toro (tuna belly). I feel like a beluga whale after swallowing a whole school of krill in the icy cold waters of Greenland (I've been watching Animal Planet). Whatever the case, my stomach experienced the gastronomical wonders of Japan in just five days-yes, five days. We had Wagyu beef, matsutake mushrooms, tempura, unagi. ramen, pork miso soup, pork tonkatsu, various pickled vegetables, the whole pantheon of sushi, fresh sashimi, seasonal fruits, good green tea, Kyoto tofu, prosciutto ham/onion salad, coffee jelly, and we simmered our overstuffed bodies in an onsen--thrice for good measure. We were even massaged like Wagyu beef (Arita, the masseur, had to work extra hard on my tough flank steak body). Our Japanese hosts gave new meaning to the word hospitality. I was blown away. Thank you Tetsuro, Ron, Machiko, Izumi, Kent, and Deni for a 'sugoi' (awesome) time. My taste buds, stomach, body, and spirit will never be the same!
The 'nabes' (Japanese cooking pot) of our bodies have taken a more rounder and more corpulent appearance, but that's okay. My muffin top has turned into a pao duce (Portuguese sweet bread) and I really don't care what people think. We came. We saw. We ate. We ate. We ate. We prayed. We fellowshipped. We got the sword! I don't know if we conquered anything. I do know we were on an amazing journey with God in the mountains of Shimane prefecture and neon lit streets of Tokyo and it's still continuing! We are all on an amazing journey of God's grace and love. He may have conquered something in the spiritual realm over Japan, but all we did was obey. We must leave the results to our Papa in heaven. I like it that way.
Sometimes I personally feel we put God in a box when we prematurely elevate spiritually significant events to penultimate status. This may be just 'one' of the many things God does through his people to usher revival into Japan. It may be 'the thing'. I personally feel it was very, very important. How important? I do not know. Again, I will leave the fruit and results in God's hands. I will not try to second guess God and play God (a past time I used to participate in with great flourish). Whatever the case, I will eat oatmeal and orange slices for breakfast in the days to come. I will have stomach bricks someday, somewhere, somehow--there's a place for us.... (I had to throw the West Side Story theme song into the sentence). It fit. There is a place for muffin tops with bricks in this world. Alas, they cancel each other out. I will settle for one brick then.
After spending a night at the Ryokan (Japanese Inn), we met Sensei Kobayashi. He was a man of sleight build, sharpness of eye, and rascally disposition. You would think that his samurai heritage would predispose him toward seriousness and stoicism. No way! The guy kept cracking jokes, giving historical lectures, teasing his poor wife, telling the interpreter that she talked too much (as she interpreted for him), and stopping the serving of food (with a smile) because it interrupted his train of thought. The guy was a character. He was also very deep.
In between his playful banter he interjected healthy doses of his sword making philosophy. He honestly blew me away. He blew us all away. I asked, "What step in the twenty step process does he enjoy the most?" His reply, "I like them all. You can't make a sword of any quality if you don't enjoy the whole process." He also said, " I never dwell on negative thoughts as I make the sword. I am always hopeful!" Doesn't God treat us in the same way? "He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things", when it comes to our growth in Christ-like love. He never loses hope in us. He enjoys the whole process. He even sings and rejoices over us (Zephaniah 3:17) with shouts of joy. The day was filled with these deep philosophical sayings mixed in with the blunt playfulness of this twentieth century samurai. I will never forget that time. I will never forget Sensei Kobayashi.
As I watched Pastor Dean hold his sword and pray, I saw the deep love of God for His son. God has this man on an amazing adventure of grace and mercy. We all know his background and how far he has come and grown in the Lord. How did this happen? Could it be his Kalihi childhood filled with roosters crowing at 12:00 PM in the afternoon? No. Could it be that God especially likes rascal, perpetually smiling guys (maybe he does)? No. Could it be that there is a special anointing that has come upon him because of all the toro sashimi he has eaten? No. Then what is the answer? He hears and obeys. Let me repeat this to those who have poi (taro) in their ears. He hears and obeys. Do likewise and you will experience the same. It's pretty simple, yet pretty difficult for us distractable types that revel in making things more complicated that it should be.
I will write more in the days to come. I am beat. I went straight to my cousins wedding from the airport and forgot which auntie goes with what uncle and which second cousin got divorced from which guy from Kahului. I was zoning out--maybe more like 'zombieing out'. Experiences seem to wash out into the fuzzy borders of our overly caffeinated minds when sleep deprived. I love you folks. We had a great time. Thank you for praying for us. It's good to be back home!