Faith

My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

This is the word of Jesus who shouted on the cross right before he died and the word King David wrote about a thousand years before Jesus was born (Psalm 22).

Yesterday was Good Friday.  The reason why we call it “good” was because he took away our Sin (the sin which separated us from God, which was the obstacle between God and us) by dying on the cross.

I wondered why Jesus, Son of God, had shouted such a quote of David each time when I heard it, but after I have known the desperation, fear, agony, or sadness from my own and other people’s cancer experiences, now I finally thought I understood why.

 

Suffering Christ

 Jesus who enticed huge crowds by healing the sick, reviving the dead, teaching about God’s kingdom, and the good news of  salvation, was accused of blasphemy by proclaiming himself as the Son of God by religious jealous leaders, and was arrested and next day crucified.

Jesus knew his destiny. Though he was the Son of God, because he was born as a son of a man,  he experienced every temptation, horror, pains, sorrow, and agony humans go through. Being  horrified by what was going to happen, he gave three long pleading prayers at the garden of Gethsemane before he was arrested.

Bowing with his face to the ground, dropping sweat like blood, being in overwhelming agony and sorrow, Jesus prayed.

“My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.” (Matthew 26:39)

The horror he felt was like what cancer patients or anyone who faces death experience feel, or probably much worse than that.

Nevertheless, he finished his prayers saying, “ not my will, but Thy will be done.”

The creator of the universe is not like a magic lamp, which grants any wishes.  The creator, our God, had a plan to save all humans from Sin – abandoning God and going our own ways, which deserves eternal death.  He gave this grave mission to Jesus and Jesus obediently accepted it in spite of his deep horror.

 

The Weight of The Cross

Jesus died for us to reconcile with God by taking all our sins on him to the cross, shedding blood and tears.

As I have learned the suffering of organ transplant families who were waiting for a long time for their donors, facing death which comes after them closer and closer, and their joy as they received the new hearts, as well as another suffering and agony of the donor families, I realized Jesus is the ultimate donor for me.

For three years since I got cancer, many times I have prayed; “ God, where are you?  Please answer my prayer quickly!  Please rescue me!  Please protect me!” but, Jesus shouted David’s psalm because he was in exclusive throes of agony and sorrows which we can never imagine.

As I noticed that his dreadful affliction was actually what I would’ve had to pay, tears flew down my cheeks.  Being touched by such an intense love, the profound sensation penetrated me to the core.

It was about three o’ clock in the afternoon when Jesus drew the last breath, but the sky was already dark.  As all of sudden the ground was rocked violently at the moment of Jesus death, the curtain which divided the holy of holies – the worship room where only the priests were allowed to go in – from other rooms was torn in two from the top to the bottom.  In other words, our sins were forgiven and there was no more obstacle between God and us.

 

The Power of The Resurrection

Then, on the third day, Jesus resurrected.  It was the day of the victory overcoming death!  Not because of our good acts, but because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can now enter into His Kingdom.  The prophecy of the coming Messiah in the old testament was fulfilled.

The invitation was given to everyone, and now it matters for us if we receive it or not.    For the ones who receive this invitation, death is not the end of the story any more.

In this holy week of Easter, reflecting this amazing love and hope, I have wished I would never forget this stunning grace, and could follow Him forever.

I Cried

It happened the next night after I came back from the healing peaceful retreat.

As I was cooking dinner, George came in the kitchen and said that the water was running all night last night opening the faucet widely.

Staring at the white thick stream of the water making the noise, I answered, “ You’re kidding me!  Is that true?”

Then he said, “ Not like this, but this,” turning the water down narrower.

All of sudden a strong sensation surged in me and I wanted to cry.

“  I can’t believe this!  If this is true, I am truly losing it!”

When I went to Japan, I lost my international driver license even before I left here.  It is nothing new that I lose or forget things often, but recently it is getting worse:  I burn pots and pans, I leave the house without closing the garage door or the front door.  I can’t find not only keys or the wallet but even purses.  I make more mistakes with simple calculations and spellings.

It is already hard enough to think about  gray hair, wrinkles, poor eyesight, stiffness of the body, stooping pasture, muscle ache, etc, which chemo accelerates, but I tried to be positive listening to the Bible saying, “ . Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day.”

Despite all of that, if my mind is also getting older and weaker, this is too much to bear.  I lost all confidence and now can’t trust myself at all.  I can’t do anything!

I can’t serve to anyone, including the church and George!

While I was on the retreat, my heart was overflowed with gratitude, peace, and hope.  Yet now, like a popped balloon, everything disappeared and instead I was utterly defeated by the desperation.

I thought my faith became stronger through the battle against cancer and I renewed my purpose to become a good partner of George, but I don’t even feel like praying.  How pathetic this is!

As I thought even my faith was so shallow, I felt sadder and devastated.  I rolled onto the bed and bursted into a flood of tears.

