A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II): Check One Off the “Bucket List”

a lesson on waiting

It has been approximately 900 *DAYS since my last Electroconvulsive Therapy [ECT] treatment. Looking back, God was the One who decided when I should stop. It was a day in early December [2012] and my nephew Luke took me to the hospital for a 10 a.m. appointment. Normally, the nurses would get me ready and all hooked up and I would be in the surgery room by 11 a.m. Getting my ECT treatment done as soon as possible was a good thing because I had to fast from food and had only a few sips of water to take medications on my ECT mornings. However, this morning I had to wait much longer and was getting more and more anxious by the minute. When they finally wheeled me into the surgery room for the ECT treatment, my blood pressure was dangerously high and the treatment could not be performed. I waited in the recovery area, ate some chocolate pudding and waited for my blood pressure to go down and went home without getting treated. This was a good lesson for me because I learned that waiting really stresses me out. Since I do have to do a lot of waiting for people to do things for me, being stressed out about waiting is not a good thing. Now, when I’m waiting, I ask the Lord to help me to wait and practice my breathing, taking deep breaths, while I pray for His peace and for the person I’m waiting for.

Wing Memorial

I also realized then and there that I didn’t need ECT anymore. Soon after, I learned that Doctor Mujica was no longer going to perform ECT and another doctor was going to take his place. This affirmed my decision to stop ECT treatments. Luke called the hospital to tell them of my decision and they agreed that I did have enough treatments and was doing well enough to stop. However, both the new doctor and the psychiatric nurse told me that they were available for me and to call them at any time. Those were reassuring words to hear. As God answered Jeremiah’s prayer, God also answered mine:

bible duck taped

[My well-used Bible I had with me in the hospital]

“I called on Your Name, O LORD,
from the depths of the pit;
You heard my plea, ‘Do not close
Your ear to my cry for help!’
You came near when I called You;
You said, ’Do not fear!’
You have taken up my cause, O LORD;
You have redeemed my life.”
**- Lamentations 3:55-58

bible Jane's note

[The note I saved from my sister Jane who called when I was sleeping at

Wing Memorial Hospital: “Jane called. She loves you!”]

In the past 900 days, it has been “Lydia being Lydia” again; having friends over for baseball parties [especially World Series with RED SOX] at “Fenway West” [my house] and Super Bowl Parties [hopefully with the Patriots, but no matter which teams plays], food and wine pairing parties and hosting and/or leading Bible studies. I also have been enjoying day trips to my favorite places, eating my sister Jane’s gourmet cooking, as well as dining out. Being active and making a difference in the body of Christ at my church [such as, being on a nominating committee to gather names for elder and deacon positions] has again brought me great joy. All these activities are blessings and privileges I praise God for. I thank God for all the things He has enabled me to do. I don’t take anything for granted anymore. All in all, I am enjoying the life God has given me to live.

blogging2cHRISTIAN BLOGGER WOMAN

But Wait! That’s not all. Writing has always been my voice. God has given me the gift of expressing myself through the written word. You may say that I am a wordsmith, but I could not write one meaningful sentence without the Holy Spirit giving me the words to write. I write to help others get to know who I am inside this disabled [cerebral palsy] body and to encourage them in their walks with God. I have always, as far as I can remember [and that gets shorter every year] wanted to write a book. You might say that writing a book is on my “bucket list. “ That may still happen but, in the meantime, I decided to save a few trees by becoming a “Christian Woman Blogger.” On February 6, 2013, I launched my blog. I began writing about my look on life through the eyes of God’s Word and His Holy Spirit. – thus the name of my blog: lydslookonlife [Lyd’s Look on Life]. One hundred thirty-eight blog posts later, my blog is going strong because God always gives me a lot to say about His goodness, His grace and His faithfulness to me, especially in times of pain and struggle, and how I see His loving care in every little thing, as well as the BIG stuff.

But wait! That’s not all. I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

To be continued…

By His Grace and For His Glory,

The Lyd

Lydia

To my blog “followers” via email: I want to correct the following errors made in my last blog post:

* I omitted the word “days”, as in “900 days.”

** The Scripture I used is from Lamentations 3:55-58 [not Ecclesiastes].

A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II): Checking the Calendar and Counting the Days

calendar days

On Thursday I met with Doctor Mujica. We talked about ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) and whether or not I wanted to proceed with having it done. I said I did want to go ahead with it. He said he would schedule my first treatment on Tuesday where there was the first opening. I was not happy with having to wait that long, but at least I had a date when the waiting would stop. Dr. Mujica reassured me that I made the right decision and that he would take care of me. During our conversation I learned that he was originally from Columbia.

depression vs. sadness

Carol A. Kivler [MS, CPS], whom I have quoted in a previous post, is a gifted writer and public speaker who has gone through severe depression and ECT Treatment herself. She writes about her experience and speaks to many kinds of groups [business, social, religious] about mental health and how to stay in recovery. In her book, “Will I Ever Be the Same? Transforming the Face of ECT (Shock Therapy),” she describes ECT treatment this way:

“Electroconvulsive Therapy is a customary psychiatric procedure used to treat severe major depression that has not responded to other treatments. ECT uses a therapeutic dose of electricity to induce a seizure to the brain of an anesthetized patient” [p. 55].

