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Friday, April 29, 2011

Our Beloved Pastor Dave

I exchanged my train tickets to get home to be with Noline during this tragically historical time. Having had problems over the years with my back, I have experienced numbness in some parts of my foot. No matter how sharp the instrument used to prod and probe, I could not feel a thing. I call it bone numbness. This is what I was feeling, ‘bone numbness’ when Noline called me in Ivano Frankievsk with the news of Bro. Dave’s death. Denial would’ve been a good choice of a word to describe my immediate reaction. I did not want to accept it; Noline repeatedly inquired if I was still on the line as I fell silent with a deep seated grief for a man I dearly loved.

To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. These Holy Spirit words have comforted many over the two thousand years since they were written, used and quoted. I know he is with the Lord and is now beholding the face of the Savior he loved and served so faithfully. He has no regrets having left this world. But my heart ache is in my own selfishness to have Bro. Dave still with us.

The same feelings of shock and unbelief, which flooded my mind, when I saw the first and second planes go into the Twin Towers, revisited me with Bro. Dave’s death. There is no intention on my part, to try to stop the pangs of grief for a man so beloved. I plan to let the memory of his love and care for me continue to take its course through my life, for as long as it takes. I make no apologies. Like the train tracks I ride on, back and forth to Western Ukraine, I now have a deep sorrow in my heart at the loss of this man of God. But I also retain a deep gratefulness for having spent so many years working with him and for him.

The Neches River and Anderson county line in Texas is the place of his last living moments. But the word he loved and preached lives on. I have four memorable occasions that are milestones and checkpoints in my life. When I gave my heart to Jesus Christ in 1972; and was forever changed by the love and power of God. When I married my childhood sweetheart in 1973; she made me the happiest person alive. When God called me into the ministry and asked me to serve Him all the days of my life. Lastly being absolutely transformed by the knowledge of the New Covenant, preached, taught and lived out by David Wilkerson.

 I thank you sir for your obedience to stand out from all the different voices in the world. Thank you for your steadfastness in preaching a pure gospel and not being moved by the newest fads in Christianity. Thank you for revealing the New Covenant to us and then living it for us to observe. Noline and I love you and knowing we will see you again, causes our heart to rejoice. You will never be forgotten.



Tuesday, April 26, 2011

REVIVAL MEETINGS

I will be in Western Ukraine for eight days. I have been holding revival meetings with 9 churches participating. God is doing some awesome miracles in Ivano Frankievsk. Please pray for these services. I will blog as soon as I get back. Thanks for staying with me, there will be a new article in a week.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

JOY COMES IN THE MORNING

This is a ten minute sermon. I was told to do this would be breaking the holy blog code of ethics. I therefore stand before you guilty as charged. It is not funny or too serious. I would call it staying in touch with the New Covenant. I cannot escape my roots as a preacher, squeeze me hard enough and out will come a fresh thought of Christ. After all, it is Easter weekend. No cute story, but a reminder that in the cross is our life. Thanks for staying with me. Enjoy!

(Ps 30:5 KJV)  “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Clinging to a random verse of scripture can be as futile as the problem you’re grappling with. Too many times we pull from memory some promises we have heard preached about and hold on to them as if they will somehow automatically transform our  situation. Instead, many leave the table before being truly fed. I was doing this myself. The verse quoted above became my mantra for months when I was in the valley. Don’t get me wrong, quoting scripture is a great thing to do. It consoles the heart and brings peace and hope to troubled minds.

But I’m talking more about situations being transformed by the power of God. There is no formula for such spiritual transformation. It’s a work of the Spirit. Yes I would soothe myself with the thought; “my weeping will end and joy will return one of these mornings.” But I was missing the point completely. What kind of joy was I hoping for, asking for or expecting?

