Wednesday, January 23, 2013

In My Weakness He Is Strong.....

I pray for the sick, the lonely, the depressed, etc. But recently I realized that that I rarely pray for me.... instead, I thank Him constantly for what I have and fully accept that it is sufficient. With that said, I want to share my story. Our Lord says 'ASK'....'I am with you always' . . .

About four years ago I went to see an eye doctor who is a Christian. He and I had served as Commissioners for the City of Palm Springs a few years before. We had fun talking as he was checking my eyes.... we were talking about our 'faith' and he was telling me about his 'Road to Damascus' experience.... taking his time while sharing,, he suddenly said, 'you need to see a retina ophthalmologist because your eye is bleeding behind it.' He gave me the name of the best one he knew. The future visit to the retina ophthalmologist was a miracle that I never praised God for... Laser surgery was done and the bleeding stopped. Still I had blurry vision and I thanked God I could see some. But my vision kept getting worse and I accepted it as aging and was appreciative that I had a husband who now drove me wherever I 'needed' to go. I went every 6 months to see the ophthalmologist who verified that there was 'no bleeding'.

As the next years passed, I never expected to see better, never thought about miracles, or healing for myself. I accepted that I was aging and life had its diminishing realities. I felt so fortunate to have so much. But my life was quickly changing because of my limitation in vision.... I no longer enjoyed so many things like being outside in this spectacular panoramic place I live (Palm Springs). My love of photography was gone as I couldn't capture a vision that I couldn't see well, TV was blurry and I had little interest in it. Before all of this, I was well into my next novel, but slowly lost interest to write because of my ever changing vision.... As the next couple years passed, I had other health challenges and again I accepted them as life. Finally I decided to go back to my Christian eye doctor and see if there was glasses that would enhance my vision... After examining my eyes he said, 'your vision has got much worse and you shouldn't drive'.... he also explained, I now had cataracts that needed to be addressed and he sent me to a specialist he believed was the best.

Again I took my time at making an appointment believing that the cataracts were recent and I wasn't seeing well before them, so surely removing them wouldn't help that much. Also I had a non-life threatening health challenge of another kind that could be brought on by reactions to many things..... I couldn't take certain medicines, caffeine, much of my food choices were limited because of the reaction it caused with my heart. Any reaction landed me in the hospital ER, I had three admission already that year in which I had to go through a scary procedure that stopped my heart and restart it. Now I was being told that I might need cataract surgery which is done under anesthesia and the anesthesia could cause a reaction that could send me to the hospital. 'No way' I thought! Other factors entered the process, like health insurance .... I pay enormous premiums for health care and have a $7,500 deductible before they pay anything... between the premiums and deductible, I had already spend $28,000 this year .... However it was now December and I finally met my deductible.... I knew that cataract surgery would be coved but I had to do it within 30 days before the end of the year and that was pushing it.

I ask the cataract surgeon if I could have the surgery with NO ANESTHESIA, he didn't recommend that at all... but said that I would have to debate that with the anesthesiologist the day of surgery.... he assured me if I did react to the anesthesia that they would rush me to the hospital and I would be fine. But that felt overwhelming as I knew the procedure that would have to happen. Also no matter what my choice was, I would have go through surgery twice, one for each eye.

On the day of the first surgery in pre-op, the anesthesiologist highly recommended that I not go without anesthesia..... but I refused. I knew the surgery would last no more than 20 minutes and I felt I could withstand it.... In some ways it was like a spiritual challenge.... I told myself that I would stay focused on the Lord, that I would not allow what was happening to me to be my reality.... I would block this world out and I would keep my thoughts and focus ONLY on HIM.

Laying there waiting for them to move me to surgery, finally I prayed asking the Lord to heal my eyes and to be with me through this. I ask for His words to be alive in me and that I only focus on His presence. The last thing they did before surgery was tape my head down by running a roll of tape around and around my head many times to make sure there was no movement. The surgeon said, 'here we go....' I focused on our magnificent Lord, His purpose, His price, His grace and most of all His love for me. Finally fully captured by His presence, I wasn't aware of the surgery. Time was of no importance..... The next thing I remember was the surgeon saying, it's over.... looks great.' The Lord had taken me through this, I wasn't alone, I was in His care..... To God be the Glory.