Being surprised, George said, “ This is a simple mistake.  Why  do you make it so  big deal?”  He doesn’t understand it. It is a big deal for me!  I cried harder.

Next day, my eyes were swollen up and I was still in the depression, and then George told me again,

“ Don’t listen to the Satan!  Even though you are weak, God is strong.  You are the most important partner for me.  If you lose, I will lose, too.  God still wants you to do important work, so don’t give up.  It is your choice to listen to the voice saying you are done or stand up again.     Stop having self pity for God’s sake!”

Feeling the resistance to say, “yes”, I squeezed out the word, “OK.”

“ I will have a day like you being depressed, then you have to encourage me,” he continued.

Then holding hands together, we prayed for the strength.

The 3rd day, yesterday, I went to the hospital for chemo, and during the infusion, I read the Bible.  In the afternoon I went to a meeting for the new Women Bible Study, and at night I worked on a lesson plan for Sunday School.

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name; You are mine.  When you go through deep water, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.  When you walk through the fire of oppression you will not be burned up, the flames will not consume you.  For I am the Lord, your God… You are precious to me.  You are honored, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:1-4)

As I cannot sleep because of a side effect tonight, the Bible verse touches my tender heart, and I am weeping again.

 

 

Mary Who Lost Her Child

I read a story in the Bible of Mary being foretold to bear Jesus by angel Gabriel, in Luke ch.1 .  She was only 13 or 14 years old at that time and was engaged to Joseph.  Seems like it was common to marry at such a young age in those days.

According to Luke, as she heard the astonishing news, she couldn’t believe it and asked, ” How can this be since I am a virgin?” but she was grateful for being chosen in spite of her lowly position, and accepted it with obedience saying, “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

While Mary, the mother of Jesus, is worshiped as well as Jesus in Catholic, Protestants don’t make her such a big deal because she was a human instead of God.

However, I have been thinking about her since the study this week. Being offered such a major role from God, how did she feel about it?  Luke said she rejoiced very much. I imagine that she was obedient, humble, and profoundly faithful.

Being chosen by God is indeed a agreat honor and blessing, but just like other “saints”, she had to go through incredible suffering as well:  She had to watch her dearest son, Jesus, dying on the cross being humiliated  and agonizing.

Abraham also must have experienced the sorrow and grief as he was told to sacrifice his only son, Isaac,  whom he had in his old age, but an angel stopped him at the very moment of sacrificing Isaac, by telling that was a test of Abraham’s faith.  Abraham didn’t lose Isaac.  Yet unlike Abraham’s case, an angel didn’t appear for Mary to save Jesus.

We know that Jesus resurrected in three days, and then Mary’s sorrow must have turned into extreme joy, I’m sure, yet, she experienced horrible pain and desperation like many mothers who felt utterly helpless  in front of  their dying children.

Watching Jesus suffering gravely, could she keep her faith?  Like Abraham, could she still believe that God would never make mistakes?

Because she was the woman God had chosen, I believe she prayed for help strenuously and  even if her heart was shattered completely, she  kept her faith.

In the “valley of the shadow of death” the faith in God, the Creator of everything, the Father who promised never to forsake us, is the only light which guides us to go through the valley, and ones who decide to follow Him will all resurrect like Jesus because of His and Mary’s great cost.  GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME!!

The Last Night With Pepper

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The life is leaving from Pepper’s body.   As the time goes by minute—by— minute, Pepper’s life is slipping away inch-by-inch.

I took her to a vet yesterday when she was not able to stand up all of sudden two days ago.

When I picked her up after 24 hour fluid therapy, the vet told me that she was a little better than yesterday.  He also said, “You can spend time with her a little more.”  Receiving a can dog food to boost up her strength, I was excited, hoping to see her coming from the back of the office walking by herself.

Yet, she came being held by an assistant.  As she was placed in the back seat of my car, she was not even able to raise her head up.

My heart filled with full of hope, sank immediately and heavily more than ever.  People say a year of a dog is equivalent with 7 years of human being.  Since Pepper is 15 years old, I understand that her time is running out.  Yet I got had hope by the vet’s words.

When we arrived at home, she looked at me indicating that she knew it, too.  “We are home, “ saying to Pepper, I walked into the house holding her in my arm.

At the sunny spot in the family room, I moved her bed with food and water.  I opened the window door to the back yard, and laid her down.  I thought that was the best spot for her.

I e-mailed to my brother-in-law, who is also a vet in Japan, sending Pepper’s blood work results and asked his opinion about putting down pets.  I certainly don’t want to see Pepper suffer, but I was not sure if it’s the right thing to put a period on an animal’s life by human hand.

When I came back to the family room, Pepper was not in the bed.  I looked at the back yard.  She was collapsed on the grass.

She must have used her all strength to walk out to the yard.

“Pepper,” as I called her name, moving only her eyes, she responded to  me.

I held her again.  She was so light that it made me cry.

