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Monthly Archives: September 2011

How Awesome is this Place…

This week there was a big conference in Japan.

By bus, or by Shinkansen, by foot or by bicycle, by aeroplane or by subway – they came. In flocks, In herds, and singly they dispersed, from every different region. To Tokyo.

Together
they filled a room with their voices, with drums, guitars and keyboards they made noises. They listened and they learnt and from them dreams burst forth.


From tiny bubbles, came big bubbles, full of visions and dreams, of things they could never imagine of things they had never ever seen.
Dreams, big dreams, awesome dreams, alive dreams. All rejoicing in one voice that said How awesome is this place… it is none other than the house of God.”

That conference was the Jesus Lifehouse Conference.

I went by shinkansen up to Tokyo for two days to see what it was all about! And I was blown away…

I learnt so much, laughed, cried, met people from all over, made incredible friends, and fell in love with Japan even more.

Words cannot describe what I received this weekend. My vision for Japan, my vision for Osaka, my dreams – went from one small bubble to this… an endless stream of vision and passion that just wanted to blow up out of me.

Many people I spoke to also say the same, their vision for Japan has heightened, to see Japan change, to see people’s lives built up. It was amazing to see so many people gathered in one place, from all over Japan and from different parts of the world. Well over a 1,000 people were there all with the same vision – to see Japan change.

Many people were challenged this weekend. Challenged to dream large, to not be afraid to dream big, bigger than we can imagine. But I realised, there is only one key to all of this, to all the dreaming, all the visions all the change we can make in Japan.

All of the pastors there spoke about many different things, and spoke about many areas in life, that challenged us. But no matter what they spoke about it could all be drawn back to one thing. The key.

Jesus.

Brendan Brown from hillsong Sydney challenged us to question what are we looking at?

There are so many things that want to get our attention in life. For everyone, even Christians. In the billboards at the train station, the pretty girls in the magazines, the celebrities on TV, the boys at school, or work, or in the clubs. The music, the movies, the drink and the parties. How we should look, how we shouldn’t. Where we should go, where we shouldn’t. What we should do, what we shouldn’t.

It’s all trying to grab our attention, trying to fix our eyes on the next best thing, trying to tell us this will make us happy.

But no matter what we are looking at, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus. He is the only thing that is going to make us truly happy. The only one who can give us an answer.

We are human. Even Christians. We have eyes. And most of us can see. Which means we are always looking for something to make our situations better than they are.

We look around us at others – comparing ourselves to models in magazines, celebrities on TV, or even to our best friend, who is popular and gets all the attention from guys/girls. But we don’t need to be comparing ourselves all the time. The best person we can be is us. YOU.

Then when we are not looking at others we are looking at ourselves. We turn to the horoscope page at the back of the newspaper, or find ourselves wondering in the self-help section at the book store. We read magazine articles on how to make a guy want us, or 10 tips to making ourselves more attractive. Even when we know they aren’t really going to help us, or change our lives we still flick through and wish they could.

The thing is, when we are looking at others, when we are looking at ourselves, we are forgetting one thing, Jesus.

Jesus came to earth and died for us, so we could have a great life, he didn’t die so we could go about finding the best life we can in a horoscope on the back of a cereal box.

When we are getting all bogged down in our problems, the things going wrong in life, the mess, mess, mess, it’s because we have taken our eyes off Jesus!

If we fix our eyes on Jesus, he will make us the best we can be! Why would we want anything less than that?

All those questions we have, all the things we search for in life, everything we are looking at. There is only one answer. Jesus.

John 3.15 “And everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.”

Next time, I will talk more about the challenges I received from the conference, so please continue to read.

But in the meantime, if this has challenged you, if you feel God is calling you to question what you are looking at, or if you have never heard of Jesus and want to know more about him, come to Jesus Lifehouse Osaka.

We can introduce you to Jesus, help you to stop focusing on the mess around you and help you to find the best life through him!

We will also share with you our passion for Japan, and our love for people. So come on down and see!

We are located in Shinsaibashi, near Krispy crème donuts, so you can pick up a donut on your way! What could be better?

www.osaka.jesuslifehouse.com


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Running away…to Japan! – Part 1

I want to talk to you a bit more about myself and how I came to Japan.

When I first came to Japan, I didn’t expect to end up where I am now. Actually I had only planned to come for 6 months, become fluent in Japanese and then leave to go back to my own country. Either that or fall in love with some Japanese dude, get married and have lots of half Japanese babies. Actually none of these idealistic notions ever happened.