I was so overwhelmed by it all.... The next day I had to go back to their 'cataract clinic' and wait with all the others that had surgery on the same day. They were talking about how great the anesthesia was . One man ask how it felt , and when I told them I did it without anesthesia they were shocked..... I regret I didn't give God the glory and share how the Lord was with me.... Fourteen days later I went through the second surgery without anesthesia...... Here is truth, God is with us in the most trying of times.... I now have AMAZING VISION which I never expected. I had an amazing healing of my eyes! Thus, I want, I need, I must give God the glory for this. My doctor said my vision is great and I don't need glasses. Everything is brilliant, rich in color... I can see forever the most intricate details of such amazing things. The Lord healed me, provided me a miracle of giving me my sight back.... Greater yet is my overwhelming love and appreciation for this miracle. 
I am left wondering why I accepted a diminished reality and didn't consider that God had a miracle in store for me. I don't want to be remiss in not testifying to this wonderful miracle. I fear that many of us don't share the miracles in our lives..... they are the rich evidence and testimony to this amazing God. It was paramount that although I never considered that the Lord had a miracle for me, that I must not waver in proclaiming what happened.... To God be the glory!

"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

Friday, February 3, 2012

Where's Our Reverence For God?

It's difficult to understand our casualness and often, irreverence toward God. What happened? In the last thirty years I've watched our culturechange. Today's youth rebel against their parents, there's growingdisrespect for authority, and respect for each other is at a all time low . . . What I see that's most distrubing is the lack of reverence shown toward God.

There is such a great difference between the holiness of God and the un-holiness of men. Yet it seems like today we relate to God as something a little higher than ourselves, someone we share our smallness with . . . He's no longer revered as the infinite, Almighty, Holy God that created us. He is no longer to be feared; no longer given reverence. When we acknowledge the majesty of God, the Holy Spirit does a work in us so we are more able to serve and worship Him with a greater reverence. . . it completely changes our relationship with Him.

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty, the whole earth is full of His glory. Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King the Lord Almighty."Isaiah 6:3,5

TheScriptures are powerful and revealing about the magnitude of all that He is. In Hebrews 5: 7 it say: “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.”Pastor Francis Chan recently commented on this scripture in his blog, "It struck me as odd that Jesus was 'heard because of his reverence.' It has caused me to raise the level of reverence in my prayers."

John Calvin wrote, "Reverence is that dread and amazement with which holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence ofGod...Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God."Wow, think of that . . . today we see man's ego exploding! Some times I think man rarely contrast himself with anything because our vision is obstructed by our obsession with ourselves and this world.

Last year I reviewed church web sites, church newsletters,bulletins, and Christian papers to see if they proclaimed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior on their home page / front page. Many had links to their profession of faith . . . and Jesus was tucked away in the articles, but that's just not good enough. The name of Jesus shouldn't be buried in links or in theprint, I don't want readers to bump into it. I want Christians to proclaim it! A lot of home pages are pictures of nice buildings, people, social gatherings, creative images and lavish web designs, etc. Nothing wrong with that except, HE SHOULD BE THE PRIORITY. . . And often in the absence of His name and recognition on the front page (or home page) they had pictures of thepastor. Even the pastor gets more recognition than our Lord! I find myself concerned with the glorification of preachers and the minimization of our Lord. In one particular Christian Newspaper that was 32 pages long, it wasn't until page 30 that I found His name buried in a brief statement. The priority was all about the 'social activities' of the local churches, parties, gatherings, even sports.

I wrote the sites and ask them to consider proclaiming the name of Jesus as the priority of their home page. We must stand up, stand out and always stand for Him. Reverence comes when we begin to see God as He truly is and with boldness proclaim it. . . In doing so, we show reverence to God!

