Thursday, October 13, 2011

11 Steps to a Quiet Heart

Have you heard of Elisabeth Elliot? This is a list she wrote in one of her newsletters that has helped me to focus my energies on God and strive to develop "an undivided heart" (Psalm 86:11). Not that reverence has an exact formula, but I do hope it can be helpful to you as well.

1. Go to God first. Kneel in silence. Lift up your heart and hands. Listen. “I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him” (2 Samuel 15:26).

2. Receive the Givens and the Not-Givens. “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup, and have made my lot secure” (Psalm 16:5).

3. In acceptance lies peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

4. It is always possible to do the will of God. “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15; 15:10). “Let the weakest, let the humblest remember, that in his daily course he can if he will, shed around him almost a heaven” (F.W. Robertson).

5. Do it now. “I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands” (Psalm 119:60). “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow” (James 4:14).

6. Love means sacrifice. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16). Memorize 1 Corinthians 13:1-8.

7. Choose your attitude. “Your attitude should be that of Christ Jesus, who … made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.… He humbled himself” (Philippians 2:5, 7, 8).

8. Analyze your struggle. Is it merely delayed obedience? “For some it is ‘Down crosses and up umbrellas!’” but I am persuaded that we must take heaven with the wind and the rain in our faces” (Samuel Rutherford). “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free” (Psalm 119:32).

9. Give it all to Jesus. “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25). “I am willing to receive what You send, to do without what You withhold, to relinquish what You take, to suffer anything You inflict, to do what You command, to be what You ask me to be—at any cost, now and forever” (Anonymous).

10. Do the next thing. “In the evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I had been commanded” (Ezekiel 24:18). “Five minutes of drastic obedience would make things as clear as a sunbeam” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest).

11. Give thanks always and for everything (Ephesians 5:20). “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it” (Psalm 141:5).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

International Delight

In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. (Isaiah 2:2)
Sometimes it feels like I can travel the world just by walking the streets of New York.

I've described living here as a culture shock, and I mean that not just because there's a different culture in the Northeast than in the South, but also because there are so MANY different cultures all in one place! You know, the whole melting pot thing. That should have been a "Duh!" from the beginning, but I guess I'm beginning to see people as belonging to another country or culture rather than just being another New Yorker taking up space on the sidewalk.

I've experienced glimpses of Eritrea, North India, Korea, China, Mexico, Italy, the Middle East, and the Islands... in the food I've eaten, the languges I've heard, and the clothing I've seen!

But the best part of having such a strong international influence here is at church. We have visitors who have never been to a church or read the Bible before! A couple weeks ago we met a girl visiting from Spain who happened to be staying at the hostel where we meet. She asked, "You speak truth. What are you all about?" and suddenly we had an opportunity to be in communication with someone overseas. And a few weeks ago, our Tuesday night Bible study on the Law of Moses was taught by a brother from India (who converted from the Hindu religion). This lesson was on idolatry, and he taught with the insight of someone who has been a part of idolatry in the past and the heart of someone whose entire family is still Hindu. It was powerful!

Thank you, God, for these opportunities. Thank you for the richness we find as we worship with your children from all walks of life and from all over the world. Thank you for the unity we have through Christ!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Power of God

Photo Source

In the midst of a sea of strange-looking people, sometimes I see a very nice and happy "traditional" family--the women in skirts and tops that aren't three sizes too small, the children obediently and calmly walking beside their parents, and men without tattoos or piercings or shorts to their knees. And while I want to think that this family is a beautiful picture of what the Gospel can do in the lives of Christ's followers... I usually notice these men have unshaven sidelocks and are wearing yarmulkes (a.k.a. yamakas), and realize they're Jewish, and wonder, "How can a family be so moral, and yet they don't even accept Jesus as Lord?"

It's been a hard and sometimes confusing lesson to learn: what sets us apart from other very religious people who are more devout than we are? It's easy to be fooled into thinking our being "conservative" is what saves us, and yet there are people in nearly all religions who are just as conservative. Or similarly, that because I pray several times a day, I have a faith that is stronger than other people's... and yet there are Muslims here who bow down five times a day to pray. What sets me apart from the world when there's also a particular sect of Jews who don't watch television, use cell phones, or wear the latest fashions?

Seriously. Stop and think about that for a second. When an outsider looks at your life, is there anything that sets you apart from the most devout of another religion, or is it just a different set of doctrine, or a different belief about God?

