Testimony from C-WIT Norcal 19

Asuka Wong

I have participated in Equipper Conference three times before. So about three months ago when I received a retreat invitation from JCFN, I assumed it’s going to be wonderful and decided to register for it, even before knowing what exactly C-WIT was about. It was also convenient for me that the venue this time will be in Northern California, where I could commute from my house. But I found out in the last part of registration that the venue was in fact the church I attend every week. I was a little bit disappointed by this, because it just made it seem like a part of my regular routine, rather than out of the ordinary.  But then again, if I changed the way I look at it, it’s easier for me to ask my family to hold down the fort at home, when I’m going to a place only 10 minutes away by car. So I came to attend C-WIT with a positive expectation.     

When I arrived at the venue, I saw fabulous faces from JCFN like Setsu, Yuko, and Sachi Nakamura at the church we always go to, and that alone made it feel very special and I was buoyant. 

However as I listened to the instruction, I found out that it was a silent retreat. Even during lunch, we were to eat alone in silence without chatting with anybody else. After that, we were supposed to spend a couple of hours in the afternoon to quieten our hearts in silence. I was taken aback by all this, because it was completely different from my expectations of passionate worship, prayer, and fellowship like I experienced in the Equipper Conference.  

The morning session by Sachi started as I was still feeling somewhat disconcerted. During her talk, Sachi said: “You each probably have expectations you brought to this retreat. But please set that aside for now. God is already pleased by the fact that you offered the whole day and came together here.”  This touched me deeply, because I have 9 and 4 years old sons and normally Saturdays are very busy with different activities and other house chores. It would have been very difficult to spend the whole day at this retreat without the help of my husband. Still I felt bad to say that I made a significant effort to make time to participate, when other participants came on an airplane or drove over an hour to get here. I also felt a bit guilty to have just shown up and didn’t help for set-up even though I was a member of the church where the venue was.   

Despite all that, as I was pondering quietly after Sachi’s talk, I felt God was gazing through even the petty guilt I was feeling. 

At the same time, I realized I constantly had a switch turned on in my head that said “I have to do something”, and never had time time to be still. I have a preschool age child at home, and we are spending time together just about all the time; caring for children, doing house chores, occasionally listening to my husband (lol)… It was evident that my mind was never at rest and I was exhausted. 

Therefore the lunch in silence turned out to a bliss during which nobody interrupted my time. The church’s social hall where it’s normally filled with people was filled with silence. It was magical. I was able to actually savor the flavors in delicious salad. I didn’t have to worry about people around, and didn’t even think about fun topics of conversation. I was just looking at a beautiful view outside and consider the wonder of God who created all of it. Then I felt enormous joy bubbling out of my heart. Until now, my conversation with God was a one-sided projection of my worries and pleas such as for my need to have alone time, my family’s health, my future vision and wish for solutions for all these issues. But since I have arrived at this retreat and let go of these issues for the time being to bring my little self before God, the view I’ve always seen and even the taste of a meal were transformed.   

After lunch we were taken to a nearby rose garden. We each went separate ways there and spent our time on our own: Beautiful roses, their sweet fragrance, blue California sky, people in a wedding, a small baby toddling… All these seemed like a sight full of hope and brought joy to my heart again.   

I was so glad I could attend C-WIT this time. My biggest take-away was that even after returning to my busy life, I have learned to stop time to time to take a deep breath and be still, and be reminded of beautiful things around me that God has created, and also that I’m loved by the same God and being sustained by Him. 

 

(日本語) 「日常生活」という修練

Dr. Sachi Nakamura(Christian Books Translator, Spiritual Director, JCFN Board Member)

Over half-a-year ago, I read an article in Christianity Today. The article featured a conversation between a woman doing her doctorate studies at Regent College in Canada and Eugene Peterson. The student had a new-born baby, and was feeling frustrated about being occupied and distracted by her baby whenever she tried to read the Bible. She asked Peterson if he could recommend any spiritual disciples for her to help her get out of her spiritual rut. Peterson asked her this question.

“Is there anything you are doing regularly every day without fail?”

She thought about it. One thing she could think of that she did many times a day was breastfeeding. When she told Peterson that, he replied, 

“That is your spiritual disciple. From now on, pay close attention when you do what you are already doing. Be present.” 

The student (now a pastor’s wife) reflected on that conversation and said this:

“I had a strong temptation to do something for Christ rather than to be in Christ.I was starting to see my daily responsibilities in the home as obstacles to living as a devout Christian. However, in reality, those were the exact places where God wanted to meet with me.  Upon realizing that, my understanding of “submission to God” was expanded to include the simple act of “being in Christ (John 15).”