There are so many things learned in the valley I don’t know why we want to get out so quickly. If I for one minute add up the amazing lessons I have been vivified by in my dark days, my prayer would be; “Oh God don’t deliver me yet. I want more of what you are revealing.” Instead we cry to get out because we’re a pill popping generation, which have an incredible aversion to pain of any kind. Everything in life must have a quick solution or remedy. We take a pill for headaches, stomach aches, sinus infections, joint pain, and sore backs and just in case we miss anything we take a plethora of vitamins to catch everything in between.

How do you wait at the table to be fully fed? It’s not more reading, praying or more fasting that we need. We have all done that.  And in the process we have exhausted ourselves, and those who are closest to us. I am not sure there is an answer to this question. But what I am sure of is that God is leading and directing our lives. First, let’s get the focus off of ourselves for just a moment. This verse is clarifying the fact that God’s anger was directed toward His Son, while on the cross bearing the sin of the world. In the scope of eternity this anger would last but a moment. Then in His great mercy, or as the verse has it, His favor, which is to give life to the undeserving, God would extend this gift to Christ in the grave. The woman and disciples mourning, moreover weeping at the loss of their savior would also only last a short while. Joy, literally in the Hebrew, “a shout of triumph,” would return on resurrection morning.  Ah! Now, I am feeding at the table. This is good stuff.

It’s all about Him not us. Our joy or “shout” is in Him, His accomplishment, His atonement, His resurrection life. The disciples were grieving at the loss of their friend, their teacher, their Christ; His sudden return back into their lives from the grave produced an amazing “shout of triumph.” The kind only heard in 30,000 seat football stadium. So it became His presence with men and women in dire circumstance which gave them joy and not necessarily the deliverance from their trials. God has been with me all along. I shout and praise Him exuberantly. Now in Ukraine I see His mighty hand at work in lives all around me. Revival is knowing God is with you in the NOW. This is true joy, this is unspeakable, and this is full of glory. Happy and Joyous Easter my friends.

Friday, April 22, 2011

DEPRESSION - PART 2

DEPRESSION PART 2

For five months I drug myself around the Ukranian landscape like a rain soaked cat. I had gone from approximately 500 text messages a month on my Blackberry (iphone’ are for girls) to being virtually cut off from all communication. Having no landline to call out from and it being too cost prohibitive to call the States on my cell phone, just added to the hole of depression I was in.

Most clinical tests would say you are depressed if the condition persists beyond two weeks. So what do they say if this condition lasted for over five months as was my case? The professionals have distinguished a difference between ‘Emotional Mood Disorder ‘and that of a physiological condition which can be diagnosed and treated with medication. Actually, in retrospect, where hind sight is 20/20 vision, the clinical term which best addressed my situation was, ‘Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood.’ Wow! That was a mouthful and it almost made me sound smart. How did I come to diagnose myself? Well, I did what most people do today. I went to the internet. I found out even the strongest of us cannot fight the power of sadness. Depression is a word no one wants to be labeled with. It has the connotation of being a pariah. But in simple layman terms, the psychosocial stressor of moving from a safe and known environment to one that is uncertain can be the trigger for depression to set in. The end result of an everyday existence can seem to be plain old “BLAH!”

It just seemed one problem after another was being compounded together to keep me knocked off center. For instance, customs would not release our car. I would have to send it back to the States, get a $30 inspection and then ship it back. I was looking at another $6,000 just to have our own transportation to get around. This was craziness. Now I understood what the feeling was like when Israel was hemmed in at the Red Sea and Pharaoh with his troops were descending upon them. When you are depressed the overwhelming attitude in your mind is powerlessness. I could not go back and I could not move forward. It is horrible feeling alone in a world of depression.

God’s grace comes in many forms. For me it was being with Noline and our 6 grandchildren, my daughter and her husband. This was security for me. My prayer for anyone who finds themselves in the depths of despair, seek some kind of familiar ground, called family or friends.

