Blessings that I got through C-WIT

Hello. I praise His holy name.

I am Tomoko Nagata, living in Seattle for almost a quarter of a century.

In March 2022, I participated in Zoom C-WIT for the first time. At that time, I was caught up in work and studies, and even the foundation of life, which is devotion, tended to be postponed within myself due to “lack of time.” I prioritized tasks with deadlines and work over devotion. In February 2022, after successfully finishing school, I was relieved, but I was experiencing days when my heart didn’t turn towards devotion. It was during such a time that I participated in the first C-WIT, where we are invited to be still before God. While I thought C-WIT might be a study group about leadership for adult Christians, I joined with interest because I had been getting more involved in leadership roles at work, and I wanted to know how to exhibit leadership as a Christian and if there was insight from the Bible. However, what I had imagined was completely different. The first session involved learning about being still before God and Contemplative Prayer. Calling out to God while feeling His presence along with my breath was refreshing, and I continue to walk, especially during times of worry in my current life, while consciously breathing and receiving God’s peace.

In the spring of this year,  we shared about having God in our daily routines, and in the summer, we shared about the evidence of God’s guidance in times of trials at C-WIT meetings. After the sessions, we formed small groups and when we discussed what each of us had heard from God, although our individual situations were entirely different, it became clear that God was surely responding to each one of us in unexpected ways.

From those who participated in C-WIT during these three sessions, enduring physically or mentally challenging circumstances, I received the sharing of God’s daily journey. This deeply ingrained in me that God is with each one of us at all times.

As of 2023, I am still caught up in work. Moreover, a family member in Japan has developed health concerns, so my days involve messaging and talking online while looking at screens. Though my family has not yet made a confession of faith, they have gradually begun to listen to God’s words since this situation arose. We pray together, frequently asking for protection in our daily lives. When we first prayed together, it required courage from me. Now, I can pray easily. In my daily life, Jesus is surely with me, guiding me through the Holy Spirit. Just as Yuko Ozeki shared in the second C-WIT, that God’s presence is there while doing daily routines, I also feel a calmness and a sense of God’s presence even when cleaning the toilet. I quietly desire to know more about God, and I want to engage in devotion, reading the Bible and praying, to understand how Jesus guides me. Some days, I sleep until the last moment and devotion is often pushed aside by my to-do list. In my daily life, there are times of anxiety and worry, times when my heart feels overwhelmed. Especially concerning my family in Japan, due to the distance, there’s not much I can do immediately, so I often have to entrust them to God. However, God consistently provides ways to overcome challenges in ways that surpass my expectations.

Through C-WIT, I have learned and continue to learn:

“That the holy God is with us in our daily lives, whether in quiet and calm times or in the stormiest days. To be still before God, to listen to His voice. This relationship is possible because Jesus died the cross, forgiving my sins.”

Working in healthcare fields, I witness situations where individuals who were living normally just yesterday suddenly pass away or their health drastically changes, altering their lives entirely. That’s why being able to welcome the holy God into my life’s daily miracles and blessings and spending time with Him is a reason for gratitude.

Shake, Shake, Shake

Hello everyone!

My name is Yuko OZEKI.

Since the theme of this year’s EC, “Unshakable – Our Firm Foundation,” was decided around this time last year, it has been a year full of things that have made me wonder why I have been so shakable.

The number of appliances that have broken in the past year has been humongous. 😭

(1) Refrigerator,
(2) Microwave oven
(3)Bread maker
(4) Toaster
(5) Rice cooker
(6) Dishwasher

And last week
(7) Washing machine

broke down. Ding. 😂 Isn’t it terrible to have so many breakdowns in one year?

Even if the foundation is not shaken, when the top is shaken, it’s pretty depressing.

At times like this, what has been Life-Giving for me?

(1) Devotions in the morning, when I light a candle and make a cup of hot tea.
(2) Playing ball with my dog at the dog park.
(3) Jogging and yoga.
(4) Eating delicious sweets.
(5) Using a foot massager to prevent swelling.
(6) Meditation while doing the labyrinth walk.
(7) Having a place to share your thoughts and feelings such as bible study and spiritual direction.