She loves to eat, but now she is neither able to eat nor drink.

“Heavenly Father, please help her not to suffer.  I am so thankful for Pepper.  She has been the great gift for our family.” As I pray so, I remembered many good ペパーTorrance Beach.memories with her and my tears dripped on her body. She has witnessed good times and bad times of our family.  Especially since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, she has been a great comforter.

The Bible doesn’t talk about after life of animals, yet dogs are such loyal obedient animals. I hope they will also receive new bodies and live forever like human beings.  When my time comes, I hope Pepper will welcome me darting like the wind.

Tomorrow our sons and daughter-in-law will come to celebrate Roy’s birthday.  Even if Pepper is gone, “We should say good-bye to her,” George said.

Her eyes are no more focused.  The small body is puffing up and down wearily and quietly though She is peaceful without any discomfort.

“ For God so loved the world that He gave His one begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”- -John 3:16

Remembering God’s Word, I will spend the last night on the earth with my beloved Pepper.

Peppar 2012ペパーソックス

The red stocking at the center is for Pepper, but we’ll miss her this Christmas.

Waiting for the CT Result

How quickly a week went by!

A week after I postponed the last infusion due to the low count of platelets, I went for a lab on Monday.  This time the count of platelet was 91 while the minimum requirement was 75.  I wanted over 100, but I decided to have an infusion.

My dose of T-DM1 has been reduced to 83% already, and the last two times I even extended the cycle from every three weeks to four weeks.  If my calculation is right, this is less than 65%.  In spite of that, I have had bruises and my eye has been bleeding since last Saturday. Probably my platelets are still going down.

After the infusion, I took a CT scan, which was important to see if the last suspicious findings were signs of a relapse of cancer or not.  I am expecting to receive the results tomorrow.

The Christmas season is the busiest season and I don’t like all the pressures, but besides those regular pressures, this year I have been grieving for Pepper, working on some commitments, and depressed by recent world anti-Christ movements, and I didn’t have room to worry about the result of the CT so far.   Yet if I get a bad result, surely my burden will multiply and I will be depressed more.

Then the Bible says,

“And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Roman 5:13)

And also, it says,

“These trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.   So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian,for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you.” (1 Peter 4:13)

The ultimate hope I cling to is nothing but the Heavenly Father.

The Good Ending Makes The Good Beginning

The Temperature was 75 ℉.  The sky was clear and blue without a bit of cloud. The trees on streets have still twinkling orange, yellow, or red leaves.  Both the New Year’s Eve and the New Year’s Day were just gorgeous and beautiful.

Walking on beach with George on the New Year’s Day, I was so thankful that I could live in such a paradise, South California, but it was also true that the wonderful New Year’s Eve contributed to fill my heart with joy as much as the beautiful weather.

In the daytime of the Eve, George and I drove down to UCLA Tiverton House to see a Christian couple, whom I first met 8 years ago when the husband needed a heart transplant, and now they were here on their vacation.  Then at night George and I celebrated the good results of his vocal cords treatment, my CT scan, and one of friends’ heart surgery together with three Christian friends.

Sharing the same value and perspectives, George and I were so encouraged all day long and that was the best day to close the 2013.  Japanese say, “ a good beginning makes a good ending,” but my case was opposite.  I feel like; the New Year looks so hopeful because the ending was so good.

 

The Psalm 1 I read this morning says,

“Blessed is the one—whose delight is in the law of the Lord,

and who meditates on his law day and night.

That person is like a tree planted by streamsof water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leafdoes not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.”

 

I want to be like such a tree, and this should be my resolution of this year.  I know there will be a lot of trials and temptations waiting for me this year, as well, but as though God were talking to me, “ I’m with you,” everyday, my spirit is high and my New Year is starting well.

GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME!

“Are You Going To Leave, Too?”

Jesus’ words (John 6: 67 ) stung my heart.

Because He healed many diseases and disabilities, raised the dead, and fed the hungry, He quickly became popular.  Wherever He went, a big crowd followed Him seeking for miracles.

Yet, as he preached to seek for the eternal life by believing Him, who called God as the Heavenly Father and Himself as the life of the bread, instead of seeking for miracles, which last only for a short time on the earth, the crowd started bashing Him saying how dared He proclaim himself as the Son of God, were confused about Him, and lost interest in Him without any miracles. As the crowed deserted Jesus, He said to His disciples, “Are you going to leave, too?”

We always desire miracles.

May I be healed completely from cancer!

May a disability or disease be cured!

I don’t want my beloved one to die!

Please give us good health, prosperity, and happiness forever!

And more.

Nevertheless, even if our prayers are granted and a miracle happens, new problems or troubles come after us continually and death is inevitable.

The Bible says death is the consequence of our disobedience to God; choosing our own way – wishing to take a place of God:  This Sin is so grave that we can never pay off the cost no matter how hard we try to do good deeds, but only by the sacrifice of Jesus, the Son of the Creator of heaven and earth.

