LIJ Episode Lives Videos

Living the Best Life

It’s tempting to think that life is better somewhere else, and it’s true that trips and vacations bring happiness for a moment, but when that moment is passed, only a memory remains. A truly rewarding life is built in everyday moments, prioritizing our families and communities. The way we live our normal life determines whether or not we will will enjoy a high quality of life or not. Here’s some of the secrets we’ve found for living the best life.

5 Secrets for Living the Best Life

Involve Others: Good friends and family know that one of the best ways to build good relationships is by spending time together. But it’s more than just spending time together. It’s involving others when you’re just going out to the grocery store, or inviting your child to help you make pancakes, or inviting a friend out when you need to go shopping. I’ve heard it said “If you want to get something done right, then you have to do it yourself” and many times I have subscribed to that thought. But the longer you go it alone to “do it right,” the further distanced you will become from others, ultimately losing what really matters: good relationships.

Get Engaged with Your Neighborhood: We’re learning Japanese because we live in Japan and we’re not just satisfied with skating by on our simple level of Japanese. We want to really get to know people, make good friendships and be a blessing to our community. To do that, learning Japanese is essential. We don’t expect others to learn English, we will rise up and learn Japanese. And in the process, we have met so many incredible people that want to get to know us and so they use English! That is special indeed.

Support Your Local Community: The community you live in should be better because you live there. I constantly see our retired neighbor out and about, cleaning the road, raking at the park, planting flowers, volunteering at community events, chatting with elderly neighbors. This man is an incredible example of someone who supports their local community. We too seek to support our local community by buying locally, supporting local businesses and even running our business to provide a useful service for our community. All of these things factor into supporting our local community.

Become a Part of a Good Church: A good church is a spiritual family that puts God and His Word first and others second. You don’t have to be a Christian to start coming to church. In fact, coming to church (whether online or in person) is one of the best ways to learn about what it is to be a part of a church and why it’s so important. In a good church you will learn not just about God, but led to know Him personally, and knowing God personally is the biggest life change anyone can undergo. In fact, it deserves it’s own point!

Put Your Faith in Jesus Christ: The sooner you can settle who Jesus really is in your heart and believe in Him, the sooner you can start living the fullest life possible. Jesus Himself said that He came to give us life and life to the full. It’s a life that goes beyond any of our natural capacities into God-sized living, and that type of living will blow the roof off of any other type of living there is, because it comes with a promise that once our life on earth is over, we will be with God forever in Heaven.

These are just some of the secrets we’ve found for living the best life. Would you add anything else?

LIJ Episode Videos

Japan’s Epic Landscape

One of the best parts of living and working as a missionary, pastor and content creator in Japan is getting to enjoy the absolutely amazing landscape here. A couple of months ago, my friend Kazu told me about a hike he was planning on doing: a 3-night, 2-day hike down Japan’s deepest gorge. As soon as he told me about it, I knew I wanted to go! Little did I know the huge adventure that was in store. I ended up with close to 2 hours of footage from our adventure, and after many a late nights editing, came out with a 40-minute mini-documentary of our trip. Pop some popcorn for this one and settle in as you enjoy Japan at its finest!

LIJ Episode Videos

Second Hand Stores in Japan

Second hand stores (or resell stores) can be found all over the world, but perhaps no where else in the world are they quite like they are in Japan. A whole second-hand store culture has developed in Japan, one where you can easily find quality used items for half of the retail price. But the way they function in Japan is perhaps unique only to Japan and is the focus of this week’s Life in Japan.

LIJ Episode Videos

Chiba Beach

Normally, our summer break is filled with lots of fun little day trips capped off with some sort of big summertime excursion. However this year is not normal. Two weeks is hardly enough time to have a normal summer break, and with all the concerns and restrictions in place, we had nearly completely discounted the idea of a decent summer excursion this year.