I didn’t become fluent in Japanese in 6 months, I didn’t get married and I didn’t leave the country either.

Instead, the best thing happened. I fell in love with Japan. I ended up staying here for a lot longer than 6 months and finally after going around and around in circles looking for direction in life, I found myself at Jesus LIfehouse Osaka. This was where I rededicated my life to Jesus, this was where I could really steam on ahead in life.

But let’s go back a few steps.

Thing’s haven’t always been so hunky dory!

I grew up in a Christian home, I accepted Jesus love for me in to my life when I was 13 and I really wanted to live for him, but by the time I reached 18, parties, boys and the list of 1001 things I hadn’t done in my life arrived at my door… Suddenly I wasn’t so sure if following Jesus was the way forward in life for me.

So I took a gamble, I decided a different route, the ‘Laura route’. I went down my own road, all by myself and it often ended up in a lot of trouble…
I was suddenly compelled to rebel. The foundation I had in Christianity wasn’t based on God, it was based on my families’ moral values and beliefs and it was against them, that I suddenly found the need to fight back.

I found myself breaking away from Christianity easily, and crashing into a
whirl wind romance with life,
everyday leading to some new exciting venture and every morning to a hangover from hell, topped with a plague of guilt that I wasn’t following my dreams and I wasn’t living up to the person I imagined I would be. In fact I wasn’t living for anything, but myself.

It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God, but more than that, I didn’t think I needed HIm in my life. There wasn’t any ROOM for God in my life anymore. What could God give me that I couldn’t get myself? I had been introduced to alcohol and freedom, I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I was allowed to lose control and was encouraged to do so, my friends acknowledge that this ‘Party Laura’ was so much fun. The more they acknowledged it, the more I wanted to live up to the gregarious name I had set up for myself. I totally forgot about God. I had totally left him behind.

Actually I was just running away. Running away from life.

But no matter how far you run, how fast you are running,
or even what running shoes you’re wearing, you can’t run away from life.

Although I hadn’t quite come to terms with it, I knew this so I decided I needed a change, a big change in life – I was looking for something more, so I decided to run even further away from everything – to
JAPAN!


When I arrived here I had every intention of making something of my life, leaving behind my selfish ways and taking up a challenge that would give me a new direction.

But when I stepped off that plane
wooaaaa…….. It was like someone had pressed the pause button on my “Journey to ‘life'” I was stuck in commercial mode. A crazy, constantly moving, commercial.

Life in Japan didn’t stop. There were lights and food and customs I was totally unused to. Karaoke, Izakaya’s, boy’s – people just wanted to talk to me all the time, I was the interesting white Gaijin, I loved it.
For the first 6 months I lived it up, it was all a novelty, I got lost in the commercial island that Japan had marked in my life. Gismo’s galore. It was great, it was fun, it was everything I wanted Japan to be.

But after a while things started to take a negative turn. The small things about Japan started to irritate me, I became down about living here, but it wasn’t just about Japan – I was down with life.

I had no purpose, no goals, I had a deep longing to be something more, to live more than just me, but all I was left with was a deep un-satisfaction with what I had.

I didn’t know where to turn, or what to about it, so I just carried on how I was living – in a mess. I gave up in away.

At this point in my life it reminds me a lot of a story in the bible that Jesus told, about a son who decided to leave home with his father’s money and go off and find his own life. He lived it up, he had a blast, until his money ran out and he found himself feeding pigs. He realised even his father’s servants were living a lot better off than he was. He couldn’t do it by himself.

Luke 15 v 11-19
To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
-Luke 15:11-19 (NLT)

Granted, I wasn’t exactly feeding pigs, but I was totally lost in life, I thought I could do it all by myself, but I couldn’t even take care of how I was feeling inside. I was a long way from home and alone.


At first, I had blamed Japan for how I felt. But it wasn’t Japan’s fault I felt this way, it wasn’t Japan’s fault that I couldn’t get more from life, it wasn’t Japan that was making me empty inside.
And although I didn’t realise it at the time, my frustration wasn’t at Japan it was at myself. I thought I needed to leave the country and explore somewhere new to find the answer. But running away is never the answer. I had runaway to Japan I couldn’t run away from it.

I had to sort me out here.

So I did. Even at this low point in my life, I knew what was missing, I knew what my heart was longing for….


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Posted by on September 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Running away… to Japan! – part 2

Now, my life is Great!
It’s so satisfying! I have so much joy and hope for an amazing future! I’m filled with vision and purpose for life!

