Some five hundred years before the arrival of Emmanuel, the prophet Isaiah, prophesied that Emmanuel would come. ” Therefore the Lord himself will give the sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
Thus, when it was nearing time for Emmanuel’s arrival, God sent the angel Gabriel to reveal His plans to the chosen virgin:
Subsequently, the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
When she saw him, she became troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God.
Behold thou shall conceive in thy womb, and give birth to a son, and shall call his name JESUS” (Luke 126-31).
When Joseph heard the news, he became distraught.”How could this be? He thought. Mary and I have not come together yet! I must divorce her before everybody finds out.”
“As he contemplated this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. The child she is carrying is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).
“So it came to pass that there went Joseph up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David. He went there to register with Mary, who had pledged to marry him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came, and Mary gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no guest room available for them” (Luke 2:4-7)
Every person who desires to follow Jesus must give up something. It is the basic requirement one has to meet before embarking on the Christian journey. It is the initiation period and a test of commitment. The twelve disciples did. Even though, they were mostly fishermen of extremely modest means, they gave up all they had–family and livelihood to follow Jesus. Nevertheless, following Jesus takes more than just giving up something which we hold near and dear to our hearts.. It takes great sacrifice and unshakable commitment and steadfastness.
Not everybody who wish to follow Jesus has it in him, or her (at least in the initial stages)to accept the challenge Jesus issues in Luke 9:23: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me”. The disciples no doubt had it in them, but I am sure it was just as difficult for them as it is for modern days people who are striving to follow Jesus. Regardless, they were not the only ones. There are countless others, including, perhaps you, and Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul after his conversion. Paul was not a disciple. Still, he did not hesitate to give up his job as a tax collector, as well as his position as a member of the ruling council to help spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the world, and in the society in which we live, there are many people who identify themselves as followers of Jesus, yet when asked to identify that which they have given up to follow Jesus, they cannot give a coherent answer. Young Moriah Peters who has had to make life changing decisions twice in her short life. In high School, she found herself at a crossroad where she needed to choose Jesus and stay pure or choose the crowd and be cool. She did the right thing and choose Jesus. Peters would soon find herself at another crossroad. This time she needed to decide whether to go to college to fulfill her dreams to become a lawyer or to pursue a music career, singing for Jesus. She chose the latter.
“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who turns to God from his sins than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent” (Luke 15:7).
The story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) is an example that God never turns His back on anyone . Even a rebellious child is welcome back into the family, if she decides to return home. That is exactly what happened to Lynda Alsford of the United Kingdom.
After months of wallowing in the filth of swines and nothing to eat, she realized there is no place like home.
“When she came to her senses, she said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your daughter; make me like one of your hired servants’. So she got up and went to her father.
Lynda Alsford of the UK was a devout Christian for 27 years. She spent the last six months of 2009 as a church Army evangelist. Nevertheless, her faith in God wavered, and she quit the church, but not forever.
Here, is how she describes her aboutface in her book: “He Never Let Go: The true story of a prodigal evangelist: “I had come to a major crisis in my faith. Doubts about God had been building up over the previous few months and had come to a head while I preached that sermon“. “It is a lie. It is all a lie. Do not believe a word of it”. These are not the words you would expect a Church Army evangelist to be thinking while preaching at a carol service. However, that is what I was thinking on 20 December 2009 as I preached the most evangelistic sermon I have ever preached”.
“By Christmas 2010, I’d realised that if God couldn’t be reasoned into existence then faith had to be involved. Faith, I realised, was an act of my will. It was not a feeling. It was a decision I made.
So, one day in January 2011, I made that step of faith. I prayed to God, telling him that I believed he existed.
All the peace and joy of believing came flooding back. I knew once more that there is a God.
Within a few months, I’d had a dream about Jesus. It led me to wake up knowing God’s love in a far deeper way than I have ever known it.
My faith is now far stronger than it was before – it’s more real, and I am finding freedom from things that have held me back for years. I now know beyond all shadow of doubt that God never lets us go”.
(CNN) — I’m not a helicopter parent and my children would tell you I don’t bake cupcakes for their birthday parties. But I’d readily cut off my breasts for them — and recently, I did.
Removing breast tissue uncompromised by cancer is relatively easy. It took the breast surgeon about two hours to slice through my chest and complete the double mastectomy seven weeks ago.
The time-consuming part was left to the plastic surgeon who created new breasts out of my own belly fat so I could avoid getting implants. Total operating time: 11.5 hours. And I don’t regret a second.
