[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #317 ----1/5/03

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From: "Bob Tolliver" <lifeunlimited@...>
Date: Mon, 5 Jan 2004 16:49:39 +0200
Standing Shoulder To Shoulder Together As 
We Fight the Good Fight of Faith

A personal letter of encouragement to You, written solely to "lift up hands that hang down".

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SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #317 ---- 1/5/03

Title:  "Sleepless In Seattle ---- and Everywhere Else"


Dear Partner and Friend:

Greetings from a cold and snowy Ukraine.  It appears weather is slowly but finally becoming "normal" for this part of the world.  The daily high temperatures dropped into the mid teens yesterday for the first time all winter.  We have had snow off and on (more "on" than "off") since Friday, with probably six inches on the ground right now.  It is still snowing lightly as I write.



POT POURRI:

1.  Thanks for praying for the team of students from a Christian university.  All but one of the final approved members have arrived safely.  This has been a major battle for them to get here.  I cannot remember any team Jo Ann and I have ever led that went through any greater struggles.  It has reminded me of what Paul might have been thinking when he talks about Satan resisting him in his endeavors.  

The team began with 19 members, but lost four before ever leaving the country.  That's par for the course.  Then they had a change in leadership.  One member broke his leg and barely made the trip, still limping.  Several members had major struggles raising financial support.  At least one team member had problems with passport and visa.  To top it off, when they arrived in Kiev last Friday, one member discovered the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington had dated her visa wrong and she could not enter the country until the 6th of January . . . so, she's currently in Frankfurt, Germany, with one of our colleagues waiting to enter the country tomorrow.

We are really impressed with the team.  Although it is a "younger" team than most with some "teen ager" characteristics showing occasionally, Jo Ann and I are impressed with their love for the Lord and their talents.  We are also a bit amused at the naivety we see with most of them.  In spite of the abundance of material we sent them on how to prepare for this culture and this weather, many of them still hadn't "gotten it" when Jo Ann and I returned to Kiev yesterday and left them with a church in a village about two hours away.  As we drove away, we laughed as we watched them standing in line to use the recently discovered brand new "squatty potty", shivering because they didn't follow our admonition to "dress warm!"  and "layer your clothing!".

By now reality has hit them square in the face because they have all spent their first very long day of ministry well into the night and then have gone to the homes of believers who have very little in the way of personal comforts.  It will be interesting to see how they are doing when we return Wednesday to join them for Christmas Day services in several villages before going door to door Christmas caroling.  You might continue praying for them.  They will not be the same when they come to the end of their journey on the 23rd.

I wonder what they'll look like when we see them Wednesday morning???

2.  We have added another feature to our letters to you.  As a reinforcement to our website, we have set up a series of online photo albums about our work here in Ukraine.  The first album covers Christmas activities and scenery here in Kiev, and it can be accessed by going to  http://community.webshots.com/user/01lum.  There are 21 pictures that you might enjoy seeing.  I will be adding a "family" album very soon, hopefully this week.  Then, I will begin adding other albums that depict our work, the people, the scenery, and most importantly of all, virtual prayer walking.  We're also considering a "pray for" album where we could post pictures of people, projects, places, etc., updated regularly, from this part of the world.  So, I hope this will enable you to identify more closely with what God is doing in our lives and in the work to which He has called us.

3.  Continue praying for Joy Wootton!  Amazingly, there have been some signs of improvement.  Though still paralyzed from the neck down, Joy is showing signs of movement in her facial muscles, and her disposition is improving.  That in itself is miraculous since just a few weeks ago they were anticipating having to take her off of life support.  A number of readers have personally contacted the Wootton's and are now receiving direct updates about Joy's condition . . . . I've seen some familiar e-mail addresses on Jim's letters.  If you'd like to write them and/or receive updates, drop Jim a note at woottonj4g@....  

4.  Also pray for this student team as they minister in several villages inhabited by victims of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident.  They are speaking and singing in multiple services in several villages each day, working with children and youth, doing door-to-door witnessing, and doing Christmas caroling with the church people there.  They return to Kiev on Thursday where they will work with us through the following Tuesday in a metropolitan setting, helping us in our services, doing strategic prayer walking, and witnessing in several of our English classes and Bible studies.  Then beginning the 14th they will be back out in some villages another direction from Kiev.