Wing Memorial

(Wing Memorial Hospital Pre-Op and Post-Op area where the nurses got  me ready for the ECT procedure and where I awoke from the ECT Treatments)

Having ECT done is like having surgery. I could not eat anything and I could only have a small sip of water with two medications I had to take. Before I was taken down to the recovery and surgery rooms, Dr. Mujica came to my room and asked me if I was ready. I said, “Yes, I’m ready.” He then pointed to my Bible at my bedside and said,

bible book

“Remember, we are not going to be alone.” It was then that I knew I was going to “find Lydia” and was on the right “road to recovery.” I was brought down to surgery on a gurney. Before going into surgery, I was hooked up to an IV that contained anesthesia and a muscle relaxant. This part of the procedure was difficult for me because my cerebral palsy made it hard for me to remain still for the nurse to get the IV into my arm. The nurses were very kind and helped hold my arm down. They never showed signs of impatience, which I was very grateful for. [When I came as an out-patient later on, Luke helped with holding my arm still for the IV needle to get into a vein. The nurses loved Luke and wanted to hire him as a nurse‘s assistant.] I also had trouble with the oxygen mask on my face. I think I’m a bit claustrophobic and get a bit panicky when anything is on my face. I don’t know if this is related to my cerebral palsy or not. I asked the anesthesiologist to hold the oxygen mask above my face until I was asleep. Three different anesthesiologists were involved in my treatments at different times and all three were glad to do what I asked.

book on ECT

Carol Kivler continues to describe the procedure in her book [which was exactly my experience]:

“… [the] IV contains anesthesia to promote sleep and a muscle relaxant to prevent body movement or convulsing when the electric current is administered. Blood pressure cuffs and pulse monitoring devices are put in place, as well as EKG leads to monitor the heart and EEG leads to monitor the brain. The patient begins drifting off to sleep. A bite-block is inserted in their mouth to prevent them from biting their tongue. An anesthesiologist places an oxygen mask over the patient’s nose and mouth to ensure proper respiration. Electrodes are then placed on the patient’s right temple and the parietal area on the head. The doctor adjusts the electrical current by pressing a button on the end of one ECT ‘handle.’ There is a brief pulse stimulus delivered that lasts one to two seconds. That pulse induces the seizure that will make the neurotransmitters of the brain once again connect. The patient’s body remains relatively relaxed and still because of the muscle relaxant, but you will observe a slight twitching of the foot or toe during the induced seizure. This twitching is timed by a nurse in the room to reveal the length of the seizure – approximately 30 seconds. The procedure is complete. From start to finish the entire procedure lasts about seven minutes. The patient is unhooked from all equipment [except the blood pressure cuff and monitor] and begins to awake. The treatments are delivered in ‘courses’ of 6 to 12 treatments administered two or three times a week. Some patients continue the ECT in what is called ‘maintenance treatments,’ and many will continue drug therapy as well as talk therapy” [pp. 57-58].

facts

As you can see by Carol Kilver’s description of the ECT procedure, it is nothing like in the movie, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” She often tells mental health consumers that “ECT does to the brain what a defibrillator does to the heart” [p. 56]. From my own personal experience, I can tell you ECT doesn’t hurt, except for getting the IV in, and the only side effect I had was that I was pretty “worn out” for a few days after the ECT. Some experience short-term memory loss [what happened just before the ECT treatment], but if I did experience memory loss, I can’t remember. During the ECT treatments I did have to continue taking anti-depressant medication and medication to help me sleep. The ECT made the medications work better. One of the biggest mistakes people make is they stop taking there medications because they are feeling better but, they are feeling better because the ECT is helping the medications work better. I also went to talk therapy twice. I saw a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist, Donna Wood Shalberg, who was a very kind woman who listened to my concerns and validated my feelings. After my second visit as an outpatient, we both agreed that I didn’t need to see her anymore, but she made it clear that I could call her any time. She is also following my blog and emailed me to say that she has the same “Best Friend” as I do.

banana split with whip cream

“How great is the LOVE the Father has LAVISHED on us, that we should be called children of God!” (I John 3:1a – N.I.V.)

