Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Are You Settled Yet?

This is a common question we hear from both our Ukrainian friends and our Western friends. But how does one answer such a question. It is very subjective. How do you measure “being settled”? Am I settled when I’m comfortable in the culture? If that is the case, I’m settled some days and unsettled others. Are you settled when you have a routine? If that is the case, then I don’t think I have ever been settled in my life. Well, I don’t know if I’m settled but I can say that I, at least, am a step closer to “being settled” today. Today, December 15, 2009, after four months, I am finally caught up on my bills. Over the last four months I have visited the office for gas, heat, taxes, internet and telephone. One by one, I have answered their questions, gathered documents, given money (through the bank) of course. One by one they have told me, “You’re good for another year.” Today, I paid for one year of our “domophone”. I actually paid from August 2009 to August 2010. What is a domophone? It is the system that lets someone at our entrance call us so we can push a button and let them in the building. They system was installed while we were in the states and I didn’t realize that I needed to pay for a year until the end of August. They company didn’t give me a book or a bill or anything. I called them and they said to go to any “Ukrasibbank”, show them the agreement and pay. Well I couldn’t find an Ukrasibbank – not that I looked that hard, until last week. So today I went to the bank, showed them the agreement and they said (of course), “This is the wrong bank”. Wouldn’t you know it? There is an Ukrasibbank and an Ukrasipbank. The bank I went to was the Ukrasibbank and I needed the Ukrasipbank. What I heard on the phone was, “Go to any Ukrasi??bank.” Well, it turned out that the Ukrasipbank was near the Ukraisibbank so I was able to pay for our domophone. Now I am one step closer to being settled.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Another Typical Day

