Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Down the Hall

I'd like to interrupt this series to announce that we're moving... down the hall!

Here's the story: when our current landlord informed us he'd be raising the rent again, Jady started praying for a "do-able downsize" that would save us money but also be a place we could get excited about.

But this is our home! I thought reluctantly. And think about the hassles of packing, moving, and getting settled into a new place. And a place we're excited about that's smaller and less nice?? How is that possible? Oh, me of little faith. With God, everything is possible.

We looked at some apartments in our neighborhood: one right outside of the above-ground train station, one on the first floor facing the building's trash and recycling area, one railroad style apartment with strange shaped areas called rooms, and then a beautiful two bedroom in our own building with great natural light... could this be the one? It wasn't very much cheaper or the downsize we had prayed about. It was more of a step up, which at this point, isn't needed. So we passed on that one.

Before long, we were needing to make a decision to let our landlord know if we planned to stay in our current apartment or not (the rule here is two months advance notice before the lease runs out). But unfortunately, living in a city with a 1% residential vacancy rate and looking into apartments during the busiest rental months of the entire year, our searching only led us to apartments that were available immediately... and if we had to pay double rent for two months, that defeats the purpose of saving money!

So the day before we needed to decide if we were going to stay or not (and I was feeling pretty good about the possibility of staying in our current apartment!), we hadn't found any apartments that would work. But then God dropped one into our laps, one that we hadn't even searched for or known about.

Our super (superintendent who manages the building) overhead Jady's conversation with one of the brokers in our building, and later mentioned to Jady that his own apartment in our building would be on the market soon if we wanted to see it. But it was small, he warned. Just as I was starting to feel so confident about being able to stay in our current apartment, we scurried off to view his apartment. My expectations were low, and I had nearly written off the idea of moving by this point in the game. If I were Saul at Gilgal, I'd given up waiting for Samuel.

But from the moment we opened the door, this apartment looked different than I had expected. Our super is a jack-of-all-trades construction guy and his wife's an architect, so between the two of them, they'd really invested a lot of work into their apartment and maximized the space with shelves, mirrors, and sentimental pieces (like a collection of tiles they held onto for a decade until they incorporated them into the walls). It was going to be a downsize, but it was a fantastic price (comparatively) and had a cozy and charming feel. It already felt like home just being in there for an hour. The owners told us all about living there, even raising their son in it, and how they plan to retire there. And the great part? It wouldn't even be available until September. Perfect for us. Oh, and we can use any of their furniture we want? Even better.

24 hours, lots of prayer, and a nice discussion with the Buntings later... we decided to go with it. Our God is a God of last minute deliverance, isn't He? And providing for us what we need, when we need it. Thanks to Him!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

There's a Monster in the Mirror: Anxiety

Source

(Previous posts in this series found here and here.)

It's amazing what an expected, justified, and normal part of our lives anxiety has become. Whether presidential elections, bills to pay, social gatherings, taxes, sickness, work, traffic, politics, our weight or hair or skin, friendships, family, church.... even vacations can easily become stressful and cause our hearts to give way to worry!

It seems to me that fear and self-focus are the foundations of anxiety: we either stop trusting God, or we are simply too concerned about ourselves.

And yet God has commanded His people throughout history... Do not fear. Don't worry. Don't be anxious. Fret not. Be strong and not afraid. In fact, this is one of the most commanded ideas in all of Scripture! And yet it's far too easy to brush off these instructions as mere suggestions. Perhaps we recognize God doesn't want us to worry, but do we realize how much our lack of faith in God dishonors Him, even despises His promises to provide for us? Do we treat anxiety as something we have little control or responsibility over?

Obedience--even to these commands--is not beyond our control. It is always possible to do the will of God. We may have some huge obstacles to overcome--namely, denying ourselves and taking up our cross-- but to this we were called.

I'm sure there's a whole world of valid medical issues that I don't understand. I'll leave those things in God's hands, as I'm sure He knows all about brain chemistry, genetics, and abnormal levels of neurotransmitters. After all, He's the one that created us. :) Yet even those plagued by evil spirits and legitimate psychological disorders were still expected to obey God (King Saul, for example). So I don't mean to minimize actual biological problems; I just want to emphasize our spiritual responsibilities!