I am very happy to be able to do these things. When I write them down like this, I realize that it is “one-off events” that shake me up, but all the things that help me build-up are “routine.”

So by developing habits to energize even when shaken, we can build back up again, broken or not. As long as the foundation is not shaken, you can rebuild as many times as you want.

What is a Life-Giving routine for you?

The following is a quote from C.S. Lewis that O-kun shared with us during the first EC Executive Committee meeting. These words have also been a great support for me this past year.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

A Time for Reflection

Fall is my favorite season of the year. But I have noticed that at some point, I started to feel down or lonely in Fall, and even be apprehensive of the approach of this season. Having a reading break in October in the U.S. and February in Canada might be related to the need for a pause or slowing down.  

The other day, I re-read “Here and Now” by Henri Nouwen that I encountered for the first time in 1997, and pondered on the importance of “Reflection”. I have had an opportunity to learn from the translator of this book, Rev. Koichi Otawa last year, and received a recommendation to read the chapter on “In Search of Meaning”. This process is also described as “Examen”, “meditation” and “reflection” in “The Good and Beautiful God” by James Bryan Smith. In “Here and Now”, the author touches on devotional reading.    

Below is the an excerpt from “Here And Now”: 

++

Most of us read to acquire knowledge or to satisfy our curiosity. When we want to know how to repair a car, cook a meal… give a lecture, etc., we have to do a certain amount of reading. … The purpose of spiritual reading, however, is not to master knowledge or information, but to let God’s Spirit master us. … The great value of spiritual reading is that it helps us to give meaning to our lives. …The issue is not just what we read, but how we read it…We have to keep asking ourselves: “What does it all mean?  What is God trying to tell us?  How are we called to live in the midst of all this?” 

“Here an Now” by Henri Nouwen

++

Often times, I’m unable to easily find answers to such questions and instead find myself fallen asleep. Yet I notice my heart being calmer through the reflection rather than being filled with the matters of the world that stir up fear, anxiety, and compulsion.  

Perhaps, there is an important meaning in applying myself to look for a meaning, more so than finding the meaning to the answer itself. It might be because through the process of reflection, I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, walking the journey beside me today, and get to know God, who works within my life. 

Another point; when reflect on “What meaning does this event or issue hold?”, I’m led to a question, “Why do I react in this way, anyway?” When that happens, I realize I’m not necessarily reacting to the “issue” itself, but reacting to somebody else’s reaction to me. These steps provide me an opportunity to recognize what is holding “my current self” captive, and what is driving me. 

However if I use this time of reflection for the purpose of self examination and self analysis to judge words and actions of myself and others, I end up being controlled by my false self, who is obsessed with how I acted and how others might evaluate me. 

Jesus Christ came to this world to tell us that “the image of you this world conjures up is not your true self. Your true image is a child of God who is atoned and loved.” The book reminds me of this after 24 years. Since when the words “false self” and “beloved child of God” resonated in my heart, I have set out on a long journey full of struggles and gradually come to savor the depth of their meanings. To read the Bible, needless to say, and other devotional reading and reflections are so very important. 

Worship is also a time of reflection, to which God invites us. To receive the Bible message from the passage we have read many times before, this time communally with others. If we could take the time to look on with the spiritual eyes our hearts that frantically raced through the past week, at the same time noticing the warm gaze of God and His love, with what peace would we able to welcome the new week! The delight of Fall I have forgotten completely, and the joy of worship in the temple of God. I hope we will savor it together once again, and enjoy.    

from Santa Clara Valley Japanese Christian Church Bulletin “Hydrangea” published on 11/3/2021

Makiko Nakao  

Santa Clara Valley Japanese Christ Church pastor’s wife.
Mother of three daughters born in 🇯🇵🇨🇦🇺🇸.
Hobby: Observing my husband, aimlessly change interior decorations.
Stay-at-home wife blogger ++Violette ++https://violetteivory.wordpress.com/

 

 

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