ONE OF MY BLESSINGS:

One of my greatest personal joys is hearing from folks who happen to read my weekly letters to you.  Many of them, like these two brothers below, are people I've never heard of and will probably never meet before we all get to heaven.  Often such comments are the kind that encourage me to keep going.  You'll never know how many times I've been tempted to quit writing . . . . after all, five years is a long time to keep writing to faceless names on a list.  It's hard to believe I wrote my first one five years ago last week.  So, if you enjoy these weekly meanderings, then you'll also be blessed by what these brothers have shared.

1.  I enjoy your "Shoulder to Shoulder" and read them all. You are a thinker and I like that. Keep up the good work you are doing to glorify our Father, may the Holy Spirit have His way in your life as He uses you to lift up Jesus Christ there in that land. You must be in our Father's perfect plan that He establish before the foundation of the world. Keep on keeping on.  Your brother in Christ, Jerry xxxx, Xxxxx xxxx Church, San Jose, CA.

2.  Greetings In Christ! My name is Bill xxxx. I am a pastor who with his wife feels a call to missions. I feel like I know you because I have been reading your Shoulder to Shoulder since 1998. I do not even know who put me on your list.  This is the first time I have ever responded to you. Your newsletter has helped me many, many times over the last five or so years. I want to thank you for what you do. Your writing, your transparency concerning your personal journey has been an inspiration to me and my wife.



SLEEPLESS NIGHTS:

Last night was the first in four that I had a restful and fairly completed sleep.  The previous nights have, frankly, been horrible.  They have been short, uncomfortable, and wearying.  Between heartburn, holiday noises, and ministry matters, I've not slept well.  I had no idea there were so many fire crackers in one city . . . . and such huge ones!  

Through it all, I've recognized that at least part of this has been a spiritual battle with a measure of significance attached to it.  I also think it has had some relationship with the battles the mission team had in getting here.

Whether it has been the work of a strategist or a mere opportunist, it has not been a pleasant experience.

There are times when everyone goes through sleepless nights, and they happen for various reasons.  Because I've already written much to you today, I'll not belabor that fact with explanations you already know.  You have your own scenarios and experiences, and have your own acquaintances who have gone through those miserable hours when nothing you try will offer you the physical, emotional, social, or spiritual comfort needed for a good night's rest.  If restless tossing and turning were an Olympic sport, you would probably win a medal.

So, let's move on to some basic and hopefully practical questions.  First, . . .

1.  What causes sleepless nights?  I suppose there various reasons, but here are some that come to mind.

+  A violation of some basic law of nature.  You may not think that has any spiritual significance, but it does.  Anytime we violate one of God's laws, whether it be "spiritual" or "natural" in its make up, it is still His . . . . and violating it reaps consequences.  Physical or emotional exhaustion, injury, sickness, over work, strained muscles, bad eating habits, too much TV, or any number of other things that violate natural laws can create sleeplessness.  So, a good practice is that of evaluating His natural laws to see if you have brought sleeplessness upon yourself by breaking one of them.

+  Unhealthy or damaged relationships.  The Bible is clear in telling us to not allow sunset to come without dealing with anger.  Harsh words, jealous thoughts, envy, bitterness, unforgiveness . . . . all these things will keep you from sleeping.  Even secular psychologists and psychiatrists know this.  But you don't have to be one or have one to know it for yourself.  Problematic relationships with others . . . . and also with God . . . . can keep you awake at night.

+  Guilt, bitterness, or the absence of forgiveness.  David agonized on a sleepless bed because of his sin.  Many husbands and wives have tossed and turned on their beds because of unfaithfulness, harsh words, or mistreatment (intentional or unintentional) over which they were being convicted or of which they were victim.  Such conviction requires repentance, and it requires both asking and receiving forgiveness.

+  Attack from Satan.  Night time and darkness are two of Satan's fondest hiding places.  He loves to cower in the shadows and attack us in our minds and spirits . . . even our bodies sometimes . . . through panic attacks, fears, worries, condemnations and a myriad of other gimmicks he uses to unsettle God's children.  He is a master at playing mind games, and one of the most opportune times is when our minds are resting and are not focusing on spiritual matters or on life's activities.

