Friday, January 26, 2007


The Fallen Tree

"The Fallen Tree"

By Ramone - January 25, 2007

Back on the 14th Yoko and I were at Denny's talking, and the subject of a ministry we were involved in some years ago came up -- the homeless ministry at our old church in Osaka. We had started trying to help, and we did help for about half a year or more. But I only stayed there for one year, and the criticism we ran into at the church made it difficult for her to return there. One of the criticisms leveled at us was that it wasn't right for me to start that kind of work if I was only going to be in Osaka for a year... who would take it over when I left? They certainly didn't want to.

As Yoko and I were talking about this, we realized that a lot of people think that "ministry" needs to last forever. Yes, there is follow through, and yes, there is a need to responsibly love and care for people and not just do "hit and run" ministry. Yet there are times when you just have to do something and entrust it to the Lord that He will follow through. Christ said that even if you give a cup of cold water to someone because he's thirsty, that is something valuable in His sight.

So yeah, our "tree" fell. It didn't last forever. But you know what? We were young then and I think that it would not have been good if it had continued much longer. There are seasons for everything, and that season came to a close for us (however I do pray we can begin helping people that way again elsewhere in the future). However, the things we learned from that experience have not finished. We laid our lives down for God & for people who needed love, and the effects on our lives are beyond count.

In a forest, not every tree lasts forever. Each one falls and the beautiful tree is gone. But where it falls, it brings life to the forest. The shelter and shade it brought to birds are gone, but in its death and decay it brings shelter to other animals and nourishment to the ground and its plants.

Sometimes we prop up our "trees" longer than they're meant to live, don't we? We want every program or ministry we do to last forever. But seasons are part of the life God has created on earth, and we can trust Him that if it is time for something to "fall" and finish, then there will be more "life" brought out of its death than there would be if we had kept it propped up.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Crying Together With

By Ramone - January 22, 2007

This picture is part of a series (see this link) that came as God talked to me after soaking in our Japanese bath one night. I asked Him why my struggle with lust had gone on so long, and He said it was because He would use it to help other people into freedom from lust. I cried so hard when He told me that. And we talked for awhile after that, and this was one of the pictures that came out. A picture of sharing, a picture of brokenness, a picture of what He has called us to do, of the greatest law He has called us to fulfill: "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).

The name of the picture comes from something Dutch Sheets said about "intercession" in his book Intercessory Prayer. In Romans 8:26 Paul said that the Spirit "helps" us or "intercedes" for us in our weakness. Sheets wrote about the word "helps" in Greek:

"The Greek word is sumnantilambanomai. I think you have to speak in tongues just to say this word! ...It is a compound word made up of three words. Sun means 'together with', anti means 'against', and lambano means 'to take hold of'. Putting them together, a very literal meaning of the word would be 'take hold of together with against.'" (Sheets, Intercessory Prayer, p.102)

The definition--clumsy as it is--stuck in my head, in my spirit and in my heart: "Taking hold of together with against".

I saw this picture as I was talking with God that night, when He was showing me that He would use my struggle to help others free, to help me to understand their pain, to intercede and "carry away" (Gal.6:2) their burden in Christ. The only way I could describe the picture was in the same kind of clumsy Greeky-sounding definition, "Crying together with." Crying together with one another, with Him, understanding what we've been through. Understanding and carrying it to Christ that He may carry it away.

When you've been under that struggle (or any struggle for that matter), you sometimes can't see things clearly. So He sends you a helper (sometimes it's obviously the Holy Spirit, other times it's a person through whom His Spirit is working to "help" you -- to take hold of this thing together with you, against the enemy, and carry it away from you so you can see that Christ has taken it in His finished work on the cross). This is a picture of that, of me or someone else "helping" (sumnantilambanomai!) by His Spirit, being there for someone, together with them. And in crying together, "mourning with those who mourn", somehow something is released. A captive suddenly knows he is not alone. And suddenly he starts getting released as the burden is "carried away". Just like the scapegoat carried away the sins of Israel, so Christ carried away our sins never to be seen again.

