Category Archives: Ramblings

Worthy

This morning as I thought about how busy my next 4 weeks will be, my mind thought of the song we sang last week during a conference I attended.  I turned on my tv, tuned into youtube and found the video:

The imagery in the video is fantastic, and if you pay attention, the video was shot in one continuous take.

I wept as I sung the words.  I just returned from my latest PET scan last evening.  There is always some uncertainty and nervousness associated with these scans.  What will be the results?

However, this morning, I received a message from someone wanting to know more about a situation inside the war zone.  Her church wanted to help.  So, my mind flows directly to why I am here.

He is worthy!

Here are some of the lyrics:

Does the Father truly love us? He does!

Does the Spirit move among us? He does!

And does Jesus, our Messiah hold forever those He loves? He does!

Does our God intend to dwell again with us? He does!

All the nervousness, all the uncertainty, all the days when I don’t feel well, I must continually remind myself… He is worthy!

So, watch the video on full screen (or on your tv), turn up the sound and worship because…

 

He is Worthy!

Honesty

I am a pretty open person.  I’m pretty opinionated (guess this comes from my debate days in HS).  I used to be an extrovert (off the chart!), but that has moderated some.

On November 11, 2016, I endured surgery to remove a tumor on my pancreas.  The surgery is called the Whipple procedure.  The surgery removed part of my pancreas, stomach, intestine, bile duct and duodenum.  Normally, the gallbladder is removed as well, but mine had already been removed.

I healed up pretty quickly and didn’t experience many of the things others have experienced. I must admit that even through chemo and radiation therapy, the side effects were minimal, but I did lose a lot of weight.

I did well enough that all 3 of my doctors released me so that I could return doing what I love to do! So, for the past 9 months, I have lived back in Ukraine.  And, while I have enjoyed being back, there have been frustrations as well.

I have learned that I did not ask enough questions from the surgeon about side effects of the surgery and quality of life. I think I was in such a hurry to get the tumor out of me, that I forgot to ask the important questions.

I am still learning how to deal with the side effects.  I will not detail them here.  But these side effects do cause you to plan well and sometimes realize you just can’t do what you planned to do that day.

I think for me one of the biggest frustrations is how quickly I can feel great and then feel like all my energy has been sapped, only to feeling great again in a few hours.  No apparent cause.

One example is this past Saturday.  I drove to a town about 1 hour from Dnipro.  Enjoyed exploring a new place, and returned to Dnipro.  I washed the car and enjoyed being out in the sun. No real strenuous activity.  I really had a good day. Yet, by evening I wasn’t feeling well and it lasted until Monday morning.  I still went to church Sunday evening and had a meeting afterward.

A few months ago, I found a couple of Facebook groups that deal with my cancer and surgery.  It has been helpful to learn that others are experiencing some of the same things I am.  And, best that I can, I try not to let these unexpected issues (I don’t know what to call them!) get in the way of doing the things I love.

Please continue to pray for me.  I need your prayers.  They sustain me and the work I am doing in Ukraine.

The Hum

In late July 2014, about 10 days after the fighting ended in Slavyansk, a colleague, a couple of friends and I drove there.  We were on a “fact-finding trip” to see what help we might offer in the area.

As we were driving down one of the highways, I noticed this humming sound.  At first, it startled me and I thought something was wrong with my vehicle. I started to pull over and then we realized it was coming from the tank tracks on the asphalt.

Since then, every time I drive through an area that saw fighting, I have grown “accustomed” to hearing this noise.  On each trip I have made from Dnipro to Severodonetsk, or from Kharkov to Izyum, that noise greets me.

On Monday, I drove from Kharkov, through Izyum, to Slavyansk.  However, I realized at one point that the noise wasn’t as prominent as it had been.  This was due to the fact that the government is resurfacing many of the roads and highways in the area.

While I am very happy that new asphalt means a smoother ride (at least for a year or two!), I kind of missed the hum due to the tanks that had traveled the road.  You see, I had gotten used to the noise being part of the journey.  And I kind of missed it now.

How often does this happen in other areas of our lives?  How often do I have “noises” that alert me to danger and I ignore them?  I need to be alert at all times for those noises.  God has placed them there for a reason.

 

Busy-ness

The past few weeks have been extremely busy, and honestly, they are getting busy-er!

Last night, however, I got to enjoy a symphonic orchestra concert for a few hours.  It was a gift from a group of students that were part of Campus Crusade’s English club.  The group I led for the week bought me a ticket to the concert last night.

I learned that these students listened well.  I had mentioned to one or two of them that I used to attend concerts in Donetsk, but had not gone to see a concert here.  So, the group got a couple of tickets for me to go last night.

I noticed that they are having a jazz concert soon, so maybe I will go back!

Last weekend I was in Severodonetsk.  I really enjoy going there and seeing new friends.  The Central Church does a great job of hosting and taking care of us.  We had four evangelism meetings with displaced people and others.  So many are still hurting 4 years after the war in eastern Ukraine started.

