Like Those Who Dream: Prelude and Chapter 1
-Roy Lessin, Meeting in the Meadow
Each Friday we will be including an excerpt from Roy's memoir, Like Those Who Dream. Since social media has character limitations, we regret that we can not always put the entire content there, but you can read each week's entry in its entirety at our blog, Meeting in the Meadow.
We pray that you are blessed by this week's entry!
As a pre-teen I attended Hebrew school at our local synagogue. Its main purpose was to help prepare me for my Bar Mitzvah at age thirteen. One day during class I asked my Hebrew school teacher who Jesus was. My teacher calmly explained that Jesus was Jewish and was a good man. He went on to say that at some point the Gentiles believed in Jesus as their God, and that the Jewish people believe only in One God. His answer satisfied me at the moment, but not fully. I filed his answer away in my memory and put it in a folder in my heart marked Things about Jesus I Want to Know More About.
A year before I would say goodbye to my teens, God took that folder from my heart and opened up its meaning to me. What I discovered changed my life forever, set me on a journey I never thought possible and completely took me by surprise…
The Ten Year Prayer
How glorious it is for us to have the hands of Jesus upon our lives—
When Jesus stretched out His hands, it meant the extension of so many good things—His hands reached out and gathered the children to His side.
Before I became a teenager, my dad invited my older brother, Don, and me to his apartment for dinner. My mom and dad had divorced a few years earlier when he, an orthodox Jew, became a believer in Jesus Christ. Their marriage was in deep trouble before this, but his acceptance of Christ as his Savior and Messiah was the final blow to their fragile relationship.
My dad’s apartment, which was located above a garage, was small and simple. After our meal, we sat around the dining room table and talked. It didn’t take my dad long to direct the conversation toward our need for Jesus Christ. Don became fidgety. I was nervous, but interested. What I heard my dad say was drawing me in. The more he spoke, the more responsive I became. Slowly, like the unfolding of a great mystery, my heart began to understand what I was hearing.
Don was five years older than I and his influence in my life was huge. He was my hero—I wanted to be with him, act like him, and do what he did. As my dad continued to speak, Don detected my responsiveness and didn’t like it. He grew angry and with a quick move hidden by the table, he kicked me. The toe of his shoe was on target and got my immediate attention. Quickly turning my head toward Don, I saw the anger in his face and became frightened. In that moment my responsiveness toward my dad was quenched and I turned my attention away from what he was saying. (It wouldn’t be until the end of my teen years when I would once again become drawn to my dad’s words about Jesus Christ.)
It was very common for my mom to quiz me after visits with my dad.
“What did your dad say to you tonight?” She would ask, after I returned from one of our outings which usually included dinner at a restaurant and a game of miniature golf.
“He didn’t say much,” I would reply, assuring her that he had not converted me to his beliefs.
“I want you to be careful not to believe what he believes,” she would cautiously remind me.
Her goal was to raise me to be a good Jewish boy. She sent me to Hebrew school at our local synagogue in order to prepare me for my Bar Mitzvah at the age of thirteen.
I wasn’t a very good student. Often, I would frustrate my teacher with my wrong answers, poor pronunciation, or restless conduct. I could easily bring him to a boiling point. I knew I was in trouble when he would reach into his desk drawer, pull out a wooden pencil, break it in half and yell, “Ach! Lessin!”
In spite of it all I stuck with the program, made all my Jewish relatives happy, completed my Bar Mitzvah, and gathered in a huge collection of gifts from family members and friends. Once completed, I quickly lost interest in the synagogue and never returned (except as an older teenager when I would visit the synagogue to steal bottles of liquor from the liquor closet.)
My years of deep rebellion began during my young teen years. Sin led to more sin and the spiral into darkness continued until the age of eighteen. At that point, some very unusual events took place that began to reawaken my spiritual interest.
It was 1960, and my dad had been invited to share his testimony at the International Gideon Convention in Los Angeles. My dad invited me to attend and for some unknown reason I accepted.
The Gideon’s had a good reason to invite my dad to speak at their convention. In 1950, at the age of forty, my dad was a broken man. His business had failed, his health had failed, and his marriage was failing. He was looking at certain divorce and the reality of losing custody of his two sons. That thought, along with everything else that was caving in around him, drove him to despair. He decided he would take the lives of his family and then end his own life. Oddly enough, in the midst of all that turmoil he decided he would go to Las Vegas for “one last fling” and then come back to L.A. and end it all.
“You don’t belong here, Joe,” spoke an unfamiliar voice. Startled, my dad quickly turned to see who was speaking to him. The gambling casino was crowded with people but no one was within speaking distance. Puzzled, he tried to turn his interest back to the gambling tables, but soon lost interest and decided to return to his hotel room.