Walking down early one morning, from Deb’s home to the house we were remodeling, to have my devotions I literally fell apart. From deep down in the pit of my despair I threw my bible on the ground.  Now please don’t get religious on me. I know if you are a real human being you have done the same thing or at least thought of doing the same thing. I looked up to the sky and said, “OK God! I give up. The car is yours, you can drive it. I don’t care anymore, it’s all yours. This whole missionary experience is yours. I give it all to you.” Little did I realize at the time, but that simple heartfelt cry was a slung stone out of the catapult or slingshot at the head of Goliath. Despair had gripped the camp of Israel until David showed up. Jesus, who is my David, was with me and He alone would bring the giant down. Early that morning is when I fixed a date upon my deliverance. That day is when God brought down the giant of depression in my life. In the days to come I would see the car released miraculously and the light dawning on a new day.

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (Ps 42:11 KJV).

God is always there.



Thursday, April 21, 2011

THE TRAIN RIDE

I have started writing true short stories for our grandchildren living in the States. In these soliloquyies I decsribe the picturesque life of Ukraine for them to visualize through these word pictures. It is quite long and not really a blog but it is out there for your enjoyment. The prose is in simple English for the grandchildren to understand so please forgive the short easy to read sentences.

THE TRAIN RIDE

It was a very cold day in the village where papa lives. His big house in the Ukraine stands all alone next to a huge dark forest. It reminded him of the 100-acre woods at his house by the lake in New Jersey. It was like a forest in Siberia that he had read about in a book. It told of hungry wolves and bears which roam around looking for someone to eat.

A cruel wind howled through the trees. Lucky for everyone it was daytime; otherwise it would have been really scary indeed. Only the bravest person would have been peering through their window into the forest with the strongest flashlight they could find.

Today the dark clouds scurried by without even stopping for a cup of tea. They had very important business to do after all. In fact they would not have stopped even if the Queen of England had invited them in for tea. You see these gloomy messengers promised with every passing minute, to drop their baggage of icy snow on unsuspecting victims. This was serious business without a doubt. Already the ground was covered with their previously dropped snow and it had taken hours and hours to clear away.

No, this was definitely not a day to be outside, unless you bundled up into your very favorite and warmest winter coat. It would have to be your biggest coat possible and it would need to have a hood. The kind of hood with cords that you could pull tight and close it up all around your face until all that was left showing was your nose. This was the kind of day where moms cuddled up to kids next to a warm cozy fire crackling in the fireplace. They would give you hot chocolate to drink with tons of marshmallows and let you choose your favoritest book for her to read. Then she would go through the pages slowly and meaningfully, with loads of expression the way only moms can do.  You would listen intently, although you knew the book back to front, and all the while you would be bug-eyed looking at the yellow and red dancing flames on the logs.

But today, papa was warmly dressed to brave the cold and howling wind to leave for the big city of Kiev. It sure was cold outside but he would be kept warm with excitement. Tonight he was going to travel for the first time by himself on the train to the majestic mountains of Western Ukraine. So he hurriedly pulled on his boots and tied them tight. He put on his warmest sweater and his big leather coat. He fished for his gloves deep down in the pockets of his jacket and snuggly fitted them on his hands. Papa said goodbye to grandma, opened the door and headed out into the blistery cold to a waiting car which would take him to the train station two hours away.

In the distance he saw a big gray building; it was the Kiev train station. The big round clock struck 7pm. It was an old-fashioned clock that if you did not know Roman numerals it would have been hard to know the time. Fortunately, you could count the gongs. One… two… three… until it stopped at seven. In just one hour the train would pull out of the station and head into the dark for the Western town of Ivao-Fronkievsk. This town used to belong to Poland, but when the Germans were fighting the Polish army they took it by force and gave it to the Ukranians. So now it was Ukrainian with buildings that looked Polish.

Papa quickly unloaded his case from the car and briskly walked into the big gray building, where people were scurrying in every direction. Some were standing, looking up at the information board and then looking at their watches. Others were obviously late and were running and weaving in and out of the crowd racing to catch a leaving train. “Oh my,” said papa, he did not know where to go. There were so many trains on the information board and everything was written in Russian. Papa could not even ask anyone which one was his train because he could not speak the language.