But when we mentioned how much we enjoyed camping, our friends Yoshi and Takako sprung into action, finding a decent camping place close to a beach in Chiba. They know and love the Chiba area for their family vacations, and thought we would enjoy it as well. Yes, it would be hot, but we would be close by a great beach to cool down. Yoshi was excited to do his Japanese BBQ (an amazing feat, especially camping). So we blocked off a couple of days and headed across Tokyo bay to nearby Chiba for some fun in the sun with family and friends. Now we have some great memories to share!

On Making Friends

Forging good friendships is something that takes intention and work. Recently one of our subscribers contacted me asking how he could make friends. For some, friendships seem to come naturally, but for a majority of people, it’s something elusive and scary. But it doesn’t have to be scary. Here are some practical ways to make friends.

The easiest place to start in making friends is to find something you have in common. When you meet someone new, ask questions until you find something in common. The more things you share in common, the stronger your connection to the other person will be.

Recently one of our viewers reached out to me, a fellow missionary here in Japan. As we chatted, we shared so much in common it was almost scary! We could talk hours on end if time permitted. This created a strong connection right off the the bat.

So what do you do if you’re trying to make friends but don’t have much in common? In that case, or any case really, you can look for ways in which you can serve other people. Maybe you can cook them something, write them a song, or just offer a listening ear. Maybe you have a skill that can be useful to someone or something that will be of service or you can help them in some small way. Even a person who is not looking for a friend will welcome someone who blessed their life.

I have a good friend named Brent back in the States. I met Brent over 20 years ago when I began my first job out of college. Brent and I are very different people, from different generations, backgrounds and upbringings. But Brent was a song-writer and was looking for someone to help him produce his songs. I was a music producer and could meet that need. But I had some needs of my own — I was fresh out of college and had no idea how to work on my own home. Home repair was not in my bag of tricks or talents. Brent often helped me, offering his services as a handyman while I produced his songs for him. It kicked off a great friendship that remains to this day, even though I am too far away to produce his songs and he is too far away to help me with my home repair issues. (How I wish I had Brent here in Japan!)

These things will help you make friends. But the biggest thing that helps in making friends is a genuine interest in other people, and that’s not something that comes natural to us as humans because as our biggest interest is ourselves. Yes, even when we “like” somebody, we usually like them because of the feelings that they give us.

However there is a way to cultivate a genuine interest and care for other people, and that’s by making friends with God. Now this is an extremely foreign concept to many people, and some even scoff at the notion. But friendship with God is a very real thing — I know because I enjoy my own friendship with God! God blesses everyone, but especially those who are His friends. And not everyone is God’s friend. To be God’s friend, you have to believe He’s real and you have to believe that He wants to be your friend even more than you want to be His. You don’t believe me? All you have to do is look at the life of God in Jesus Christ to see the great extent God went to, crossing heaven, earth and hell to become friends with us.

Knowing the love of God in Jesus Christ opens up our hearts to not only receive his love, but to cultivate it in our own hearts, changing the way we feel, think and act towards other people. We can genuinely care for others because God genuinely cares for us, and we can do this even when other people treat us poorly. If they knew God like we did, they wouldn’t act the way that they act! God’s interest in us is not based on performance — it’s not based on anything He can get out of us. It’s based on relationship — through Jesus Christ we too are sons and daughters of God.

A newborn child does nothing to earn the love of his parents. He or she has it simply because they are a child. As they grow up in that love, they learn skills, develop hobbies and interests and turn into fully functioning adults of potential as well. But the parents’ main joy in their child is not based on their accomplishments, but on the relationship they have with their child. The accomplishments are icing on the cake of good relationships.

Good relationships and friendships are very possible. I believe the very best place to learn how to have healthy relationships is in a local church, where you will learn how to have a relationship with God and also learn how to develop healthy relationships with others. It’s a great starting point for developing healthy relationships.

