Tag Archives: Russia

Lady of Little Faith

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14 WEB)

When my son Evan came to visit us in Austria, I asked him to bring me some books. Since he worked in a bookstore it was a great chance to get some reduced prices. I like sales! Anyway, I’d decided to read some of the major works I’d avoided over the years in lieu of reading theology and Christian ministry related books, not to mention the computer, radio, audio, and numerous other texts relating to my ministry.

He lugged the massive, even in paperback, copy of The Brothers Karamazov, to our home. I’d read excerpts from Fyodor Dostoevsky and references to his characters in other texts and decided it was time to take the plunge and see if I could work my way through the 776 pages of the tome. I found it fascinating how Dostoevsky rambled in his prose style. Way too many words for my succinct engineering mind. But, I still enjoyed his presentation of the people, culture, and theological mindset created in his literary version of Russia. So, I just stopped and made a note of a passage that caught my fancy.

I was in part I, book 2, when I met the monastery elder Zosima. Interestingly described, with great detail to the historical installation of elders, with that wizened presence which instills confidence in those around him. Several encounters were described which served to demonstrate his amazing, clear evaluation of those seeking his blessing and advice. Then I came to a lady of little faith. Without reiterating the depth of the text, he made the following statement, to the lady, concerning her desire to love those around her.

. . . active love is a harsh and fearful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams thirsts for immediate action, quickly, performed, and with everyone watching. Indeed, it will go as far as the giving even of one’s life, provided it does not take long but is soon over, as on stage, and everyone is looking on and praising. Whereas active love is labor and perseverance, and for some people, perhaps, a while science. But I predict that even in that very moment when you see with horror that despite all your efforts, you not only have not come nearer your goal but seem to have gotten farther from it, at that very moment – I predict this to you – you will suddenly reach your goal and clearly behold over you the wonder-working power of the Lord, who all the while has been mysteriously guiding you.”

I wish I could take credit for such a clear statement, but alas, I can’t. While translated from the original Russian this seems a concise description of many Christians in today’s church. I was caught off guard when I realized the times I too have sought to be loving for the joy of the spiritual applause my fellow believers provided.

We, even Christians, even missionaries, like an audience that appreciates our efforts. The lady in the story confessed to seeking advice, on how to express love to others, for the joy of being praised by the elder. I like to think I’m selfless and giving fully of myself in serving others. This may be true at times. But, at other times I sulk and am tempted to stop when my ego isn’t bolstered with words of encouragement and praise.

Maybe you can identify with me, maybe not. I must confess, I was chastised when I read the sentence, “. . .active love is labor and perseverance, . . .” countered against the condemnation, “Love in dreams thirsts for immediate action, quickly, performed, and with everyone watching.” Ouch, that hurts!

So, I guess I need to look a little more closely, even as a missionary, at the reason I do this or that. Am I being “nice” because I should, because it is Christ-like? Or, am I looking for worldly approval? Tough questions.

So, a new week begins, my mind has been challenged. We’ll see how things go. Maybe somewhere in the days ahead I’ll draw closer to my goal of loving everyone around me, as Christ loved me, even in the midst of my mistakes and, at times, wrong attitude. We have a wonder-working Lord and it is a wonder what he does in me day to day.

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Fast Food

The next day, he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29 WEB)

I remember my first visit to White Castle as a little boy. This paragon of good food and fine dining set my standard of cuisine excellence for a lifetime. When I was older, I was introduced to the world wide favorite, McDonald’s. Say what you will about their dietary presentation I like the place and apparently so do millions of other people. My life is filled with fast food and I’m not complaining. I’m enjoying the experience.

Fast food makes any dietitian shudder with fear but it has its uses. When you have two minutes between trains, it can keep you from starvation. A car full of boisterous children can quickly be quieted by a stop at the drive thru. And, traveling missionaries can eat without the fear of ingesting a case of Montezuma’s Revenge.

I remember eating at McDonald’s in Russia, Sri Lanka, Guam, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and a mess of European countries. (Some European countries are a mess but that is not the point.) Other countries, unfortunately, don’t support such modern conveniences, at least nothing I recognize. One exception was my work in Central Asia.

White Castle CupAfter arriving and gathering all our equipment and then loading the vehicles we drove from the city where the airport was located to another city in the mountains. What would normally be a one-and-a-half-hour drive took more than two hours including a stop for a bite to eat at a roadside BBQ. This was the Central Asian version of fast food.

The outdoor BBQ kitchen was located on what used to be a building site on the side of the road. All that was left was the concrete flooring which made room for parking. The kitchen stove consisted of a tin tray with wood burning at one end. When an order was placed, the pieces of lamb were stuck on a long metal spit and laid across the tin box with hot coals from the fire pushed below to start the cooking. It didn’t take long to cook the meat and the heat from the fire helped warm up my cold hands.

When we wanted more the proprietor reached into the trunk of his car and extracted more pieces of meat for the next spit. I watched as small pieces of rust fell from the dilapidated vehicle trunk lid into the box of freshly butchered meat. I suppose this was part of the unique seasoning.

It was a particularly tasty meal served on flat, paper thin, bread. As the cook prepared our afternoon snack we stood in a heavy breeze between Snow covered Mountains. My Guam blood wasn’t happy with the situation and I was already bundled up with a sweater, two shirts, several pairs of socks, coat and gloves. I reminded myself God called me there.

Sometimes people approach the Lamb of God like selecting items in a fast food restaurant. We order a piece here to cure that grumbling in the stomach. We order a bit there to give us a little strength as we hurry to another event. It might keep us alive but we won’t develop properly any more than eating fast food for a lifetime will provide all the necessary nutrients.

I like what it says in The Message, “An intelligent person is always eager to take in more truth; fools feed on fast food fads and fancies.” (Proverbs 15:14) Are we grabbing for fads and fancies? It may be time to grow strong on the good food of God’s word?

 “Every Scripture is God breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16 17 WEB)

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