And in His love, He sends us to one another to extend His ministry of love, to intercede by helping someone who can't see the light, taking their burden with them for a moment, and when they can't give it to Christ (who has taken it away but they don't know it yet), instead you give it to Christ. You mourn with them, you carry it, too, and you give it to Christ because they don't know how. And somehow, through this love, this sharing in their grief, crying together with them, He acts. He extends His intercession. And He takes the burden away.

Thank You, God, for doing this for me! Thank You for crying together with me, for sharing my pain, my distress, my darkness, my burden, my trial. Thank You for taking it all from me. Sometimes I don't remember that You "became sin" for me, that You took it away. In those times, Lord, thank You for showing me. In other times, Lord, when my grief was louder than Your voice, thank You for sending someone to help me, to "cry together with" me and carry my burden away to You. Thank You for sending someone in Christ's love, fulfilling His law. Thank You.

Lord, in Jesus' name, I ask You to send me. Send me to do this, Lord. I'll never forget the time You had me do that for a friend at university that didn't even know it. After that I told You that if I can just do this all my life for my friends, that is all I want, that is enough, Lord. Thank You for crying in Your Spirit in me now as I write that, Lord. Thank You for that desire. Thank You for the name You gave me in Japanese though my wife one day, "someone who cries together with". Thank You for sending me. Thank You for answering my request to do this, Lord, that came from Your heart and became my heart, too. I love You. Send more of us to do this, Lord. Fill us with Your heart, Your intercessory heart, to cry together with Your people in mourning, even those who don't know You yet. In Jesus' name, thank You, and amen.

P.S. This picture, "Released Together" is a result of this kind of "crying together with" in His heart!


Flying Free!

By Ramone - January 22, 2007

At the beginning of 2007 I had a revelation that God used to help really break down the power of lust in me, which I talked about in the picture, Through It All. That was the beginning of a series of pictures, the "butterfly" pictures, which can be seen mostly in Tatami Gallery 11 (and this later straggler) and have come to a blessed climax for me (of healing) around the time of this picture.

Anyway, that first link (Through it All) is the key to understanding what the butterflies symbolize. These are people who have been healed --reborn-- from the place of crawling under the oppression of bondage to lust. As I prayed after receiving that revelation, several pictures came which became the "series". This was the final one -- it is a promise of God, from Him, that these "released" people (released from the bondage of lust) will fly through dark places in our societies, through our city, through her streets. And as they fly they will bring grace grace, freedom, release, and much-needed healing to the people there. It is a promise of the future. Please pray for this! In Jesus' name, amen!

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Window in the Skies

By Ramone - January 19, 2007
The shackles are undone
The bullets quit the gun
The heat that's in the sun
Will keep us when there's none
The rule has been disproved
The stone it has been moved
The grave is now a groove
All debts are removed

Oh can't you see what love has done?
Oh can't you see what love has done?
Oh can't you see what love has done?
What it's done to me?

Love left a window in the skies...
I love the words of this song, the new single by U2. It's what Love has done -- God is Love! What He has done in giving His Son for us has left a window in the skies, a window in the heavens that sheds the light of love on us. Knowing what He has done is so awesome!
Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-6)
And it is also what His love does among us! Having shown us His love, He now tells us that when we pass His love to one another, heaven opens among us. It is so true! When love, grace, opens up among us, it shocks us and there is a bit of heaven on earth between us.

It reminds me of the "greatest commandments", to love God and to love your neighbor, but before we know these commands, we can see that they are a reflection of God's love for us! He has loved us first! And He has loved our neighbors! We love because He first love; these are His priorities, and they're ours too.

And a word to Christians who are longing for an "open heaven" --

Yes, seek Him, but read Isaiah 58! Do you want "heaven to open"? Then choose to give His love! Pass His love and watch heaven open on earth.


Today is Enough

By Ramone - January 20, 2007

This picture is part of a series (see this link) that came as God talked to me after soaking in our Japanese bath one night. He let me know He was holding me up in His love, grace and security--sustaining me--in my long battle against lust. And He let me know that I was going through a lot of this because He would use it to help me "cry together with" others who were going through the same thing. He would redeem what I'd been through and use it to set others free. Thank You, Lord!