Will we seek for miracles that are only effective on the earth, or for Jesus who repaired the broken relationship with Heavenly Father and redeemed us for the eternal life by His unbearable sacrifice?

I imagine Jesus who was left alone with his disciples by the thousands of a crowd who once were excited with His miracles chasing Him days and nights and exalting Him.  I imagine how Jesus felt knowing that even those disciples would betray Him at the time of His arrest by the Romans.

My savior’s words choked me with a flashback of Pepper who looked at me with her innocent vulnerable eyes as she was dying.

“ No. Even if cancer comes back, or I have to live in endless afflictions, I want to follow you!”

I felt an urge to answer Jesus.

Then I thought about the cancer families whose beloved ones are in the terminal stage.  Besides praying for them, I’m helpless, but instead of deserting them, I should let them know at least I am praying for them. I should be besides them.  I felt like, accepting my answer, Jesus called me for an assignment saying, “O.K. Then go.”

Seeking Miraculous Healing Medicine and Pool

Thought Watching the Olympics

“ The Olympics are like a circus,” said George.

Indeed, watching snowboarding, which flies like a cannon, or artistic but also acrobatic figure skating, I feel like they were astonishing super humans.

A long time ago, when I saw a figure skate medalist, Janet Lynn, who had a blond bob haircut, I was so fascinated by her skating that I determined to learn figure skating, and in college, I joined a figure skating club.    I did not excel, but I still have the white made-to-order skate shoes.

Watching the elegant skaters, I feel a strong nudge to stand on the ice right away and to imitate that graceful skating.  Yet, the reality is that my legs are so stiff that I cannot even squat without holding bars and I am stretching and bending my legs in front of the T.V..

I wonder maybe the Olympians are not only training hard but also taking some drugs to make their bodies strong and flexible.  If there is such a drug, I want it!

Should I Google it?

 Miraculous Healing Pool, Bethesda

In Jesus’ era, in Jerusalem there was a pool called Bethesda, where the crippled, blind, or sick could be completely healed if they got into it.  It was excavated in the 1950’s and I am going to visit there.

Jesus asked a crippled man, who was laying there for many years wishing to jump into the pool, if he wanted to be healed.  As the man said, “Yes,” Jesus commanded him to stand up and walk, and he did.

At Bethesda, remembering this miracle, if I pray for healing, my cancer may be gone and this stiff body may be healed completely.

Counting the days to the Israel trip, I am expanding my imagination.

The pool of Bethesda

The site of Bethesda

 

Israel Trip: 6) Two Stones

I got home safely from Israel.

Among the souvenirs are two stones.

A Stone from Caesarea

One is from Caesarea, the largest port city along the Mediterranean coast in Jesus‘ time, built by King Herod,  who also rebuilt the temple.

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King Herod was a Jew but because he loved the Roman Empire and Caesar, he built a huge city including a palace, amphitheater, hippodrome for Romans.

Remain of the palece

The remain of the palace, hippodrome, and the port

Roman Theater

According to the tour guide, King Herod and the Romans were so cruel that, for example, while watching a play, which had a scene to gouge out an eye, they literally did so with a slave on the stage. Herod made a pond around the theater, stocked alligators, and if the spectators got bored with plays, they threw slaves in the pond and got excitement.

The Bible tells that the Israelites, who were oppressed and suffered by Romans, longed for the Messiah, who had been prophesied a long ago, to come, and the immense ruins convinced me of the scripture.

The stone from this site is a symbol of suffering and affliction.

A Stone from Galilee

The other stone is from the Sea of Galilee, the site where Peter was restored by the resurrected Jesus.

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The night before Jesus was arrested, He told his disciples that he would be tortured, crucified, and all of the disciples would desert Him. Peter immediately corrected Jesus saying that would never happen, and he would never betray Jesus even if others would do so. Yet Jesus told Peter that he would deny Jesus three times before a rooster crowed, and so it happened.

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Church of the Primacy of St. Peter is located where is believed that Peter was restored by the resurrected Jesus.

Peter failed bitterly, and then the resurrected Jesus appeared to him.  Jesus restored Peter by asking, “ Do you love me?” and telling him, who answered yes, to “feed His sheep.”

In spite of the sin, fatal mistake, or guilt, Jesus forgave Peter and gave a 2nd chance to become a powerful disciple to proclaim the gospel even to the Gentiles.

The stone from here is a symbol of God’s grace, love, and hope.

 

During the trip I learned and thought many things, but most importantly I learned that God is so faithful.

The history of Israel is the history between Israelites, who have repeatedly ran away from God and faced oppressions, persecutions, and exiles, and God, who has been so faithful that He rescued them each time in spite of their disobedience.  The reason why Jesus was born in this tiny country for this pathetic people is also probably because God is faithful to keep the promise He made with Abraham. Now His plan of salvation has spread to the world through Jesus followed by His disciples.