“Maybe I’ll write something,” he thought, but as he looked around the room he couldn’t find any writing paper.
“Maybe I’ll read.” Again, there was nothing in sight. He started opening some of the dresser drawers and once again came up empty. In one final attempt to find something to occupy his thoughts he opened the drawer in the nightstand. His eyes instantly fell upon a book. Curious, he picked it up and looked at the cover.
“A Bible!” He exclaimed.
He, who was raised an orthodox Jew and spent years in the Synagogue, had never seen an English Bible. Curious, he turned to the book of Genesis, sat down and started to read. The hours flew by as he read late into the night.
The next day he decided to check out of his room and return to LA. His plan to destroy his family was put on hold. Not knowing where he could get another Bible, he decided to steal it. He packed his clothes in his suitcase, where he also put the Gideon Bible along with an ashtray and a towel, which he also stole from the hotel. When he returned home, he hid the Bible. He kept it under the bed and read it secretly whenever he had the chance.
A few months passed and while reading in the book of Isaiah he came across the following passage, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:6-7
My dad’s eyes were opened. He knew that Jesus was the one the prophet spoke of, the one who was his Messiah and Savior. He fell to his knees and prayed, confessing that Jesus was his Messiah and asking God to save him. From that point on my dad radically changed. His fear of death vanished, peace entered his spirit and hope was born in his heart. He made every effort to restore his marriage but his beliefs were not welcomed and divorce quickly followed.
When the Gideon organization heard how one of their Bibles, stolen from a Las Vegas hotel room, had been used by God to help bring a Jewish man to a personal faith in Jesus Christ, they invited him to share his story at various Gideon gatherings. That led to his story being written in their national magazine and eventually an invitation to speak at their International Convention in 1960.
As my dad was concluding his testimony at the Gideon Convention he made a request to the large crowd gathered in the convention hall. “Please pray for my son, Roy,” he pleaded, “He will soon be going into the military and he is not saved.”
I sunk down in my seat, convinced that every eye in the place was on me. Although I was not aware of it at the time, there were people in that meeting who took my dad’s request to heart. A letter, which I received years later, spoke of the events that followed that meeting…
“Your father’s plea to pray for his son who was going into the army, hit my heart like a ton of lead!! I’ve always loved teenagers, and had just recently had to give up a huge high school Sunday School class. I for one went directly from that auditorium to the Burden Bearer’s prayer meeting room and with a dozen others fell on my knees to intercede. As I prayed for you my soul knew deep anguish. I told the others that we had to pray for you EARNESTLY and DESPERATELY, for all hell was fighting your salvation! Others came into the room and how we did pray. Glory was knee deep that night in the prayer room."
A few weeks after attending the Gideon International Convention I was being processed into the Army at Fort Ord, a military base located near Monterrey Bay, California. It was during my six months at Fort Ord that God began to deal with my heart in a strong way. It all started, when out of a curiosity to know about prophecy, I decided to read from the book of Revelation. I had kept a Bible tucked away in my foot locker. It was one my dad had given me when I left for military service. I accepted the gift, never thinking I would ever read it.
After reading several chapters in Revelation I came upon a passage that got my attention. I did not understand what I was reading, but my uneasiness made me aware that I was a candidate to receive judgment. Rather than face the fact that I was in trouble, I decided to put the Bible away and not read it again. However, my uneasiness and fear would not go away.
After finishing my six months of active duty in the Army Reserves I returned to Los Angeles, started college, moved into an apartment with my brother, Don, and found a job making pizza. I was studying to be a football coach, but was unaware of the change that would soon turn my world upside down.
The apartment building we lived in was close to the college I was attending and the apartment units were filled with a lot of young people and young couples. Drinking and partying were common. We set up a bar in our apartment, became amateur bartenders and lined up the liquor bottles in our window sills after finishing them off.
It was during my first semester in college that my dad came to pay us a visit. When he saw the way we were living and our outward rebellion toward God, he became a discouraged man. He returned to his car with a heavy heart. After all the years of crying out to God on our behalf, he could not imagine two people more rebellious and hardened to the Gospel than his two sons.
“Deal with them as rebels,” he prayed, “I turn them over to you, Lord.” He left us in God’s hands and drove away, wondering what would become of us.
Summer break followed my first semester of college and I needed a job. When someone in the apartment building approached me about working with him for the summer, I quickly accepted. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the man I was working with was a crook. He did a great job of training me in the art of how to con money from gullible people who wanted something for nothing. Thankfully, our working relationship only lasted for the summer (Years later, he was arrested and spent time in prison. It was a reminder to me of what could have been if not for the mercies of God and the prayers of His people.)
