We all have had those moments in time in which we will always remember the exact time, the exact place, and the situation that we will carry for the rest of our lives. Like November 22nd, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It was 12:30 pm and I was standing in line at the school cafeteria. I was only thirteen but my young world felt the shock waves that rocked the nation. Then there was the attack on September 11th, 2001 at 8:46am while I sat working on my computer in my office. These indelible moments I experienced through the media of television.
Then there are the unforgettable moments where I was physically present. April 3, 1997 at 3:00pm I stood at the death bed of my father and again in February 29, 2004 I was present at the passing of my mother. I can testify that there is a tremendous difference between seeing a powerful event unfold from a safe distance through the media, and experiencing a life-changing moment first hand.
My travels as a speaker took me to Japan for several weeks where I spoke for public education as well as Christian schools and churches. Being only a few hours drive from Nagasaki we planned a day trip there to take in the culture and history. Nagasaki was the industrial city where the 2nd atomic bomb was dropped three days after Hiroshima. It had all happened five years before I was born.
We headed for Ground Zero where the Nagasaki Museum stood. I had minored in history in College, and was well read on World War 2, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the atomic bombs that ended the war. I had seen videos and pictures of the atomic devastation. As we entered the doors of the museum I felt the solemnity sweep over me. My brain couldn’t comprehend what my eyes were seeing. Room after room housed things that were forever fossilized, such as a lunch box still containing food which was turned into charcoal. A green tinged glass coke bottle had melted and folded around the bones of a human hand. The clock that stopped at exactly 11:02 AM when the clockworks imploded with the impact, memorializing that one moment in time when 42,000 people would evaporate off the earth.
God used that day at the museum to prepare me for another moment in time. I earnestly believe that all things are from Him, for Him, with Him and in Him and there is nothing by chance or by luck. God was directing each step and had another divine appointment waiting for me in Nagasaki. I was to meet with Eiko Yamazaki, a deaf woman, who had survived the atomic bomb at Nagasaki.
Who was this woman, Eiko Yamazaki? Aside from both of us being profoundly deaf, we had little in common. We lived on opposite sides of the world. She was Japanese, and I am an American. I am a lip-reader, and she used Japanese Sign Language. She was a Buddhist while I am a Christian. What could we talk about? Why had God arranged this amazing appointment? I felt I needed to get to know her before our meeting and to get an idea of who she was even if I couldn’t understand her so I asked to view the video of her giving her address at the 58th Peace Ceremony at Nagasaki. I studied her face and her body language as she signed her message using Japanese Signs. A slight black haired lady, she was very animated, and although I had no comprehension of what she was communicating, it what was I saw in her that gave me insight into what to share with her.
The hour came for our meeting. There were five other women in the room besides Eiko and myself. Two sign language interpreters, two Japanese-English interpreters, and my oral interpreter in case I couldn’t read the English interpreter’s lips. I was grateful that I had ‘met’ Eiko through the video and felt very much at ease as she walked toward me. Her small frame had a frailness but it was her eyes that grabbed my attention. She had a calm and direct look that also held strong reserve. We sat across the corner from each other at a table, with interpreters positioned where we could both best see them. I was to speak in English, which was then interpreted into Japanese, another Japanese woman then signed it in Japanese Sign Language. Then when Eiko signed, it was to be interpreted into Japanese, and from Japanese into English so I could read it on my interpreter’s lips. It was going to be a very slow conversation but I had been praying for this moment since the appointment was arranged. God, why do You have me here? What should I say? How can I be used as your instrument to encourage this woman? I sensed this was not some chance meeting but something much bigger was at stake. I didn’t know what so I poured out my heart in prayer that God would be in our midst and that He would give me words.
First she shared her story. August 9th, 1945 was a beautiful hot sunny morning. Eighteen year old Eiko had tea with her mother and sister in their home until Eiko had to leave to work in the fields outside of the town. That short walk is what saved her life. At 11:02 AM the atomic bomb, “Fat Man” hit the industrial city of Nagasaki. From a distance she felt the earth rippling with the shockwaves and saw the mushroom cloud rising over her city. She saw people screaming and running, with their flesh falling off their bodies. Black smoke hung thickly in the air and the acrid stench of burning was everywhere. Climbing through rubble it took young Eiko hours to get back into the heart of the city where her home was within the hypocenter of the bomb’s devastation. There was nothing left of her home, her mother, or her sister except a few teeth. I can only imagine her confusion as a profoundly deaf woman, who could see and smell the incredible destruction and death surrounding her, but who could not communicate with those survivors to learn what had happened. There was no visual media such as TV or internet to see what had happened. It was a first-hand experience that took her years to comprehend what had transpired in that one moment of time.