About a month ago, a woman came to our apartment, handed Julie a small strip of paper and said, “Take care of this write away!”
The paper said, “Dear Valued Customer from Apartment 49. Please come to the central water service office, bring your paid bills for the last year. Our hours or Mon – Thursday, 9:00am to 5:00pm, lunch is noon to 1:00. Immediately.” Julie handed me the paper when I got home and said that the woman said, “Take care of this right away.” Well, I had a bad attitude and I was busy so I said, OK and put the paper in a drawer. I knew that if I went right away, I would just have to wait somewhere else. I took me about a month to clear a day to try to address this issue. Why clear a whole day you ask…I’ll tell you. Last Thursday was the day. Here is what happened.
6:30am: I woke up, grabbed my mp3 player, a couple of books and the documents they asked for. I ate some breakfast and was out the door by 7:30.
8:00am: I arrived at the office. I knew it wouldn’t be open. There were several men and women standing around, so according to the local custom, I walked up the group and said in a loud voice, “Who is the last one?” One man answered, “Which office?” I answered, “Office 8.” “Your last!” He said, then laughed and said, “Your also first…I’m going to 2, he is to 5, she is to 10 and so on.” So we waited. Several people showed up before nine and this little scene replayed itself. I just stood and read my book.
9:00am: Office opens and we walk in to a little waiting room – hallway really. There is another door with a guard. The guard says, “Who is going to 1?” the he lets someone past the door, “Who is going to 2?” lets the next person in, etc. Of course he skips 8 and goes to 10. Meanwhile people keep walking in and asking who is last. They receive similar answers to the one I got but this time from 5 to 7 people at once.
9:30am: Guard comes out and says, “Who is to 8”. I am standing about two feet from the guard and an old man rushes forward (I’ve never seen an old man move so fast), pushes me aside and says, “I am.” As I am saying that I was there first, he is already through the door. Then another woman walks in and asks, “Who’s last”. After some confusion she agrees to go to 8 after me.
10:05am: Old man comes out the door and guard lets me in. But the man at desk 8 is not ready so I wait in a less crowded hall.
10:30am: Woman peaks her head in and says, “Are you still waiting?”
10:45am: Desk 8 is ready. I walk up to the desk, hand the man my papers. He looks at them for about a minute and says, “Let me explain what we need.” I said, “You already told me what to bring, it is on the little strip of paper.” He says, “It’s good that it is written there.” Everyone’s a comedian today. He makes a list of six documents I have to find and bring back to him.
I have most of the documents at home. One of them I have to get from another office about 20 minute walk away. The office is called the Zhek. They are like an association.
11:30am: I arrive at the Zhek. At the zhek office I need to go to the “Passportist”. I walk in the little hallway/waiting room and ask, “Who’s last?” They say which passportist? I answer and there are three people in front of me. Amazingly there is a chair available so I sit down, pull out my book and start to read.
Noon: It’s my turn. I stand up to walk into the office and a woman runs in before me. I guess I’ll wait.
12:10 I make it into the office. I explain what I need. She pulls out a form. Spends about five minutes filling it out, I hand her 2 grieven and I’m off. But wait. The form needs a stamp and another signature. I have to go to the accountant for the signature and then the boss for the stamp.
12:15 Who is last waiting for the accountant? Much confusion and I decide that I’m after that grandmother. I announce that I am after her and sit down to read my book. I start reading and the old man next to me wants to talk and complain about waiting.
12:45 The account walks out of her office and as she is walking by asks, “Why are you waiting?” She grabs the old man’s form, signs it and walks off. Before I can speak…she’s gone. When she walks back, I block her way, hold up my form, smile and say please. She takes it and signs it.
12:50. The boss’s office door is closed. I’m tired and feeling a little bold. I knock and open the door. The boss is on his cell phone and someone is sitting at the other side of his desk. I walk in and show him the form. Without stopping his conversation, he takes the form, signs it, stamps it, hands it back and I’m outta here!
12:55 I walk out of the Zhek office and breath the free air again! But I’m not done. I need documents from home.
1:00 – 1:15 I gather documents from home.
1:25pm I go to the copy place and have copies made.
1:45pm I arrive back at the first office.
They are on their lunch break and there are a lot of people waiting. I can’t even get into the hallway/waiting room. The man said I could go to the front of the line but this crowd does not look very friendly. If I walk in and go to the front there could be bloodshed. What to do? Ha…I see the guard standing outside talking on his cell phone. I go to him and explain that I was told that I can go to the front. I even show him the note. He looks at the crowd and says, “Don’t worry, we’ll figure something out.” So I stand near the entrance and read my book. About 10 minutes later, I hear a voice. “Did you bring everything I asked?” It’s the man from desk 8. “Yes I did.” “Follow me”. He leads me through the crowd…they probably think I work there so no harm done.
2:05pm Back at desk 8. He looks through the documents, asks me some questions (boy he talks fast), fills out some more documents and then says, “Did you bring the current readings on your water meters.” “No, you didn’t ask for those.” He looks at his list, “No problem.” He shows me some documents and says, “sign here and here, date here, wife name here, sign here and here and here and there and here…… “Now, when you get home, call this number, it’s an answering machine, say your wife’s name, address and the water meter numbers.” “OK” then I ask, “Why are we doing this?” He answers, “The law says that we must have a personal contract with each household.”
3:00pm Home. There is a piano lesson going on in the living room. Julie walks out of the girls room and says, “Where have you been all day.” All I have to say is, “Water office” and she fully understands. No details necessary. I gather the water readings, call the number, leave my message, and then file our new agreement with the water department.
3:30pm I’m hungry, time to get something to eat and start my day.
The funny things is the book I had with me is called “Russka” and as I was hurry up and waiting all day a passage caught my eye. This part of the story took place in 1844. The setting is a little fictional village of Russka. Two brothers are talking late into the night. Sergei is a lighthearted Slavophile and an optimist. His older brother, Ilya is an intellectual, loves Europe and wants to transform Russia into a country that has European efficiency. The conversation ends with Sergei explaining why Ilya’s grand plan to change Russia will never work.
“…Which brings me to my second objection. Your prescription for Russia comes from the head. It is logical, reasonable, clear-cut. Which is exactly why it has nothing to do with the case. The Russians will never be moved by such things. That is what the West will never comprehend. It is the deep weakness of the West, as we see it, that it does not know that to move Russia, you must move her heart. The heart, Ilya, not the mind. Inspiration, understanding, desire, energy – all three come from the heart. Our sense of holiness, of true justice, of community – these are of the spirit: they cannot be codified into laws and rules. We are not Germans, Dutch or English. We are part of Holy Russia, which is superior to all these. I, an intellectual, a European like yourself, say this to you.”
“You are one of this new group then, who claim a special destiny for Russia, apart from the rest of Europe, who people call Slavophiles, I take it,” Ilya remarked. He had read a little of this group lately.
“I am,” Sergei said, “and I promise you, Ilya, it’s the only way.”
And so at last, their minds full of these grand and universal thoughts, the two brothers affectionately embraced each other and retired to their beds.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Day 31

Well its day 31 of the 14 day remodel. So far all has gone pretty well. We have had a couple of electrical glitches but nothing serious. The major work is complete. The arches are in place, Joseph’s new door is installed and yesterday, the walls were painted. Today, we realized that we didn’t have enough floor boards. Went to buy some new ones and of course nobody sells them anymore. We ended up purchasing all new ones. But Julie likes them better. Today the floor boards were installed, the paint was touched up and the ladder was put back.