When I'm honest with myself, I see that my moments of anxiety stem from self-consciousness when I should be conscious of God instead, or fearing men when I should instead be fearing God. It's convenient to have a socially-acceptable label to mask spiritual problems. But let's take an honest look at our hearts during times of worry and anxiety, and let's determine to trust in our Savior for His all-sufficient grace and peace that passes understanding. Let's focus on willing and working for God's good pleasure, and not our own. Let's remember these words from Exodus:

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

I challenge us to quiet our souls before God, letting go of our own defenses and desires, and see the deliverance He will bring. We may need to pick ourselves up by the scruff of our neck, refuse to listen to our fears, and turn in absolute trust to the One whose kingdom cannot be shaken. In the words of the writer of Hebrews, we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

There's a Monster in the Mirror: Jealousy

Photo Source

(If you missed the introduction to the series, find it here.)

Want to know one of the fastest ways to start feeling jealous, without ever stepping foot in a mall or attending a bridal shower? It's fairly simple: just log in to Facebook. While certainly Facebook can be used as a tool for encouragement and building relationships, it can easily turn into a wide world web of jealousy and envy. Why does she look so happy with her boyfriend? How come she always seems to have it all together? That family is going on ANOTHER vacation? How did they get such a big house? Why does she have so many friends and people who like her status?

Sometimes it doesn't even matter if we'd actually enjoy what we're coveting. If someone has it harder than we do, perhaps we secretly envy their lifestyle and endurance and wish we could look like a martyr, too. Or if someone has it easier than we do, we wish we lived their life of (seeming) luxury and ease.

When we're single, we're jealous of people in dating relationships. When we're dating, we're jealous of married people. When we're married, we're jealous of people with kids or without kids--whichever grass looks greener at the moment! When we're parents (I can only imagine), we're jealous of other people's kids and lifestyles and all the free time of single people... which brings us full circle, back to the single person, doesn't it?

If we could just see how silly we are sometimes--like one worm wishing he could be a different worm! How often we forget that the King of Kings left His glorious throne in Heaven to enter into our world in the form of a helpless baby, who would grow up to be the servant of many, ministering to the miserable and washing the feet of sinners.

You know who the Bible talks about as being a particularly envious people? The Pharisees and teachers of the law. And where did their jealousy take them? To Calvary. To nailing Jesus to a cross.

We may minimize or ignore or just rationalize our jealousy as a normal part of human life, but we essentially have two choices: we can crucify our own desires, seeking not our own good but the good of others, and living a life focused on Christ and not ourselves... or we can crucify Christ all over again by living in sin, according to the flesh.

Have thine affections been nailed to the cross?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

There's a Monster in the Mirror: Introduction to Series

Photo Source
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:23-25)

I'm going to begin a series of posts about the monsters we often see in the mirror. Reading God's Word reveals so much in our hearts--whether an attitude, thought, or desire--that is hideous and ugly, especially in the sight of God. While we can easily put a mask over these problems and pretend everything is okay, I want to encourage us to throw our masks away and strive toward honesty, humility, and diligence in getting rid of sinful attitudes. May we be "blessed in our doing" as James says!  

Stay tuned. First up: jealousy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Update


Things are going well here, and God continues to take good care of us. Our lives lately seem like a blur of bagels, bus rides, and Bible studies! 

We've had a busy summer so far: visits from our dear friends Nathan Quinn and Micah and Kathryn Bingham, time spent with Tom and Joy Hamilton while they were here for our weekend lecture series, a trip to Kentucky for my brother's graduation, a trip upstate to celebrate our two year anniversary, and soon a trip to Alabama for a family wedding. Plus another wedding just across the Hudson River in New Jersey!

Jady and I will both be counselors and teachers at the FC Northeast Camp during July. We're also looking forward to visits from our friends Ryan and Staci Lanning, Jady's parents, and Jady's sister Leanne and her sweet family. July is also the month of Tim Broadwell and Miriam Works' wedding, which we are awaiting with much excitement!

August includes hosting more friends, being a counselor for a girls camp in the area (FAR Camp), and then Jady attending and helping out at the guys leadership camp (SOL Camp).

