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So are you. Other than the universe itself, human life is God's greatest miracle. We are all unique creatures of a unique Creator. Some of us, for reasons I don't profess to understand, have been blessed with unique experiences. Those experiences have created unique and sometimes unbelievable—albeit true—stories to tell of how, and why, we were detoured from the wide, paved, much traveled boulevard of life that leads directly to Hell. This story—my Christian testimony—is one of those unique experiences. It is offered at this time for a reason. Hopefully, as you read, you will know what that reason is since I only know I was impressed to write it. It may be this testimony is intended for only one person, or it may be intended for thousands of people who, like myself, wondered for years if God was real, and if the first century rabbi, Jesus Christ, actually was the living, breathing, Son of God or that He was merely a well-intentioned prophet caught up in the times.. Please pass this testimony along because if it was not intended for you it may be intended for one of your friends, family members, neighbors or acquaintances who shares the doubts I shared before I personally met my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ..

My own salvation experience came 15 years after a freak accident took the life of my sister on Easter Sunday, April 8, 1963—on Easter Sunday, March 26, 1978 with a series of small but nevertheless impossible miracles that occurred over the following two weeks—beginning with a supernatural event that would happen on Monday, March 27 and culminating with a series of miracles that began to happen eight days later. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you the whole story.

I was a lazy Catholic in 1963 because I was...well...a "captive" Catholic in the sense that, like most "Catholics from birth," I had no choice in what "faith" I practiced. I was a Catholic because my father and mother were Catholic. My first conscious religious decision—made at the death of my sister—was to become an agnostic. Frances was killed as the result of a freak car accident that happened minutes after she left St. Mary's Catholic Church in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan on Easter Sunday, 1963. She died that afternoon from an undetected ruptured spleen.

A fire engine, responding to a false alarm called in by pranksters, struck the car in which she was a passenger. Frances was thrown from the car by the force of the impact. Her body was slapped into a telephone pole and, like a slingshot, she was catapulted into a pedestrian who was walking down the street. The accident happened around noon. By 2:30 p.m. that afternoon she was dead. She left behind three small children. The police never found the pranksters who called in the false alarm although the telephone company was able to determine that the call was made from a phone within a couple of blocks of my parent's home—near the address provided by the pranksters where the nonexistent fire supposedly was raging.

Being a reasonably intelligent, completely logical, non-theological human being, I reasoned that if God really existed He would not have allowed a member of His flock to die coming out of a church service designed to worship Him. My faith as a Catholic—if you could call it "faith"—was the shallow faith of those who have been taught since birth that God exists, but having no personal knowledge of Him. For that reason, it was easy for me to conclude that He was not real. After the death of Frances, I spent 15 years trying to convince others of that fact. Christians were, I believed, unintelligent idiots who believed in myths. Christianity was, I thought, not much different than Greek mythology. The God of the Christians and the Jews was no more real than Jupiter and Zeus.

I met my wife, Anne, on July 5, 1966 (the picture below, was taken shortly after we met). We were married—of all places for an agnostic—in a Baptist church on Dec. 10 of that year. It was merely pomp and ceremony as far as I was concerned. I was still as much an agnostic as I was three years earlier. My contempt of religiosity bordered on atheism, but I felt safe sitting on the hypothetical theological fence—just in case it turned out that I was wrong.

Anne accepted Christ in February, 1978. The change that came over her was as dramatic as it was immediate. Being an Italian, my wife would gladly fight at the drop of a hat—and for reasons just as insignificant. Simple conversations about inconsequential things could erupt into arguments that neither of us could remember what provoked them when we made up a day or two later. But suddenly, the argumentative nature changed. And, after several days of serenity I actually tried to provoke her—and couldn't. Now, that was scary all by itself. Italian women generally express their opinions quite loudly—and with a lot of expression. To find one not prepared to argue at the drop of a hat defies the nature of the Italian culture.

Anne tried several times to get me to go to church with her "...just to see what you think," she would say. Her efforts always fell on deaf ears. Being a hardnosed agnostic I even refused to attend the church service where she, our daughter, and her mother (3 generations) were baptized together. But Anne had every prayer warrior in that little church praying for my salvation. In approbation to her—and something every married person witnessing to a spouse should remember—she did not beat me over the head with religion. Nor did she constantly talk "Jesus Christ" around the house. Her actions spoke volumes about the influence that this mythical deity was having over her life.

In a moment of what I call "a fit of spring fever weakness," I agreed to go to church with Anne on Easter Sunday. As Easter drew closer, I wondered how I was going to get out of my promise without setting off an Italian firestorm. God provided my excuse—or so I thought. On Monday or Tuesday before the holiday, a lymph gland under my left arm swelled up to about the size of a golf ball. I complained about the pain as I reveled in the excuse I had for not going to church. By Thursday I would have gladly exchanged the pain for a front row pew in any church in America.