During construction, life has continued. We took a trip to Kotovsk (a city in the north) with our team, Micah got sick, the schools were closed (not because of our remodel) and Alfie continues to teach at the seminary. We are beginning to feel like we live in a house and not a construction zone again. That is indeed a good feeling.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day 15

The remodel continues. The hall is starting to look like a hall again. Alfie went to Kiev last Friday for a meeting, the girls spent the night at a friends and Joseph spent the weekend with other friends. Alfie returned on Saturday. Half the team took a trip to Frunzevka on Saturday. We all went to church in Odessa on Sunday. On Sunday night our team-mates returned. Leah joined us and we went to a small church just outside Odessa for the evening service.

Meanwhile, the remodel continues. We are living in the apartment again. We actually have most of the time. Most of the electrical work is done and the worst of the dust is done now. When we are home, we spend most of the time in the kitchen. The living room is really not usable and the bedrooms are cold. We hope the heat will be one soon. Anyway, the hall looks good. Soon we will paint, and then it’s clean, clean, and clean.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day 8

We have moved back home. We try not to be home during the day because it is too noisy, however the evenings are not bad. The beds, furniture and kitchen are covered with plastic. The electrical work is almost done. The new breaker-box was installed today and most of the apartment is wired. Below is our builder – Vitalik.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Day 4

It is just amazing what can be accomplished in four days. They not only finished our hallway they raised the ceiling about five feet and added at least eight rooms. OK, I’m only kidding. We are staying in the seminary dorm for the weekend. I don’t have any pictures but much has been accomplished. We even had a small fire. The fire didn’t cause any damage but it did identify another problem that needs to be addressed.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Day 1

Alfie gave two lectures at the seminary and had one Russian language lesson while our electrician, Andrei, tore apart our hallway. He told us there would be a lot of dust and he was right. He said that this first day he was trying to do all the major dust work. He had to search for the existing wires that have been plastered inside the existing walls. That means starting at a junction box and breaking the plaster with a hammer until you can tell where the wires go to. He made a whole for our new breaker box and installed six new plugs, seven new switches and many other things. Here is what the hall looked like at the end of the day. There is also a picture of Andrei our electrician. I will not post picture for Day 2 because I’m just getting day 1 photos up. However, day 2 Andrei’s drill broke but he still got much work done. He ran most of the necessary cables and the hall is now ready for the building to come destroy and rebuild. The looks about the same but a little cleaner with wires hanging everywhere.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Day 0

We have to upgrade our electrical system in our apartment. We can’t do the entire apartment so we are just going to rewire the corridor. And since we are going to have to tear up the hallway we might as well put it back together in better shape than we found it. What that means is that we are about to live through a significant remodel. We will be adding a new breaker box, copper wiring, light switches, plugs, three arches, removing several doors, rebuilding a closet, installing recessed lights, new paint and so one. We hope to be done in about two weeks. We will see…. Here is the current state of our corridor.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Typical Day?