I have a hunch I know what it is, or at least should be:

Because of Jesus, we know love. And that love is redemptive. It has transforming power. And instead of telling us how, God has shown us how by coming to earth Himself. He demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The world has given us so many definitions of love that it's easy to miss the entire point of Christ's life and fail to see that Christ's sacrifice wasn't just motivated by love... His suffering and giving of Himself is God's very definition of love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might love through Him.

Christ's life of suffering, sacrifice, and service is the very life He calls us to. Does He invite us to eternal life? Yes, but only through His cross. We follow Christ by lifting up our own crosses. Why do we try to escape when life gets hard? Why are we surprised when following the Lord takes us out of our comfort zone?

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

What does Christianity offer? Not just a way to God; it offers God Himself, the perfect Lamb slain for our sins.

My life is entirely different for knowing Christ--not because I have a certain way to dress or worship--but because I know how to love. (Not that I've already obtained to this, but I press on!) And this love does change how I live, because I want to be entirely like Christ and no more like myself or those around me. And I've found that there's such power in this love; it's so pure and foreign to the world. A love that is patient and kind, even to enemies? A love that lays down its own desires and dreams to seek the good pleasure of Someone else? A love that willingly suffers for the good of others? A love that is never based on merit or worth? This is the love of God. This is the love that saves us, and this is the love that sets us apart from any and every other religion. Christ is the power of God, because Christ shows us the love of God.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Morning Commute

Photo Source

Not every day is sunshine and warm feelings, but today was one of those.

I wish everyone could experience a morning commute to work in midtown Manhattan.

There's just something about a brand new day with so much fresh energy pulsing through the streets that makes the city feel alive.

My favorite part of the bus ride is when we turn at Columbus Circle and go across Central Park South towards Grand Army Plaza. There's the gorgeous green of the park on one side and a blending of modern and old buildings on the other side, with a couple giant fountains thrown in... but that's not really the part that feels alive. It's the people. And no surprise, since we are the only creatures made in the image of our life-giving God.

There's a man in a suit wearing a bicycle helmet and sneakers. A housekeeper in a frilly white apron with matching hat. A little girl and her dad running to catch their bus. (They made it, happily.) A nanny holding a sweet child who is waving goodbye to his parents for the day. And coffee pretty much running through the city like water running through Venice.

And there's just so much potential for good while it's still early in the morning. Sometimes I wonder what "important" accomplishments will take place today--what new companies will be created, what financial problems will be solved, what scientific break-throughs will be made.

I read that 700,000 commute to midtown every day. Masses of people... who all need the Lord. Just like I do.

I wonder what people will seek the Lord today, what humble soul will call on His name, and what anonymous acts of kindness will be done. I wonder if these people will ever cross our paths, and I pray that they do. Out of 9 million people in the whole city, I'm convinced there are at least a few who truly love what is good and right and are diligently searching for the truth.
Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed,
because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23)

photo source


Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Sampling of the City

It's so hard to capture the city through the lens of a camera, but we are trying to snap more pictures as we go about our day. Here is an assortment of pictures from the last month or so.

I want to bring every kid I know to play here.

How would you feel if your van looked like this?

This is Jady's favorite fruit stand, right outside our apartment. 

This picture is from a Memorial Day picnic we had in Central Park with some of the Christians,
including several kids from a spanish church in the city.

Love this building!

This is the Soldiers and Sailors monument in Riverside Park , near our apartment.
I pass it every day on my way to work!

Last week we walked through High Line Park, an old elevated railroad line
that's been turned into a park. These modern birdhouses were one of the coolest
things we saw on our walk... and there were lots of birds hiding in the bushes!
Don't they almost look like miniature apartment buildings?

We continue to thank God for allowing us to be here, to grow closer to His saints in the northeast, and to learn of His power and grace everywhere we go. And as we near our one-year mark of moving to NYC, we can see how God has been with us every step of the way.   

Monday, June 27, 2011

No Small Feat

Photo Source: Flickr

After 10 months, my commute and daily errand-running have become routine. And the best part? I'm starting to see the same people (albeit strangers) on a semi-regular basis. For a city of nine million people, this feels like no small feat.