days numbered

While in Wing Memorial Hospital, I had about six ECT treatments. I remember feeling so much better, just after the second treatment. I felt like the “real Lydia” again because I was hungry for chocolate pudding. A banana split would have worked too. [I did not have an appetite for anything when I was clinically depression]. I had about six more treatments as an outpatient and by mid-December, 2012, I found the “real Lydia” and I am back to stay! It took nine months to get well. It has been about 900 days [but who’s counting] since my last ECT treatment. I praise the Lord for bringing the right people to help me get well and for His healing hand. How beautiful it is for Jane and Sophie and John to have their sister back! How beautiful it is for Luke to have his “road-trip partner” back and for Luke and Noel to have their “eccentric-sports-fanatic” aunt back! How beautiful it is for my church to have their smiling sister in Christ back! How beautiful it is to be happy and enjoy life again. How beautiful it is to experience God again and feel His presence, His love, His tender mercies and His faithfulness in my life! How beautiful it is to have the joy of my salvation again! I praise God for taking me out of a dark pit of despair and into His marvelous light. Praise God for His Resurrection Life. I feel born again again!

“I called on Your Name, O LORD,
from the depths of the pit;
You heard my plea, ‘Do not close
Your ear to my cry for help!’
You came near when I called on You;
You said, ‘Do not fear!’
You have taken up my cause, O LORD;
You have redeemed my life.”
– Lamentations 3:55-58

If anyone is struggling with severe depression, please know that you are not alone. God cares about you, He loves you and He wants to help you. Ask someone you trust to go to the doctor with you and help you find the help you need. ECT may be an option for you.

I have read three books written by Carol A. Kivler. They are very easy to read and extremely informative and encouraging. I highly recommend them to you, whether you are the one in need of help or the “helper” [family member or friend] or in a helping profession. She also has helpful websites.

Carol Kivler

Carol A. Kivler, MS, CSP [Certified Speaking Professional]
Encourages, Educates, and Entertains

book on ECT

Recovery Boosters

ABCs of Recovery

Websites: http://www.KilverCommunications.com
http://www.CourageousRecovery.org
http://www.facebook.com/CarolKivler
http://twitter.com/CarolKivler or Follow Me on Twitter@CarolKivler

 

 

 

 

To be continued…

gatitude3

The Lyd

Lydia

A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II): Checking the Clock and Waiting on God

20140411_114039photo 1 (1)

[Luke (right) and Lydia [left] at Richardson’s and the Bridge of Flowers]

Waiting for an opening in one of the hospitals was another “waiting game”, just as it was waiting for medications to work. While waiting for one of the hospitals offering Electroconvulsive Therapy to have an opening for me, my nephew Luke brought information from the internet for me to read. The information was encouraged and lessened my fear. Most importantly, most of the ECT sites reported about a 70% success rate. My nephew Luke was always doing things to lift my spirits. When I finally did transfer to another hospital for ECT treatments, Luke came with me and was by my side for hours, until I was admitted and brought to the hospital room. After my sister Jane read my testimony (Part II), she pointed out that the Apostle Paul talked to the Lord THREE TIMES about his “thorn in the flesh” (II Corinthians 12:8-10) and traveled with “LUKE the beloved physician (Colossians 4:14). I was hospitalized THREE TIMES and my BELOVED nephew LUKE was by my side [Just sayin’…].

cooley dick garden

During my two stays at C.D.H., I never wanted to go outside to the “Healing Garden” with the group, but the head nurse convinced me to go with her. She wheeled me around the garden and showed me the fountains. This was an incredibly nice thing she did for me. It was on her break time. When we got back inside, a nurse told us that Wing Memorial Hospital – UMass Memorial Health Care, in Palmer, MA. called and said they had an opening for me. The head nurse helped me to pack my things and get ready to go to the hospital in Palmer. I noticed she had tears in her eyes and asked her why she was crying. She said, “I’m happy that you will get the help you need.” As I waited on a stretcher in the hallway for Luke and the ambulance from Palmer, both staff and patients came to say “Goodbye” and wish me well. One patient thanked me for sharing what I did in a group counseling session. During the session someone was blaming her family for her depression. I shared that I didn’t think anyone was to blame for my depression. I said I did a lot of things that betrayed my sister’s trust, but I had hope that things will get better because I knew my sister loved me. Another patient, who struggled with psychosis and was mostly in her own world also came to wish me well. I was finally seeing that even when I felt a disconnect from God, God was never disconnected from me. When I felt totally out of control, God was in complete control of my life.

holy spirit over water

“Where shall I go from Your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from Your Presence?
If I ascend into Heaven, You are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there Your hand shall lead me,
and Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,’
even in the darkness is not dark to You;
the night is as bright as day,
for darkness is as light for You.
For you formed my inward parts;
You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are Your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me,when as yet there were none of them!”