On Good Friday, wisdom suggested I see a doctor. (In other words, Anne insisted.) We discovered that most doctor's play golf on Friday. (I wouldn't go to the emergency room at the hospital because I was afraid they would insist on admitting me.) Anne did manage to find a Jewish physician who would see me on short notice. I hurried over to his office. He prescribed a strong antibiotic to kill the infection. He told me that there could be an underlying problem—the "C" word was mentioned two or three times. After the examination, he scheduled an appointment for me the following Thursday at the local hospital noting that, on Thursday, he was going to excise the infected gland and biopsy it to make sure I was okay. Then he mentioned that nasty "C" word again.

By Sunday morning—Easter Sunday—the antibiotic was doing its job. The pain had eased considerably. Much of the swelling and redness was gone. Although I felt guilty about it, I played the invalid hubby to the hilt, pampering my arm like I was severely wounded. Anne was sympathetic and very understanding, especially when I assured her that I would go to church with her—soon. Then, like most men, I overplayed my hand.

To most Americans with small children, Easter means colorful eggs, artfully hidden almost completely out of sight for the annual Easter Egg Hunt. It was no different at our house. I enjoyed watching our daughter search for the colorful, edible bobbles, knowing that a large stuffed toy awaited her when she succeeded. Our daughter—VeAnne—found them all...except the last one. That one was too "artfully" hidden.

My First Miracle

As VeAnne looked for that last egg, Anne looked at the clock and ended the hunt. "We need to get ready for church," she said. And, that's when I overplayed my hand.

"I'll tell you what," I baited her, not wanting the fun to end, "if either of you can find that last egg, I'll go to church with you."

"What about your arm?" she asked.

"Ahh...," I replied smugly, shrugging my shoulders, "I'll survive."

"Well, if you're sure you feel up to going..." she said hesitantly as she quickly retrieved the last egg from inside the hollow leg of a parson's table in the corner of the room and handed it to me. "I got your clothes ready last night," she said, "—just in case."

And, no, that wasn't the miracle even though three impossible-to-explain things did happen to me that morning. If you would like to read about them, you will find them graphically outlined in my first book, The Baffled Christian's Handbook (a handful of copies which are still available). When we left church after the Easter service that morning, I told Anne that I had asked "her" God to show me three signs so that I would know that He was real. Each of the signs I asked to see were, I thought, impossible. But before I left church that morning I saw all three. And, no, these were not the "first miracle," either.

But I became intrigued by Anne's God, and I wanted to know Him. However, at that moment, I only wanted to know Him on an intellectual plane. I told her I was coming back to church with her that evening. I had to be able to rationalize what I saw that morning. By the end of the evening I was more confused than ever. I stopped briefly to speak with the Associate Pastor, a young man of God named Terry Kirk who now pastors Central Assembly of God Church in Baltimore, Maryland. Terry has been my "pastor" for 26 years—even when I was hundreds of miles from his church. He will remain my pastor until the day God calls me home, or until the trumpet of 1 Cor 15:52-53 sounds. If the Archangels Gabriel and Michael have an assistant on Earth, his name is Terry Kirk.

Not understanding what it means to the laity when an unsaved person invites a preacher to call on him—or the fact that you just don't do that unless you're ready to repent of your sins, I asked Terry to come by because I was confused by what my eyes had seen and what my conscious mind was willing to accept, and I wanted someone to give me a logical explanation that I could debate and meditate upon. He agreed to come over the following evening. When he arrived, he had his hands full. We discussed creation vs. evolution for about four hours. As Terry tried to convince me that I was a creation of God, I tried to convince him that he evolved from a prehuman ape called Australopithecus Erectus. It was a stalemate. Or so I thought.

Around 11 p.m., Terry mentally decided (as he told me a few minutes later) to call it a night—that I wasn't ready. But our timing is not always God's timing. As far as God was concerned, this was my night, or I would not have one. I had reached the crossroad that all of us face at one time or another in our life—to accept or reject Jesus Christ. Just as Terry started to get up to leave, God spoke to me—but not in one of those subtle thought messages. God spoke to me audibly—through my ears. Terry didn't hear His words. Only I heard them—spoken in an authoritative, terrifying, yet gentle, voice the likes of which I have never heard before or since. When He spoke I fell to the floor, awestruck, my face buried in the carpet. God said: "If you don't come to Me tonight, you will never have the chance again."

At that moment, with a very surprised pastor looking on, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Then God said, "My son, I have waited for you for a long time. I have great works to work through you." I've discussed that evening with several people over the years, but I've never met anyone who admitted to have heard the voice of God—audibly—through their ears.

I hate to say this, but up until that day, I never owned a Bible. The next day I bought one and began voraciously devouring the Word of God.