People often ask me what a typical day in Odessa is like. This is a difficult question to answer. It is difficult to answer because I don’t have many typical days. I have ordinary days, boring days, exciting days, sad days and sometimes even restful days. Every now and then I have extraordinary days. I had two of them recently. The second was on a Thursday.
It started as an ordinary day. There was a medical team here from the US. They arrived the Saturday before and because of my schedule I was not able to accompany them. While I was busy in Odessa they were running clinics in small cities and villages in the northern part of the Odessa region. I was getting good reports and on Thursday I had the opportunity to join them. There was a group of three public school teachers and a missionary making the three hour drive to the city of Krosnii Oknii to present a ministry opportunity to the local public school. The medical team was going to be in the same city so the plan was for me to catch a ride with the teachers and meet up with the team. When we met that morning, one of the teachers, Tanya had a headache. She took a couple of advil; we got in the car and were off. The trip started out normal enough. Two of the teachers I met just that morning so the conversation was just “getting to know you” stuff. After about an hour Tanya didn’t feel any better. She asked to stop the car. We stopped and she got sick. The next time we stopped at a pharmacy and purchased some more medicine. Well the medicine didn’t help and Tanya got worse and worse. She developed a fever, her neck began to hurt and she felt weaker and weaker. When we got to Krosnii Oknii we went straight to the hospital. When we took her in she could barely walk. The doctors were very attentive but she kept getting worse. They needed to run some tests so we went and did the presentation. We figured that we would decide how to get her back to Odessa once we know more from the tests.
The presentation went great. But, by the time we returned to the hospital, Tanya had been moved to the infectious disease unit and had lapsed into a coma. The doctors were not sure what was wrong and said that she needs to get back to a hospital in Odessa right away. As we were discussing options, I began to wonder if we were going to have to take her lifeless body back to Odessa. This was an unsettling thought. I have never faced a situation quite like this. Well, we kept exploring options. After several discussions and phone calls we realized that the only way to get her back to Odessa that same day was to hire a private ambulance company. We called the company and they said that they could come and get her but they wanted the money up front. Her husband didn’t have any money so that started a new flurry of phone calls. Thankfully, Julie was in Odessa. She was able to gather the money and get it to Dima, Tanya’s husband. He got the money to the ambulance company and by 3:00am on Friday, Tanya was in Odessa. We hear that she is doing better. She, at least, is not in a coma. We are praying for her and waiting on test results.
This certainly was not a typical day, but I rarely have a typical day. In fact, my point is, “What is a typical day?” Each day I think I know what will happen but I am learning to hold those plans loosely.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

First Days

Our first full day in Kiev was Friday. Alfie went to the SEND office to meet with the area director, Steve and go over some of the events of the last year, make some preliminary plans for the next year and talk about various issues. Julie and the kids enjoyed some reunion time with friends in the afternoon. Friday evening we took the metro to the other side of Kiev and met with our old friend pastor Pavel. We had dinner with him and his family. We talked about America, Ukraine, ministry, Greek, history, language, cars, economy and many other topics. It was an enjoyable evening. We were very tired on the ride home on the metro and probably fit right in with those who were tired from too much drinking.

Saturday afternoon was a time of reunion with more missionary friends.

Sunday was a time of special reunion. We went to our church in Kiev, Ascension church in Bortnichi.

Monday we rested and that evening took the train to Odessa.

Tuesday, we cleaned, organized and visited with guests all day. That evening, Julie and the girls slept while Alfie and Joseph had dinner with friends from IMB and SEND. We enjoyed bbq’d fish, chicken and all the trimmings. Thank you Mliakoff family! After dinner we had a small impromptu concert in the yard and then Alfie and Joseph went home.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Travel to Ukraine

Well we are now here in Ukraine. Our travel was long but went well. Our plane out of Utah was leaving at 7:00am. Since it was an international flight, we decided to arrive at the airport by 4:30am. That meant that we would need to leave by 4:00am. Our day started by getting up late – 3:45am. We were on the road by 4:30am and after several calls from relatives informing us that they were waiting at the airport, we arrived at about 5:00am. Check in was smooth, good-byes were emotional, security was tolerable and we arrived at the gate with about 40 minutes to spare.
Salt Lake City to Chicago went fast. We had a six hour layover but no-worries; we met with Inga and Brittany, our future team-mates. Alfie wanted to go to the Sears Tower and check out the glass balconies, but we opted for a leisurely lunch. We found a food court in the international terminal and had a great time of connection and fellowship.
We said good-by to Brittany and Inga and hello to more security. “Yes that is my computer, yes it has been with me since I left home, yes those are my shoes, that is a lovely wand and no I have nothing hidden in my clothes but I guess you need to check. If this wasn’t an airport security point, I think you could be arrested for that. Huh, I guess humor isn’t part of your training.” OK, so we made it.
The Chicago to London flight was long but uneventful. We had our personal movie screens and too many movies to watch. Joseph and Micah got the most sleep; the rest of us kept watch movies and paid for it later. Anya especially had a rough time in London. Her ears hurt during the descent and she was too tired to do anything but cry.
We had a two hour layover in London. After more security we went to get something to eat. We found a little bagel shop and paid exorbitant amounts of money for humble but tasty bagels, fruit and caffeinated libations. After eating, as we walked to our gate, I heard someone call my name. I turned and it was Michael Kuvshinikov, our team-mate from Kiev. He was returning to Kiev on the same flight. We enjoyed some catch up time then got on the plane. The flight from London to Kiev was filled mostly with sleep.In Kiev, passport control, baggage claim then customs all went smoothly. Steve was waiting when we walked out the double doors and we were back in Ukraine.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Runaway Schedule