So in the meantime, we are enjoying being home and savoring simple city moments: riding the subway to visit other Christians, taking evening walks before it gets too hot, cooking in my kitchen-- where I can take something out of the fridge, turn on the stove, and wash the dishes without taking a single step! I love my cozy kitchen. :) 

And speaking of close proximity, it continues to amaze me how so much life is lived and shared in such a dense, messy, crazy way. What happens privately in most people's backyards, cars, and homes in the suburbs becomes a public display in parks, trains, and the street. A dad teaching his daughter to ride her bike, a baby sitting in the grass for the first time, a first kiss, a bad break-up, adults throwing temper tantrums, reading the morning paper, rushing to soccer practice, etc. Last night on our walk we passed an elderly lady riding a scooter, a clown, and a Jewish dinner party straight out of Fiddler. It's usually pretty fascinating to observe how so many other people across cultures and socioeconomic levels live and work and play. And yet, deep down, everyone seems to be basically the same: hearts with a God-sized hole that nothing on earth can ever fill.

You have made us for yourself, oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. (Augustine)

Monday, June 4, 2012

In the News

A touching news story, don't you think?

And yet I can't help but think of the verse...

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

(Romans 5:7-8)


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

F.A.Q.'s

Just thought I'd answer a few questions we get asked frequently...


1. How did you end up in NY?

The short version: we prayed, and God answered.

At the time of my and Jady's engagement, I was thinking about going to grad school. But when I decided to get married and allow Jady's career to determine our future rather than mine, suddenly a money-draining, time-consuming graduate program didn't seem necessary or wise! And the day after canceling my applications, Jady got two calls about different churches looking for someone to preach and teach and work with them. One of those calls was from Gardner Hall, who told us about the church here in New York. We prayed, and God opened the door for us to come. He made is easy for us to move here (signing a lease on the very first apartment we looked at, a friend offering to drive all of our stuff from Tampa to NYC, support from our families and so many other Christians, etc.) and He continues to faithfully provide for us each day.

2. Do you miss having a car?

Actually, we love not owning cars! Our lives feel much simpler not having to deal with street parking, gas prices, maintenance, car washes, auto insurance and taxes and tags, wrecks and accidents, shoveling snow and scraping windshields, and speed limits. We also have a good public transportation system, the option to rent a car by the hour or flag down a cab if needed, and amazing access to the bank, post office, drug store, etc., so getting around is not usually a problem.

And as a bonus, now every time we ride in a car, it feels like some new ride at Disney or something. The world goes by ten times faster than when walking, so it feels pretty exhilarating!

3. Do you have a job?

Yes. About a month after we moved here, I met with a legal staffing agency to pursue possible positions working at a law firm (one of my high school jobs). After my interview at the agency, they informed me they were looking to hire a receptionist for their own office. Not what I expected, but it seemed like a good opportunity. A year and a half later, I'm still there. My position has expanded to include administrative duties, coordinating billing, and helping with junior-level recruiting. It's not a terribly exciting job, but I am blessed to just work part time. This schedule works well for us right now, and I'm thankful to have a couple days each week to devote to all things domestic (which I love) and to Jady (whom I love) and to the church (which is the reason we're here).

4. How long do you plan to live in NY?

That is a good question, and one that I wonder about sometimes! We are glad and thankful to be here, and honestly, I can't imagine anywhere else I'd want to be than right where God has us. Of course we try to be prayerful and thoughtful about the future, and we're open to living wherever we can be helpful in God's kingdom. But as far as I know, we're not leaving anytime soon!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ordinary Days

We enjoy going exploring in new neighborhoods and other boroughs,
especially if that means we have a clear view of the sky and see cute houses!

In March we celebrated Kiana's birthday.
She's our only teen at church, so we're glad to have her!

Several weeks ago, Jady baptized a new sister into Christ.
She quit a worldly job here to pursue living righteously. How encouraging!

Here is Don (the other preacher/teacher) studying with a lady right outside
the office space we rent. The windows look right out over Broadway.

Here's where I'll go if I need to buy any sea urchins for dinner....

Those are fresh from the oven... and yes,
they were as tasty as they look!

Jady and I both have been on a tea kick recently!
This is a Harney & Son's store in SoHo with more tea than I knew existed.


Here's a fun birdhouse.
Don't need an elevator when you have wings!

Isn't this the saddest looking plant you've ever seen?
We can't seem to keep anything alive here!!
We've had a wonderful spring so far and are thankful for all the
great opportunities around us to learn and to grow.
God is so good!

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Depth of the Riches


Source


Sometimes it's shocking to realize how much of our thinking and how deeply our hearts are influenced by the world around us. I'm sure I am clueless to much of the shaping and molding that goes on each day, even in my own life, even if I'm trying to be thoughtful and prayerful along the way. The voices in this world are loud and easy to believe, especially if I'm not listening for the voice of the One who spoke this world into existence.