+  God is speaking.  He either has something to say to you, or He just wants some time with you.  It is His prerogative to wake you up in the middle of the night if He so chooses in order to get your attention and speak to you.  As with both Samuel and David, some of their most precious encounters with God was in night time hours.  With David, it seems that he had the most to say to God, where in Samuel's case, he simply said, as you and I should, "speak Lord, I, your servant, am listening."

This brings us to the second question, . . . .

2.  What is the purpose of sleepless nights?  Regardless of what in the visible world may have brought on the sleeplessness, obviously there are a number of special reasons for which God will allow us sleepless nights.  Here are a few.

+  To get our attention.  Whether it is our own conscience, our own bodies, or God Himself, sleepless nights can get our attention that something is not right, . . . . or, conversely, that everything  is fine.  Either way, we have been notified of something significant.  Just don't forget it before morning.  Even a quick scan of scripture shows us many instances where God or one of His angels got the attention of someone at night.  Daniel, Moses, Joseph, Jacob, Mary, Samuel, Peter, Paul, . . . the list is endless.

+  To show us something.  You've probably had this happen more than once . . . . a thought or a passage of scripture, or maybe the answer to a problem or the finalization of an impending decision comes to you in the dark hours of night time.  When the flurry of daily activity has subsided, we are often most receptive to pick up on thoughts, ideas, or insights, that we have thus far failed to recognize.  Don't miss those opportunities.

+  To provide opportunities for unobstructed worship.  I cannot remember all the different people who have commented to me at one time or another how they experienced a deep, intimate, restorative time of unhindered worship when they were unable to sleep.  My own father recounted times when that seemed to be the only reason for him to inexplicably awaken from a sound sleep . . . . just so he could have some time to worship the Lord, praising Him for His goodness and thanking Him for His blessings.

+  To take us into unhindered intercession and/or warfare.  On more than one occasion I've been awakened in the middle of the night, immediately sensing the need to pray for someone or to come against the powers of darkness who seemed to be trying to defeat, discourage, or even destroy.  Jo Ann often uses her night time "awake moments" to pray for others, . . . . and even sometimes to remind the Devil of his unauthorized attack and his previously concluded defeat.

+  To speak to our hearts and reveal God's plan.  Of all the varied reasons for sleepless nights, this one seems to be the one with which I am most familiar.  Especially since moving to Kiev one year ago last Friday, I would say that God has probably used night time visits to either reveal, confirm, or reassure me of His plan than just about any other means.  When that happens, it seems the Lord usually concludes by reminding me that the plans and the future are both in good hands, so I can go ahead and get some sleep.  It doesn't take long thereafter to drop off into peaceful, restful, rejuvenating slumber.

+  To enjoy fellowship.  This may be the next most significant experience of my sleeplessness . . . . but usually only after I allow my frustrations to subside and my mind to slow down from the previous day's events.  

We've been studying the Gospel of John for several months during our Tuesday night Bible studies for those who attend our English classes at church.  In the earlier chapters we often saw moments when Jesus was basically not doing much of anything; . . . . just hanging around with His disciples, enjoying being with them.  He had nothing profound to say, and no special miracle to perform.  The Gospel of Mark especially portrays this side of Jesus.

I've often imagined Jesus catching and scaling fish with His disciples, skipping rocks across the waters of Galilee with little children, climbing trees with little boys, fixing the broken arm of a little girl's doll, dancing a jig to the latest tune with some teens, or relaxing in some friend's house over a cup of tea.  There is no doubt that the Bible clearly explains to us that the Father longs for uninterrupted fellowship; that's why we were created.  Sometimes He has to wait until night to get it from us.

Kind of sad, isn't it . . . .

Well, that leaves just one question for us . . . .

3.  What do you do with sleepless nights?  How do you handle sleepless nights?  I often don't handle them well; I'm still learning to be a good steward of those unexpected hours which God has either planned or allowed to enter my world.  So, in some ways, I don't necessarily write from an abundance of personal experience.  However, here are some ideas for you to consider.

+  Think about your blessings.  That's so obvious.  Too often the pressures of living push the memories of God's goodness to the back of our minds.  A sleepless night provides a good opportunity to reach back there and drag them out to review.  Of course, you have to be careful, because you just might wake your spouse up with your singing, laughing, or clapping . . . . especially if you think about them long enough.  A quiet but real big smile and stretch would probably suffice.