As I walk to the bus stop in the morning, I pass a mother walking her son to school, a couple doormen either sweeping the sidewalk or just enjoying the morning air, and a crazy lady walking her Pomeranian. On the bus, I'm beginning to see various familiar faces (none of whom ever make eye contact) and recognize a handful of school kids with their respective nannies, and a certain cluster of women that like to talk very loudly. And if the bus is on schedule, I might even get the same driver a few days in a row.

There's the security guy is the lobby of the building where I work; the cashiers at the grocery store who just speak Spanish to each other and never acknowledge my existence (but that's okay, because they are SUPER fast!); the men who run a copy center next to our apartment building; the lady who works at the bagel place downstairs; the Rite-aid guy who patiently scans all my coupons...

It might sound crazy, but there's something comforting and wonderful about seeing that crazy lady walk her dog each morning. I guess it provides a little something expected in the midst of a very unpredictable environment. It reminds me that our lives are developing a rhythm. And it helps me begin to appreciate this cross-section of humanity, as C.S. Lewis so beautifully explains:
"The truly wide taste in reading is that which enables a man to find something for his needs on the sixpenny tray outside any secondhand bookshop. The truly wide taste in humanity will similarly find something to appreciate in the cross-section of humanity whom one has to meet every day. In my experience it is Affection that creates this taste, teaching us first to notice, then to endure, then to smile at, then to enjoy, and finally to appreciate, the people who 'happen to be there.' Made for us? Thank God, no. They are themselves, odder than you could have believed and worth far more than we guessed." (from The Four Loves

Saturday, June 18, 2011

To My Dad

To my dad,

who walks faster than I could ever keep up with,
who makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches,
who let me ride the lawnmower with him when I was little,
who helped me learn to obey my Heavenly Father,
who keeps his family laughing,
who has changed the lives of many of his students,
who has shown so much spiritual growth since he was converted,
who I have to thank for my blue eyes,
who is kind and loving toward "the least of these" (Matt.25:40),
who handles hard times with humility and quiet strength,
and who I look up to as a Godly man...

Thanks for the good times you've provided, the good example you've been, and the good work you've done.

Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Reflections on Marriage

June 18th will be my and Jady's one-year anniversary. (I can hardly believe that!)

One year ago, I had no idea how wonderful marriage could be. I can't really put into words what my husband means to me without breaking down and crying tears of gratitude. He inspires me to be better: to live more courageously, to seek God more fervently, to sacrifice more readily, and to give thanks more frequently.

As much as feminism would disagree, I am not designed to be independent. I need someone to help me. And Jady does. He prays with me and for me; he encourages me when I am down; he is my voice of reason in emotional times; he is my constant companion; he makes the most boring tasks the most fun; he makes me laugh like no one else can; he helps me carry heavy loads of laundry to the basement; he understands my quirks and makes provision for my sanity; he gently reminds me of priorities I've procrastinated tending to; he knows my limits and is willing to suffer loss for my gain; he corrects me with love and patience; he listens to me and listens to me and listens to me; he is willing (and grateful) to eat anything I put on his plate; he provides such stability yet also spontaneity to my life; he is responsible and manages things so well and leads with such humility and thoughtfulness; he not only knows my needs but can predict them.

He is the man of my dreams. I couldn't even ask or imagine a better husband. I only wish I got to spend all day every day with him!  

Of course he's not perfect; but he's perfect for me. And our challenges and frustrations provide opportunities for us to grow and learn even more about each other. A perfect husband would make me feel awful, because I'm certainly nowhere near perfect! I now see that our weaknesses and strengths are part of a beautiful balance in marriage, where each person is serving the other. How would we know the power of forgiveness if we never made mistakes? How would "I love you" mean very much if we never acted in unloveable ways? This is why he is the man of my dreams: not because of the shining armor, but because I see his heart beneath the armor and it beats for his Creator.         

I'm not sure what God has in store for our future--where we may live, what our family may grow into, or the work we'll be doing--but I know Who holds the future, and I know who holds my hand.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sunshine in Central Park

We are enjoying the sunshine so much, especially after a long and dreary winter!

From this...


I'm reminded of a quote from Rasselas by Samuel Johnson: "Of the blessings set before you make your choice, and be content. No man can taste the fruits of autumn while he is delighting his scent with the flowers of the spring: no man can, at the same time, fill his cup from the source and from the mouth of the Nile."