The sun is shining brightly these days.  We had blizzard-like weather the end of March and it took until almost mid-April for the snow to melt.  The last 2 weeks have been terrific.

I am thankful the Lord has allowed me to return to Ukraine.  Every day is a blessing. Thanks for partnering with me on the journey.

Decisions

There have been times when I have made some terrible decisions.  And, as usual, when one makes a terrible decision, there are consequences.

This morning, as I was in the Word, I read the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11, which is full of bad decisions on David’s part.  Verse 2 says that David saw a woman bathing, and she was beautiful.

If only David had shown some restraint…

However, he didn’t and his decision set in motion a series of unfortunate events.  The woman got pregnant, David tried to have her husband, Uriah, lie with her (he didn’t).

Then David sent word to Uriah’s commander to put Uriah on the front lines of a battle, and then pull back so that Uriah would be killed.  Another amazing twist is that David used Uriah’s on hands to deliver the letter to his commander!

So, Uriah dies and then Bathsheba becomes David’s wife.  Now comes the part where the consequences happen…

The Lord is not happy with David’s decision making.  So, the Lord sent Nathan to rebuke David in 2 Samuel 12.  So, verse 15 says the Lord afflicted the child that Bathsheba bore to David.  David interceded on the child’s behalf.  Eventually, the child dies.  Verses 22-23 give some great insight.

While most of our decisions do not lead to death like in this story, our bad decisions can lead to equally difficult heartache and stress.  I still regret some of the stupid decisions I made even in my 20’s.

While I have sought forgiveness and have been forgiven, I still experience some sadness realizing the pain I caused.

As a Christ follower, I know that I must seek the Lord in all decisions.  I can have assurance that He hears me and desires the best for me.  It doesn’t always mean that I will not have troubles.  But, I can rest in knowing that He is always with me.

Second best

My Bible plan has me in 1 Samuel right now.  As I was reading through the anointing of Saul, I was struck by this thought…  it was not God’s plan to have a king.  It was the people that wanted one.

1 Sam 8:5, “Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.”

Immediately Samuel was displeased, but as he prayed, the Lord said, “obey the voice of the people… they have rejected me from being kind over them.” (v 7)  The people didn’t want what was best for them, but decided they knew better than God.  They settled for second best.

How often do I make unwise decisions because of my own desires or stubbornness?  How often do I settle for second best (or even worse!) because of those decisions?

Often, I hear people say that they are going to “walk through this open door” and if God wants to close it, He will.  (I must admit that I have been guilty in the past of doing this!)  However, maybe I was the one who opened the door and God is going to allow it because of my selfishness!

The people of Israel knew what God had accomplished.  They knew their history.  Yet, still, they desired something “more” in a physical king.

I should seek to know God so that I can make decisions based on what He desires.  I need to spend time reading His Word, praying to hear His voice, and seeking Him, so that I can be in a position to accept the First Best!

Life

First, I need to apologize for being silent.  I have been on the road much these last 3 weeks, and then when I arrived home in Dnipro, my internet hasn’t been working properly.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?  How many “friends” do you have?  How often do you connect with your good friends?

If you know me at all, you know that I’m an extrovert.  I would say that 15 years ago I would have been off the chart extrovert!  However, I feel that has somewhat modified and while I’m still an extrovert, I do cherish my “alone” times.

So, being an American and an extrovert, I have “lots” of friends. And many of them I try to connect with as often as possible.

I meet with two young men weekly when I’m in Dnipro.  It is a joy to hear their stories of how God is working in their lives.  This past week, one shared with me that he is using a Bible reading plan and invited a couple of his friends to join him.  They are now meeting together to discuss what they are reading.

The other young man shared with me that he reads the Bible in the morning and evening.  I don’t know how he has time as he is a medical student!  And that he is reading the Bible in English!  Boy, did that convict me.  My former supervisor long ago encouraged me to do that.  I just have never been able to get to that level of comfort.

Then, in my conversations with colleagues, I heard how one is being challenged to have a passion for prayer.  Another is being challenged in discipleship.

Life is happening all around us.  Whether we are an introvert or extrovert, we as believers need to be engaged with those around us.  Friends or acquaintances are waiting to hear the Good News.. and they will only hear if we are willing to speak.  Take time to make life happen.

Strong

“Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”  Deut 31:7-8

 

In the late 80’s our choir at Faith Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas, learned a new choir anthem called, “Be Strong and Take Courage.”  While it is based on Joshua 1:9, the words, “be strong and courageous” are also found in Deuteronomy as well.  Each time I read these words, my mind goes to the song I learned more than 30 years ago.  Take a listen here.