– Psalm 139:7-16

a lesson on waiting

I was admitted at Wing Memorial Hospital after a long wait in the emergency room. It was the Labor Day weekend and the Psychiatrist who performed the ECT treatments did not come to the hospital was off, so there was more waiting to do. On Tuesday, I finally met the psychiatrist Dr. Mujica. He talked about the ECT procedure and gave me a DVD I was able to watch in the TV room. He told me to watch the DVD and he would come talk to me in a few days. He did not come to the hospital on Wednesdays. There was more waiting.

wing memorial hospital

The hospital stay at Wing was much more difficult than at CDH because I stayed on the floor with elderly people with dementia. I had a private room at the end of the hall where there was a locked exit door just outside my door. All day long I would hear an elderly person try to open the door, so she “could go home.” Another elderly woman would often come out of her room and ask, “Where is my room?” Each time, when I was out in the hall, I would say, “Here is your room. It’s right here.” And each time she would say “Thank you” and go back into her room, only to get “lost” again a few minutes later. I also experienced the “sundowner effect” when all the patients are wide awake at night and chaos reigns. The nurses and the aides had their hands full, but they always had time to help me. A male nurse found out that I liked sports, so he would give me copies of sports news he printed off the internet at home on his own time. When I asked him if he liked sports he said, “I’m not that kind of guy.”

Behold God

The recreational therapist also took a liking to me. She always urged me to join everyone for a recreational activity, such as bowling with plastic pins and balls. She and her helper also led trivia games, but they weren’t much of a challenge for me. Both the recreational therapist and assistant somehow saw the “real” Lydia and told me I had a lot to give. The recreational therapist even came to my room to talk with me and encourage me by saying how smart I was and how gifted I was. There was also a Christian college student from UMass who worked on the floor as an “extra pair of eyes.” He was assigned to sit outside the room of a patient who needed watching. He brought his text books and his Bible. We often talked about spiritual things and I asked how his studies were going. Again, I saw God working and providing special people to take care of me.

To be continued…

In His Grip and For His Glory,

The Lyd

Lydia

A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II): Reality Check

a spirit of truth

Before delving into my story, I want to give you a quiz. Having a degree and experience in teaching, I will always be a teacher at heart. Here goes:

1. You are camping at Indian Hollow and someone allergic to bees is stung by one. What do you do?

A. Tell the person who was stung, “Just have faith and renounce the bee and all its devilish powers and it will not have a hold on you.”

B. Run for the person’s epipen as fast as you can and administer the needed medicine to counteract the allergic reaction.

2. You are having lunch with a friend and she starts having an asthma attack. What do you do?

A. You rebuke your friend for having such little faith and command her “to just get over it and stop it.”

B. Help your friend to find her inhaler in her “bottomless” handbag.

3. You are visiting your uncle who has diabetes and is showing signs of having low blood sugar [sweating, becoming sleepy and disoriented]. What do you do?

A. Tell him to take charge of his life and his pancreas and order the “diabetic demon” to leave and never return.

B.. Quickly find some orange juice, ice cream, candy or anything with sugar and give it to him. If he does not get better, call 911.

facts

Hopefully, you have realized that the “A” answers are totally absurd and the “B” answers are the correct answers. In the 21st century, our society, as the Christian Church included, still stigmatizes mental illness in all of its forms, including clinical [severe] depression. Many fail to understand that clinical depression is caused by a physical problem, namely a chemical imbalance in the brain, which needs medical intervention. People, including brothers and sisters in Christ, not only battle with clinical depression, but they also battle with the misconceptions people still believe about severe depression. Sadly, this wrong way of thinking includes people who profess Christ as their Savior and Lord. Because of these wrong thinking Christians who deal with clinical depression feel something is wrong with their character, they lack faith and they are embarrassed to talk about their sickness because they are told they “just need to try harder to feel better.” Christians are told by other Christians that they need to have faith and “look at the bright side of things and not be so negative all the time.” They feel ashamed for not being able to “give their problems over to God and believe in His promises and live by faith.” All these exhortations causing false guilt and shame are not only wrong, but they are also extremely harmful and irresponsible and just plain wrong. It is very important to understand, whether you are a Christian friend or a Christian counselor, clinical depression is an illness and, as in the case of any illness, it needs to be treated medically. This includes may include taking medication and undergoing other forms of medical treatment and therapies.

APOSTLE Paul

II Timothy 1:7 is often quoted in church, at Bible studies and by people who think they are “helping“ someone to “get a grip” and move on with his/her life : “…God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

When was the last time you heard I Timothy 5:23 quoted: “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”

pepto bismol

(There was no Pepto Bismol back in the day)

II Timothy 1:7 is a goal we pray to become our way of life. Being controlled by the Holy Spirit is what we pray to obtain. The Holy Spirit is doing a sanctifying work in our lives and that takes time. In I Timothy I:7, Paul wrote an aside and gave some fatherly advice to Timothy. He told Timothy to drink wine which, among other things, was used for medicinal purposes. Paul knew of Timothy’s many stomach ailments, possibly due to stress. It is interesting that Paul did not rebuke Timothy for being sick all the time and remove him from his position of leadership in the Church.

