of work, and He’s growing me so that I can face those things instead of hide from them. I know that it temporary and that I won’t be doing it forever, but I can’t tell you what’s next, either!

The Adventure of God

Living with God is the biggest adventure I could ever have conceived of. I don’t know
where He’ll take us next! That was scary to me in the past---not knowing what to do in the future. I seemed to be unable to move or study anything because I had no idea of my goal or where I was going. But around the time before I started working at Berlitz, I was walking through a station when I heard this operatic voice blasting:

”Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream
Follow every rainbow
Till you find your dream.”

It was God’s timing. (^_^) He energized me with that song and since then there
have been many times (and will be many more) that I can get up in the morning even though I don’t know where I’ll be heading or for how long I’ll be doing what I’m doing. He’s growing me into a real man, hehe. Amazing guy, that God of ours!

Have you read, "The Sacred Romance" by Brent Curtis & John Eldredge? Let me
recommend that to you now. One of the things they talk about is the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ life. The ‘outer’ is all the external things… you know, work, job, weather, earthquakes, facts about you and so on. These are good & real, but the ‘inner’ is the stuff inside you that really is the most fun. It’s what I’ve hungered for and what I long to share and know of you and others. It’s easy to trade external news and things, but our hearts ache to share something much deeper, you know? Taking the risk of giving more from inside you is one of the most wonderful parts of the adventure. (^_^)

The Called Out Ones

Around the beginning of the summer, Yoko and I turned in our membership at the
church north of Osaka that we’d been attending for half a year or so. Since then we’ve dropped by one or two churches, but I don’t believe we will ever be joining a church in the future (in the old way of membership, etc.). This tends to set of alarm bells in a good chunk of people that we share it with, so I want to share why it doesn’t bother us.

We’re part of Jesus! (^_^) He is everything. We’re connected to the Vine, and if
you’re connected to Him, too, then wherever you are and whoever you are (whether I know you or not), we are both connected because we know the same guy! Honestly, I think He’s causing us in traditional churches to understand how He sees things and what is most important to Him.

Yes, we need fellowship, but most of us don’t understand what fellowship really is
(i.e., we think it means coming once a week and sitting through a speech for two hours, and exchanging ‘external’ news and smiles with the people who sit next to us). It’s the same problem if the only kind of date you take your girlfriend or boyfriend on is to the movies: sure, you get to enjoy the movie, but you don’t get to know each other. At traditional church, yes, you can often get good teaching, but fellowship is much more than school. The best memories you’ll have of your high school or college friends will not usually be from the lectures you attended together.

God is about relationship. First, relationship to Him. Second, relationship to each
other. I couldn’t help feeling in my “church” life that something was missing. I was hungry, and everyone I knew was hungry, needing something more. Many wanted to share themselves at church, but found no opportunity to. They had things to unload, needed a shoulder to cry on, needed to say, “No, I’m not all right” when someone asked them “How are you doing?”… but most are too afraid of inconveniencing everyone by sharing too much of themselves. God made our hearts, but the traditions (services) we’ve made often don’t leave us a place to really share and lay open the inner parts of us. Likewise, if we don’t know how to do this with each other, we often don’t know how to let God share the inner cry of His own heart, either.

Some would now recommend one of the many wonderful weeknight meetings that
churches conduct, such as a men’s or women’s ministry. These are all good things, but somehow we still look at these things as the “extra” and the church “service” as the main thing. I believe it’s the other way around. The main thing is intimacy, with God and with each other. There is nothing in the Bible about the “church service” or program. Not to say programs are bad, but they are simply an extra. They aren’t Church at all.

As you already know, “church” is neither a building nor a service. It’s people. The
Greek word means, “the called out ones.” The word alone tells us two crucially important things. 1) it’s people and 2) they are called----which is to say, you are going to the One who calls you. I know some dear Christians who are busy telling people to “come out of” the world or Babylon. But it’s not enough to come out of somewhere, because without being found by God and resting in Him, though you’re “out”, you’ll still be rather lost and your heart will still be hungry. That’s why Jesus said, “Come to Me.” The “come out” message is never to be louder than the “Come to” message. We are called out of the old things (world, sin, death, the old covenant) and into Christ, who Himself is the New. He’s calling us to come into His heart….

“Into My heart, into My heart
Come into My heart,” says Jesus.
“Come in today, come in to stay
Come into My heart,” says Jesus.

Just like He’s calling us into relationship with Himself, into His passion, He’s calling
us into relationship with each other… “That we may be one, just as He and the Father are one.” Simply put, Church is where two or three gather in His name and love each other as He loves us.

For a time, though I knew these things, I wanted to be comfortable in the old…..
that is, to have a “church” to go to every week, a ministry, etc. But I found Him calling me to the roots of it all. To go deeper into Him and what makes us tick. To chase after the desires of His heart, and the desires of each other’s hearts. And I can’t go back. I tried, but I know He is my everything. Seeking rest in other things instead of in Him made me hollow for a time, and I missed Him. So I’m choosing to pursue Him, His passion, and rest in His peace wherever He leads.

Ministry

Well, what now, then? I don’t know! Hallelujah!

I know that I tried leading worship a few times at a friend’s church, and that in the
process I discovered I’m made for homes or the streets. In the past year or two, I’ve met friends around the city who’d like to have a meeting, but my home has been too far south and theirs too far elsewhere, or our schedules too busy… and I think this is God. Because really, we can pray anywhere and ask Him to come between us. And He does! He’s awesome like that! Someday in the future I know we’ll have home meetings again to wait on Him together and pray for each other. But until then, Starbucks is just fine. (^_^) God’s been faithful to give us new friends and relationships in the meantime, and we can see family in the Lord growing.

Christ the Sum of All Spiritual Things

My last book recommendation is a little tiny thing by a Chinese preacher named
Watchman Nee. It’s called, “Christ, the Sum of All Spiritual Things.” Why? Because Jesus is everything. It’s one thing to talk about church, or talk about God, etc. But it’s another and entirely wonderful thing to talk to Him and be with Him. He doesn’t want us to have a lot of things, teachings, principles, blessings, gifts, etc. so much as He wants us to have Him Himself. His desire is not for us to know this and that, but to know Him Himself. He is God’s gift to us and He wants us to want Him instead of things. (^_^)

I pray today that you may find Him Himself to be everything to you, and that you
may find your heart’s inner longing to know Him, to be known by Him, and to desire to know others as He does.

Yes, He is everything! (^_^)
Bless you in His love!

Your friend and brother,
Ramone

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