‘Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godlyfear: for our God is a consuming fire.’Hebrews 12: 28-29

It's interesting what people will stand up for today.They show reverence for the military, historical days, and the dead. Everyone should search the scriptures on how to show reverence to Him. Plan on spending times in the Word, because it is in a lot of scriptures! Personally I can't think of anything that I kneel for but Him. That makes kneeling so special to me. I'm not saying it's right for everyone, but I find when I kneel it's all about Him. The clutter and distractions of life are gone. There are different ways to show reverence and different means. . . But the important thing is when we show reverence, we acknowledges in our hearts the glory of God as presented in the Scriptures, and by doing so, we then yield to God His rightful place in our lives

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pondering Holidays . . .

There is such excitement that surrounds Thanksgiving.  So many people wrapped up in preparing the big Thanksgiving meal, others looking forward to being with family, the football games, while others are counting the moments till 'black Friday' shopping sales!  Thanksgiving seems to be about different things to different people.  But in all truth, it should be impossible for us to focus on anything other than God . . . our Father, the Provider of all.  

Thanksgiving is always a time of reflection for me.  I remember my childhood holidays, the huge meal, fun, and most of all knowing it kicks off the holiday seasons.  But as an adult my thoughts are overwhelmed with Jesus.  What is the evidence that God is number one in my life? It's a question that I ponder a lot! If He is truly the priority, how should I be acting? What should I be doing? What should my life look like? Is there any evidence to support my claim that He is everything? Ever ask yourself these questions? They're serious questions!

Being a child of God radically changed things . . . The work of the Holy Spirit has changed how I live, act and relate to this world. The questions are endless, what is it like to really love your neighbor as yourself? Lately I have entertained these thoughts during my many sleepless nights.  But in all truth, they have existed every since I gave my heart to the Lord many years ago as a child. 

This question of loving the Lord with all my heart, soul and mind really became overwhelming in 2006 after my beloved step-son passed away from esophageal cancer. In a matter of 5 1/2 months I watched our family care about nothing else but him. Everyday was filled with desperation to keep him alive. Then after his passing, nothing seemed to be the same. There are no possessions, or places to go, or things to do that could replace the loss of him. Nor could I look at the world and all its glitter in the same way. Although we learn to go on, nothing could take his place. In time we'd return to our lives again. But make no mistake, we are never the same, because such a loss changes who we are.

Overwhelmed after loss, the magnitude of how much we love becomes so much clearer. Not only the loss of the person is beyond words, but everything changes. There's an emptiness from no longer being in their presence and sharing life with them.  We come to understand how much of a priority they truly were. So in those late hours of restlessness, a more important question arose, what would be the loss if Jesus Christ was not my Lord and Savior? What would be the loss from not having a personal relationship with the Lord of Lord, King of Kings?    This was impossible to really grasp, yet it was the most important question of my life!

As the death of my step-son changed everything, then surely the greatest, the most divine love and sacrifice (ever) of Christ dying on the cross for our sins should overwhelmingly alter everything about us.  There's nothing that compares to such a love!   Jesus is what Christian's should be thinking about on Thanksgiving, JESUS!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

FORGIVENESS: A Changed Heart

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22

What is forgiveness? It's a decision that we make, a conscious choice involving the will. Are our actions by our choice or forced upon us  . . . God wants us to be sincere.  I have so many thoughts about forgiving, but clearly, forgiveness is a choice, a decision out of our obedience to God and His command to forgive.

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Colossians 3:13

Often we have a strong sense of justice and we don't feel like forgiving.  In order to translate the decision to forgive into a changed heart, first, we must trust God to do the work in us that needs to be done. We must surrender to God's command whether we 'feel' like it or not. In surrendering to the work of the Holy Spirit, we posture ourselves 'open' and 'sincere' as we seek refinement. We must continue to forgive by faith, until the work of forgiveness is done in our hearts.  Our faith, prayers and reverence to God are necessary to bring about authentic change.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6

We know the work of forgiveness is complete when freedom comes as a result.  Our heart is set free from the past. The anger subsides, bitterness and resentment no longer permeate our thoughts and most of all, there's healing from the pain.  We feel honest and sincere as we move in the relationship. Although the memories of the past are never erased, they become manageable and somewhat diminished in their effect. Forgiveness takes time and is often a slow process . . .  but the peace that God gives is such a blessing! 
Yes, God does a work in us!  To God be the glory!