Paul himself wrote about his spiritual journey and admitted that he did not fully understand “the power of the resurrection” in his life:

empty tomb

“- that I may know [Christ] and the power of His resurrection, and may share in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by as many means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead. NOT THAT I ALREADY OBTAINED THIS OR AM ALREADY PERFECT, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own” [Philippians 3:10-12].

I believe Paul had his own need for medical treatment. He was familiar with illness and pain from physical persecution. I believe we don’t know his exact illness [“thorn in the flesh”] because God wants us to apply II Corinthians 12:8-10 to our own situation:

God's Way

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this [thorn in the flesh], that it would leave me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. FOR WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN I AM STRONG.”

Some people, Christians included, believe that having to take any kind of medication is a weakness. They are prideful of the fact that they do not need any doctors or have to take any medication [yet], as if they are totally responsible for their own good health. But, when we acknowledge our weaknesses and our dependency on God, that is the time we experience God’s sufficiency and His power is made perfect in our weaknesses, because we place ourselves in a position in which we can be helped. That is why Paul is able to exclaim, “FOR WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN I AM STRONG.” Having his own ailments from beatings and imprisonments, Paul needed medical attention. That is why, I believe, he traveled with Luke, who was “the beloved physician” [See Colossians 4:14].

Not having to take any medication, as though it is in our control, is not something to boast about. It is something to thank God for because He is the One who is in control of our lives. There is something much more important to boast about:

“Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty [healthy] man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight,’ declares the LORD” [Jeremiah 9:23-24].

To be continued…

“For, Lo, the winter is past.

the rain is over and gone;

the flowers appear on the earth;

the time of the singing of birds

is come.”

(from Song of Solomon 2:11-12)

Cherry Tree and Forsythia Bush 3robin and nest

Lydia

A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II): Introduction

CC Congregation

[“A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part I)” was written on March 3, 2015. If you wish to read it, you may go to https://lydslookonlife.wordpress.com and scroll down to find it. If you are already in my blog, you just have to scroll down to the post written on March 3, 2015. I waited until now to write “Part II” because I wanted to wait until I gave my “Testimony of God’s grace (Part II)” during a Sunday morning worship service, at my church, on May 3, 2015.]

bible book

What if I asked you, “What is your favorite book of the Bible?” This is just a hunch, but I’m guessing that not many of you, if any at all, would answer, “The Book of Lamentations.” I don‘t blame you. I myself am a Book of Numbers person —JUST KIDDING!!!

“Lamentation” means “funeral song” or “dirge.” The Book of Lamentations consists of five funeral songs probably written by the prophet Jeremiah shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem. Jeremiah “laments” over the loss of Jerusalem and the Temple of God, and mourns over the loss of a nation – God’s nation of Judah. Each chapter is a funeral dirge. But wait! There’s more.

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Even though The Book of Lamentations may not make my “Top Five” most read books of the Bible, Chapter 3 contains the words of one of my favorite hymns: “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” In Lamentations, “Song 3” in the middle of Jeremiah’s graphic word pictures describing his sorrow over the suffering he sees and experiences, he also speaks of how God will use these times of grief to produce hope in a righteous God who is full of compassion and mercy. Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 3: 19 -23:

“Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. BUT, this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases: His mercies never come to an end: They are new every morning; GREAT IS YOUR FAITHFULNESS.”

STEADFAST LOVE

In the midst of his anguish and even because of all he is going through, God reveals Himself to Jeremiah as the God of hope, steadfast love, endless mercy and great faithfulness. The Book Lamentations teaches us to be honest with one another in good times and in bad. It also teaches us to pray for one another, believing that God will answer our prayers in his perfect time.

masks we wear

Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel, once said, “To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.” Manning also is quoted to say, “There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are.” This is why I am writing “A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II).” There is something more I need to share with you. I pray that what I am about to share in the coming weeks will be glorifying to God and life-giving to all who read these blog posts.

mickey mouse wink
In “Part I” what I shared was mostly the “good stuff.” In “Part II” I’m going to share “the rest of the story.” If I were to say to you, “When I became a Christian [when the Lord Jesus grabbed hold of my heart] at the age of eighteen, there has been nothing but “smooth sailing” ever since, what would you think? Hopefully, you would know that I was telling you a fairy tale. If not, I have some prime swamp land in Florida to sell you, near the Magic Kingdom, owned by Mickey Mouse. Jesus did not tell us that once we start following Him, all our struggles will disappear and we will “live happily ever after.” In John 16:33b, Jesus tells His disciples [that includes us], “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jesus promises to be with us in our trials, help us through them and never leave us or forsake us. Jesus tells us, “I am the Good Shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep…My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand” [John 10:14-15, 27-28].