LIJ Episode Lives Videos

Living in the Garden of Eden

All of you who follow us and watch us, you’re a special part of our extended online family. We’re glad to bring you joy as we continue to enjoy the relationships God gave us to nurture with Him and with each other. These relationships give a solid base for difficult times, and without them I would not be the person that I am — and we wouldn’t be the family that we are!

These relationships do not happen naturally — in fact for any good relationship to work well, there has to be loving commitment to each other. The closer you get to people, the more you see all their faults. The better they can see your faults too! This is where true love comes in. The feelings of love for others often fade over time, but a strong commitment to love one another can strengthen relationship ties even in the seasons when the feelings are not there. The fruit of healthy relationships is a joy for everyone — and it makes for great videos too!

The 3 Stages of Healthy Relationships

Recently I officiated a small ceremony to celebrate 30 years of marriage of good friends of our Side and Jaquie. They asked me to lead a ceremony and share a word about marriage so that they could invite their close friends and family and renew their wedding vows. I shared about the 3 stages of a healthy relationship, of which they exhibited.

Relationships (especially marriages) go through three major life-phases. There’s the Honeymoon phase — the one everyone loves and often thinks is the best phase (but there’s a better one). Everything’s new and the relationship is fun and personal. Everyday is like walking on sunshine and even if everything’s wrong in the world, you’re doing alright. You’re always thinking of the other person, meeting their needs and being considerate of them. Passion is hot. We all feel like we’d like to stay here, especially when we see the next phase.

The next phase is what I call the Desert of Normality where all the passionate feelings you had for each other cool off as years and years of everyday life wears you down. Throw kids into the mix and you often reach a point where you’re not even sure if you “love” the person anymore. Yes — this is normal, and actually an essential phase for building a true loving relationship that goes deeper than feelings.

God did not intend this phase as your final destination as a married couple, but unfortunately way too many people bail out on their spouse at this particular phase, before they can even make it to the best phase. They think somethings wrong with them, with their spouse, or perhaps they married wrong. They look for fulfillment in other places (food, work, pleasure, other relationships). Anyway you cut it, eventually they think that the best phase of marriage is gone and the only way to reclaim it is to strike up something with someone new and get back to that honeymoon stage. Unfortunately this is only ever a huge step backwards and will still lead you to this second stage with the new person you married.

Research shows it takes 10-15 years for a married couple to start thinking collectively, as a couple, instead of as individuals. If you stick out the difficult phase, learning how to make your relationship work and learning how to prioritize one another even with all of life’s challenges, you eventually arrive at the 3rd phase I like to call The Garden of Eden.

The Garden of Eden was the perfect place God made when He created mankind and there was no sin, sickness, curse or sin in the world. While it is impossible to escape all of the negative aspects of this current world, we can enjoy marriage as God intended it — to be so well unified as “one” that we have a little piece of heaven in our homes. Many couples married more than 30, 40 even 50 years say that their marriages have more passion, fulfillment, purpose and fun than ever before. This is possible because they have become one.

Ruth and I are moving into this 3rd phase, and it is really wonderful. There are still plenty of moments in that 2nd phase that we have to work out, but dealing with those things properly is what sets you up for a win in the 3rd phase. You can ignore the 2nd phase altogether, but that will only leave you with a passionless and stagnate marriage, or worse yet end in divorce.

No one enters marriage thinking it will end in divorce. Everyone would like to stay at the Honeymoon stage, but that’s not possible either. But the good news is that when we do marriage God’s way, we have a promise that the end will be even better than the beginning, and that’s something to celebrate.

If your marriage fell apart, my heart goes out to you. If your marriage is stuck and you think you might not survive, know that God is for you and wants to help you throw it. God is a God of second chances, Jesus proved that as He died on the cross on our behalf, so that we could have the ultimate 2nd chance. And although you may not be able to fix past, God can give you a better future when your life is in His hands, directed by his Holy Spirit and Word (the Bible). There is always hope with God.