He reached into the inside of his coat pocket and brought out his train ticket. “Oh no,” said papa, this was all in Russian too. There was no way to be able to read any of the information. Maybe some of the numbers on the ticket and the information board would match to give a clue as to which train was his. There was a 043 at the top left of the ticket and it was followed by what looked like the date and then by a number 16K. On the second line it looked like the amount of the ticket so he did not have to worry about that number. When papa looked up at the information board and saw a 043 he said, “This must be my train number and the time matches too.” There was a Russian word with a number 5 next to it. “That must be the platform where my train is,” thought papa. Passing through the bustling crowd papa made his way to platform number 5. Brrr, the cold wind came barreling through the doors as people pushed their way to the waiting trains, so papa hunched up to keep the cold away.  

On the dimly lit platform the huge blue and yellow cars stood motionless. Blue and yellow are the national colors of Ukraine. They represent the blue sky and the yellow wheat fields below. Someone has said Ukraine has the 4th richest black soil in the world. During WW II the Germans loaded hundreds of trains with this soil and sent it back to Germany.

There was a conductor dressed in his uniform that made him look like he was a soldier from the Second World War. Papa showed him his ticket and the man pointed in the direction towards the end of the train. That must be car number 16K which was on his ticket. Each car had a large black and white number hanging in the first window and it had its own conductor who stood like a tin soldiers at the entrance. Papa’s car had a lady conductor who was also dressed in what looked like an old fashioned army uniform. When she looked over the ticket she pointed to another number on the piece of paper, it was the number 24, and said something unintelligible in Russian and pointed up to the grimy metal steps leading into the car. Papa lifted his case, grabbed hold of the metal rail and took four steps up to board the big, old, ominous train.

Right before he turned to walk down the narrow corridor to his compartment he saw a furnace with red hot coals burning away. Wow, he had never seen a fire on a train before. There was even a man who walked from car to car with a long steel poker; his job was to keep the fires burning all night. Above this furnace was a huge water boiler. Then papa understood this is how they keep these antique cars warm. The fire heats water which circulates throughout the car in copper pipes.

Looking up at each compartment Papa found the one which had the number 24 on the door. This number actually indicated which bed was his. He had the twenty fourth bed on this car. In this small compact room there were four bunks or shelves at the Russians call the beds. “Oh, no!” number 24 was the top bunk. Now if Papa was only 10 years old he would have thought this was the coolest thing to have the top bunk. But at 58, he was not so sure he wanted to climb up and be stuck there all night.

He put his case on the top left bed and waited to see who else would be in his compartment. It did not take too long for him to find out. First, there was this young man with a case and a shoulder bag. Peeking out of the shoulder bag was the head of a small dog. Papa thought of his two favorite words again, “Oh, no! That dog is going to keep me awake all night.” No sooner had he thought that when a lady came into the compartment. Again he exclaimed, “Oh, no!” Now Papa would have to sleep in his jeans all night because there’s a girl in the room. Then another man came in, he looked up and put his case on the other top bunk. Of all the thoughts one could think of at that very awkward moment, papa had only one, “I hope I don’t snore tonight.”

Without a whistle or a warning the train begins to move exactly on the second of eight o clock. By this time papa found out all three of his companions spoke some broken English. He asked the lady and the man with the dog if they would like to exchange their lower bunk for a cool upper one. They both laughed and said, “Neit!” This in Russian means “No thanks.” The conductor with her black hat and shiny brim was standing at the door taking the tickets and offering a cup of tea for 25c. No one took her up on her offer and she passed quickly to the next compartment. Papa went in search of the bathroom so he could brush his teeth. The bathroom was at the other end of the car, farthest away from the furnace and boiler. Once in the toilet with the door securely locked papa looked around at this completely metal toilet and wash basin. It was sooo gross you did not feel like touching anything for fear of getting some kind of bug. Looking down the toilet there was no water, all you could see was the ground and the tracks whizzing by and the noise from the train was really loud. Brushing your teeth and going to the toilet was a challenge all of its own. Thankfully you did not have to stay in there too long.