Sometimes your schedule seems to have a mind of its own. When that happens to us our life often becomes a series of “drive-by” experiences. This last weekend was one of those times. We were planning on leaving for a road trip on Monday so, instead of packing our bags, we mistakenly packed our schedule.

Friday morning (June 19), we rise, breakfast and leave for Oceanside beach to celebrate Rachel Bushrow’s 13th birthday. We love the beach and we love Rachel so there is no question about attendance. No problem, we’ll pack later. After a day at the beach, we return home to clean up and pack. Or so I thought. I forgot about a long planned trip to Tommy’s in LA with Dino (friend and brother-in-law). I’m pretty tired at this point, but this would be Joseph’s first Tommy-burger….OK so Tommy’s is a go. 10pm, Joseph, Dino, Lee (long time Dino friend) and I leave to fill ourselves with indigestible joy. After a midnight return to home, a couple of Tums to take the edge off, it was time for a short nap and up again on Saturday.

No time to pack on Saturday. Since we would be busy on Sunday, Julie and the kids prepared breakfast in bed for me to have an early father’s day celebration. They gave me sausage, fruit, coffee and juice. The fruit was just the thing to help my internal organs try to process the aftermath of the Tommy burger. Oh yea, our friends from Tennessee are visiting and this is the only time we will be able to see them. After a flurry of phone calls we decide to meet in Cerritos. Then after another flurry of phone calls they decide to come to our house. ...time to transition into pre-guest mode (vacuuming, dusting, dishes, sweeping, food check, etc.). Our guests arrive with more guests. The party grows and is a lot of fun but we need to leave. We have tickets for a production of “Sound of Music” featuring my little sister Cassie. She is mother abbes and the show starts at 2:00pm. The daughter of another friend, Janie Green, is also in the production. It’s 1:30 and the pizza arrives. Decision time!

Well we leave the party at our house to go to the play. We are sorry we can’t spend more time with our friends but Cassie does not disappoint. During the production, I was thinking that Cassie’s acting was really good. Then, she sang, “Climb Every Mountain” and absolutely nailed it. This isn’t just brother/relative bias, when that last note was released the house erupted. Cassie, you were simply remarkable!! That’s my sister people!! Yea baby!

OK, so back to the 21st century, where was I? Oh yea, afterwards we went to the Joseph house to celebrate the Cassie talent, oddly enough, without Cassie…go figure. After some good food, comedy and family sarcasm, we returned home to pack. I was too tired to pack and Julie came to me and said, “What do you think about letting the girls sleep in tomorrow?” “I wish we could but we are visiting a supporting church and I’m giving the message. We’ll pack tomorrow.”

Well Sunday morning comes quick. We get ready go to church, have a good time at church and return home. Let’s pack, oh wait…we planned to go to Chuck and Lois’s house to celebrate father’s day and we still need to burn Chuck’s DVD (his father’s day gift). I sit down to burn the DVD and realize the DVD burner is not working. Two hours later, the CD is ready and we leave for Fullerton. We enjoy some more good food and family comedy and return home at 11:00pm. No we have to pack because we leave tomorrow morning. OK, so this time we have to stay up late and pack. Will we make it and if we do, will we be able to drive? Did I mention that Julie has a doctor’s appointment at 8:00am?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Dr. Livingstone, I Presume

Far out in the jungles,
Of deep Timbuktu,
I’m Henry M Stanly,
Prey, tell, who are you?

I’m in search of a man,
Dr Livingstone’s his name,
I hope he’s safe from man-eaters,
That hunt, thrash and maim.

Would you care to come with me?
We’ll search far and wide,
A journey’s less difficult,
With a friend at your side.

So take courage and come,
No beast shall we fear,
Yet keep your gun ready,
If roars you do hear.