+  Talk with the Father.  You've heard it before . . . . "instead of counting sheep, talk to the Shepherd."  Isn't it fantastic that we don't have to mouth words into audible sound to talk with Him!  The gift of silent speaking is an amazing phenomenon, when you think about it.  

The greatest thing, though, is to realize that God is ready and willing to talk with you about virtually anything.  I still remember Dr. Stephen Olford's profound comment years ago, "Anything that is of interest to you, is of interest to God."  So, if you're going to be awake for awhile, you might as well talk to your Father about things that are important to you, and that maybe you've been putting off or have been to busy to discuss with Him.

+  Remind Satan of the finished work of Christ.  Frankly, I don't think it's a particularly good idea to get into intense spiritual warfare during the night unless it is absolutely necessary and you are really wide awake and alert.  You need to be at your best.  However, if the Holy Spirit has notified you that there is some reminding and reinforcing that needs to be done against the powers of darkness, feel free to declare the facts to Satan and his minions.  It doesn't need to be a  furniture destroying, flame throwing, encounter that will scare your spouse to death.  A simple, quiet, "bug off!" will do.  He knows, and he knows God knows; he just needs to know that you know. . . . you know?

+  Pray.  How obvious!  But, how so often overlooked!  Pray for your city . . . . for your family . . . . for your neighbors . . . . for anything that comes to mind.  Become a "midnight intercessor".  While most of us don't do much praying at night because we're not awake, it is still a great opportunity for what might be some of the purest and deepest praying we ever do.  So, if you end up wide awake in the middle of the night, just allow the Holy Spirit to systematically bring people, subjects, and events to your mind, one at a time, . . . and then pray over them.  It's really quite refreshing, because you'll probably have a greater clarity of mind and simplicity of spirit during times of prayer at that time than at any other time.  No other people around, nothing else on your mind, nothing else to do, nothing to distract.

Now, if you choose to do this, be prepared; chances are your sleeplessness will be prolonged as you pray.  But, that's alright, because the Bible tells us that "He gives to His beloved, even in his sleep."

+  Read.  Get out of bed, go turn on a light in another room, and read . . . . your Bible.  Frankly, I don't encourage reading other books . . .  unless they're boring enough to put you back to sleep.  Some people like to memorize scripture, but I don't like to do that because it activates my mind too much by forcing me to concentrate more than I should, especially if I'm going to try to get back to sleep.

But, reading the Bible in the dark night hours is a wonderful exercise.  Of course, if you get hold of an exciting passage, it may keep you awake even longer.  But, it's worth the risk.

+  Shut up, and listen.  Have you ever wondered what might happen in a believer's life if he or she allowed God to talk at least as much as he or she does?  A special part, . . . . perhaps the most important part, . . . . of our relationship with God is to hear His voice.  But, too often we're doing all the talking, . . . . or we're interrupting Him with stupid remarks like, "Yes, but . . . .", or "Oh, I already know that, but . . . .", or "but You don't understand", or some other ridiculous ignorance-revealing comment.

How about having an agreement with God that you will start taking some time, especially late at night when you can't sleep, to keep your mouth shut and let Him talk as long as He wants without any interruptions, but with your undivided attention?  I wonder what that would be like?



SO, WHAT ABOUT MY SLEEPLESS NIGHTS?

You may be wondering about why I had so many really tough nights recently.  Probably there were four reasons:

1.  Heart burn.  In looking back, I remembered that three of those four nights were preceded by some really stupid eating patterns . . . . either too much food, eating too late in the evening, highly seasoned food, or highly caffeinated drinks like coke or coffee.  So, much of my sleeplessness was my own fault.  The only consolation I get out of knowing that is that even then the Father was faithful to communicate with me even if He didn't initiate my long hours of sleeplessness.

2.  Some personal reminders.  The Holy Spirit was very gracious during some of the past few nights to remind me of a few things God had previously said to me, particularly about His faithfulness, the "factual-ness" and legitimacy of His purpose for our being here, and other related matters.