My Second Miracle

On my way home from work on Thursday of Easter Week, the lymph gland under my left arm began to itch, reminding me that this was the day the Jewish physician I saw on Good Friday scheduled the biopsy of the gland. I canceled the appointment because the pain was gone and, for the most part, the swelling had subsided. By the time I got home, the gland was driving me absolutely crazy—it was like the itch you can't find. Only, in this case, I knew where the itch was, but no amounting of scratching or rubbing made it stop.

I took off my suit coat and tossed it across the back of a chair and as I strolled into the kitchen where Anne was cooking dinner. As I walked into the room, I was rubbing the gland through my shirt.

"Is it still hurting?" Anne asked. "Maybe you should have kept that appointment with the doctor this afternoon."

I shook my head. "No, it just itches." If I had a wire brush, I would have used it. I unbuttoned my shirt and gently scratched the skin around the gland. Apparently a very strange look crossed my face because Anne said: "What's wrong?"

I removed my hand from inside in shirt. In my hand was a mass of grey, smelly flesh. Under my arm was a small hole from which it came. The Jewish physician was right. He said the gland had to come out on Thursday. It did. It was supernaturally excised by the great Jewish Master Physician, Jesus Christ.

My Third Miracle

It was Tuesday evening. I had now been a Christian for eight days. Anne was cooking dinner. I was sitting in the living room reading the third chapter of first Timothy. Something on the opposite page caught my eye. As I shifted my glance, I noticed that one verse on that page was haloed in a bright light—verse twelve. Imagine, if you will, that the illustration on the left depicted 1 Tim. 4:12. That gives you an idea of what I saw on that Bible page.

I blinked my eyes, believing I was seeing "spots." The halo remained. I moved the Bible, thinking the floor lamp over my right shoulder was the culprit. The halo remained on verse 12. I shook the Bible. I closed the Bible. I opened the Bible and shook it again. The light remained on verse 12. At that point I knew I was either hallucinating or something very supernatural was happening. I called Anne and held the Bible out to her. "Look at this page," I said, "and tell me what you see."

Anne gave me one of those "is this a trick question" looks. "What do you mean, what do I see?" she said. "I see the Bible..."

"No," I sputtered, "what do you see on the page...?"

"I don't see anything," she replied. "What do you see?"

"You don't see the light?" I asked incredulously.

"What light?" she asked. Fortunately, she didn't sound like she thought I was nuts. I described the light haloing 1 Tim. 4:12. "I think," she said matter-of-factly, that God wants you to read that verse." I was looking for a profound, scientific explanation and what do I get? Common sense. I read the verse. "Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity..." [1 Tim. 4:12; KJV]. When I completed the last word of verse 12, the halo moved to verse 9. "This is a faithful saying and is worthy of all acceptance..." [1 Tim. 4:9; KJV ] Once again the halo moved. Now it highlighted verse 14. "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee in prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery..." [1 Tim. 4:14]. Once again, the light moved. Now it flashed, like a beacon, on the numerical four that designated the chapter. As this phenomenon was unfolding, I described what was happening to Anne who could not see what I saw.

It took me almost ten years to understand the significance of what the miracle of the haloed passages meant. Because I couldn't figure it out on my own, the Holy Spirit finally revealed it to me. Throughout history when a king sends an ambassador to visit another monarch, he provides that emissary with indisputable credentials so that the monarch knows that the ambassador who has presented himself actually is an emissary of the king he claims to represent. The Holy Spirit revealed to me that "miracle" was God's validation of my credentials as a teacher of God's word. Nothing more.

My Fourth Miracle

My Christian walk, like that of most of my fellow Christians, has been a patchwork quilt of personal disasters, family tragedies and treasured moments of joy, interspersed with just enough little miracles to remind me that the Holy Spirit walks with me whenever I let him. Another of God's miracles was about to happen. This one would not initially appear as a blessing.

It was Christmas Eve 2000. Almost midnight. As is the custom in our home, we were opening gifts. When it happened I was trying to stay on top of the "gift wrap debris." I was picking up the residue of packages now open when I was suddenly hit by what felt like a fist in the center of my chest. My left arm went numb, and a wave of nausea swept over me like a dark shroud. Heart attack. Anne made me take a couple of aspirin and because she suffers from mild angina, she had a prescription of Nitrostat. I took one. Then another. I laid my hand over my heart and prayed healing over my body. The nausea subsided and the pain eased. Anne tried to call an ambulance. I wouldn't let her. She insisted we go to the hospital. That, of course really meant ME going into the hospital. I refused. The last thing I planned to do was spend Christmas in a hospital bed in the cardiac care unit of any hospital. Strangely, it never occurred to me that I could have died on Christmas Eve. I guess I still thought I was invincible. Today, I know that none of us are invincible, and that death is always a hair's breadth away. Even more, I know that many times death is the irrevokable consequence of failing to act prudently when we have the chance to do so. Death comes suddenly, unexpectedly, without our being able to back up a step and correct the error in judgment we may have made that perpetuated our demise. I know that today, and I caution people not to be stupid when it comes to their health—and the warning signals God provides that tell us when to call an ambulance and when to seek medical attention.