Christ the Shepherd

I know now, more than ever before, that Jesus is my Good Shepherd and that no one, not even the devil himself, is able to snatch me away from Jesus’ strong grip on my life. I know this to be true because of what happened to me in 2012. According to the Mayan culture and its Mesoamerican calendar, 2012 [December 21, 2012 to be exact] was to be the end of the world. 2012 was almost the end of me. In sharing “the rest of my story,” I pray God will use it to help others who are going through the same type of struggles; to give you hope and encourage you to find the help you need.

To be continued…

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

The Lyd

Lydia

Knowing Something By Heart May Not Be The Same As Believing With All Your Heart

bible book
[All Scripture is from the E.S.V. unless otherwise noted]

Guinness Book

Have you ever gone to a Sunday morning church service when a “Speed-Reading Contest” breaks out? You are expecting a sermon from the Good Book [the Bible], but the people seem only interested in getting into the Guinness Book of World Records as the church with the fastest Sunday service on record. This, at least, was what I thought as a teenager. I remember going to church with my dad and hearing the same liturgy every week on “speed dial” and wondering if the people even understood what they were reciting by heart. Liturgical services are not wrong in and of themselves. In fact, liturgies are rich in doctrinal truth and remind us of both the majesty and grace of God. The danger lies when these rich biblical truths, practiced in traditional liturgical churches, become nothing more than rote exercises to be done as quickly as possible, so that the church-goers may satisfy their “obligations” to God and get on with real life.

Communion2good friday6

Christ's Power Sprit

Christians have recently gone through Holy Week, in remembrance of the last week of Jesus’ earthly life; especially Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. These are three very important days of the Christian Liturgical Calendar. On Maundy Thursday, we remember Jesus giving His disciples, including us, a New Commandment [See John 13:34] and a New Covenant in His blood [See Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, I Corinthians 11:25, Hebrews 8:6-13]. Jesus also changes the meaning of Passover to be known to His followers as His Last Supper, also known as the Eucharist [“the giving of thanks“], Communion and the Lord’s Supper. In Luke 22:19, Jesus tells His disciples [past and present], “Do this in remembrance of Me.” The Apostle Paul also gives instructions regarding the Lord’s Supper:

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, ‘This is My body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way also He took the cup after supper [the Cup of Redemption] and said, ‘This cup is the New Covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” [I Corinthians 11:23-26].

On Good Friday, Christians remember how Jesus became the perfect sacrifice by dying on the cross for the sins of all who believe Him to be their Savoir and the Savior of the world:

Christ Crucified

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” [Hebrews 9:11-14].

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” [I Peter 2:24-25].

angels and women at empty tomb

On Resurrection Sunday, commonly known as Easter, we celebrate Jesus conquering sin and death by rising from the dead on that first Resurrection Sunday.

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they [the women] went to the tomb, taking spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He [Jesus] is not here, but has risen” [Luke 24:1-5].

“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” [I Corinthians 15:54-57].

“He [Jesus] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him [on the cross]” [Colossians 2:15].

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It is important to note here, that according to the Christian Liturgical Calendar, Easter is not celebrated during one Sunday, but there are seven Sundays in Easter. This is because Jesus appeared to His disciples for forty days after His Resurrection:

“He [Jesus] presented Himself alive to them [disciples] after His suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking of the kingdom of God. And while staying with them He ordered them to wait for the promise of the Father, which, He said, ‘you heard from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” [Acts 1:3-6]. [Note that the three Persons of the Trinity are mentioned.]

risen lord

After forty days, Jesus ascended back to His Father. This is called “Ascension Sunday” according to the Christian Liturgical Calendar:

“So when they had come together, they asked Him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ And when He had said these things, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven” [Acts 1:6-11].

Acts 1:6-7 tells Jesus’ followers not to stare at the sky, waiting for Jesus to return. Instead, Christians are to be busy carrying out the Great Commission, by spreading the GOOD NEWS to all nations. Jesus says the same thing in Matthew 28:19-20:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Father, Son and Holy Spirit 2HS on men and women

Note that Triune God [Father, Son and Holy Spirit] is also mentioned in the above Scripture. Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:3-6 are just two of the many Scriptures that speak of the Triune God. That is why Christians who follow the Liturgical Calendar celebrate “Trinity Sunday”, which falls on May 31st in 2015. But, before then, on May 24th, Christians celebrate “Pentecost Sunday: On the first Pentecost [Jewish Holy Day], Ten days after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, the disciples receive the promised Holy Spirit and the Christian Church is born [Act 2]. Christians of the 1st Century through the 21st Century have the same Holy Spirit to help them spread the GOOD NEW of Jesus Christ by teaching, preaching and living a life empowered by Christ’s Holy Spirit of love, mercy, compassion and grace.

banana split love

After studying God’s Word, especially the Scripture passages above, I now understand the meaning of what was being recited every Sunday, at the church I grew up in. I not only know the words by heart, I also believe them with all my heart.