3.  Spiritual attack.  There is no doubt that some of my sleepless hours were caused by a direct attack of the enemy.  At this point in my life it usually doesn't take long for me to recognize an attack, especially if it comes with a moment of confusion, intense fear, or a feeling of being pressed in from an unseen force.  When I awake with a start and immediately feel panic, fear, disoriented, or really sour and out of sorts, I know it's an attack.  Those may not be the symptoms you experience, but those are usually pretty good indicators for me that I'm under personal attack for some reason.

4.  Future of our ministry.  God spoke some pretty powerful things to me during those nights regarding our ministry here in Kiev.  Some of it was reassuring, and some of it was surprising.  None of it was all confirming.  So, Jo Ann and I will be interested to what else the Father shows us, whether in the brilliance of daylight, or in midnight hours (I'd really prefer the daylight) concerning His plans for coming months and years.  All I know is that it will probably not be exactly as we had been anticipating.  I think there will be some surprises for us, and, frankly, as we've discussed that probability, we're both very excited.

Of course, what else is new?  God's ways seldom are.  Otherwise, they'd be too explainable and predictable.

How boring!

Have a great week, my friend.

And, have a good night's rest tonight.

In case you don't, . . . . maybe try some of my suggestions.  Then let me know what happened.

In His Bond, and For His Kingdom,

Bob Tolliver
IBC - Hope4Kyiv
lifeunlimited@...
Subscribe to "Hope4Kyiv" letter
Bob Tolliver -- Psalm 2:8
Copyright January, 2004
Life Unlimited Ministries
  lifeunlimited@...
   www.peopleteams.org/kiev/team/tollivers.htm (Personal ministry)
   www.peopleteams.org/kiev (General team ministry)
   http://community.webshots.com/user/01lum for our pix albums.

If this letter has blessed you, feel free to forward it, with proper credits, to any and all you wish.

Please do NOT hit reply to this letter.  This is an automated unmanned system.  If you want to write Bob, send directly to lifeunlimited@.... Replying to "Shoulder To Shoulder" mailer gets you nowhere.


REMEMBER ---- "We will not Work where we have not prayed."  (Todd Golden)

Online Resources on Ukraine are . . . .
    www.uazone.net
    www.hope4cee.org
    www.ukraineinfo.us
   www.peopleteams.org/ukrainians
   www.reachukraine.org 

May I Recommend . . . .

If you have a heart for God and would like to be encouraged in your life and ministry, 
    and you have a burden for your church, your community, and the world, 
    then you may want to receive . . .
www.cnsnews.com for daily world news without a liberal, godless bias.
www.worldprayerteam.org ---- A world-wide network for praying together.
www.watchword.org ---- excellent resources on revival, prayer, missions.
www.waymakers.org ---- resources on prayer, evangelism, etc.
www.operationiraqcare.org ---- To adopt and pray for a special historic city in Iraq.
http://www.nppn.org ---- "National Pastors' Prayer Network" newsletter.  ~  
    email: phil@....  Register your PPG: http://www.nppn.org/ppg/ .
Usprayercenter@... ---- U. S. World Prayer Center.
www.cityreaching.com ---- City Reaching/City Impact Roundtable.
fridayfax-subscribe@... ---- Wolfgang Simpson's "Friday Fax" from New Zealand.
www.LifeAction.org ---- "Life Action Outreach".
www.revivalcsa.co.za ---- "Bulletin On Revival" by Francois Carr in South Africa.
www.yifa.org ---- "Youth Interceding For America".
www.missionamerica.org ---- "Mission America" .
www.lighthousemovement.com ---- "The Lighthouse Movement". Click on "Lighthouses".

Other Great Resources Are:
www.e-sword.net (one of the best free download Bible study site I've ever seen!)
"Christian Communications Toolkit" (using internet wisely) at http://associate.com/camsoc/ctt/
Free software or shareware listings, http://www.associate.com/camsoc/crop/software.html#freewin.
"Christian Computing Magazine", www.ccmag.com.
CCMag discussion newsletter, ccmag-subscribe@....
Thousands of Free Christian graphics at http://www.christiangraphicdesign.com/premierinfo.htm

Secular News on Kiev and Ukraine will give you interesting views at . . .
   www.kyivweekly.com
   www.kievpost.com
   www.kyivpost.com
   www.ukrainenews.com