Of course, the effect of this was overwhelming on me (once I surrendered to it, to Him and His ways & sovereignty!). However, as strong as I then felt, I at once began to doubt and worry about "tomorrow" -- what would happen if I "fell" tomorrow again? Should I avoid making promises now or vows? Should I avoid getting too excited to hope this was the end?

This picture was His response! He had been using butterflies to speak to me of who I am in Him (flying by faith with wings strengthened through coming out of my old body's cocoon). I saw this picture moving, actually. The butterfly hovering over my watch. I couldn't see what time it was. He was letting me know that now is enough! "Don't worry about tomorrow. Today's junk is enough. Rest in Me now. Leave tomorrow to Me."



(Click to view larger)

By Yoko - January 16, 2007


Released Together

By Ramone - January 16, 2007

This picture is part of a series (see this link) that came as God talked to me after soaking in our Japanese bath one night. I asked Him why my struggle with lust had gone on so long, and He said it was because He would use it to help other people into freedom from lust. I cried so hard when He told me that. And we talked for awhile after that, and this was one of the pictures that came out.

The book of James says to confess your sins to one another so that you may be healed. What this looks like for us is sharing with a brother in Christ the things that you wouldn't want to share with anyone. Your dirt. Your shame. Your horrible thoughts. And as you come to Him together, He somehow uses that to set you free. He begins to show you what is "you" and what is not you -- what is the enemy trying to sound like you, and what is still "sin that lives in me" (as Paul said).

It's a hard thing to confess, sometimes. But as we pray together, and as He makes Himself known in our midst (as He promised, "where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them"), He sets us free. And we fly together in Him! We are released together in Him.

We are flying together, here! Our color is like gold because we are flying in faith -- faith in Him, faith that what He says about what He's done for us is true, and faith that what He says about us is true, that we are who we say He says we are! Raised up, healed, set free, redeemed, and we have been given a new heart and a new spirit -- one that delights in Him! As we believe Him, and as we share this with one another ("accountability"), He uses one another to show it to us more and more that it is true, and before we know it we begin to find ourselves rising with wings as eagles and soaring in Him... together with Him.

Thank You, Lord!

P.S. This picture is another part of "together" ministry.

Monday, January 15, 2007


Held Up!

By Ramone - January 14, 2007

This picture is part of a series (see this link) that came as God talked to me after soaking in our Japanese bath one night. I asked Him why my struggle with lust had gone on so long, and He said it was because He would use it to help other people into freedom from lust. I cried so hard when He told me that. And we talked for awhile after that, and this was one of the pictures that came out.

This was the first of five pictures He showed me that night. He showed me that He was holding me up. He had just showed me a few days earlier that I was a butterfly (born again through struggle against my old shell, my old, dead body), but sometimes I fell or was tempted, and yet He has been here holding me up the whole time. He is under me, and will not let me go. He is the One who makes me soar. He is the One who makes me fly, whether I can see Him or not. Thank You, Lord!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


He's Inside Me!

By Ramone - January 6, 2007

Monday, January 08, 2007


Through It All

By Ramone - January 4, 2007

On the 3rd I woke up lazily around 10am and right after my wife left the room to go downstairs, the enemy began hitting me with temptation — he likes to do that in the morning to start our days off on a negative or guilty note. It can be really frustrating 'cause you get tricked into feeling guilty just for being tempted, and then it's worse if you fall. Instead I want to wake up and to thank God, praise Him, and know His love & presence right away! But in the morning... you know. But God breaks through!

So on the morning of the 3rd temptation tried to get in, and I may have quietly asked for help to remember Him, to remember who I am in Him and whom I really love (Him and my wife), and I saw this picture of a butterfly's wing, particularly the lower-left quarter of the butterfly's wing and faintly some of its 'veins'. It was kind of yellow-orange and had gold-light coming through it, looking more transparent and glasslike than I drew it. There must've been light behind it, now that I think about it.