Four Acclamations from the Roman Missal in English:

*Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.”

“Dying You destroyed our death, rising You restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory.”

“When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim Your death, Lord Jesus, until You come in glory.”

“Lord, by Your cross and resurrection, You have set us free. You are the Savior of the world.”

a. christ trusting

Each one of these “Acclamations” is known as “The Mystery of Faith” and each one is overflowing with the unfathomable grace of God. It is impossible for me to fully wrap my mind around these ancient Christian Truths. How can I just breeze through them as though I were a child reciting the alphabet, going as fast as I can and wondering, “What is an ‘el-lem-en-no-pee’ anyway?” I need to slow down and meditate [chew] on these words and their rich meaning and wait for them to sink deeply into my soul and my heart of hearts.

Christ's Return

For me, it is easier to grasp Jesus’ death and resurrection, than His Second Coming. There are dozens of movies depicting Jesus’ death and resurrection, but not much has been done with His coming again. Perhaps it is because His return has not happened yet. For me, it is hard to imagine Jesus coming again. What is it going to be like? The Bible doesn’t give us a clear picture or else it doesn‘t for me. But even if it did, I do not think my human mind would be able to comprehend it all. I believe it will be beyond my wildest dreams. I also don’t understand why in the Book of Luke [17:37b] Jesus states “The end is near” and the Book of Revelation, He says, “I am coming soon” [3:11, 22:7, 22:12, 22:7] and other Scriptures [Philippians 4:5b] state “the Lord is coming soon” and that “The end of the world is coming soon” [I Peter 4:7b]. Obviously, the Lord Jesus has not come yet to establish a New Heaven and a New Earth. There is still pain and sin and mourning and death and tears and the ruler of this world [Satan] is still among us. When I don’t understand something, no matter how much I try [For example, I will never fully understand the Book of Revelation], that’s the time I rely on my faith in God and believe with all my heart that His promises are trustworthy and true. I don’t have to know when Jesus is coming again. Instead, I believe that He is coming. Because I believe Jesus is coming again, I live as though Jesus is coming soon. I believe II Peter has an answer for me concerning Jesus’ return and I need to accept it by faith:

a lesson on waiting

“This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder…that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’… But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance…But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” [II Peter 3:1, 3b-4, 8-9, 13].

Jesua, heart, sand

I don’t know when, but I believe with all my heart that Jesus is coming again. Maybe He’s waiting for you to believe in Him with all your heart, too.

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“For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him [JESUS] will not be disappointed’” [Romans 10:11; N.A.S].

“But, as it has been written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him’” [I Corinthians 2:9].

[Also read I Corinthians 15:51-56 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and Revelation 21:3-5b]

dad and baby

When I was a teenager I left the traditional liturgical church because I was not much of a “fast reader” or “fast speaker”. Four decades later, I have learned not to “throw out the baby with the baptismal water”, so to speak. I am truly thankful to God for my parents and my childhood church for teaching me about God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I Know He Lives!

The Lyd

Lydia

[Next Post in the beginning of May]

Tasting is Believing Through the Eyes of Faith

bread and stones

One Easter morning, one of my friends sent text message to her aunt, along with a photo of the rolls she had just taken out of the oven saying, “Christ Has Risen and so have the rolls!” She showed me the photo on her phone. The morning sun glistened on these delectably looking, mouth-watering, perfectly risen golden rolls. She used her mom’s recipe, who was her aunt’s sister. I am sure her aunt believed that she was looking at the rolls her niece had just baked and not looking at stones or some other round objects. I bet she could even smell and taste them from memory. She had no reason to doubt her niece. Still, she had to have faith that her niece was telling the truth because she wasn’t with her niece to see and smell and feel and taste and hear the “Mmms” from the guests eating the rolls firsthand. In a way, believing that God raised Jesus from the dead takes that same kind of faith in the Father fulfilling His Promise to us. Jesus has risen! Jesus has risen indeed! We were not there to see Him rise, but we have faith that it is the “Gospel Truth!” This brings us great joy – “MEGA-JOY”, as a former pastor of mine described the joy Christians share during Christmas and Resurrection Sunday and every day in between.