It was my turn to talk and I started the conversation by thanking her for taking the time to meet a stranger from a distant land. When she smiled warmly at me I knew the interpreters were getting through. I shared that I had viewed her speech at the Peace Ceremony and although I could not understand any words, I did learn something from watching it. Once again she smiled with understanding. The next words out of my mouth were God speaking through me. “Do you know what I learned about you by watching the video?” Moments ticked by with interpreting before she responded with a quick shake of her head. Compassion filled me as I looked at her, and said, “You have a secret and I know your secret.” The English interpreter gave me a questioning look before she interpreted into Japanese. The Japanese Sign language interpreter also paused before conveying the message to Eiko. My new deaf friend eagerly waited for the communication, and when I saw unconcealed surprised cross her face I knew she had received my message. Her black eyes were intensely searching my face so I spoke again. “I know your secret and I am in awe of it. Your secret is that you have absolutely no fear. You do not fear man, storms, wars, sickness…” The room was very still as all six women in the room turned to look at me. Boldly I continued, “You have no fear, Eiko, because you came face to face with the worst thing on earth, the worst evil of man, the atomic bomb, and you survived and you know that nothing worse than that can touch you in this life. I say to you it was God who let you live through this greatest force known to man – the atomic bomb.”
I sat watching the interpreter relaying what I had just said and all the while my body was trembling. Inwardly I was praying, “Lord, these are not my words and I don’t know where you are taking this conversation but Thy Will be done, use me, Father, if it be your Will.”
Eiko turned to the interpreter to receive the message and then with those steady dark eyes looking directly into mine she bowed her head toward me once with clear affirmation. Her body leaned forward as if asking for more information so I continued.
“Do you know why you survived the atomic bomb?” I waited as the question was interpreted. Her response was a slow shake of her head. “The reason you survived the atomic bomb, Eiko, is so that we could meet today. I came across the ocean from America to give you good news. Has anyone ever told you about Jesus? Have you ever heard of Jesus, the Son of the living God?” She shook her head, no, as the question was interpreted so I continue with another question, “Do you know Buddha, are you a Buddhist?” Eiko responded with a yes to that question which prompt me to ask, “So my question is this. Did Buddha ever die for you and then come back to life?” Eiko sat wide eyed after receiving this news, shaking her head slowly.
I went on to share the gospel of Jesus and how He lived and died for us. “Eiko, the reason God allowed you to live that day when so many others died in the bomb, was that He wanted us to meet on this day so I could tell you about Jesus, the Son of the true and living God, Who took upon Himself your sins that you would be forgiven and live forever with Him in heaven. Before I came and told you this truth, you didn’t know so you were not accountable but today you have been told, and now you are accountable. Can I pray for you right now?” She nodded her head in assent.
In that one moment of time, that frail 78 year old deaf Japanese woman ‘heard’ about Jesus Christ for the first time in her life and received my words. It was a moment in time for me, as well, to seize the opportunity to share about the Man that had so changed my own life, the Man that had died for me, rose again and set me free to walk in newness of life. I realized that this moment was ordained of God for me to speak of Him to a profoundly deaf woman who would never hear the Gospel in any way other than face to face. I knew that God had ordained my steps to travel to the other side of the world, and that this one moment in time was not of my own accord, and was not by chance but was an encounter that the Almighty God of the Universe had planned in detail so that I could make Him known to this deaf Japanese lady who had lived through so much in her lifetime, and who was now nearing the end of her years on earth. It may have been the only time she would ‘hear’ the name of Jesus, but now she knew.
Friends, do you walk with Jesus? Do you know Him? The more you know Him, the more you will want to make Him known, no matter where you are. So the next question is for you. Are you making Him known to those around you? If you believe that God directs your paths, then He is bringing people across that path. It doesn’t matter where you are in life, or who those people are, each moment in time is a divine appointment by God. In that given moment, are you making Him known?
Are there certain things in daily life that really frustrate you? A wrong turn? Sitting in traffic? I am an on-the-go person, and these are the things that really push my buttons.
I had an appointment scheduled at the Cleveland Clinic. The journey takes me on the Ohio Turnpike to the Interstates of 480, 271, 77 then enduring the agonizingly slow speed of the busy streets with red lights that stretched endlessly for the final ten miles into the heart of the city.