Jady and I talk frequently about how to battle this. How do we develop a heart that values what God does, and that hates what He hates, and that rejoices in truth... and not just the latest Apple product or line of fashion or new restaurant? How do we fight against a culture that has penetrated our thinking, and media that seems to know us a little too well, and the prevailing mindset of a generation who views even religion as a means to please themselves? 


I have much to learn about how to answer those questions, but I believe one of the answers (and perhaps the only answer we need) is this: that God's Word will transform us. Learning His will and hiding His words in our heart will begin to change us (Rom. 12:2, Psalm 119:11). And this will require a lot more than an obligatory daily devotion, chapter-a-day reading plan,and  calendar with inspirational verses. These things can be helpful aids, but they can never replace really digging deep into learning His words. Our goal is not simply to know about God but to know God. And what a beautiful thing that is!


I've heard people talk about Bible study as if it were about hard cold facts isolated from each other and from their own life. And yet, isn't reality built on facts? Don't we need these fundamental truths as building blocks to even stand high enough to see what God has revealed? I'm afraid we write off entire books and passages of God's word because they don't appear relevant... but are we in the place of God to say what's important to our understanding of His plans and purposes? And of course Bible study is much more than facts. It's described as a treasure chest of rich wisdom and knowledge, a well of life-giving water to be soaked up, and a living book that strikes as a sword through to the place where soul and spirit meet, exposing man's every thought and motive. 


There is real effort and commitment needed in studying, to say the least. Would we expect to learn Calculus by skimming a few pages of a textbook here and there? There's no faucet to simply turn on... But there is a hidden well, full of refreshment and sustenance, to those who are thirsty and willing to seek. Ask, and you will be given. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you (Matt. 7:7).


With a humble heart and willing mind, eager to know what God has revealed, regardless of its mere entertainment value, trusting that whatever God has spoken is well worth our time in understanding... countless saints have found the sweetest truths and most essential building blocks of faith in every chapter of the Bible.


May our knowledge of God not be limited to verses that make us feel good. May our knowledge of God include the verses that make us fall onto our knees before our King--just like Isaiah and Ezekiel and the leper who sees Jesus did. And may our daily prayer be that of Psalm 119:18: Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.


Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!
(Romans 11:33)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Life Lessons

There is nothing too surprising about me showing up to worship God on any given Sunday. Sure, I've made the choice to be there. I may have overcome some shade of laziness or complacency, but I have every reason in the world to be there: my parents and siblings are also Christians, and I've been singing the books of the New Testament song since I was 3. I've been putting "the sticker on my attendance chart" for as long as I can remember. I've grown up with a very comfortable life (my own bedroom! central A/C! trees to climb!), living in a prosperous nation with religious freedom and the resources of technology. I've had a Bible-based college education and a Godly husband working by my side. I have absolutely no excuse to be anything less than what God calls me to be.

But then I meet people who have everything going against them, who by all odds should not have made it this far: people who have hard lives and small apartments and messy relationships and are victims of all sorts of injustices; people who have grown up with no spiritually mature role models and who have never had a father or brother figure (or any kind of man) in their lives; who have developed years of bad habits and been emotionally drug through the muddiest of fields; who have witnessed violent crimes and harassment and abuse...

And yet here they are sitting next to me in church, their very presence a victory. Here they are sitting at my kitchen table, their lives a testimony to the God of all grace. Here they are praying with me over a cup of coffee, their experiences shaming and humbling me for complaining about lesser things.

When the odds are all stacked against them, and yet year after year, here they are... and here they stay... I realize I should not doubt the power of God to transform lives. I've seen it far too personally to question. To Him belong the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty (1 Chron. 29:11).

When we serve a victorious Savior, who has conquered death and sin, let us not be surprised when we see our brothers and sisters rise up as victors, too. Let us rejoice in their victories, raising up their hands in battle and praying for them fervently--praying to the One who walks on water and whose name is God Almighty.

Our world can be such a dark, miserable, breeding ground for sin and its consequences. And far too many souls are placed right in the middle of this wickedness. Jesus said that "In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). And because Jesus has overcome this world, He gives us hope of doing the same. No life is so far from goodness that He cannot save; no heart so broken that He cannot restore. "The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers... such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 
(1 Cor. 15:57)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Worthy Potentialities

Please enjoy the following words by Clyde Kilby:


At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.


