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."