Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Big Apple's Core

      I am still grappling for the words to describe what I saw, smelt, and experienced in New York City last week. It is a world all of its own, a city like no other. A bustle of activity, horns blowing, people talking, pizza drifting out into the street, buildings and lights so bright you are unsure of the time of day-it is a sense overload. While in the city we rode the subway...A LOT-and looking at these people I was both awed into silence and broken down to tears by what I saw. Every person in the city is so unique, different heights, eye colors, nationalities, styles, hopes, and dreams and yet they are all a bright and perfect reflection of the amazing, mighty God I serve. Genesis 1:27 "So God created man in His own image; HE CREATED THEM IN THE IMAGE OF GOD, male and female he created them" [emphasis added].  They are all made in His image, they are all the reason He suffered and died, they are all loved more than they could ever comprehend. But, I also saw a city full of lonely people. People crammed on the subway that did not even seem to notice other human beings on board with them-they jumped on and jumped off, stared into space or at their cell phone and rarely smiled. This city needs God, needs love, more than they could ever know or comprehend. New York City is home to over 22 million people and yet it has one of the highest suicide rates for lonely people-to be alone among 22 million must be the worst feeling in the world. And yet, they aren't alone! God is watching them and God cares-He just needs His hands and feet reaching out to the world around them.
     NYC is home to 22 million people, of these people 4 million come from what the International Mission Board considers "unreached people groups" meaning they come from a place where less than 1% of the population are believers. If you reach these people, if you reach New York, you literally reach the world. On Saturday, in the freezing snow, we stood on a corner and passed out free coats to people in the city. As I handed a coat and a Jesus DVD to one woman tears rolled down her cheeks literally freezing as they hit the pavement. She told me how she had been laid off three years earlier, how she was hopeless, and how today was the day she was planning on leaving this Earth, but for the first time in a long time, through a simple coat (something I have a closet full of), she finally saw that someone cared. SHE WASN'T ALONE! I wish I could tell you of a miraculous salvation however she did not accept Christ, but for the first time she had a tiny taste of this love. It is time for us to stop living inside of our comfortable little lives, reaching out to those who look nice and fit our image of a "good christian" and start reaching to the outcast, reaching to the untouchable, reaching the lonely, reaching the lost, reaching those 7 billion we share this planet with that are all made in the image of God.
      I am very guilty of looking around at the people around me and thinking "he looks like he will make fun of me if I tell him about God, but she looks very nice" and walking over to the person in my comfort zone, the one I think I can relate with. But, the fact is I cannot see their hearts and in my own selfish ways I could be walking straight past a heart that is completely ready for the message of a loving Savior. I am done picking who looks ready to receive Christ and I am ready to proclaim from the rooftops what my God has done for EVERYONE. Who am I to judge the heart? I am no one, a dirty sinner that was bound for hell until someone took the time to share with me, it is time for me to stop hoarding that gift, to shout it, to LIVE it, to be that light.
     The last, and most valuable lesson I learned in NY was that I cannot always just stand there and preach to someone-that can be a major turnoff to people, but I can always live my life the way God has called me to live. My life might be the only glimpse of Heaven people have ever seen and it is time for me to live the way I am called, not with words but with actions, deeds and sincere love. I will return to the city someday, I will ride the subway again, and I will love the lonely without my own personal prejudice-I will love the city through the eyes of the Cross.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Her Secret