We always pray for our travels, and today was no different. I lifted up my voice with, “Protect us as we travel; keep us safe in Thy tender loving care. Remove all danger, all obstacles, all interferences, all evil forces, anything that is not of You, for You, with You and in You.” After committing our way to the Lord, we took off, never imaging the invaluable lesson this simple hour and a half trip would hold.
The forecast had predicted 100 percent rain and I was grateful that as we started our drive the rain had tampered off to a drizzle. Deborah has been my constant traveling companion for the last thirteen years and we’ve grown into a team that can enjoy the silence together. This day the silence prevailed between us as I was in deep thought about my history with my neurologist and Deb was listening to hymns on the radio.
We exited the Turnpike and passed our favorite Cracker Barrel restaurant which was our ritual stopping place on our return home. I was already dreaming of dinner there. A few miles up the road we would connect on I-271. I could feel myself tensing up with the anticipated increase in the Cleveland city traffic. I remember seeing the sign which read I-77 twenty miles ahead and then one that showed ten miles ahead – that was the last I-77 sign I remember.
The reverie in the car was broken by Deborah frantically getting my attention.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Get off the next exit” she responded tersely. “We missed our turn.”
What? How could that have happened? “I’ll just turn around.” I responded.
“No, just get off the next exit,” Deborah insisted. Now Deb is the first to admit she is directionally challenged, but we were supposedly following our GPS for the whole trip. So how could we have missed a major interstate connection? Impossible!
As I was screaming to myself in my brain, God whispered to this deaf woman. All things are possible with Me….
Even while everything in me was screaming, NO, I do not want to take the city streets of bumper to bumper cars stopping at every red light on each block for the next 20 miles – no, Lord, not this…the Voice of my Shepherd whispered to me again, “Do you not say that I direct your steps, do you not believe that My plans are not to harm you?” Yes, this is one of my bigger lessons that He has been teaching me in the last couple of years… everything, every single thing that comes my way, every person I meet, every trial, disappointment, illness, affliction, blessing, my breath of life, comes from Him so that I might learn, become and grow into His likeness that I might prosper. Yes, He allowed me to miss our turn and once I accepted that, He smiled.
As we got off of 271 and turned onto Chagrin Blvd we rode the last nineteen miles without a single red light and almost no cars! We were in total amazement and awe as we traveled this uncharted path. We looked at each other and kept exclaiming, “How could we have missed this all these years?” The Lord had taken us down a peaceful street where huge old mansions lined the streets. Stately trees stretched their aged limbs out over our pathway. With a light fog settling in after the rain, it had a mystical and quieting effect. In the stillness of the moment, I saw a glimpse of heaven. It was almost like an out of body experience where I wanted to pinch myself to see if it was really happening!
God brought us to a fortress that day right in the busiest city of Ohio – was it by mistake? No, although through human error we missed our turn, that day through the Sovereign Grace of God, He gave us His best. It was His plan for us and His plans are always for our good and His glory.
Not having a clue where we were going but with the realization that He knows the way better that we do, we trusted His leading. With the high tech aid of our GPS which I now claim as “God Plans Sovereignly”, the day’s journey took us to green pastures beside still waters where our souls were refreshed and restored before entering the busy medical compound of Cleveland Clinic.
God reaffirmed a lesson that day that He has been teaching me recently. I experienced by sight what He has been teaching me by faith that every detail in life, no matter how small or insignificant it appears, needs to be given to Him with simple trust and a quiet rest in His plans. When I do this, then every situation I find myself in will lead me to my Father that I might be blessed by His peace and His presence. When I make a mistake, if I give it to Him, He will work it for my good. I simply need to know, believe, and love Him with my whole heart.
I will never forget this trip to the Cleveland Clinic on the 16th year of being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis – it was as if the Father was whispering, “The journey just keeps getting better. My daughter – I love you.”
It was Christmas. I was invited to deliver the Christmas message for the inmates at the Missouri State Penitentiary, once the largest prison in the US, and a good hundred years older than the famed Alcatraz Prison. I get invitations to speak at many different events and venues, but this was the first time I was entering a prison behind bars and with my adventurous spirit, I was intrigued about what I might find within.
Levi accompanied me. He was a tall and stately golden retriever, and as my certified Hearing Dog, was also was my constant companion. Neither one of us was prepared for what we would encounter that day in our lives.
The reception area was not the usual “reception” we so often see at speaking engagements. There were no welcoming smiles. First we had to hand over our documents to the stern faced guard, and then we were patted down. Levi loved that part! Then it was being wanded with a squeaky metal detector, which Levi didn’t like.