As I saw it I remembered what butterflies go through in order to fly, struggling hard to come out of their hard cocoons. If you try to "help" them out, their wings won't be strong enough for them to fly. They need to fight to come out, they need that hard struggle. Their wings won't be strong if they don't.

I realized that the morning temptations were just like that. God allowed them to strengthen my "wings" — my wings of faith — to strengthen my faith in Him, my seeking of Him and leaning on Him to be my strength in these times. I need this or I won't be able to fly to the next place His wind will carry me.

I'm like the butterfly, leaving the old man behind, the worm, and it requires some struggle & "hard" time, even looking dead like in a cocoon, unmoving and dark—but He will use it so I can fly free in faith in Him. (^_^)

These verses came to mind:

"Those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint."
(Isaiah 40:31)

"Now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."
(1 Peter 1:6-7)

That's why the wings had that gold color and gold light coming through! The Light is shining on me, through my wings! He had me look at the veins that were strengthened by this trial, and the light that comes through these wings is the faith of gold that comes from trusting in Him and leaning on Him.


Later I remembered that in my time of struggle that morning I had asked Him to help me remember who I am in Him — and He showed me! I am the butterfly! He showed me myself! I have wings! These are my wings. I can never be a worm again. I can never return again because of You, because of what You have done, thank You Jesus!


The name of the picture comes from a classic Andrae Crouch song called "Through it all"...
I've had many tears and sorrows
I've had questions for tomorrow
There's been times I didn't know right from wrong
But in every situation
God gave me blessed consolation
That my trials come to only make me strong

I've been a lot of places
And I've seen millions of faces
But there were times that I felt so all alone
But in my lonely hour
Yet in those precious lonely hours
Jesus let me know that I was His own
(That's the reason I say that) Through it all
Through it all
(Oh) I've learned to trust in Jesus
I've learned to trust in God
(Let me tell you that) Through it all
Through it all
I've learned to depend upon His word
So I thank God for the mountains
And I thank Him for the valleys
And I thank Him for the storms He's brought me through
Oh, if I'd never had a problem
I'd never know that God could solve them
I'd never know what faith in His word can do

Below are the first two versions of the picture. The first doesn't really look like what I saw, but I like its brightness anyway... it's me—us—soaring in Him! And the second captures the "glow" of the Light shining through the wings the best of all three.



By Ramone - January 3, 2007

On January 2nd, Yoko and I were having dinner together at Denny's and opened a card that our dear friend Hazel in California had sent us for Christmas. In her card, Hazel thanked God for our friendship and in the midst of writing was given a word from God for us, blessing us and our child (due March 13th) and saying that he is the first fruit -- the material of what He is bringing & will continue to bring forth in our lives as we lay them down for His Kingdom & glory. (Each of our lives are spiritual "wombs", in which God gives birth to the purposes of His heart... our soon-to-be-born son is a literal "fruit from the womb"!)

Yoko and I talked about the part which said "as we lay our lives down"...

It's like Jesus said, if we hold on too tight, we'll lose our things, but if we release them then He'll bring beautiful things from them and life & blessing for others & us.

We're like a tree -- if we let go of our beautiful fruit, then it'll make new trees, new shade, new branches for birds, new food for people...! But if we hold onto it too long, it will be rotten. It is meant to fall and die. That is how it blesses everyone.

Sometimes we have good fruits in our lives -- projects, ministries, meetings, good times, mentors, friendships, etc. But then we notice one day that they're gone! And we're really sad about it. Often we try to hold on longer than we should, but it kills the fruit and kills its ability to bless others. God gives us "fruit" so that we can let go of it and bless others. The fruit He gives us is precious, beautiful, and it tastes good---just like He meant it to. But we must never forget where it came from (from Him!), and we must never hesitate to let it drop to the ground for His sake and the sake of those He can bless with it. We think it will fall and die, but He is the God of resurrection who brings life out of death!

"Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Those who love their life will lose it, while those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life."

"Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and eternal."

- John 12:24 (TNIV & MSG)