The colorful leaves of fall were so nice (especially after three falls in Florida that all felt like summer!) and the hot chocolate and warm soup and cozy blankets of winter were enjoyable... but now that the flowers of spring and fresh summer fruit are here, I will do my best to enjoy these things, too. Now if only we could get that cool breeze back...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Any and Every Circumstance

Last month, we had a family from Texas visiting our congregation for several weeks in a row. The husband's job brought him to NYC, and since the mother homeschooled all three children, they decided to come with him for his month-long assignment. When I was talking with them, I asked the mother if she missed Texas, and she simply replied, "Not really. I'm pretty content wherever I am."

Wooow. Not the answer I was expecting!

Now I know we need to be content. I read the verses. I hear the sermons. But I guess I'm not quite radiating contentment yet because this mother's answer blew me away! Her genuine contentment was spot-on in an unfortunately rare sort of way.  

I hear about people living on farms and instantly long to be there. I hear about people eating at Cracker Barrel or Chick-fil-a and feel a twinge of jealousy. I hear about people shopping at Publix or Wal-Mart or Target and wish I could just teleport myself to a nice quiet shopping plaza. It's easy to think the grass is greener on the other side... especially cause we don't even have grass here!!! (Okay, there's grass in the parks. But I don't live in a park. That would be nice.)

I'm challenged by this quote I heard a long time ago: "The key to contentment is not me in a different set of circumstances; it's Christ in me."

Sometimes it's easy for me to think my life would be so much better and I would be so much happier if we lived in a cute brownstone on Riverside Drive with a sunshine-filled kitchen in which I would cook like L'Von Qualls and wear super trendy outfits and have amazing hair all the time and always come home from work with a smile on my face and a song in my heart... and insert many more idealistic dreams here...

But the only thing I really need is my God. And if I'm able to come to Him in prayer and seek His will in the holy pages of the Bible, and if I'm striving to be shaped into who He wants me to be, then it doesn't matter where I live or what I have or what task is set before me. Real contentment is gratitude for my daily bread; not eating my bread and wishing it were pizza. Contentment is basking in the mercies of God; not basking in self-pity and comparison. Contentment is looking to the Lord in all things; not looking on others' things with jealous eyes. Contentment is finding joy wherever I am; not dreaming of a million places I'd rather be.

I want to be able to say, "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:11-13).

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Former Things

Things continue to go well here! It's finally spring, and even though the city already smells like summer (sweat and B.O.), the flowers and budding trees make each day feel so fresh and new. Ah. I love spring.

Sometimes I forget what it's like to go to a "normal" church where you have your own building, your own baptistry, and the powerpoint projector gets to stay in one place. For the Christians here, baptisms mean setting up a portable baptistry in the Buntings' apartment and connecting it to a hose from their kitchen sink for 45 minutes, and so their kitchen/dining room gets moved into their living room. Crazy, huh?

Here are a few other crazy things as of late:

The other night as Jady began teaching our mid-week study, we heard really loud and distracting noises from the floor above us in the hostel where we meet. One of our members went to check out what was going on and simply reported back, "It's a team of Peruvian dancers. They'll be there all evening." So for the next hour, we got to hear their chaotic drums and dancing.

The church also rents a small office space (a.k.a. a room in a hispanic cultural center) to accomodate additional studies. Last week there happened to be a career fair going on at the same time as one of Jady's group classes. So as we learned about Abraham's faith, we were serenaded (blasted) with full volume Spanish music. Just a little distracting.

And yesterday morning as I sat down with Kiana (a new Christian's teenage daughter) for Bible class, she immediately reported, "One of my classmates got shot. He's dead." So instead of jumping into our lesson, we talked and prayed about the gangs in the city and what that means to a young girl living in the projects. It sure opened my eyes.

Living here is such a learning experience. It also makes me long for Heaven--where there will be no Peruvian dancers distracting me from worshipping my Lord or evil men threatening the lives of those I love. "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ten Cool Things About This City

Okay. It's time for a more positive, upbeat post. I've talked a lot about the hard aspects of city life... but there are some cool parts, too. Here's ten:

1. There is so much good food here. I can go eat any kind of pizza imaginable or authentic Thai, Indian, Mediteranean... just by walking out my door. We live over a great little bagel place that makes huge, fresh, warm bagels every morning in a dozen flavors (for only a dollar!). Fine chocolate, mac and cheese, hummus, more varieties of cupcakes than you could dream of, sushi... it's all right here.