But it wasn’t always like this…

For most of my time in Japan, I made pretence to my family and friends that my life was great. I had this amazing career, living in Japan, learning and speaking Japanese, teaching kids which I loved, but the truth of the matter was, I had lost all the excitement and joy this life could have brought, I was empty inside and I had lost hope.

Six more years down the line where would I be? I didn’t want to be 30 years old and still carrying on this dead end party lifestyle, which could never really fulfil me in anyway. I made a declaration to myself then and there. This was my life, I was the only one who could make a difference in it, I was the only one who could start the change.

But I wasn’t exactly sure how?!

One Christmas I went back to visit my family, in England, I drank away my shame as I saw my friends and family getting on with their lives, starting families, finding loved ones and not letting their insecurity take over. What had I got to show for my life, it finally dawned on me, not a lot. When I got back I vowed I would change myself, I had already started living healthier, and trying to find my spiritual self, albeit down the wrong alley.

I had written a list of things I wanted to accomplish in life, or in that year at least, I wanted to learn Yoga, write a novel, become fluent in Japanese, make more friends, read more, the list went on and somewhere down at the bottom I had written ‘Go to church’. I don’t know what had inspired me to write it, maybe my mother’s constant nagging had finally gotten the better of me. But there was that calling in my heart.

Despite trying to do a lot of these things, none of them really fulfilled me, my own soul was nagging away at me to do something more. So one day after spending the whole weekend locked in my apartment by myself, I searched on the internet for a church, what harm could it do, I could just go, if I didn’t like it I could leave and never have to go again.

Maybe I would meet a few people, I certainly wasn’t meeting any sat around here. So I searched and I found Jesus Lifehouse Osaka, not far from me. The website looked really appealing and friendly and modern, I was suddenly filled with a surge of excitement and eagerness, I was going to go to this church, I was going to meet some new people, I wasn’t nervous like I thought I would be, instead I was on the edge of my seat in anticipation. I didn’t understand why I felt so excited to go there or why I was so adamant that I would, but that week I just couldn’t wait to go to that church.

Little did I know at the time that this was Jesus calling his lost
daughter back home. From that day God’s spirit and love started filling up inside of me, the hole in my heart that I had been trying to fill with alcohol and men was being replaced with a purity that I thought I could never get back.

The day I went back to church, I broke down inside. I realised that all my efforts and energy I had been putting into making my life better were fruitless without God’s help. I couldn’t do it by myself and I didn’t have to do it by myself!

Remember the story Jesus told of the lost son, well the end of the story goes like this.

Luke 15 20-24
“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’ “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.”

I was like that son, I had gone my own way, got totally lost, lost hope, lost satisfaction and was pretty much losing out in life. It was only at my darkest point did I turn back to God and realise, I can just go home to Jesus. He wants me back in his life, it’s what he longs for most.

After everything that I had done, I felt ashamed and stupid – I was not worthy, I thought, to even be considered a Christian, so I ran further away from any kind of good thing in my life. But on this day God made me realise I am WORTHY.

That day God wiped my plate clean, as if all the points on my drivers licence were suddenly irrelevant, I was given a new chance and I wasn’t going to give that up. He welcomed me back with open arms and filled me with love and joy, he gave me more compassion than I could ever comprehend.

My heart had become cold towards love, towards my family, towards acceptance by others, BUT now I have a renewed heart filled with love that I can’t stop spreading. Because of this my life has changed in more than words can say.

“I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you, I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God willed, not self-willed.” Ezekial 36 v 26

I met many people that day, they surpassed all of my preconceptions and false apprehensions I had been carrying around towards Christians. They were all people just like me, who had stuffed up, who had smoked and drank and abandoned themselves to their insecurities, they were not perfect and they needn’t have been because God had chosen to love them all the same.

God shone through them like I had never seen God shine amongst his people, they accepted me warts and all, they didn’t judge me, but wholesomely wanted me to be a part of them. They had vision and purpose in their life to change and be a part of change in Japan! And I thought to myself, these are the people that make the world worth living in, I wanted to be like them and I wanted to be a part of them.

From that day I did become a part of Jesus Lifehouse Osaka, I became a Christian again just like them, I learned to give my life, not just take it. But more importantly I let Jesus back in and letting Jesus into my life will always be the most life changing thing I have ever done.

I was lost, but now I am found. And “so the party began…!”