      The Christmas Season in a traditional church is one that is filled with Lottie Moone, Christmas Music, and lots of fellowship meals. Last night we started off the Christmas Cantanta Season with our Senior Adult Program. The lights dimmed and I slouched down in my seat along the front pew with the rest of my family. The show began with a few of the most beloved Christmas songs sang by the matriarchs and patriarchs of our church. Men and Women that taught Sunday School to my Sunday School teacher, the one's that grew the church out of nothing, the one's who paved the way for people like me.
       One particular lady on the front row of the choir caught my eye. I do not know her name, only the nickname that men and women in the church call her, but I see her there every Sunday Morning, Sunday Night, and Wednesday Night-rain, snow, or sun-faithfully in her pew second from the front. At 92 years old she has seen generations come and go, mission doors open and close in multiple countries, history unfold before her eyes. As the piano began the old familiar chords of "Tell me the story of Jesus" tears welled in her eyes. As she opened her mouth to sing this beautiful woman began to sob, looking to the wooden cross on the back wall. The emotions unfold in her face and her posture-revealing a deep, unending love. Oh to be so in love with Jesus!
       This woman has found the secret that so many long to uncover. The secret of eternal life with a Savior whose love has no beginning or end: He is not only the author of love, not only the creator of love, He IS LOVE. I long for this kind of relationship with my Savior. Some days it is easier than others. Some days I can glimpse Heaven. I remember that this life is just a fleeting moment but that my soul will spend forever with my loving Creator. I remember that man can do nothing for me or to me. But, most days, if we are being honest it is difficult to keep my eyes on the other side of eternity. I get so caught up in final exams, my weight, the stupid joke the guy made that hurt my feelings, college-transfer applications, lunch appointments, preschool choir performance coming up, that paper that's due, my sisters surgery, my best friends boy problems and so much more that I completely lose sight of the love and grace that I am literally swimming in every single day.
       This year I hope to slow down my crazy life for a while, to smell the Christmas tree, to watch the lights twinkle, and to hear the old angels proclaim "Glory to God in the highest." I want this love for my Savior. I want to know the Secret that this woman in my church knows, the secret that makes people look into the eyes of those who want to harm them with love and compassion, the secret that opens the door to the small glimpse of Heaven on Earth in my life every day.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas-not a plan B

So, First I would like to apologize for not posting anything in so long-assuming anyone is still following this blog.
     God has rocked my world in the past few weeks. My heart is in shambles, and yet down here from the dust I cannot get enough of His love and grace. It's as if I am being newly formed and He is breathing life into my body-just as he did at the beginning of time with Adam. I am such an awkward person, really have about a fifteen minute conversation with me and you'll get that, but God totally digs that about me. He loves it: he knows my obsession with Toms, Coffee, and good literature is totally unhealthy and yet He smiles down and says "She's so beautifully and wonderfully made."  I am sitting here ready to cry. In case you missed that last sentence allow me to explain. THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE, THE GOD WHO CREATED MUSIC, AND LOVE, AND ART, AND TREES, AND THE SPIDERMONKEY TOTALLY DIGS YOU-HE THINKS YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL! If that doesn't get you excited, maybe you need to be reminded that this is the season of hope.
      This time of year it is so easy for me to get distracted: to love the lights, the music, the family, the food (aka peppermint mocha from Starbucks) and in the chaos and beauty I lose sight of the hope, the joy, the love, the peace, that started in a manger. As a human, it is easy for me to say that the Christmas story began when human kind began. That God's plan of redemption starts with the prophets of old that proclaim of a coming Messiah. But, the story does not begin there. The story begins in John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the word WAS GOD." The story of love, the story of redemption, begins in the beginning-before time, the Earth, or Space existed-when it was just God and the expanses. Jesus was not God's plan B. Jesus was not an afterthought. Jesus was and is the Way.
      So, knowing that Christmas was not an accident, how do you change the way you live? You live with intention. Telling God that He can have anything can and will be the most difficult, rewarding, and confusing prayer you will ever have. God's anything could be a new life of wealth so you can give to others, it could be poverty, it could be the relationship of your dreams, it could be singleness, but it will always be full of Hope. Because, I promise, that when you are walking in the light of eternity, when you taste and see that the Lord is good, even your worst days aren't that bad. And then you walk throughout this season with love for your fellow man. You walk day after day reminding yourself that this was not an accident and that the hope that happens at Christmas can be shared all year round.