2. You can get nearly anything delivered right to your door. There are over 100 restaurants that deliver to our apartment (and over 300 to where I work). You can get groceries, shampoo, even prescriptions...

3. There are some amazing grocery stores here. We live above Rachel Ray's favorite gourmet grocery in the city, described as "a culinary Mecca for savvy shoppers." You know those items that are a little unusual and Wal-Mart doesn't even carry them? Imagine a store full of that kind of stuff. We also have a Whole Foods, Trader Joe's (our current favorite and the cheapest!), and the famous Zabar's... not to mention some other local gems.

4. I'm finally learning what it means when a building "has character." The architecture here is so beautiful and diverse, from complex skyscrapers to charming brownstones to massive cathedrals.

5. There's so much energy in the city. The buses, the taxis, the birds, the tourists, all the buzzing shops...

6. The fact that our Bed, Bath, & Beyond has a doorman makes me feel like a celebrity every time I shop there. And actually, they do shop there. Or Whoopi Goldberg, at least!

7. Sometimes I forget we live on Broadway. THE Broadway. And that the Metropolitan Opera and Julliard and Times Square are only a few miles away. And on my way to work, I pass the Rockefeller Center and Central Park... and I walk right by the filming of the Today Show. It's crazy how normal that all feels now.

8. There's a Starbucks every 3 blocks (I used to pass 4 just on my way to work). As my friend Kayleigh says, "You can't swing a dead cat without hittin' a Starbucks around here." There are corner delis and coffee stands on the street where you can grab a drink or a snack in 5 seconds. (Sometimes 10 seconds.) Talk about convenient.

9. I still can't get over the idea that I can simply hold up my hand and a cab will take me anywhere I need to go. (When I took one to the airport once, I looked out my window and we were right beside the United Nations!)

10. The coolest thing--and the only one that ultimately matters--is getting to be a part of such an encouraging group of Christians. No one is perfect, and sometimes we probably get on each other's nerves! But every week I get to see so many individuals who have chosen to come worship God, in spite of their culture and family and physical circumstances. They're not just warming a pew because of our expectations; they simply want to learn about God.

Do I still miss the south? Of course. Do I still get frustrated with city life? Yeah. But when I'm tempted to be discontent, it helps me to think about what amazing blessings God has given us. And even if I lived in the middle of nowhere and all ten things disappeared from my cool list... I'd still stand amazed in His presence. If I didn't have good food, it wouldn't matter, because the nearness of God is my good (Ps 73:28). And if I didn't get to see beautiful buildings every day, it wouldn't matter, because someday I will gaze upon the beauty of the Lord (Ps 27:4).

Let's live for Him!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What a Weird World

NYC might be the epitome of the working world. It's the city that never sleeps--and not because it's busy with good works or random acts of kindness. No, it seems like most people are running around with a cup of coffee in each hand so they can climb the corporate ladder a little higher, make a few more dollars (afterall, overtime pays more!), and be a step closer to a life of luxury. I know a girl who just graduated from med school and her work has been "limited" to 80 hours a week. 80 hours! And this is the American dream?

Living in a place that values money so much, and where jobs that make lots of money are valued over jobs that are unpaid or low-paid, some things are starting to be so clear to me:

-- It's cool to be a nanny. That's a respectable job. But if you're a nanny to your OWN kids (a.ka. a stay-at-home mom), you're not as cool.
-- It's a respectable profession to be a personal assistant to a C.E.O. or businessman, shopping for their clothes, writing thank you notes for gifts, making phone calls, and shopping for their groceries. But if you do these things for your own hard-working husband, you're considered a doormat.
-- It's fine to work as a private chef or housekeeper, but when you do these things (even preparing a gourmet meal) in your own household for zero pay, people tell you to "get a real job."
-- It's honorable to volunteer a night a week at a soup kitchen, but when you volunteer your entire LIFE to serve in the kingdom of God, that's considered too extreme and radical.

All that to say this: I enjoy being a wife and homemaker way more than going out to my part-time job. Yet people have told me, "I wish I could afford to just work part-time." I usually just smile and say that I'm blessed, but I want to say... if you don't get your hair and nails done every week, or eat out three times a day, or live in a 4000 sq ft. home, you might not "have" to work all the time.