Moses had led the people out of Egypt, they had spent 40 years wondering in the wilderness. God was preparing to lead them into the promised land, yet, Moses was not going to be the one to lead them.  By the time these words in Deuteronomy were written in chapters 30 and 31, it appears that Moses has come to terms with God’s decision.  It would be Joshua who would lead the Israelites and now Moses gathered the people to share with them these words from verses 7-8.

Joshua had been Moses’ assistant for some time.  He had witnessed Moses’ leadership. Moses had be mentoring Joshua.  He knew that Moses was a strong man.  Now, Moses was preparing Joshua to take the leadership role.

There are some great principles that we can learn throughout Moses life and can apply them to our own situations. Because of the stage of life I am in, I know now, more than ever, how important it is for me to invest in the lives of young men.

What does the Lord mean, though, when He had Moses write the words, “Be strong and courageous”?  John Piper states here, “Joshua’s puny strength is not going to be enough. God will win these battles for them. The command to be strong, in view of the ground for I am with you means: Trust in the strength of God to meet your needs as you go to battle against the enemy.”

So I am to be strong and courageous.  And it comes with a promise:  God will be with me.  I have read this promise throughout the Old and New Testaments.  Last night, I even preached about this promise.

No matter the circumstance I may find myself in, God is with me.

And knowing that God is with me, allows me to be strong and courageous.

Friendship

How do you define friendship?  How many “true” friends can one have?

As Americans, we often can meet a new person and later the same day, during conversation, we can say, “I met a new friend today…”  Historically, Ukrainians have lots of acquaintances and a few people with whom they call friend.  However, I am finding this may be changing with younger generations.

Recently, I have spoken with several pastors whom I consider friends.  While our paths do not cross as often because of the war in eastern Ukraine, usually when we do talk, we pick up “where we left off.”

One pastor, who is in his 70’s and still serves the Lord very actively, called me on Monday.  This brother in Christ is remarkable.  One of his assistant pastors was at the conference we led last week and he was calling to let me know that he had received greetings from me.  His church is on the war front and they continue to serve on both sides of the front.  I am encouraged by all his travels and thank God for his devotion.

Another friend from Donetsk called me recently as well to give me some great news.  We met back in November to catch up and I prayed for several of his requests as we sat at the table.  While I won’t divulge what I prayed for, let’s say the Lord is blessing his family!  I am so excited about the news!  Then, he shared that the church he attends in Kyiv would like to ordain him to the pastoral ministry.  (This is a loooong time in coming…)  He asked me to be there if at all possible.  Of course, if my schedule will allow, I will be there!

One of the saddest effects of the war for me is that most of the people I grew to love are scattered.  Some in America, some in Russia, Poland, Germany and many places in Ukraine.  We don’t see each other often and I miss that fellowship. But I am thankful for Viber, Skype and FaceTime that allows me to “see” them from time to time.

As friendships go, I am rich!

Fellowship

I have had a great few days of fellowship…

Fellowship with colleagues

I was in Kharkov for a 3 day seminar that IMB helped host.  My colleague and I helped some in the organizing of the seminar, but, most of the work was done by our friends and national partners.  I always enjoy fellowshipping with Linda because I learn so much from her.  She is so passionate about her work and the people she serves with.  Her love for the people of Kharkov is so evident.

Then, on Sunday, I drove to Kyiv.  I had lunch with Dan and Lori.  Both are long term M’s and so knowledgeable of the culture and the people.  It is always a joy to be with them and hear them speak so passionately for their work at the seminary.

Later that evening, I was invited to dinner with all IMBers in Kyiv.  I don’t see them very often and I am amazed at how well our TCK’s (MK’s) are growing in height and in walk with the Lord.  One of them recently decided to follow Jesus!  One of them has really sprouted up!  All of them seem to love to read! One is graduating this year and it was great to hear how he is trying to decide where to go to college in the US.  What a joy for this “uncle” to see them all!

Then to hear about the work going on in Kyiv in disciple making.  How great to know that the Lord is working in the hearts of Christ followers to make other disciples.  I learn so much from my colleagues and am thankful for everyone of them and their respective ministries.

While our team is small in Ukraine (compared to when I arrived in 2003), I count it a privilege to serve with those who have chosen to plant their lives here.

Fellowship with Ukrainians

Whenever I have the opportunity to be around Ukrainians, I know that I will grow in some way.  I will never completely know or understand the culture, but every chance like I had the last 5 days, allows me to grow one step closer.

My time in Kharkov was incredible.  I got to meet like minded believers from around Ukraine who are serving the Lord, using the talents He has given them.  It was so encouraging for me to hear of the Crisis Pregnancy Center in western Ukraine and the family who serves there.  Then, I got to spend about 20 minutes hearing how God is using brothers and sisters in numerous cities and villages along the war front to begin new work.  Just incredible that people have chosen to serve in dangerous areas.

So, my heart is full of memories right now from the times of fellowship I have had the last week. Thank you to those who continue to pray for the work in Ukraine.  Please keep praying!