I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities.

I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parentheses in my existence, but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual manhood.

I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.

Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Days Gone By

As I was looking through some old pictures, I could hardly believe how quickly autumn came and went! We enjoyed beautiful weather and falling leaves, even though winter came a little prematurely with a snowfall in October this year. Here are a few pictures from the passing season--and a Psalm of Moses for reflection, and for reminding us that our God is from everlasting to everlasting... and our sins are ever before Him... but through His great mercy, we can sing and be glad! 

See me? I'm in the red coat, turned to the side.

Lord, you have been our help, generation after generation.
Before the mountains were born, before you birthed the earth and the world--
From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.
You tell us to return to what we were; you change us back to dust.
A thousand years to you are like one day; 
They are like yesterday, already gone.

You put our sins right in front of you, 
Our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
Seventy years is all we have--eighty years, if we are strong;
Yet all they bring us is trouble and sorrow; life is soon over, and we fly away.
Who can comprehend the power of your anger?
The honor that is due you corresponds to your wrath.
Teach us to number our days so we may become wise.

Fill us full every morning with Thy mercy, 
That we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Let your servants see your mighty deeds;
Let their descendants see your glorious might.
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.

(a selection of Psalm 90 from various translations)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Panorama

On Friday, Jady and I ventured out to the Queens Museum of Art to see the world's largest scale model of NYC. It took 100 workers building for 3 years to finish this project to present at the 1964 World's Fair, and now it resides in a huge 9000 sq. ft. room for visitors to see. I think the scale is 1 inch = 1,200 inches, or 100 feet. So the Empire State Building is 15 inches... and a person would be the size of the period at the end of this sentence. :)




As cool as it was to see this masterpiece, and to find our apartment and friends' apartments in the city, and to see all the boroughs from a new perspective... I couldn't help but wonder what the real NYC--and the entire earth--must look like to our Lord and Creator. And to think that He didn't need 100 workers for 3 years to create it. Just His Word. In just 6 days.

The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; 
for He founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.
(Psalm 24:1-2)


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Back in Action

I've returned! After several months of not blogging, I'll try to recap some of what we've been doing and learning. God continues to take good care of us, and we truly consider ourselves blessed to be a part of the work here. 

We spent Thanksgiving in Kentucky with my family, spent Christmas in Florida with Jady's family, spent 3 days in 1 Samuel during the Year End Studies, and spent New Years Eve asleep in our apartment after a post-holiday trek (by taxi, plane, bus, and car!) through 5 different states to see nearly everyone we know!

I cooked my first whole chicken and made broth (something that always sounded so intimidating!!), taught our ladies Bible class on James 5 (something else that seemed intimidating!), and shared Bible stories with our high school student each Sunday.

We hosted a talent show for the Christians here, enjoyed a study of the Law of Moses, spent good time with our church family, and reconnected with dear friends.

A few things God has been teaching me:

I'm learning that souls are fragile. New Christians coming from the world are fighting against so much more than I've ever experienced. It's taken me over a year to get used to living in a new place; I can only imagine it taking even longer to get used to living a new LIFE but in the same place. Building new  friendships, rearranging schedules, breaking old habits, growing in God's Word... these all take time and patience!

I'm learning the importance of being in the Bible. It was so good to spend time studying 1 Samuel! It's easy for me to think that certain parts of God's word are boring and only slightly relevant... instead of trusting in God's wisdom in what He's revealed as providing ALL things pertaining to life and godliness. There are countless lessons in these stories about God's unchanging nature, how men find favor in His sight, what God expects, and so on. The more I study the Bible, the more I see that history is HIS story.

Jady and I recently looked at gluttony, self-control, and idolatry related to our appetites in the Bible. Fascinating, challenging, and sobering study! 

Speaking of Jady, I'm falling more and more in love with him as I grow to respect and submit to His leadership.

And after living here over a year, I'm starting to develop a thicker skin as I interact with NY-ers each day at work, on the phone and in person!

I'm also developing a more international focus and appreciation of cultural diversity--not in a humanistic, Epcot, tolerance-touting kind of way... simply trying to be thoughtful and prayerful of souls all over the world, seeking to eradicate any ethnocentrism I may have, and desiring to be all things to all men.

So much more to write about, but that is sufficient for an update!

I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant... Gen. 32:10