The stone of Caesarea reminds me of my battle of cancer, yet I also have a stone of Galilee.

“ I will never forsake you.”

I feel like I saw His promise in this trip of Israel.

GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME!

Easter with My Mother

Today was Good Friday, when Jesus was crucified 2000 years ago.  I, who am visiting Japan, went to Hamamatsu Catholic Church for a special Misa with my 86 year-old mother, who was baptized at the church about two and half years ago.
According to the Bible, the night before His crucifixion, Jesus was arrested by Roman soldiers, led by Judas Iscariot, and immediately taken to the high priest. By the priest, Jesus was sentenced to die because of the blasphemy of calling himself the Son of God and beaten violently. Because Israel was governed by the Roman Empire in those days, the next morning Jesus was taken to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate’s house, and then He was flogged and forced to walk to Golgotha carrying his cross
The Crucifixion is the most brutal execution in the Roman Empire, and probably it was enforced so quickly because Saturday was the Sabbath day when no work was allowed.
Taking away the clothes from Jesus, Roman soldiers pushed the thorn crown on Jesus’ head, called him king of Jews with the mockery, spit on Him, and beat his head. Looking at Jesus on the cross, the crowd jeered shouting, “If you are the Son of God, come down from there!” The crucifixion took about 6 hours and according to Isaiah, Jesus was covered fully with his blood and barely recognized as a human.
Around noon, the sky turned dark, and when Jesus released his last breath around 3pm, the earth was shaken greatly and the curtain in the temple was torn from the top to the bottom. This was the moment when our Sin (being away from God and going on our own way), which separated us from God, was removed. Sin we could never pay off no matter how many and how hard we tried good deeds was forgiven by the sacrifice of God’s only Son. Then on Sunday, three days after, He was resurrected and brought those, who believe in Him, the victory overcoming the death, the consequence of our Sin.Apostle John described in his gospel about the Christ, who was rejected, humiliated, abused, and killed, as; “ He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

During the misa, recalling the sites of Gethsemane, Via Dolorosa, Golgotha, and the tomb I visited on my Israel trip as if a slide show.again,  I was grateful that I could know God’s amazing love, and for another miracle that Ì could celebrate this Easter together with my mother, who was also led to believe in Jesus.  God is good all the time!

The Protestant version of Golgota with the rock hill which looks like a skull.

The Protestant version of Golgota with the rock hill which looks like a skull.

The Protestant version of Jesus tomb near Golgta.

The Protestant version of Jesus tomb near Golgta.

 

Give Me The Strength

“Kazuyo-san, How are you?”

A mother, whose young son has very rare type of cancer, called me.

Recently her son also received a bad result of a CT

” How come he has to go through this?  Maybe this was my fault,” she said.

The temptation of blaming herself; the helplessness of watching her son, who used to be strong and healthy, losing weight and deteriorating; the sorrow of the young man, whose hope has been betrayed over and over no matter how bravely he has fought;  a desperate question she or he wants to shout, “Though there are people who live to 90 or even 100, why? WHY?! “-I can feel all of them deep into the core.

Yet, the question never leads us to the answer, or even if we find the answer, that will never give us peace but depress us more.

” God made everything perfect.  He is the author of the life.  Death,  illness, and sufferings–all of them are His enemies.  That’s why He sent Jesus onto the earth to rescue us from them.  We must not see the storm.  If we see it, we are frozen with horror and are engulfed instantly into the darkest pit.  The good news is that we have faith. We are not alone.   Although our boats are small and tossed left and right, Jesus is in them.  He can calm the storm. He is stronger than cancer and even death! Focusing on Him, we have to ask for strength to go through this storm.  The Bible says that our suffering lasts for a short time, but the joy waiting ahead lasts forever. I will pray for two of you, so you, too. Please pray ,’ Give me the strength’ and reach to the other side.”

What I said to her was also what I had to remember.

 

We who have fled to Him for refuge can take new courage, for we can hold on to his promise with confidence.”  Hebrews 6:18 (NLT)

 

 

 

Amazing Grace

“Gather as many believers as you can and lay hands on her and give it to the Lord— I will ask that God be the healer in this– I know this must be difficult to be going through with the woman you love and i’m sure like any person would ask “WHY GOD WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS…?” I’m reminded of the promises of God when I deal with crazy things in my life– GEORGE STAND ON THEM! SAY TO GOD, God you know what the heck is going on in my life and your words says, ” (eph 3:20) AND “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14). GOD knows what the storm is going through your life and I pray for comfort because He didn’t given a spirit of fear but of a sound mind and I pray that you guys will spend the necessary time with each other to keep happiness and joy in your life no MATTER what the circumstances are as you know my broth’a he says for us to rejoice even in our trials and sufferings— just get up and say God I know you’ll get us through this– I’m trusting in you!!!!! “

The e-mail came to George from a young man with whom we traveled to Israel together.
As George read the e-mail at the Bible class on Tuesday night, a day after I received the bad CT report, the class surrounded me putting their hands on my shoulders and prayed for me. I was moved and overwhelmed with the appreciation and joy. The encouragements have continued through e-mails and phone calls including even an invitation to Hawaii and a financial support.
It is incredible that  so many people care about me so much, but what I have been experiencing must be God’s amazing grace. I feel like this is the answer from God, saying, “ You are precious to me and I am with you.”