Maybe you like me have got lost in life, or don’t really know where you are headed. It can feel hard and tough; we don’t know all the answers. But there is hope and joy to be found. It’s not difficult and we don’t have to go on a pilgrimage to find it. We just have to turn to Jesus.
He is waiting for us arms wide open. He is not going to tell us off or make us feel guilty, he is just going to welcome us back home, into his arms of love, fill the hole in us and restore our hearts. And then he is gonna CELEBRATE!

Maybe you are unsure about church and the whole Christianity thing, I was for 5 years! I ran as far away from it as I could and for 2 and half years whilst I lived in Japan I was adamant I didn’t need to go to church, nor did I want to.

But once I built up the courage and went, my whole life changed around. Now I really can believe it when I tell my family, I am living the best life ever – because I am!

So why don’t you come on down and see for yourself, even if it’s just to meet some new friends, I guarantee you will have a good time!

www.lifehouseosaka.com


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Posted by on September 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Typhoon – Part 2!

Sorry for the delay, but here is the next part of my Typhoon story!

Rain – It might be raining, but anything is possible!

The wind.

The rain.

We are often stuck in the middle of a cyclone.

The wind begs us to question who is pressuring us, who is influencing us and who are we following?

The rain tells a different story.

Sometimes it starts as drizzle. Sometimes it’s torrential.

However it comes, we are more than likely to get wet.

When it comes in life we are also going to feel wet – sad, depressed, STRESSED OUT!!

There are so many things in life that can hit us full force like torrential rain. Whether its overwork and piled on stress from our boss, gossip at work flying at us left right and centre, maybe we have lost our job or failed our exams. We get sick, or a friend or someone from our family get sick. We have to look after our kids or our dog, or our friends kids. We lose all our money, we lose all our friends or we get dumped!!

Whatever happens, however it happens these things can pile up on us. Whatever it may be, even if it seems small at the time, when it hits us, it hits us HARD.
Sometimes we feel like giving up and we look to so many places to get us out!

I remember before I came to Japan, I was desperately looking for a way to get here, I studied at university hoping to come on the year abroad, but I never made it, I applied to endless jobs and got rejected, I tried many different ways to get here but money or situations just didn’t work out. The more I tried, the more stressful the situation became, there were so many times I just felt like giving up. I was flooded under the “I just can’t take it anymore” ocean and it seemed like no one was throwing me a life jacket – wherever I turned I couldn’t see any boats coming to help me out. I wanted to just give up.

There are many times in life when we want to just give up, retire, call it a day, realise that all our efforts just aren’t going to get us anywhere.

But with God we don’t have to give up! With him anything is possible!

Do you know the story of Abraham? Abraham is a guy in the bible, he really wanted a family, a child, but he was over 90 years old and his wife was infertile – pretty much no hopers, hey! But God pulled through for them and gave them a son – at their age and in their situation! HE gave them a son! That’s pretty unbelievable! But with God anything is possible. He really can do anything!

“Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Matthew 19 v 26

Eventually as you can see I did get to Japan, on God’s time, with God’s plan and not my own scrapings together of one. And his plan was better, because through it I came to Kyoto, it gave me a great job and brought me to Jesus Lifehouse Osaka, where I have made so many friends for life. If I hadn’t of trusted God, I may not have ever made it to Japan and I wouldn’t be here now writing this blog.

No matter what we are going through, no matter how many showers we get, or how heavy the rain is, God can turn it around, he can change the scenario to make it even better than we could possibly imagine.

But if we give up instead of turning to God we are left with nothing. If we turn to HIM we can receive more than we could possibly imagine.

Maybe it’s hard to believe when all you can see is rain, but Jesus said also “Anything is possible if a person believes.” Mark 9 v 23. If we turn to Him and believe that He can pull us through the hard times, then we can be sure He will!

If you are struggling with something, if you are bogged down with things, if you feel like your life is flooded with bills and worn out relationships, if it seems like it’s just never going to stop raining. Why don’t you turn to him and let him take over, he wants to help and the best thing is he CAN!

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3 v 20

You can’t imagine it right? But that’s the best part, he can do MORE than we imagine!

If you want to know more, if you want to see through the rain, or have your situation turned around, come to Jesus Lifehouse Osaka.

It’s an amazing place to make new friends, learn, grow, and receive God’s love that will change your life around.

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Posted by on September 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Typhoon!!! – Part 1

This weekend a Typhoon hit Japan!

The clouds were low and dark, it was blowing a gail outside and inside everyone was talking about it, “When’s the Typhoon going to hit?”

To be honest, when I first came to Japan I didn’t have a clue what a typhoon was….. 3 Years ago I had just arrived in Japan and I heard that one was coming, I thought we were all going to die and be swept away in torrents of floods! But that wasn’t the case!