Before I started working with my neighbor, I had a belief system based upon my Jewish training of doing good works, and my limited knowledge of the Ten Commandments. Simply stated, I believed that if I kept more commandments than I had broken I would make God happy and when I died everything would turn out okay. Before the summer of 1960, according to my calculations, I had only broken four commandments and kept six; this gave me a false sense of security and I thought all was well. By the end of that summer my entire system of self-righteousness would be completely shattered!
It was late one summer night in a motel room in Sacramento that the reality of my sin and rebellion against God came crashing down upon me. In the darkness of my room the Holy Spirit moved upon my conscience, and the Commandments that I had used in an attempt to justify myself were now being used to condemn me. I knew I was guilty, lost and had no hope of ever making things right with God. I didn’t know what to do; in my anguish I called out to God, “Show me the way out.” It didn’t take God long to answer that prayer.
By the end of the summer I met a girl who was religious and attended an Academy in another state. Wanting to impress her, I decided to buy her a new Bible that she could use when she returned to school (I didn’t know that our relationship would be short lived and that the contact was used by God to get me back in touch with my dad.)
“Where do I buy a Bible?” I wondered. It didn’t take long for me to realize that my dad was the only person I knew who had any knowledge of Bibles.
It was mid-August when I picked up the phone and dialed my dad’s number. I didn’t often make contact with him.
“I’ve something to ask you.”
“What is it?”
“I’ve recently met a girl that I’ve been dating. She goes to a religious school and I would like to buy her a Bible as a gift before she returns to her classes. Can you help me out?”
“Yes, I can help. Would you like to come over one night for dinner and we can talk about it.”
“That’s great. When should I come?”
We set the dinner date for August 15th. When I arrived, I thought my dad would be impressed that his son had met a religious girl and wanted to buy her a Bible. During the meal we talked about the new girl I’d met and briefly about Bibles, but the conversation soon turned to my own spiritual needs. We talked for nearly two hours about the Gospel and then the conversation became very personal.
“Are you ready to give your life to Jesus Christ?” my dad asked.
“Is this something I can try out?” I replied.
“No,” he responded, “Jesus is not an experiment, and He is not like an aspirin you take to see if it works. If you come to Him, you come all the way, with all your heart. You must receive Him as your Lord as well as your Savior.”
“If I believe what you have told me tonight, is that enough?” I asked.
“No,” my dad replied.
“How come?” I responded.
“If you were in the desert dying of thirst and I handed you a glass of water you would still die of thirst, even if you believed the water could save your life. You must drink the water for it to truly benefit you. Believing that Jesus can save you is important, but like that glass of water, you must receive Him into your life.”
When I heard those words I became very uncomfortable. I knew it meant a commitment on my part and I began to make excuses.
“I believe that what you said tonight is true, but I want to think about it and maybe we can talk again another time.”
Immediately, my dad replied with a Scripture, “Today is the day of salvation, now is the acceptable time.”
That verse put a roadblock in front of my excuse.
Feeling trapped, I came up with another excuse.
“What would my friends think…what would my mom think if I received Jesus?”
My dad immediately replied with another Scripture, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
I was trapped again, but this time I knew it was time for me to make a decision. I must either totally accept or totally reject what God was presenting to me that night through the Gospel.
My dad must have wondered, “Could my son, who seemed so far away from Jesus a few months ago, now be so very close. Could I be seeing the fulfillment of the promise God gave me years ago from the book of Isaiah, “Your sons will come from afar.” Could it be that tonight I will see the answer to a prayer that I have carried in my heart for ten long years?”
At last the struggle ended. My heart said, “Yes.” I had counted the cost. I knew what it meant. Jesus would not only be my Savior but also my Lord. I was ready to come to Him 100%. There was only one direction to go, only one set of footprints to follow, only one voice to obey, only one will to be done. I knelt down in front of my dad’s couch. He knelt beside me and we prayed. The prayer was simple, but real. My faith reached out and made contact with the living God.
On the drive back to my apartment that night my mind went over what had just taken place, what I had done, and what changes it would make in my life. No flashing lights went off, no earthquake, no goose bumps, but there was, deep within me, a knowing that between God and me everything was okay…
Had I known at the moment what I would soon face from my brother, my mother, and the rest of my family I might not have been so anxious to return to my apartment.
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©2022 Roy Lessin, Meeting in the Meadow. ©2021 DaySpring, used with permission. All rights reserved. Book available through DaySpring and other Christian online retailers.