My words are never enough for the kindness and supports I have received, but thank you so much for your tender care and prayers! I am blessed and GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME!

Taxol Again, but Liver Biopsy First

The oncologist and I discussed about the new regimen and decided to add Taxol, which shrunk metastasized cancer completely two years ago, to the current regimen, Herceptin and Perjeta.

I will lose hair, which finally became long enough, again, and am concerned with the peripheral neuropathy, which has worsened since I first used Taxol.  Yet, shrinking cancer is the priority and I am betting on this drug.

Once I decided the regimen, I wish to start it ASAP.  However, instead of a chemo nurse, the diagnostic imaging center called me telling I had to take a liver biopsy first.  The last two CTs showed possible varices.  Because an EGD (Esophagus stomach camera procedure) was negative, I held off the biopsy but the GI doctor told me this is important for me. That means I have to wait for the new regimen until 6/30.  If I think that cancer has been active since March, I get upset and crazy.  Instead of watching the storm, I have to say to myself, “ Focus on Jesus.  He is in the same boat with you!”

God I Will Meet In Heaven

Thursday morning, the ESL Bible class is the most favorite time for me in a week. Five years ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and stopped working, I thought that my days might be numbered, and if so, I wanted to know God, whom I would meet soon, better. So, I decided to join the class, and that was a truly right decision I have made.

Jesus said,
“Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you, ” (Matthew 7:7)
That was true. The Bible has revealed who God is as though it were rushing spring water, and God has drawn me closer and closer to Him since I had a desire to get to know Him.

In yesterday’s class, we studied my favorite Psalm 23.

The poem written by King David, who used to be a shepherd, considering himself as a sheep of the Great Shepherd, has comforted me over and over whenever I was overwhelmed with sadness, depression, or fear.

“ The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”

As David said that he would not need to worry about anything because he belonged to the Great Shepherd, I am under the care of the same Shepherd as David’s.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters. “

My Great Shepherd provides me what I need and lets my weary heart rest.

“He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. “

He comforts me and encourages me. He leads me to the right direction because He cares; He is the Great Shepherd.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;”

Even when I fear death, He is with me pouring out so much love.

“You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

As David declared, I may also declare the same: Because the Shepherd never leaves His eyes from us, even when we suffer from illness, loss of someone we love, fear of going broke, or feel like in a dark endless tunnel without light.

As though The Great Shepherd had held me, who ran into his strong arms, each time I cried out, He surely has wiped my tears.

May the poem continually touch many people bringing comfort, hope, and encouragement just as it has done so for millions of people for three thousand years!

Choice

The word “choice” has an interesting insight, which I haven’t found in Japan’s culture. When someone says, “ It is your choice,” it indicates our will, putting the responsibility of the action on us. It is not passive but active.
Free will is a gift from God. God wants us to be free to choose, and to be responsible for the actions we choose– I think.
Depending on which choice we choose, the consequence differs. God guides and leads us, but He never forces us to His way.

When I encounter troubles, I always have various choices for my response:

I can keep asking “Why” questions, which usually don’t lead to any solutions.
I can become nostalgic wishing to go back to the past, regretting what I didn’t do or I did.
I can give up saying, “ It’s too late” or “ It’s over.”
I can blame someone else and get angry.
I can pity myself and be envious or jealous of others who look happier than me.
I can pile up uncertain concerns of the future.
I can give up on God throwing away the faith.
Or,
Like King David, who wrote,
“O God my rock,” I cry,
 ‘Why have you forgotten me?
 Why must I wander around in grief,
 oppressed by my enemies?’
Their taunts break my bones.

They scoff, ‘Where is this God of yours?’
Why am I discouraged?
 Why is my heart so sad?

I will put my hope in God!
 I will praise him again—
 my Savior and my God!” (Psalm 42:9-11)
and like Lauren, who keeps going, remembering her purpose of life in spite of terminal brain cancer, I can chose to be faithful to God trusting in Him.
It is my choice to give in to self-distractions or to follow Jesus.
No matter how the circumstance will change, there is still a way to have hope and strength by my choice.
The Bible, which tells me so, is leading me quietly like the light of a light house. I should never lose it!

Touchstone

Is there really God or Heaven?

Sometimes my faith becomes weak with such a question when a bad thing happens one after another, or cancer progresses despite prayers. In such moments, I look back to find God’s works in my life.

Getting married to George.

Two boys grew up overcoming close calls and disabilities.

