LIFE PRIOR TO TRUSTING IN CHRIST AS MY SAVIOR
My mother raised me and my three siblings by herself, having been divorced when I was one years old. Her devotion to her children and the sacrifices she made to raise us left a powerful impression on me as I was growing up. My love for her, and my not wanting to see her hurt probably kept me out of a lot of trouble while growing up. My religious upbringing was no doubt influenced by several generations of missionary (Japan) relatives on my mom's side of the family. I grew up attending the same church my mom had always attended. But for me, the traditional religion I was brought up under, was form without substance. And so as soon as I had the opportunity, I went the way of the world, pursuing what I thought was going to be "the good life". Being naturally gifted in art gave me the opportunity to enroll in one of the top Art & Design colleges in the country. Believing that this was my ticket to the perfect life, I went all out trying to make it happen. But no matter how hard I worked, no matter how successful I was, I was still empty inside. This continued until my third year of college, when the emptiness within led to discouragement and depression. All my efforts to climb out of the pit I was in failed. I lost all interest in achieving the goals I once had. I couldn't get any lower, which was exactly where I needed to be. I learned something then that I've never forgotten, and that is - sometimes the only way up is down. And that's when my life turned completely around.
WHEN AND HOW I CAME TO FAITH IN CHRIST
Corrie ten Boom once wrote this from a concentration camp during WWII; "There is no pit so deep, that Jesus isn't deeper." How true this is! For many, it takes falling into a deep, dark pit to discover that we have a merciful, loving, forgiving, miracle working Savior who can rescue us no matter how lost we are. My rescue began when He chose to reveal Himself through a a very Godly woman. One day while visiting a friend, I made a comment about this car that had a big fish sign on the bumper. He told me that it belonged to his next door neighbor, and that she would be coming by, and that I should hang out for awhile and meet her. I wasn't too sure about this, but he assured me that she wouldn't bite, or infect me with a "Christian virus", and so I stayed. The moment a saw her I new instantly that she was uniquely different. As I spent some time talking with her it became clear that she had those qualities I had been searching for, such as peace and joy, and a passion for life. Well, I was obviously very interested in getting to know her better. And so motivated by my old nature, I began perusing her in hopes of developing a relationship. She on the other hand, wanted what any Christ-centered woman wants, and that was to lead me to her Savior. Then, maybe a relationship, but only one where Christ was at the center of it. And so she made it clear to me that if our friendship was going to make it to the next level I had to change my ways. To me this meant going to church with her .... every week! In my mind, if I could convince her that I was a good "church-goer", she would drop all these other things that she wanted me to work on. And so, I put into action "The Plan", and began going to church with her. Now, my only experience with church-going was attending the very formal church of my youth. And so I wasn't expecting a church where the Gospel was preached, and where Christ was the center of all that they did. This was a little freaky at first. And so I had to get past my fear that this might be one of those born-again cult type religions, and that they were out to get me. It took awhile, but once I got used to the people and what they did, I was able to relax, and then the Word of God started to have an impact on me. Each week I would hear something new. What was being taught was really eye-opening and fresh to me. It was like these little lights coming on in my brain when I heard something or read something that I had never heard or knew existed before. It spoke "truth" to me in a powerful way. And it was happening more and more. Without realizing it, I was starting to come alive. Because of my friend's encouragement and strong commitment to Christ, and because of what I was experiencing each week at church, I was changing, and I was starting to view life differently. But still, I did not truly understand. It was like having all these pieces to a puzzle but not
being able to put them all together so that the whole picture made sense. I kept trying to make these pieces fit. Sometimes I was successful, but most of the time I just couldn't do it. And that was part of what I needed to learn. I couldn't do it! Only God could put all the pieces together. No effort on my part could do it no matter how hard I tried. Once I realized this, "God's Plan" was put into action. It happened on the evening before Easter Sunday, 1977. The College Group at Grace Church in San Luis Obispo, CA was putting on a production called "The Witness", which was the life of Jesus as seen through the eyes of the Apostle John. As was my custom when I was at church alone, I sat in the last row where it was dark, and I wouldn't be noticed. But I couldn't hide from the message that the Holy Spirit opened up to my heart concerning the life, the death, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. As this amazing story unfolded, tears began to flow from my eyes, as all those puzzle pieces that I had been trying to put together for so long, all of a sudden came together. And by the time the presentation was over, the picture was complete, and I knew the Truth. I knew that Jesus Christ Himself was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It all made sense to me now. I realized that the heavy weight of sin and guilt that I had been carrying, and dragging along behind me all through life, could finally be lifted and removed forever. And so there in that darkened corner of the auditorium, I asked the Lord Jesus to forgive me, and to wash my sins away. And I asked Him to come into my heart to be my own personal Savior, and to be the Lord of my life. I left that church so light and free that I can still recall the feeling of almost floating home. Everything changed for me that night. And I have never looked back.
MY LIFE NOW AS I WALK WITH CHRIST
I have been walking with the Lord Jesus for 41 years now, 38 years I have had the joy and privilege of serving Him in many different capacities. I have lived a lot of life, experienced things that have have made me soar to the heights with the wings of an eagle. And there have been things that have dragged me down to pits of darkness and despair. But through it all, I have learned that Jesus is always there, walking right alongside me. He is my Shepherd, my Companion. He is the One who leads me beside the quiet waters, and the One who walks with me through the valley of the shadow of death. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. I will fear no evil, because the Lord Jesus is with me. And He will never, ever leave me nor forsake me.
"What would You have me do today Lord?" I'm in my "Golden Years" now. Most of my life is behind me, and the days that are left are as few as ... just today. "So what would you have me to do TODAY Lord?" That's how I choose to live my life now. One day at a time. To me every day is a gift to be cherished, and to lived for the glory of the God I love. Every day is a gift from God. And as I go through my day, it's as though I'm opening the gift, little by little. And when the end of the day comes, I'm able to look at the gift I've opened. And I see how the Lord was with me; giving me wisdom here, protecting me from danger over there, guiding me through that difficult situation, and helping me witness to that person in need. The gift was in realizing again that my constant Companion was with me every step of the way, while giving me all I needed for every situation. And then I'm able to close my eyes and complete my day with prayer and praise for the gift of another day. Now, I don't always succeed in living this way every day. Just like anyone else, I get caught up in looking down the road and giving into fears and doubts, frustrations and disappointments, pridefulness and selfishness, and all the other results of not living "in today". But I make it my goal to walk with Jesus, rejoicing in the day He has created, cherishing the gift of having life another day. And if it pleases the Lord to grant me another day to live tomorrow, then I'll do it all over again. I will choose to cherish the gift of another day.
All Design, & Artwork Including Traditional & Digital Painting by Rick Wooten