The journey’s been long,
Yet now in this room,
I believe that I’ve found him,
“Dr Livingstone I presume.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ruins in the Jungle

A. Joseph Mosse' IV

Far within the jungle gloom,
Lay the signs of city’s doom,
Like a body, ruins rot,
Spiders feast on flies they caught.

Crumbling idols, in once grand halls,
Stone eyes inspect their ruined walls,
No longer worshiped, or revered,
Their bodies cracked, their faces smeared.

Abandoned palaces, in past ages,
Had been abode, to kings and sages,
Now are home to wild things,
Through the halls, a beast’s roar rings.

Perhaps mimicking lords long dead,
Who, as I’ve heard it has been said,
Would bellow, yell and then cry,
“That man displeases me, and so must die!”

But all a memory it is today,
How long ago, I cannot say,
It was when men first went to roam,
And left behind their ancient home.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Closing Day

April 25, 2009 was Anya’s and Micah’s last day of t-ball and softball. No sublime or profound thoughts here. We just had a good time watching. Here is Anya’s final team and parent on field celebration.

Here is a picture of our little girl (LG), the catcher, intimidating the third base runner. You can just hear it, "Go ahead...run...make my day."

Monday, March 16, 2009

I Just Don't Get It!

In October, after receiving $85 billion in bail out finds, AIG spend $440,000 hosting a corporate retreat at St Regis Monarch Beach resort, on the California coast. (see http://www.wisebread.com/the-aig-retreat-pictures-why-its-worse-than-you-think). Today we are surprised and indignant that AIG is paying bonuses.

Let me get the big picture in focus. AIG executives manage to loose $61.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008 taking the prestigious record for the largest corporate loss in history. The US government gives these same executives $170 billion in bail out funds to save the company because the company is "too big to fail." Now everyone is surprised that AIG turned around and paid out more than $165 million in bonuses to these same executives. I don’t know who I am more disgusted with: the people who give out our tax dollars, the people who receive them or the people who are suprised that business practices haven't changed. If we give billions of dollars to people who have mismanaged billions of dollars, why are we surprised that the money is mishandled again?

The $165 million was payable to executives by Sunday and was part of a larger total payout reportedly valued at $450 million. The company has benefited from more than $170 billion in a federal rescue.

AIG reported this month that it had lost $61.7 billion for the fourth quarter of last year, the largest corporate loss in history. The bulk of the payments at issue cover AIG Financial Products, the unit of the company that sold credit default swaps, the risky contracts that caused massive losses for the insurer.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/03/16/lawmakers-target-aig-executive-bonuses/ (March 16, 2009)

The Sunday shows have paraded a number of solutions:

"Maybe it's time to fire some people," he said, adding that the bonuses were "rewarding incompetence." Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass

Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., chairman of the subcommittee, said in a statement that lawmakers would investigate the bonuses at the hearing.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/03/16/lawmakers-target-aig-executive-bonuses/ (March 16, 2009)

Maybe it’s time to fire some people? Let’s investigate? I propose a very simpler solution.

  • Demand the $170 billion back
  • Resolve that AIG will not get one more cent of bailout money.
  • Make it a deal breaking condition that any company that intends to pay bonuses, or does pay bonuses will receive no bailout money.

How hard is this? If you want help…don’t pay bonuses, don’t take corporate vacations, no raises, use every cent of your capital to strengthen your company until you can stand on your own and pay back what you borrowed. Then you can do what you want.

I can hear it now. But we have contractual obligations! Answer: Not our problem!!! If you want the money, those are the conditions, you figure it out.

The formula is easy:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ambidextrous Faith

When we first moved to Kiev in June, 2003 one family that befriended us was the Burkett family. I remember the first time Joseph went to their apartment to play. After several hours he came back with all kinds of stories about what they did. He was very excited and was talking very fast. I noticed that he wasn’t using many names, so I stopped him and asked what the kid’s names were. He said, “Well, there is the oldest, the youngest, Andrew and the girl.” He had so much fun that he had forgotten to ask their names. We enjoyed their company so when they moved to Lutsk a year later, we rejoiced that God was opening a new work but were sad to see them go. Over the years, Herb, Kim, Josh, Andrew, Ashley and Jacob have had a vibrant ministry in Lutsk and have been a blessing and inspiration to us. They are models what a family can be. The love each other, they serve the Lord together and are kind to the people in their lives. In the picture Andrew is the young man on the bottom right with both hands on the floor. Next to him is his father Herb, then his brother Josh. The next row is his sister Ashley and mother Kim and on top is his little brother Jacob.