My parents, who used to mock my faith, accepted Christ in their old age.

Being given a ministry of supporting international organ transplant families, through which I found God and deepened faith.

Being able to change the health insurance before the diagnoses of cancer, and many more.

Those experiences remind me that God exists, but the most significant touchstone is an experience of a healing miracle from hypothyroidism nearly 20 years ago.

Back then my family was attending a small Japanese church, and one day a healer came from Tokyo.

“Anyone who needs to be healed, please come to the front.”
Responding to his invitation, I stood in front of him.

He put his hands on my shoulder and asked me to pray silently with him. I closed my eyes and started praying that God would heal the hypothyroidism.

All of sudden, I felt like something warm was poured from my head and that was running through my body all the way to the toes. At the same time, my body became warm and all muscles relaxed so I could not stand any more, and fell down into the arms of his assistant, who was standing behind me, and was laid down on my back on the floor. The warm wonderful feeling lasted 2-3 minutes, and then disappeared as if nothing had happened.

A few weeks later, as I went to see a doctor, he told me that all numbers of the lab were now normal and asked me with a surprise what had happened. What I could think about was only the healer’s prayer. As I said so, the doctor said, “ Sometimes such things happen,’ and told me to come back next month just in case. Next month, the lab result was all normal again, and I was told that I would not need the medicine any more and I was cured.

The Bible talks about anointing oil to heal or bless someone, also of the Holy Spirit coming down to the disciples to allow them to perform miracles. I feel like I experienced the anointing oil.

Actually when I was diagnosed with cancer, I looked for this pastor wishing for the healing prayer again.
I finally found him, who was still preaching at a small church in Tokyo. I emailed him, but could not get a reply.

“ My Grace is sufficient for you,”—(2nd Corinthians 12:9)

God was telling me so, I thought, and stopped pursuing it.   Whenever I’m tempted by doubts, however, this experience denied them and brings me back the faith.

Writing so far, the memory of the healing became so vivid that now I feel God so close, as if I were in His arms.
Overwhelmed with tears of joy and gratitude, I can’t see the letters any more.

Forgiveness

As Peter, a disciple of Jesus, asked how many times he had to forgive someone who sinned against him, Jesus answered 70 times seven! He explained the reason using a parable as follow.

A Parable of Debtor ( Mathew 18:21-35)

A servant, who was told to sell not only himself but also his wife and children because he could not return his millions of dollar debts, kneeled down and begged the king, whom he owed money, “ Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.” Then, the king felt pity for him and let him go forgiving all his debt. Yet, on the way home, as the servant saw a man who owed the servant a few thousand dollars, he immediately demanded the money to pay back, and as the servant knew the man was not ready to pay back, he had the man arrested to send to a prison though the man begged him to wait for a little more time.
Once the king learned what the servant did, he called back the servant and told him with anger, “ I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” Then the servant was arrested and tortured until he had paid his entire debt.

The Bible tells that if we refuse to forgive our brothers and sisters from our heart, our heavenly Father will do the same to us.

In other words, the Bible is telling that we have to forgive each other because God forgave our Sin of disowning God, the penalty of which was death, by Jesus’ Cross.

It’s Difficult But With God It’s Possible

We are so quick to notice someone’s faults and easy to get angry or hateful, forgetting our own sins.
I have struggled with the hate, which was evoked by someone who has hurt my loved ones for many years. The feeling was so strong that I have had nightmares many times, which woke me up in the middle of nights. Each time I see that person and the evil spirit, my anger grows quickly and even after I become alone, it is so difficult to control myself not to scream. Although I try to focus on the good part of the person, the pitch-dark ugliness becomes so huge that I am simply not able to.

In the shower, I prayed,

“ Oh God, I am sorry but I can’t forgive X. Please cleanse my anger and hate, and soften my heart. “

As I prayed, I recalled the above Bible story, and thought; I’ve also hurt and made many cried. I also owe apologies for some people, but Jesus died for me and X, as well.

Then my fire of hate was extinguishing.

“ God, please wash away X’s anger, greed, and evil spirit. Please give X a new heart.”

Instead of opening my mouth and sinning again by attacking X, I could pray for the person.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”- John 15:5

It is so true.

Cancer Diagnosis 5th Anniversary

It has been 5 years since my diagnosis of breast cancer and now I will start the 6th year of the battle. On May 8th five years ago, everything turned upside down and my life has changed ever since. I could not think of the future, but I made it to 5 years! At the very beginning, I was told that my cancer was stage ll, but it should have been stage four because cancer had been already spread into the lungs. When I went to UCLA Medical center for a 2nd opinion, I was told that I would not have been able to survive for four years. If I think of that, it is a miracle that I am still alive.

Spiritual Prime Time

Physically my prime time was over long time ago. For the last five years chemo, radiation, and surgeries have beaten my cancer cells but also good cells.  My body has been damaged and lost some abilities, yet, spiritually I feel like I have grown and now I am in the prime time with the maturity and strength.