bible preacher-teacher

Jesus rising from the dead is a Fulfilled Promise I accept by faith. However, some Christians try to present the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as a “proven fact” and “more” than something we believe because God says so in His Word. During my first three or four years of my Christian walk, I heard the same sermon every Easter. I even had a tract about why the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a proven historical fact (I think written by Josh McDowell) and not only God’s fulfilled promise Christians believe by faith. Every Easter Sunday, I heard the same sermon about the “Swoon Theory” and the “Hallucination Theory” and the “Impersonation Theory” and the “Spiritual Resurrection Theory” and the “Wrong Tomb Theory” and the “Stolen Body Theory” and how all these theories are bogus. I heard the pastor refute every theory with the help of psychology, biology and Scripture. People who only attended church on Christmas and Easter must have thought the pastor had a very limited sermon repertoire.

book of hebrews

But, what about FAITH? What about believing in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ because the Bible says it happened? If the Resurrection of Jesus Christ could be proven by historical artifacts, psychology and biology or any other human intellectual rationale, we would not need faith. Hebrews 11:1 teaches, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Verse 6 adds, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

Christ's Power Sprit

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a MIRACLE. A “miracle” is “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by nature or any scientific laws and is thereby considered to be the work of a divine agency (‘the miracle of rising from the grave’)” [from a Google search]. Christians believe that this “divine agency” is the Triune God. I believe in miracles and that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a miracle that cannot be scientifically or otherwise humanly proven. I believe that Jesus rose again by the faith God has given me to believe in Him and to believe His Word, the Bible, to be true.

This is what the Gospels say about the First Resurrection Sunday:

angels and women at empty tomb

The women disciples of Jesus are the first to discover the empty tomb and to see the Risen Lord. They go to the tomb early Sunday morning and find the huge stone rolled away from the entrance and the tomb empty. The angels tell Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome that Jesus has risen from the dead, just as He said He would! The angels declare, “WHY DO YOU LOOK FOR THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD? HE IS NOT HERE; HE HAS RISEN!” They run to tell Peter and James and they also go to see the empty tomb. (See Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10). These women were the first to proclaim the GOOD NEWS!

Jesus with MaryMagdenlena

Mary Magdalene, the woman Jesus healed of seven demons, is the first to see Jesus alive! Mary stays outside the tomb, while Peter and the others have gone home. She sees someone she thinks is a gardener and pleads with Him to tell her where Jesus’ body has been taken. It is when Jesus says, “Mary” that she recognizes that it is Jesus! (See Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18). Jesus meets the other women on their way back to the tomb. He instructs them to go and tell His disciples He will meet them in Galilee (See Matthew 28:9-10).

Guars at Jesus' tomb

When the guards who were stationed at the tomb reported what had happened, the chief priests bribe them to say the disciples stole the body. They also promise to make sure they would not get into trouble with their superiors. The rumor of the stolen body spread among the Jews (Matthew 28:11-15).

Disciple on road

Jesus appears to two disciples and to Simon Peter. Mark briefly mentions this encounter, while Luke goes into detail of how Jesus meets two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The disciples do not recognize Him while they walk and listen to Him explain how all the Scriptures point to the Messiah. It is only when they are eating and He breaks bread with them that they recognize Him, and He vanishes. They go and tell the other disciples that “THE LORD HAS RISEN!” JESUS CHRIST HAS RISEN INDEED! They also tell of Jesus appearing to Simon [Peter] (See Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35)

Disciple Thomas

Jesus appears to ten disciples, in Thomas’ absence. He says to them, “Peace be with you.” Jesus exhorts them for not believing the reports of His resurrection. He begins to prepare them to preach the Gospel – the GOOD NEWS – and build His Church. When Thomas returns and hears Jesus had been with the disciples in his absence, he says he will not believe it unless he sees and touches Jesus wounds for himself. (See Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25). Eight days later, Jesus appears to the disciples when Thomas is present. He tell Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (See John 20:26-27). Thomas is the first disciple to procaim, “MY LORD AND MY GOD!”

jesus has risen

“JESUS HAS RISEN! JESUS HAS RISEN INDEED!” I cannot prove it, but I believe it with all my heart because, just like freshly baked rolls, I have tasted God’s goodness in saving a sinner like me.

 

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“Taste and see that the Lord is good;Blessed is the [person] who            takes refuge in Him.”
(Psalm 34:8)

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and [anyone] who believes in Me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).

 

Joyful Jesus

Christ the Lord Is Risen Today

(By Charles Wesley)

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say: Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing ye heav’ns, and earth reply: Alleluia!

risen lord

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death is now your sting? Alleluia!
Dying once He all doth save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Christ's cross defeated devil

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids Him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened Paradise, Alleluia!

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Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (See John 20:29). Do you believe “Christ has died, Christ has risen and Christ will come again” for you?

A Joyous Resurrection Sunday to You All!

The Lyd

Lydia

[I will be taking a few weeks off from blogging, so that you can catch up on your reading.]