(Art by G. Hisayasu)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Divine Boldness In Early 70's . . .

(by Linda Craft-Hisayasu)
In the early 70's, revival broke out at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky and swept across the country, especially at Christian colleges.  I was a freshman at Spring Arbor College (now Spring Arbor University).  The divine work of the Holy Spirit was amazing and beyond anything I'd ever imagined!  We were captured by God's miracles and took to the streets with our testimonies.  It's impossible to describe it! 
". . . they were all filled with the Holy Spirit,
and they spoke the word of God with boldness."
Acts 4:31

Anointed and full of desire to serve, we started a street ministry (coffee house) in downtown Jackson Michigan.  I can't remember how the location came about, but it was under a building, not in the building.  No utilities, just a space where the foundation connected to the earth.  The floor was dirt and we had to either stoop or sit.  It looked like an underground passage of some kind, but to us it was a piece of heaven.  We named it the 'Catacombs'  (in reference of the underground place where the bodies of the Apostle Paul and Peter were said to have been laid). We ministered with such boldness in an atmosphere of candles. guitar music, soft singing . . . His Word was the central focus of everything! We were overwhelmed and  excited that God had given us a place.   In spite of the Catacombs being somewhat open to the cold weather, the love of Lord brought warmth and comfort.  Many people came off the streets and into the Catacombs to hear the message.  It was beyond special, it was amazing! 
 "When the day of Pentecost had come,
they were all together in one place. 
And suddenly a sound came from heaven
like a rush of a mighty wind, and it filled
all the house where they were sitting."
Acts 2:1-2
Now 40 years later, I wonder what happened to my Christian brothers and sisters who were on fire for the Lord?  It's as if we were experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit described in the 'upper room' on the day of Pentecost.  Surely such an out- pouring was unforgettable. Or was it?   Are we still consumed by the love of Jesus and desperate to reach others? Much of today's Christianity seems so structured, planned, organized, man made religion so to speak. I wonder if my brothers and sisters are still flooded with memories from those days?  More importantly, are they still on fire?  Do they long for the simplicity of our faith back then, which was fully surrendered and open to whatever the Lord had in store?  Are our lives today too distracted and consumed with our possessions, hobbies, schedules, careers, commitments and social interactions?  Are we available for the work of the Holy Spirit.  If ever there was evidence of the work of Holy Spirit transforming lives, it was during that period in the 70's.  

He is still the same Lord and Savior, but are we still surrendered and open   Are we as desperate to share the good news about Him as we were back then?   Or have we rationalized our way of thinking, proclaiming it's a new world, new times?  The scripture is clear, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). . . are we the same?  Hopefully we have not chalked it up to 'youthful folly' or framed it as just an event in our history.  To diminish it in any capacity may mean that we are no longer a candidate for the Holy Spirit to use.   Are we as desperate to reach out to others today as we were back then?  Remember?
". . . you shall receive power,
when the Holy Spirit has come upon you,
and you shall be my witnesses . . ."

Acts 1:8

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dying To See You!

(Short Story)
Your earthly life has ended. You arrive at Heaven and Saint Peter meets you at the gate.

"Nice to see you, we were expecting you. As a matter of fact, there’s a lot of people up here waiting to see you. However, on the first day, you are only allowed to see one person because it's quite overwhelming up here. Eventually you are free to be with everyone. After you choose who it will be, the two of you can dine together and enjoy the beauty of Heaven. So think about it for a second, who is the one you’d like to spend your very first day with in Heaven?"

You’re trembling at the thought of holding your baby girl who passed away at childbirth. Then your mind races with the neediness of seeing your mother, as you recall the endless nights of wishing she could comfort you. Cascading memories of others, like your dad and how special he made you feel. Your smile widens at the thought of seeing your best friend, who you always confided in. You are excited and overwhelmed at the thought of so many. Surely Heaven is a great place to spend eternity with all these marvelous people you so dearly love...

Finally St. Peter says, "it is time for you to make your choice, who do you want to spend your first day with?"