The instructions were very direct and specific. As we entered maximum security and walked the long block corridors, we were not to stop walking, no talking, make no eye contact with any prisoners, and we were to stay between the guards at all time. It left me with a sense of urgency and suspense as we came to the first set of barred gates that opened for our entry. The sound of metal on metal must have been horrendous as Levi trembled and shook each time we passed though and entered into a new corridor. Through gate after gate, I watched my stately dog cower and tremble at the sound.
Although I could not hear any of the sounds of prison life, my other senses were sharpened to my strange surroundings. It was the smell that was most overwhelming. My nostrils burned with the pungent stench of old urine and other body odors. Although I was to walk looking at the floors my eyes would occasionally dart quickly around me and it was a sight that cannot be described accurately.
As we left the last corridor and enter the main room where the meeting was being held, the realization hit me that I was the only woman and with a dog in the middle of a maximum security state penitentiary. The room was large and gray with scattered tables in the middle; and a group of rough looking men in numbered prison uniforms were lounging around the stone walls. Suddenly, one of the prisoners began to approach me all the while staring at my dog. As he came nearer he stopped, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Lady, I haven’t seen a dog in nine years”.
In that singular moment my heart swelled with compassion for this man. I looked at the stony faced Corrections Officer who was beside me, then turned back to the prisoner and said, “This is Levi. Would you like to take him for a moment over by the wall and have a little private time with him?”
With a look of mixed awe and confusion on his face, the prisoner grasped the leash I was holding out for him. Then he tentatively led Levi back over to the wall and just stood and looked down at my dog as if in a dream. Slowly he reached his hand out to rub Levi’s head and the next thing I knew he was on the floor holding my dog on his lap hugging him and crying. My own eyes began to fill with tears. Surely God was using the life of this golden retriever to reach into this man’s heart in a way that no human being could have reached him. As I watched, I made a split-second decision and approaching them I said, “Sir, I am speaking here in Chapel tonight for the Christmas Eve service and I need someone to watch Levi while I speak. If you stay, Levi can sit with you in the front row.” The eyes of that man glowed as he received that special gift of love from God through the life of a dog.
When it was time for the Chapel service to start, my new friend was sitting right there in the front row with Levi beside him. I shared my own story, “Silent Night,” about how God released me from the bondage of sin and set me free. But when I came to the part about working for the FBI, my panic button went off and sheer fear overtook my entire body. How could I stand in the middle of a maxium security prison and tell the prisoners that I once worked undercover with the FBI? I lifted a quick prayer and God gave me the peace to share it all. To my relief there was laughter at the thought of this profoundly deaf woman catching the bad guys by reading their lips! God once again found a unique way of getting the attention of those He wanted to hear His message.
I concluded my story that night by singing my signature song, Silent Night. As you know, I have never told the story without singing the song, but that night something different happened~ something very different. I began singing, “Silent night, holy night, all is calm” then a black prisoner near the back of the room stood up and started singing with me, then another, and another, and another until the entire penitentiary was on its feet singing with me. Singing through my tears, I faced the stark realization that I was standing among the murders, rapists and thieves, and in that one moment of time we all stood together as sinners at the foot of the Cross, loved by a Savior who came as a child on a dark, silent night to save the world from darkness and set the prisoners free. It is a memory that I carry forever.
Friends, no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done you can be pardoned for the worst foulest things you’ve ever done or been. Our Heavenly Father sent His only Son to die, to take your judgement, that you can live free of any guilt or shame. No greater gift has ever been given to mankind and it can be yours with His love on this day. Take it and receive it freely! Believe me, you can’t earn it and you don’t deserve it. It is simply a gift given, not because it is Christmas, but because He sent His Son to be the Light.
That prison was the darkest and foulest place, but on that night the Light of Christ shone upon all of us who stood together at the foot of the Cross as sinners. Dear friends, celebrating the birth of Christ should not be just one day a year. It is not meant to be a festival to buy big gifts or to party all hours of the night. The Light of Christ shining in our lives should be an every day experience, and through Him we can overcome the world and it’s temptations and snares.
“In Him was life and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” 1 John 1.4,5
I was a student in the early 70s, majoring in Political Science, International Relations. It was the latter part of 1971 that I found myself in a Constitutional Law class and had to write a thesis on a case that was on the docket to be heard by the Supreme Court. I frantically studied, researched, and wrote simply to pass the class… never imagining it would become a land mark case that would divide the country for the next 43 years and would lead to the downfall and destruction of our great nation. While God’s people remained silent, Roe v Wade has came to haunt the church and the Christian body by leaving a deep stain on our hands of the blood of millions of aborted babies.