 

As I read that section of the article, I was reminded of the time when my daughter was battling cancer. Although I had just begun my courses for becoming a spiritual director, I was having to miss many classes. This is what my teacher told me. 

“My heart feels so much compassion and care for you and your daughter, as well as your entire family.  You are living life as it is, not as an interruption to a program.  You are living what you are learning, that God is in the midst of every sacred moment of your life, and that of Miho’s.  You need to put your attention there, and what is happening each day for her, and for you.  ……

Do not worry about deadlines, papers, or anything.  Let go of pressure to finish on time.  What we are about is reflecting on how God is active in your real life, now.  ….”

Taking care of my daughter battling cancer was quite far from what people would call as “daily life.” However, the point is that we need to realize that God is at work in the midst of our daily lives. We need to simply respond to Him from that place. It may be when each day seem monotonous  and repetitive…. Or else, when you find yourself in the midst of suffering that totally alters your course of life. Whatever we are facing, we are called to live out our “daily lives” intentionally while remaining in Christ. We do not need to scramble to live the way we think we should be living. Rather, we need to discern what the Lord is inviting us into; the here and now

As we respond to this invitation, many areas of your daily life may start to look differently. God may bring to light some of your habits, thoughts and response patterns that are distancing you from  God or robbing intimacy with those around you. God may also lead you to incorporate new activities (disciplines) to help you draw closer to Him. At that time, my daily routine included making soup for my daughter in the morning. That became my prayer time. As I chopped vegetables and cooked them, I did them prayerfully as if I was offering them to God. By becoming more aware of God’s presence, each step of preparing the soup became acts of serving in the temple for me.

What are you facing in your “daily life”? What are some things you do routinely? Some of you may feel that you are too busy to find time to be quiet  before God. Spiritual disciplines do not have to look very “spiritual.” Even your commute to work, whether in a crowded train, or through bad traffic on the freeway, can become your place of prayer, a monastery. As you take care of a baby, pick up your children from school, wash dishes, fold laundry, even engage in a difficult relationship with someone at work or school, those can all become opportunities to meet with God as long as you are remaining in Christ. 

God invites us to start now, in the midst of our daily lives. Lord, please help us to respond to your invitation.

Being Grounded in the Absolute Love of God

Dr. Sachi Nakamura(Christian Books Translator、JCFN Board Member、Spiritual Director)

 

 

Few years ago, I came across these words by a Catholic Trappist monk, James Finley. 

“(God is) the infinity of the unforeseeable; so we know that [the unforeseeable] is trustworthy, because in everything, God is trying to move us into Christ consciousness. If we are absolutely grounded in the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing even as it sustains us in all things, then we can face all things with courage and tenderness and touch the hurting places in others and in ourselves with love.” 

“…the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing even as it sustains us in all things,…” Thinking that I had misread this phrase, I read it over several times. However, that is surely what it said; “…the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing even as it sustains us in all things,…”

                     It does not mean that God does not protect us from anything. However, whether it is a natural disaster, illness, losing a job, or a bereavement of a loved one, such things that happen in this world may happen to anyone who believes in God. God’s love does not protect us from experiencing tragedy, suffering and pain. We all know this from our own experiences. No one can say that they have not experienced some kind of sadness, hardships, or things they cannot understand why it happened. Nonetheless, God’s love sustains us in the midst of it all, no matter how tragic the circumstance is, and how difficult and painful the experience may be. Many of us also know this from our personal experiences. 

                    When you look back at your life, can you identify painful and difficult times that had made you wonder why God didn’t protect you from such circumstances? The pain might have felt unbearable at that moment. You may not have felt His presence during it. However, now turn your thoughts to the truth that God did sustain you through it. The fact that you are reading this sentence right now is proof that the Lord was with you during your difficult time to sustain you. At that time, how and in what ways did the Lord abide with you in your difficulties? Maybe you were not able to notice Him then, but as you look back on it now, you may be able to recognize how His hand was at work. 

                     What about you now? Maybe some of you are going through a great deal of suffering at this moment. You might be facing a painful time and are wondering why God is not protecting you from it. Others of you may not feel like you are going through any specific trials, but are somehow feeling suffocated by the chronic burdens of life. Regardless of the circumstances, how is God sustaining you? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you become aware of Christ’s presence and comfort in the midst of your life. 

                      As we look into the future, there is absolutely no guarantee that we will not face any troubles. In fact, Jesus told us that in this world, there will be trouble. Although we are unable to avoid troubles, we can ask the Lord to help us become absolutely grounded in the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing even as it sustains us in all things.

 

“(T)hen we can face all things with courage and tenderness and touch the hurting places in others and in ourselves with love.” Let us also reflect on those words of Finley.

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