Andrew was sick with the flu. Last Monday, he seemed to be worse so they took him to the doctor who diagnosed him with double-pneumonia. They began treatment right away. Andrew’s condition worsened, they were moving him to another hospital when his heart stopped and they were not able to revive him. He died. Just like that. How is the human soul supposed to process such a thing?

In a book by Philip Yancey, I read that Gregory of Nissa once said that Basil the Great had ambidextrous Faith. He explained that his faith was ambidextrous because Basil welcomed pleasures with his right hand and afflictions with his left. Later, Yancey talks about John Donne (17th century poet and dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London). Donne lived and ministered during a time a great pain. The bubonic plague took tens of thousands and eventually Donne himself fell sick and suffered greatly. At first Donne’s devotions reveal a fearful struggle with God. He often asked God, “Why me?” Gradually, his question changed to “Will I trust God with my pain, anger and fear?” This is, of course, the correct and more difficult question. Donne realized that the source of the pain was not at issue, the response to the pain was at issue. That is ambidextrous faith.

As I ponder the lives of men like Basil, Donne and the Burketts and compare the many blessings in my life, I am ashamed at my decidedly “right handed faith”. I am ready to praise God and thank Him for any and all blessings. When pain, hardship – even minor ones, come, I am so quick to ask “Why me?” “Lord, why don’t You simply spare me the pain?” My heart runs to the wrong question. Why don’t I instinctively respond with the question, “Will I trust, will I bless?” It is because my faith is right handed. I desire and fear to develop ambidextrous faith. I fear it because there is only one way for it to grow - on the job training – practical experience. I desire it because I want to be like Jesus.
As I grieve with the Burkett family from afar, I am amazed at their ambidextrous faith. I pray that they will continue to trust God as they bare the weight of this tragedy with their left hand. May they have the strength to mourn, trust and bless.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

True to our Founding Documents

As I watched the 44th President of the United States of America take the oath of office this morning and listened to his first speech, I thought the tone solemn and appropriate. I was also struck and pleasantly surprised by one particular phrase.

At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents. (President Barak Obama, January 20, 2009).

President Obama seems to be indicating that he places a high value on the ideals of our forbearers, and…our founding documents. I find this encouraging because our Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence and even the Federalist Papers are not often consulted when policy is being discussed. I pray that President Obama intends to keep the intentions of our forbearers in mind as he leads our country. I pray that he doesn’t see our founding documents as “living documents” in the sense that they are understood by the axiom “What does this mean to me?”. I pray that the he follows the more appropriate axiom, “What did the author intend?”

Taking an example from Deuteronomy 17:14ff, I suggested in an earlier entry (He Shall Write for Himself), that the next president might want to consider, as an early act in office, hand copying each document and have each copy approved by an appropriate expert. The pledge to read them regularly and use these hand written documents as his personal reference copies. I think this act (maybe about 30 hours of our President’s time) would do wonders for helping him direct the country.

When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, “I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,” you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves….Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:14-15, 18-20)

Joy of Life 27

One of the greatest joys in my life is watching my kids grow (physically and intellectually). This year we decided to home-school Joseph and Micah. That means that Julie does most of the schooling and I teach only music, math (to Joseph) and some PE. Last November Julie was away taking care of family business and I kept the Mosse home school room open. It was pretty easy since Julie prepared all the lessons. Well Micah was studying the War of 1812 and she wrote the following paragraph. We are very proud of her.

Micah Mosse (9 years old), 11/7/2008

In the year of 1814 Caroline and Mary sowed a huge flag. They gave it to For McHenry. The battle began. The British started firing their rockets and bombs. A little before the battle started, Francis Scott Key got a prisoner free, but they had to stay on Frances’ boat. Anyway, they British began firing. But the ships were too far for Fort McHenry to shoot back! In the middle of the night some boats from the ships were sailing to the shore to attack the fort from behind, but someone saw them. Fort McHenry began firing at them and they went back. In the morning, Caroline and Francis (both from a different direction) saw the flag. Francis begin writing the poem (song).