Once he was safely back in the compartment it was time to roll out the mattress and make his bed. Each bunk has a thin uncomfortable mattress rolled up with a pillow in the middle. The mattress is probably filled with old clothes because it is so lumpy. There is also a sealed plastic bag with two sheets, a pillow case, a wash cloth and towel that comes with your mattress. The sheets are striped just like prison sheets. They were probably washed in corn starch since they were rough and not soft at all. At the top of the compartment in a luggage storage area there were four blankets stashed away for whoever wanted to use one. But there was no need to have those itchy blankets on you, because the heat from the copper pipes carrying hot water made the room feel like 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade.

It was now 10:28pm and papa stretched out in his jeans and t-shirt on his bunk. He was thinking to himself, “Would I actually fall asleep quickly or not.” But the magic ‘clickty clack’ of metal wheels on metal tracks and the sometimes violent but mostly gentle rocking from side to side of the lumbering train did their trick. This combination of sound and movement worked like a mug of hot milk and honey on a cold wintery night. Soon papa’s thoughts turned into dreams and no doubt his snoring was like the sound of sawing wood, which added to the cacophony that can only be heard on the old Russian train.

A DOG NAMED UGLY

This July will mark the anniversary of us getting a dog. He is a pure bred German Shepherd whom we call Buster. He is handsome, strong and has a great character. This is our first dog in 30 years, can you believe it. We are both good and bad parents since we are in grandparent mode. Yes he does sit and shake a paw before he is allowed to eat his food, and yes he does come to us when we call, sort of. But today’s blog in not about Buster, it’s about Ugly.

Ugly is the name that was given to a stray dog (and there are tons here). She attached herself to our daughter and grandkids sometime back. Because she is made up of a compendium of breeds her end result is ugly. She is not our problem, so we do not feed her. Well, we toss out a bone or two. We tried our hardest to keep her away from our wonderful pure bred. To our utter dismay they became friends and are now inseparable. 

Ugly has had her spirit broken. Go near her and she cowers whimpering uncontrollably. She expects your disapproval while being annoyingly persistent begging for any scraps of acceptance. This toxic relationship with Ugly began in the winter. Though it was bitterly cold outside with sub-zero temperatures we shut the door on her, and ushered our dog inside. We preferred to pretend she did not exist, and truthfully, she did have a home to go to somewhere. Now before you report me to the “cruelty to animals’ people,” keep in mind this dog is a pest, has flees, ticks, and is Ugly. She has survived without our help up until now and to interfere with nature is just plain wrong.

I hope your sentiment towards me is nearing boiling point. It should! I have tried ignoring her, barring her entrance into the house and not feeding her. I just want this problem to go away. Period.

Early one morning about two weeks ago I took our handsome, strong and great natured Shep outside to do his business. Ugly was there to greet me dragging herself in a completely self deprecating manner. I was so annoyed in my spirit that I stuck my foot out to hinder her forward progress towards me. She completely understood the language of rejection. She turned with head lower than her belly and tail tucked between her legs and skulked off into the early dawn. I was sitting on some building blocks. Being caught up in my own satisfation with the immediate nuisance of Ugly being taken care of I nearly missed the voice of the Holy Spirit. In the quietness of the hour He said, “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled (Col 1:21 KJV).”  

I got up from my concrete seat avowed in my heart I will never again reject this dog. She is no longer Ugly to me, she is now Sheba, a short nick name we gave her for Mephibosheth. He was a young man crippled in his feet; the son of Jonathan whom King David brought to his palace and gave him a daily seat of honor at his banqueting table. And this was to his would be enemy.

Sheba has a regular meal and the kennel is hers. She now barks at strangers letting them know, I have a home and I am owned and I will protect the house and my family. God help us never to turn our backs on the poor.