Actually after that, I decided to fill in my ignorance and googled it up. A typhoon, which most of you will know is just a bunch of strong winds and stored up water, which later showers on us as rain. It’s simple, nothing complicated, but this simple thing can cause a LOT of damage.

Anyway, this whole typhoon business got me thinking about life – life can feel like we are sometimes trapped in a cyclone of wind and rain coming at us in all directions.

The wind comes,

the rain comes and

sometimes it feels like a full speed cyclone hit’s us full on, when we least expect it and we are left to pick up the pieces and remove the damage it leaves on our hearts.
Sometimes we have more time to prepare, like the one this weekend, we can get under cover and protect our hearts – but that doesn’t always means it can prevent the damage or our hearts from being broken.

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CYCLONE.

Being in the midst of a typhoon can be scary, we don’t always know what’s going on, we lose control of the situation and find things getting a little tougher. Sometimes we get so scared of a typhoon hitting us that we succumb to things we wouldn’t normally do, we let the typhoon take over.

The wind and the rain start coming at us and we don’t know how to react or how to face it.

The wind – Who are we following?

It’s strong and coming at us full force.
The wind can often push us in directions we wouldn’t normal go.
It can be the same in life, people and the pressure from other’s can often put us in positions where we find ourselves moving in a direction we didn’t really want to be moving in, doing things we actually, don’t think are right and that we don’t believe in.

A while ago I found myself in this position a lot, doing things I didn’t always want to do, going to parties I wasn’t comfortable in, where I found myself at times over the top drinking to impress the people I was with, because I didn’t want them to go and leave me and be left alone. So I dressed like them, I talked like them, I walked and drank and ate like them.
I didn’t want the cyclone to go and leave me alone, so I succumbed to the cyclone.

I let people persuade me to become like them, to live like they did. They didn’t have to push very hard… but eventually those people moved on and took the cyclone with them.
Although at times it may have been fun living in the cyclone of parties, after it had died down I realised I was relying on those people for happiness, I was basing my life and dreams and aspirations on their kind of lifestyle, when I should have been following God and the amazing lifestyle he had planned for me!

“Jesus said, I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8 v 12

When I hear this verse, I realise how much darkness I had been walking in, I was stumbling around looking for something to follow, looking for places to build my character and so I used my friends at the time and imitated their lifestyle.

Sometimes we can get persuaded by people, to live up to their expectations, to impress them. But we don’t need to live to impress others; we won’t achieve anything from that. Even if we impress others at first, we may be happy for a while, but we cannot achieve ultimate satisfaction from them being impressed at us. They also will move on and look to somewhere else or someone else to impress them.

Living to impress people is hard work, there is always someone else to impress, or something else to do to impress them, they will never be truly interested in us and it is not going to satisfy us for long.
The only person we should really be wanting to impress is God. Because he is ALREADY impressed with us, he is always going to love us, no matter what – he has our interests at heart, and he isn’t going to leave us when he gets bored.

“All your life, no one will be able to hold out against you. In the same way I was with Moses. I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you. I won’t leave you.” Joshua 1 v 5

Now I am living to please God, with his goals in mind, I’m not always seeking other’s approval but rather God’s.
I’m following him, not the leader of the pack!

Now I have changed who I am living for, not to amaze my friends or to impress boys, not to please my parents even, but to live for God means I can live the best life. Especially because I know God is constant, I know he will never leave me. When the cyclone is gone, he will still be there, picking up the pieces with me.

Because he loves ME! He loves me more than all my party friends ever could! And he loves you too!

He is the best person to rely on!! The best person to follow!

No boyfriend, no friend, not even our parents can match up to him!

So it’s really important to think about what kind of wind is blowing in our direction, are we being influenced by the people around us or are we standing strong in the cyclone and focusing on our true leader God?

Tomorrow I will talk about the other key part of the cyclone, the rain – how things in our lives can build up and pour out on us in torrents of rain, and how believing in God can change that.

If you want to know more about God, if you want to meet people who will support you in your relationship with him and make true friendships, rather than push you in the wrong direction, come to Jesus Lifehouse Osaka.

It’s an amazing place full of people who love God and live to impress Him, and live the best life together.

If you are unsure or apprehensive that’s ok, if you need a friend to go with I can be that friend, mail me and we can go together!

laura.2708@i.softbank.jp

Laura

www.lifehouseosaka.com

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2011 in Uncategorized