Tag: Prayer & Fasting

Our Wedding Anniversary

Over the course of the years, my beautiful wife and I have covered a lot of territory and I’m blessed to have been all over the world together with her. We’ve lived in three continents (Europe / Asia / North America), five countries (Russia / Poland / Saudi Arabia / Qatar / USA), seven cities, and 15 apartments/houses

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I began praying for Iwona when I was seven. Even though I didn’t know her name, God knew who she was and where she was located. I would pray that wherever she was on earth that God would encounter her, protect her, and that our paths would cross in His timing. I prayed this way for fourteen years until I was twenty one.

In September 1991, during a 40-day fast in Russia, God asked me about the list I had pertaining to my requirements of a ‘perfect’ wife.

He said, “Do you want what you think is best or what I think is best?”

I said, “Of course–whatever You think is best!”

He told me to throw away my wishlist. I said okay but I’m not budging on three points:

  1. She has to be as strong as me spiritually, or stronger.
  2. She has to prophesy over me.
  3. She has to be a virgin, because I was one.

One month later, Iwona arrived into Moscow to join our ministry staff. At that time, she spoke four languages. English was not one of them.

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On December 13, 1991, I was invited to her 26th birthday party and went because there would be food. It was the month the Soviet Union collapsed and food was scarce in stores. I observed at the party that Iwona wasn’t eating, so I asked her roommate, Ania, if I should make her a plate. She said no because Iwona is fasting on only water and tea. I asked her how long is she fasting for. She said, “Eighteen days”. I thought 18 days was an odd number and then asked, “Why eighteen days?” She said there were 18 staff members on our missions team and that she was praying and fasting for a different staff member each day. I was intrigued! I’d never witnessed church leaders to that for their staff / team. I asked if she had prayed for me yet. She said my day was in three days, so I asked her to tell me if God would give her anything for me. She kindly agreed. She then picked up a guitar and started singing for everyone; I was astonished what I heard and witnessed.

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Three days later, there was a knock at my door. Ania handed me a three-page letter that she translated for me from Iwona. I closed my door, read it, and then cried for two hours. It melted my heart. It was like a love letter from God. Like a postscript to what God told me during my 40-day fast. I then asked God, “Who’s this Polish Catholic girl?”

He said as clear as a bell, “This is the one you have been praying for since you were seven.” That was it! At that point, I knew. I would have never guessed a four-year-older, Polish Catholic, who didn’t speak English, living in Moscow as a lay missionary would be my wife-to-be.

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With a Polish/Russian/English dictionary, we began to share our dreams, goals, hearts’ desires, visions, and plans that we each had. I’d never met someone who thought so much like me in my life.

After spending many hours with her for the following 15 days, on New Year Eve, after a staff party, around midnight we went sledding down a huge hill behind the apartment complex. When we crashed in the snow at the bottom of the hill by the Moscow River, she came right out and said, “I didn’t move to Russia to waste my time with a bunch of Americans, I came here to convert as many Russians as I can to Christianity; so please tell me what’s your intentions and if this is going somewhere, because if not, I don’t have time for this.” I gulped. I was not ready to say anything. I thought people should date for two years first, but she threw the ball in my court and I had no choice but to tell her. I said, “Well, God told me that you’re going to be my wife.” She asked how did He tell me. I told her the whole story and then she said, “Good, God told me you were going to be my husband too” I said, “Okay, so will you marry me?” She said, “Yes.” (We highly recommend that couples should not do this as quickly as we did.)

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We then decided from that moment we would fast again until we each received three confirmations from God that this was truly His will. Twelve days later, we broke the fast and shared with each other the three confirmations we each received.

I called my parents to tell them the good news. They weren’t thrilled; neither was my sending church. It’s a long story that I may share at a later date or in a book. Months later, I was basically given a proposition from the leadership of my sending church:

“Leave Iwona and keep your youth group in Moscow or leave Russia and keep Iwona.”

They gave me several days to think about it. I told them on the spot that I didn’t need several days; I knew my answer.

I told them, “I am keeping Iwona; she’s my future.”

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We were told to leave Russia that month, December 1992, and that we couldn’t meet with the youth / young adult group to explain the reasons why we were leaving. Leadership spread a slanderous rumor about us and said that we would never be ministry again. Got my first real dose of spiritual abuse then at the age of 22. I flew back to America on Christmas Day and Iwona took a train to Poland.

I was told that I couldn’t see her for one year to prove that I really loved her, which ended up turning into 15 months, as the test I had to pass.

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From that cold Russian New Year’s eve night in Moscow where I proposed to Iwona, it took two and a half years before all was said and done and we were able to get married.

As life has moved us closer together, we now have three beautiful kids, and she’s still the woman of my dreams and always will be!

To be continued…

The waltz at reception
Dancing a waltz at the reception

Day 40: Should I eat or continue?

Should I eat or continue? All my friends at IHOP are rejoicing about breaking their 40-fast today. I have lost 25 lbs. during this fast as well as other things in my soul and flesh. But I have been a little distracted during this fast because we have had guest from Poland staying at our house the ENTIRE time. Iwona and I have been cooking meals for them, driving them around, spending a lot of late nights talking with them. I really enjoy them, but during an extended fast you really start to draw inwardly and want to spend more time alone and read a lot more. I was not afforded that luxury this time.

Today, I took some Poles to Sweet Tomatoes for lunch after taking them shopping. The salad and soup looked so good, I decided to have a salad and soup.

It did not satisfy me. I am hungry and thirsty for more of God. I decided to “Press Delete” on that meal and continue with my fast. How long will I go? I don’t know right now. Maybe until I get a breakthrough. I yearn to be alone and alone with Him.

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth – for your love is more delightful than wine. Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the young women love You! Take me away with you – let us hurry! Song of Songs 1:1-4

Day 37: Love stronger than death

Bernard of Clairvaux speaks of a depth of prayer that can properly be called “death” – not a death to life, but a death to what holds us back from true life and union with God.

How I long often to be the victim of this death that I may escape the snares of death, that I may not feel the deadening blandishments of a sensual life, that I may be steeled against evil desire, against the surge of cupidity, against the goads of anger and impatience, against the anguish of worry and the miseries of care… How good the death that does not take away life but makes it better; good in that the body does not perish but the soul is exalted. – Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard calls this deeper prayer of “death” contemplation.

This kind of ecstasy, in my opinion, is alone or principally called contemplation. Not to be gripped during life by material desires is a mark of human virtue; but to gaze without the use of bodily likenesses is the sign of angelic purity. Each, however, is a divine gift, each is a going out of oneself, each a transcending of self, but in one one goes much farther than in the other.

One of the main ways we open ourselves for this greater love to posses us is through prayer. We need to remember thought that the spiritual life is not primarily about certain practices of piety and techniques of prayer, but about a relationship. It’s about responding to the One who has created and redeemed us, and who loves us with a love stronger than death, a love that desires to raise us from the dead. Much that is true of human relationships is also true of our relationship with God. Human relationships of friendship or marriage need time, attention, and care for them to continue and to grow. The same is true of our relationship with God. We have been called to union but we need to respond. As we turn to God in conversion or in a deeper awakening, besides turning away from deliberate sin – which deforms the soul, blocks the relationship and offends the Person who has sacrificed His life for us – we need to positively build the relationship by paying attention to God.

How great is the power of PRAYER!… I say very simply to God what I wish to say, without composing beautiful sentences, and He always understands me. For me, prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus. – St. Thérèse of Lisieux