It would be seven months later before I finally agreed to have a cardiac stress test. I refused because I knew what the test would reveal. And then, I would have had to make a decision that none of us wants to make.

I decided to put my faith exclusively in Doctor God. After the holidays, I climbed back on the commuter train from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia to Washington, DC. (a daily ritual due to my health problems for a few months). Invariably, in the walk from the disembarking point at Union Station to the Massachusetts Avenue exit where I picked up my shuttle to the office, I would get extreme chest pains, nausea, cold sweat, shortness of breath, and a numbing ache in my left jaw. Whenever it happened, I placed my hand over my heart and prayed healing over my own body. Anne continued to insist that I visit a cardiologist. I continued to refuse, believing that God would heal my stubborn heart.

By early summer it was clear to Anne that my problem was not going to go away by itself—regardless how hard I prayed. In June, 2001 Vice President Dick Cheney had a minor heart attack and went to George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC to have a pacemaker installed. This, of course, got Anne started over again as we watched his cardiac team give a press conference on the Vice President's condition on Fox News. There was no doubt in my mind that I needed to have a heart catherization. But I had no intention of getting one. Anne's sister had one a few years earlier and it caused a near fatal heart attack. No thanks. But, Anne wouldn't quit this time.

Finally, more to shut her up than for any other reason, I told her if she could get me an appointment with Dick Cheney's cardiac team, I'd do it. If she is nothing else, Anne is tenacious. Two weeks later I was sitting in the office of the head of cardiology at GWU Hospital. After checking me he told me they needed to do the catherization—that day. I told him that was impossible because I had an important meeting the following day that I couldn't miss. He shook his head and with a very measured voice directed as much at Anne as me, he said, "Just so you will appreciate how serious this is, the odds of you living long enough to reach your car in the parking loft right now is about 50-50."

I assured him I would return on Friday for the catherization. And, to hedge my bet on the way back to my car, I prayed very hard. Friday would be my day of reckoning. As the doctor performed the catherization, I heard him, twice, utter the phrase, "Oh, my God—" But, from the tone of his voice, I knew it was a good "Oh, my God," and not a bad "Oh, my God."

Being naturally curious, after he said it the second time, I asked him if I could see what it was that he found so intriguing. He replied that if he turned the screen so I could see inside my arteries, he would not be able to guide the camera. "Well," I quipped, "since you're driving, you'd better keep an eye on the road." When he completed his arterial journey he turned the screen around so I could see it.

Then, with a laser light, he circled a black splotch on the screen. "Do you see this?" he asked. I nodded. "This is blockage. This artery (one of two coming from the top of my heart) is completely blocked." Now, that didn't sound good, and may have merited a bad "Oh, my God," but not a good one. One hundred percent blockage does not sound good. In fact, it doesn't sound like you could have it and still be alive. He showed me another black blob just like the first. "Do you see this?" he asked. Again, I nodded. "This is the other artery coming out of the top of your heart. It's blocked 100%, too." Was he telling me I was dead? He showed me another artery. This one didn't look quite as black as the other two. "This is the main artery coming out of the bottom of your heart," he said. "It's blocked about 99%". None of this sounded good. I told him that none of that sounded like the good "Oh, my God" that I thought I had heard.

He replied, "What caused my exclamation was this..." He manipulated the image back to the two top arteries. Just above the dark blobs was a faint image of what looked like stems growing from the arteries. "Do you see this?" I replied that I did. "Well," he said, "your body has grown its own bypasses around the blockage. It looks like you're getting about a 35% blood flow through those new arteries. That's why you're still alive." Who says God doesn't answer prayer? When the surgeon came to visit me on Sunday, the day before the surgery, he referred to me as the Miracle Man. "I've seen the heart try to grow its own bypasses about a thousand times," he told me. "But 999 times that I saw it was during an autopsy. You're the first one I've ever seen where the new arteries actually work."

My Biggest Miracle

If there was ever a doubt in my mind that I am a living, breathing, walking miracle, it was dispelled at that moment. I was a miracle—and I knew it. When I look back at the miracles I've experienced during the quarter century that I've been a Christian, I know that God blessed me not for me, but for you. You see, we are both miracles. We are miracles not because we heard the voice of God, or witnessed His words come to life on the page of a Bible—or because God honored His word to heal our bodies. We are miracles because He offered His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. And, because of that, He has granted us etermal life. And that is, after all, the biggest miracle of all.

 

 

Just Say No
Copyright 2009 Jon Christian Ryter.
All rights reserved
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