It boggles my mind that so many mothers have an "important" job so they can pay someone else to do the "unimportant" jobs of raising their kids and managing their household. Why do they even HAVE children if they don't want to ever be with them? And when children are old enough to stay at home by themselves and no longer need a nanny, we're essentially leaving them to be raised by the world, their friends, and the media. What a scary and horrible thought. How is any amount of stuff or money worth the soul of a child?

What a weird world we live in. It's full of C.E.O.'s and doctors who can succeed in their own fields, but they have forgotten (or never been taught) how to do simple things like wash dishes or cook a meal.

In the eyes of NYC, I don't have an important job. I'm not needed by a corporation 80 hours a week. But in the eyes of God, I have the most important job in the world: being His servant. And I'm needed in His army more than 80 hours a week. Try 24/7.

And if we do our own laundry, we've got something these zillionaires in New York can't even claim.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Prayer Requests

When I began this blog, I had no idea if anyone (besides my parents!) would be interested in hearing about city stuff. But it's been so encouraging hearing from different people who read it! Thanks to those of you who have shown support and love for the work here. I like to picture encouragement like a chain: if you encourage me, I can encourage Jady, and together we can try to encourage our NYC brothers and sisters. So thanks for being a vital link in that chain!

One of the biggest helps to the work here is through prayer. Because through prayer, we know that God can do so much more than we can ask or imagine or even do ourselves. If you're interested, here are three prayer requests I would put before you to put before God:

(1) Did I mention how a year ago a few Christian women started having a children's Bible class in the corner of the room where the adult Bible class was going on? They just hang up sheets and bring all their materials, and even though they never know the age or number of kids they'll have, it works just fine. Well... recently we've been having a few teenage girls in our assembly. (This is rare!! But great!) One girl is part of a whole family that's been visiting, one girl has a mom who's a member, and one girl has a mom who's really close to becoming a Christian. I would love to hang up my own sheets and start a new class for these young ladies, if the men of the congregation approve it. Don and Cami and Jady are encouraging me to pursue it, so please pray that God will guide these efforts!

(2) If you drive to school or work in a quiet and climate-controlled car, go ahead and thank God for it. I don't miss driving, but I miss that feeling of having your own space! I ride the subway each morning, and wow. If it was just me and the train, no big deal. But add a couple thugs with headphones blaring the most obnoxious music ever composed. Add a lady blowing ALL her germs into a kleenex that's literally centimeters from your face. Add a mother condescendingly accusing her child loud enough for the entire train car to hear. Add the smells of a homeless guy who slept there. Add a bunch of people in puffy coats fighting for elbow room... or even better, a SEAT! Add a conductor who yells at the passengers over the intercom ("Get outta the closing doors!!"). When you add all those things up, it equals a seemingly complain-worthy commute. Please pray for me to have patience and to glorify God even then/there.

(3) There are so many situations needing prayers here, but I'll ask for one specifically: Michelle is a young woman who moved to NYC from Tampa around the same time we did. She had been studying with a Christian couple down in Tampa and (according to them) was on the verge of baptism--right before her job brought her to the city. After several months of living in the world and learning how unsatisfying that was, she started coming to worship with us. And after continuing to study and talk to Christians, she was just baptized last month! Now, I'd like to ask for prayers for Michelle to continue studying and growing more rooted in God's Word. This city is surely one of the hardest places for a new Christian (especially a single one), so she will no doubt be fighting a hard battle just to stay a Christian. (Aren't we all?!)

Thank you!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Challenging Quote

(author unknown)

I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed.
The die has been cast.
I have stepped over the line.
The decision has been made.
I am a disciple of Jesus.

I won’t look back, let up, slow down, or back away.

My past is redeemed,
My present makes sense,
And my future is secure.

I am finished and done with low-living, sight-walking, small-planning, smooth-knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane-talking, chincy-giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no long need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotion, or popularity.
I don’t have to be first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded.

My face is set;
My gait is fast,
My goal is Heaven,
My road is narrow,
My Guide is reliable,
My mission is clear.

I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed.

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice,
Hestitate in the presence of adversity,
Negotiate at the table of the enemy,
Ponder at the pool of popularity,
Or meander on the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, or let up ‘til I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus.
I must go ‘til I drop,
Preach all that I know,
And work ‘til He comes.