The decision to have surgery without having cancer wasn’t easy, but it seemed logical to me. My mother, aunt and grandmother have all died from breast or ovarian cancer, and I tested positive for the breast cancer gene.
Being BRCA positive means a woman’s chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer is substantially elevated.
“Patients with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations have 50%-85% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer and up to approximately 60% lifetime risk of ovarian cancer,” according to Karen Brown, director of the Cancer Genetic Counseling Program at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
By comparison, the lifetime risk of breast cancer for the general population is 13% and 1.7% for ovarian cancer.
At my gynecologist’s urging, I tackled the threat of ovarian cancer first. Because the disease is hard to detect and so often fatal, my ovaries were removed in 2007, a few years after my husband and I decided we were done having kids.
The most difficult part of the operation came in the months that followed: I was thrust into menopause at 37. Despite age-inappropriate night sweats and hot flashes, I was relieved to have the surgery behind me and wrote about it in my book, “Parentless Parents: How the Loss of Our Mothers and Fathers Impacts the Way We Raise Our Children.”
The emotional release was short-lived. Less than a year later, my mother’s sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and died within four months.
Aunt Ronnie’s death set me on a preventive mastectomy warpath. I had already been under high-risk surveillance for more than a decade — being examined annually by a leading breast specialist and alternating between mammograms, breast MRIs and sonograms every three months — but suddenly being on watch didn’t seem enough, and I began researching surgical options.
Regardless of my family history and BRCA status, I still went back and forth on having a mastectomy. I vacillated between feeling smug and insane.
Over the years, I’d read too many stories like the one in the Wall Street Journal last week, on doctors who make fatal mistakes (up to 98,000 people die every year in the United States because of medical errors, according to the Institute of Medicine). I was anxious about choosing a bad surgeon and a bad hospital.
The stakes felt even higher after I decided to go an unconventional route to reconstruction. Implants generally offer a quicker surgery and recovery, but they’re also known to leak, shift out of place, and feel hard to the touch and uncomfortable.
I would also likely have to replace them every 10 years — not an unimportant consideration, since I’m 42.
Ultimately, on August 7, I underwent double mastectomy with DIEP (Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator) flap reconstruction. The benefits would be that my new breasts would be permanent, made from my own skin and flesh, and I’d be getting rid of my childbearing belly fat in the process.
I had multiple consultations with surgeons who explained every reason not to have the procedure. They warned me that I’d be under anesthesia unnecessarily long and I’d be opening myself up to needless complications.
While every concern was valid, it wasn’t until I was six doctors into my investigation that I realized the likely reason why I was getting such push-back. The plastic surgeons I was consulting, despite their shining pedigrees and swanky offices, couldn’t perform a DIEP. The procedure requires highly skilled microsurgery and not every plastic surgeon, I learned, is a microsurgeon.
It also requires a great deal of stamina. The doctors I interviewed who perform DIEP flaps were generally younger and fitter than those who didn’t. On average, a double mastectomy with DIEP reconstruction takes 10-12 hours, while reconstruction using implants can take as little as three.
In total, I met with 10 surgeons before choosing my team, and while I am now thrilled with the outcome, all the years of research and worry took a toll on me.
The worst moment came one night when my husband and I were in bed. I began to cry uncontrollably and wished I could talk with my mother and aunt about which procedure to have, which doctor I should choose, and whether I should even have the surgery.
Then a moment of bittersweet grace clarified what I needed to do. It struck me that the reason I couldn’t speak to my mother and aunt is exactly the reason I had to have the surgery.
Undergoing a prophylactic double mastectomy was a great decision for me. It’s clearly not a choice every woman would make, but I’m convinced without it I would have been one of the estimated 226,000 women the American Cancer Society says is diagnosed with invasive breast cancer every year.
I could have tried to eat my way to a cancer-free life, but even Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of the popular vegetables-are-key-to-health book “The China Study” admits diet may not be enough to protect BRCA patients from cancer.
“We need more research,” Campbell told me. “Conservatively, I’d say go ahead and have the surgery, and eat a plant-based diet after.”
I also could have waited for a vaccine, a pill or some other medical advance to come my way that would have made such a radical decision avoidable.
Perhaps MD Anderson Cancer Center’s newly announced war on cancer will produce positive results for patients who are susceptible to triple negative breast cancer, the type of aggressive disease likely to afflict BRCA1 patients and the kind my aunt most likely died from.
But every surgery substitute seemed locked in hope, not statistics. And as I’ve told my husband and children, I wasn’t willing to wait. I love them more than my chest.