Today the dockets of the court bring unfathomable cases that reveal the perverted twisted mind of a nation that has totally turned from God the Creator. Things that were unthinkable just 3 or four years ago are now the norm. First, it was the open promotion of accepting the homosexual lifestyle. That opened Pandora’s Box. Next the nation framed and defended the legal rights of the non-gender person. Now society is teaching our children that boys and girls and men and women don’t exist anymore – God forgive us for once again remaining silent about His created design!
The clock continues to tick and we are running out of time for what I believe to be the last presidential election as this country has known it. If you are a Christian, if you believe in God, the time has come for you to use your voice to cry out for the truth and pureness of the righteousness of God. Franklin Graham has been touring our nation seeking for us to pray for the nation and that we will return to God with humbled hearts. I commend Franklin for standing up and speaking out, but honestly I feel we are too late. The years have passed and with their passing we have gone further and further from God. 43 years have passed since the legalization of the abortion of babies, then came the removal of prayer, the Bible, and the Ten Commandments in our public places. It was still not enough for man to proclaim himself god but he made laws that protect the unnatural acts of perversion and then drive it further by claiming there is no sex gender of the creation of God. Animals are now regarded as a higher form than humans for we still see them as male and female!
Do I believe that we as a nation can return to what we once were…a God fearing, God seeking, humble society? NO! I believe it is too late and that judgement is already upon us. I believe we have yet to see the fullness of God’s wrath but that day is coming and it is coming sooner then we think.
Friends, the hour is upon us where so many of our churches are no longer a place for prayer and to meet with a holy God. God’s house has become a place where you can buy your cup of Starbucks in the lobby and then go into the auditorium and sit back to watch the entertainment, and you leave feeling temporarily uplifted and inspired because of the music pulsating through your caffeinated veins.
There was a day when the parents took their kids to church to learn the Word of God. Today it is the reverse, where the youth lead the parents to the church where it is fun and entertainment…and the parents let the kids rule because they are afraid that otherwise they would not attend any church.
I have been reading some of the Old Testament prophets and am startled by how their words apply exact to where we are today. Listen to this:
“I will make mere youths their officials;
children will rule over them.”
People will oppress each other—
man against man, neighbor against neighbor.
The young will rise up against the old,
the nobody against the honored.
A man will seize one of his brothers
in his father’s house, and say,
“You have a cloak, you be our leader;
take charge of this heap of ruins!”
But in that day he will cry out,
“I have no remedy.
I have no food or clothing in my house;
do not make me the leader of the people.”
Judah is falling;
their words and deeds are against the Lord,
defying his Glorious Presence.
The look on their faces testifies against them;
they parade their sin like Sodom;
they do not hide it.
Woe to them!
They have brought disaster upon themselves.
Tell the righteous it will be well with them,
for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.
Woe to the wicked!
Disaster is upon them!
They will be paid back
for what their hands have done.
Youths oppress my people,
women rule over them.
My people, your guides lead you astray;
they turn you from the path. (Isaiah 3 NIV)
As you can see, none of what I’ve mentioned above is new. The Lord says there is nothing new under the sun. He has seen it all before, and He will address it in His timing. The question is, where do we stand with Him? Are we being led astray….or are we living and speaking as His representatives?
Here is where the rubber meets the road. As for me, I cannot, I will not focus and grieve for the rapid decline of our society and the loss of our freedoms. I do not despair for my hope is not found here in this nation, but it is found in the Lord, the God Almighty, the Ruler of Heaven and earth! He has assured me that I am a citizen of a Heavenly country, and am only here as an Ambassador for my Lord. He has called me to be His and He is mine and He has assured me that no harm shall fall upon me and though I might be challenged and tested, He is with me and I can enjoy His Glorious Presence through it all.
Friends, I urge you to pray for the church and for its body. I urge you to pray for your friends, family and for yourselves. I urge you to ask God for forgiveness for what we have failed to do and strength to stand and speak out for righteousness instead of cowering because of the need to be politically correct. I urge you to repent and humble yourselves that God’s mercy will be upon you and your house. I urge you to ask God for His strength to prevail and that your faith will not be shaken nor taken from you.
I urge you to pray the sanctuaries of our churches will be reclaimed as a house of prayer where the Word of God is proclaimed with power and where the pastors preach boldly of the Cross and the atoning blood of Christ.
I leave you with a parting question… Do you fear God… Do you truly fear God? The way you answer the question will determine how you live your life. I hate to break the bad news but the party is over.
Now is the time for the prodigal to go Home to the heart of our Heavenly Father. He has been patiently waiting a long time for our return.