And when He comes to get His own, by the grace of God, He’ll have no trouble recognizing me. My colors are clear.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Meet the Group

The church here is unlike any I've been a part of before!

For one thing, the demographics are different and extremely varied. There are people from Korea, China, Japan, the Philippines, India, Puerto Rico, Nigeria, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Guiana, the Dominican Republic, the west coast, the east coast, Texas, Kentucky... quite the melting pot. Let's just say I'm learning a thing or two about geography! Some people speak with strong accents (some that I'm still trying to understand!) or very elementary English. Never before have I been in a study of 1 Corinthians dealing with idols where a few people in the class have immediate family members who worship idols. At least half (maybe the majority?) are first generation Christians.

We don't have many families, and only two couples with kids where both parents are Christians (and they live far away and can only come on Sundays). And we have very few elderly people or shut-ins. The majority are single people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Our group is not exactly oozing with stability; it's different nearly every week.

There are also a lot of barriers to our meeting together. For those who drive... a bridge might be closed, your car might be covered in a foot of snow, or it might take 20 minutes just to find a parking place. For those who take public transportation... trains could be delayed or under construction, busses might be running behind, and by the time you walk to our meeting place, you're exhausted, especially if you're carrying much. It's not unusual for people to work until 7 or 8 pm. One of our guys works for the sanitation department (they plow the snowy streets) and has worked 12 hour shifts nonstop for the last month, and not because he's a workaholic. He wants to keep his job to support his family.

And because property is so expensive, we don't have our own building. We rent a room in the NY International Hostel, which means we set up the powerpoint, put out song books, and hang up signs each Sunday and Tuesday. Some of the ladies carry the children's Bible class materials every week--including sheets to hang up in a corner to divide the room. By the time we get to the opening prayer, it feels like we've accomplished something!

Our ratio of members to visitors is also unusual: 80 members (on average, 50 or 60 will come) and 40 visitors. So when 1/3 of the group is visitors, it's hard to chat with regular members (who you may only see on Sunday mornings) while greeting the visitors! Some of the visitors might be solid Christians from other parts of the country who are on vacation in the city... some of them might be Christians that visit for a long time but never become a member of our group... and others might have seen our ad in the paper and be there for the first time. It's hard to keep up with everybody!  

Don described it like this: we're on a boat in the sea, and we're trying to pull the drowning people into the boat, and keep those onboard from jumping off. What an exciting work to be a part of, huh?!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Our Rock

This place is crazy and great and dirty and gross and poor and rich and delicious and loud! There's just so much variety wrapped up in one city. Sometimes it feels like a foreign country; other times, it really is starting to feel like home.

Things happen and move and change so much here! New neighbors, new members at church, new weather, new ads on the subway... sometimes it seems like the only constant in my life is the fact that people will continue to buy Louis Vuitton purses even though they cost a thousand dollars. (And I'm not even exaggerating. ONE THOUSAND. Enough to buy a lifetime supply of my favorite bagels.) Just when I think city life is beginning to be predictable, a guy in an alien costume gets on the train. Or the laundry room closes for a birthday party. Or the line at Trader Joe's stretches across the entire store. Or the wait for a dressing room is 60 minutes. It feels like we're riding a carousel where the scenery and music changes with every spin. 

Yet as the hymn says... in every change, He faithful will remain

And does He ever! Our God is our anchor in the midst of storm. He's our "Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17). He's our changeless center, our solid foundation, and the only real thing on which we can depend.

(Quick tangent.) My favorite place in the whole city is being next to my husband, wherever that is. He is such a blessing to me in small ways (i.e. making my coffee) and in big ways (i.e. helping me toward Heaven). His work is encouraging--teaching the Bible, preparing for group classes, working on sermons, praying with Christians, and seeking souls that long for a Savior--but it's even more encouraging being married to someone who strives to practice what he preaches! I don't deserve the patience and love and kindness he shows me each day.       

And yet even my husband is part of a passing world. I can depend on him for so much, but I can't expect him to redeem me from death. I can't even count on him (or me!) to live until we're 80. But together, we can serve a God who not only can redeem us from death but has promised that He will--if we walk in His ways and trust in the blood of His son.  

In this city where thousand dollar purses go in and out of fashion and where the best designer boots still get messed up in the snow... what a comfort to know there is a God on whom I can depend! Whether in life or death, God is in control and is taking care of His people. He changeth not!