 Buster our handsome strong German Shep.                                                    UGLY


 
UGLY who is now named SHEBA

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hello Everyone,

Yesterday, April 20th I commandeered Noline's FB to chat with all her friends. To my surprise being right there communicating with you made the distance from the US to Ukraine so much less than the thousands of miles it really is. Thank you for the love and support I received so quickly. It is because of you this blog has begun and I hope in the days ahead I will be able to share with you truth and real emotions which accompany a major move in one’s life.

My immediate response was to share some exciting adventure in Europe. Something that would have you salivating or at least longing to go to the mission field. But this morning while waiting on the Lord He spoke to my heart and said I needed to be authentic with you and not simply sermonize, or adventureize if there is such a word. Oh there will be the sermon or two because only by truth we are set free. To the most part I will touch interesting events that will be painted with words so you will see what we are seeing. I will also deal with counseling issues which I have had to apply to my own heart that you can know the freedom I have received.

So let's begin with a word people hate to acknowledge but can actually happen to anyone. DEPRESSION! Goodness sakes, I am not a depressed person. In fact I am the last person alive that suffers from any kind of depression. The image of me is that I am an extravert, a people person, a talker, always ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within me. Noline has struggled with me being so extravert. I go into the store to purchase a pint of milk and I am in there for an hour because I am extroverting with people I don't even know. It has been exciting and frustrating trying to communicate with non English speaking Ukrainian's, but I do it and I love it. I have developed my own sign language to get the message across. So don't talk to me about depression!

Then why did I sink into the depths of a dark pit and feel "down in the dumps?" Now don't tune me out because you are not there at the moment and you want something more positive. Stay with me; this could actually help you today or in the near future should you find yourself in the 'mullygrumps.'

Getting to Ukraine was the easy part. I was hyper enough after leaving NYC to get through customs like a breeze. Seeing my daughter and grandchildren added to this superimposed joy and exuberant attitude I was having. Staying with Deb and Bruce I immediately got stuck into helping around the house with fix-it projects, dishes and even cooking. After all you have to pay your way as this was no vacation, this was missions.

Almost to the day, one and a half months after leaving NYC and Times Square Church I hit the wall. I suddenly started weeping and could not stop. Deborah, played me a song by Gersh, called, ‘Breakdown.’ I took the mp3 and went to my room and while listening to it I began to sob from the bottom of my heart. It was uncontrollable. What had happened to the upbeat and positive preacher at TSC? I was falling to pieces and there was no way to stop or even slow this blessed train. All I could think about was that I am glad none of our friends could see me like this. Being far away in a foreign country had its benefits. No one could call or just pop in to see me. Even Noline was still in the States staying with our other children.

The feelings I began to experience include: a lack of sleep, decreased energy, worthlessness, even guilt; difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions; there were even thoughts of death and suicidal ideation. Mostly, I was sad! Sad because I was grieving at the loss of losing all our friends and close relationships with the leadership. This made me sad. It felt so permanent. The excitement of a new venture was swallowed up in this word, DEPRESSION. I was depressed and there was no way out of this pit trying to climb out in my own strength. Even my cries for help in the forest next to my daughter’s house fell on deaf ears.

So now on my very first blog I have made you depressed. If I go on like this, I stand to lose you as an electronic friend that I actually need right now. Therefore let me console you with two things as I close this first attempt to share meaningful and ‘gut level’ thoughts with you.

God sees through the quagmire of the darkest day. “For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness” (Ps 18:28 KJV). And in the simplest and quietest voice, that still small voice Elijah heard in the cave of his depression, I heard the Lord speak to me these words. “I am going to teach you about a faith that comes from rest and not from necessity.” Wow! Again, like Elijah who wrapped and hid his face in his coat I too buried my head into the pillow and loved on the Lord.

In the next episode, I will face the giant and see him fall. David carried the head of Goliath, that central nerve center from hell to demonstrate to all that Satan had no lasting power over God’s people.