This is all because God has poured into me His love.  Immediately after cancer invaded my life, not mention the family and relatives, but also so many friends came closer into my life. If I think there was not even one day when I didn’t feel loved, it is evitable to believe that God came and has stayed right next to me as soon as I asked for the rescue.

Cancer has been growing and the harsh chemo will never end. I have no idea how many more years I have, yet my joy of being loved is more abundant than all the difficulties and I cannot express it enough. Even if the death sentence would come tomorrow, my wish to send each person, who has cheered, cared, supported, and prayed for me, a red rose with my gratitude wouldn’t change.

Death Is Like Cocoon

We all die sometime. Even if another miracle happened right now and I were cured, I will die someday anyway. According to the Bible, the paradox is when we die, the dream of living happily ever after will come true. We will receive the new body, which never gets sick or dies, when Jesus returns on the last day of the earth. Both the living and dead, who believed Jesus as Messiah, will transform into the new body all together (1 Corinthian 15:52). Therefore, when the dead wake up, everyone, whom they loved would be there including the people who had died before and after; only the people left behind have to grieve.

If it’s so, death is the triumph. An earthly body will deteriorate and decay, but it is like a cocoon, an empty leftover of a butterfly, which is much more beautiful and free than a caterpillar, a previous status. We are the same. We need to focus on the new body instead of the old body, and God, who gives it to us as the Creator.

Whether we have cancer or not, until God calls us to go home, we have to enjoy every gift we receive from Him, accomplish the purpose He gave us, and welcome the most joyful day. That is the way of life the Bible teaches us, I believe.

Oh, How great our Lord is!! Hallelujah!

My Weapon in Cancer Battle

In a battle against cancer, I think there are three battle fields: body, finance, and spirit. Each one is tough to fight but the toughest field is spirit where fear and doubt come in all the time.

We are somehow curious and want to peak at scary stuff, such as horror movies, haunted houses, ghosts, or death.

Increasing access numbers to a cancer blog of someone who is dying is most likely because of that reason. They want to know how cancer patients die.

Yet, once they know it, the fear of death becomes much bigger and horrifying.

Buddha said we are walking towards death as soon as we are born – according to a history teacher in high school, where I once was working as a bilingual aide. As I learn what death looks like, this perspective depresses me.

On the other hand Joni Tada, a quadriplegic Christian evangelist, who has sent wheelchairs all over the world, said it this way.
“ We move day-by-day toward “the better country.”

“Through we still suffer as we march toward Zion (the Kingdom of God), we become cities on a hill, and lights on a lamp stand for all to see and take courage from that welcome dalliance. “

“Earth’s pain keeps crushing our hopes, reminding us this world can never, never satisfy us. Only heaven can.”

“The fact is, this world never was our true Home. We’ve always been passing through…We’ve always been ‘ marching to Zion.”

“So we set our focus not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is only temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

How greatly our perspective changes once we know God, Father of Jesus! He is the only weapon in my battle field of spirit. I cannot imagine going through this battle even one day without Him. Getting to know Him through Jesus was the best thing that has ever happened in my life.

Breaking up or Uniting

When we face an enemy, it is better to unite with your partner instead of breaking up to win the battle. Yet in reality it is not easy. If a child causes a problem at school, a family member becomes seriously ill, or financial crisis attacks, we tend to blame each other.

When I was involved in the international organ transplant ministry (1998-2009), I met about 60 Japanese families. Living in the different culture and language as foreigners, if their loved ones, who were already in serious condition, deteriorated, the relationship between a husband and a wife was stressed out, and though most of couples overcame the crisis, in some cases they even started talking about divorce.

The relationship with God is the same. When we are hit by a life storm, some cling to God tighter and some get angry at and throw away God. Perhaps it depends on what kind of God we believe or expect.

If we expect that God would grant every single prayer, we are probably often disappointed.

In the international organ transplant ministry, I saw some parents or spouses cry saying, “ I am so overwhelmed with the kindness I have received during this toughest time that I can’t find a word to express my gratitude,” even after they lost their loved ones. When I saw their tears, I thought I witnessed God, who was called Immanuel (God is with us) promising never to forsaken us: God, who may not stop the current storm but is willing to be with us in the storm: God, who eventually will stop all storms and give us the happiest eternal life. Since I found such a God, even though storms have hit one after another, I have been able to find enough reasons to be thankful for God just like the organ transplant families.

Storms or trials are for strengthening the tie of a husband and a wife, family, and ultimately with God. That’s why we make a wedding vow to love each other in sickness or in health, in poverty or in wealth, in good times and bad till death shall apart. Storms and trials are the spiritual tests to see how much we can be humble, patient, love God, and be faithful to Him. I have learned that being close to Him instead of breaking up, is the key for the victory, and a better relationship with Him is the reward of the tests.