Tears streaming down your face, you say, "I choose  my mother, she’s the one I missed the very most."

"Ok, have a seat, I will send for her, she’s definitely waiting to see you. I will also notify Jesus that you didn’t choose Him, so He can take you off His schedule today. He had hoped that you would want to spend your very the first day with Him."              

Interesting isn’t it, that your Heavenly Father, The Son of God, Jesus Christ, The Lord of Your Life, The Creator of All, The Supreme Being, The Savior of the World, The Omnipotent One, The Lord of Lords, The King of Kings, The Holy Spirit, The Maker of Heaven and Earth, The Divine One, The Great Comforter, THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY was NOT chosen first!

Although we do not know what that day will be like, our longing to be with our Lord should overwhelm us with excitement. We say we have a personal relationship with Christ. But what kind of a relationship do we have, if we aren’t desperate to meet Him first? You may say, "oh yeah, I forgot Him, but of course I want to see Him first." If you are forgetting Christ and have to be reminded of His existence, then there’s something serious lacking in your personal relationship with Him. If you truly have a committed relationship with Jesus Christ, then there’s no relationship on this earth that can compare with that one! It’s authenticity could never allow you to ever think of HIM as a second choice.

Our number one goal, motivation, aspiration, desire, journey, plan, and hope should be to finally be with HIM. So think about how much you truly love your family and others, then ask yourself, how much do I really LOVE HIM? 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus . . .

     As Christians we say that our devotional time with the Lord is special.    Lately I've been  thinking about it.  What are the reasons behind devotions and worship time?  So pondering such questions, I decided to spend an entire day alone with the Lord.  I chose to only focus on Him.  Fasting, praying, reading the Scriptures, writing about Him, attending a hour Soaking Room and pondering only thoughts about His glory and grace.  Twenty-four hours of focus, love and worship alone with Him.
     Before I get into how I was so overwhelmed by this day (and still am), I must admit there were challenges.  I quickly identified distractions and surrendered them to the Lord. I could be poetic here and write something inspiring, but the world and it's realities are deeply ingraned and I had to keep re-focusing.  No phone, no computer, no iPad, no TV, no interactions with anyone, no news, no music except Christian music with no focus on the musicians. no travel (other than to and from the Soaking Room), no food or planning meals . . . IN ALL TRUTH, it was an amazing day! 
     The morning began with complete focus and dedication.   Prayer with periods of silence and openness.  Then time spent in the Word.  Victory Christian Center provided a wonderful environment for soaking in His presence.  As the day grew, my heart was overflowing with such gratitude.  The afternoon spent in silence, pondering, writing and listening.  Overwhelmed with His presence . . .  I could go on, but there are no words to explain it.   I found myself drenched in all of it and singing the song written by Helen H. Lemmel in 1922:
        "Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
        Look full in His wonderful face,
        And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
        In the light of His glory and grace."
     Yes, that was the truth.  It was heavenly to be in "the light of His glory and grace.". No fast pace world, no earthly pull on me . . .   My mind was no longer saturated with thoughts about news, crime, disasters....  No TV, concerts, football games or entertainment distractions drawing me into mundane silliness.  No bills or financial statements, no need to figure out my net worth.  No fighting with health care or insurance companies.  No discouragement from politics or what's happening in Washington, D.C.   MY ONLY FOCUS was on my Lord and Savior.  I felt victorious, complete, secure, overwhelmed, renewed.... The vulnerability I normally felt from life's chaotic realities now gone.  Truly the 'things of this earth' had 'grown strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.'
     There's no therapy more healing than spending time with the Lord. I was flooded with His wisdom and truth. There's no earthly activities or attractions that compare to the intimacy of being in His presence.  His Word provides such hope and direction....    Clarity from prayer came with time, silence, and vulnerability before Him.  Sadly, our consumed lives have reduced our time with the Lord as nothing more than something on our 'to do list.'  Shouldn't we be desperate to spend time with Him??? In the end will we be reaching out to Him or fighting to hold on to this world?  My testimony from that day can be summed up in the words of Helen H. Lemmel's song :  

         "the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
        In the light of His glory and grace."