Just a Little Smile

Today, Matthew and I witnessed the procession of the Stations of Cross hosted by a Catholic Church in our neighborhood.  The daughter of a friend of ours invited us and with great delight we accepted the invitation.   The experience wasimg_0399-1.jpg quintessential New York.  The children and teenagers paraded down 153rd between Broadway and Amsterdam, a street lined with aging brownstones turned into flats and the historic  Trinity Cemetery.   We joined just as the procession began with soldiers pushing Jesus forward after each stop and with a small mob of women and children dressed in New Testament era garb.  Tennis shoes, white socks, jeans, and even brightly striped leggings peaked out from under their costumes.  Some of the plumes on the soldiers’ helmets remained bright red while others had faded to pale salmon from age and use.  Sometimes we prayed in English and other times in Spanish.  Parents took pictures.  Matthew got bored.  I recited the Lord’s Prayer, every time, appreciating the reminder of the connection between our denominations.

Also in true New York style, life went on around us.  People rode by on their bicycles. Children leaned out of their windows as to fully participate in the scene unfolding just a sidewalk away.  A few adults joined as we walked aIMG_0405nd even allowed their lips to move with the prayers.  Some took pictures.  Some thought we were annoying because we interrupted the flow of their day.  Some slowed as they approached, smiled, and traveled on.

I am struck today by how much these images speak to our witness as believers.  Jesus followers try to bear witness to the cross and resurrection.  We believe Jesus is real, not “was” real or “might” have been real.  He IS real.  And we march out there in the world hoping to bear witness to the light and love and life He brings.

Some people ride right on by our witness.  Others lean out of their home space, listening, thinking, wondering if they could or should join.  Some walk along for a while, remembering the prayers they learned as a child, recalling the Jesus they knew at the time of their confession or baptism or youth camp.  “Is He still that same Jesus?” their hearts wonder.  For some, we are annoying.  We get in the way.  We are irrelevant and irritating, and perhaps we’ve earned some of those sentiments.   Another crowd, though, slows down, smiles, and moves on.

In all of this I am reminded that I cannot control how people respond to me, or respond to my faith in Jesus.  I must simply live as honestly, as transparently, as lovingly, and as courageously as I can.   I hope some will peak out of their windows, and that some will join the parade.  I’m sure I will annoy a few.  In the end, though, my singular hope is that New York City sees Jesus in the Cook Family, right here in our neighborhood, on our baseball and soccer teams, at the grocery store, and on the subway.   And I’m really happy, deeply satisfied, if I can just get the smile.

When the Body Hurts

I cannot take a moment of credit for these thoughts… but I must share them.

Today in church, our vicar proclaimed, “The power of the body of Christ is being able to bring your true self – your beautiful, wounded, fallible self and find love and acceptance.”

AH!  So that’s why it hurts so much when we our present our true self to our faith community and we are rejected, or cast aside, or our gifts are not needed.  It’s as if a member of our own family has wounded us.  It’s a deep, personal, and painful wound, like the empty ache of a daughter whose mother has rejected her, or the shame and sorrow of a son who never receives his father’s approval.  That kind of familial pain penetrates deep into our souls and can affect us for a lifetime.

I confess.  I’ve been wounded by the body of Christ.  And I know many of my dear friends have been as well.  I’ve been pondering why it hurts so much, and my pastor’s insight today made so much sense.  As Ephesians 4 says, “we share one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all and in all.”

Church, when there is division among us, when I am cast aside because someone thinks I’m not good enough, when my gifts are not welcomed in the body, it’s not a wound from a good friend.  It’s rejection from a family member of the closest kind, a blood and water relative.  And it hurts.  For years.  It hurts.

I want to write something at this point with a perfect little solution, a bandaid, to make the hurt better.  I’m old enough, and maybe finally wise enough, to know there is not a magic bandaid.  A kiss won’t make it better, won’t heal the wound, or even dry the tears.

img_2970But I believe that coming to the Table will. Coming to the table where Jesus will feed me and cleanse me, will begin the healing.  I’ll need to come back again and again.  But thank God, there is always room for one more at his Table.

Wounded Friends, Come.  Come and Dine.  Come and Feast.
Come and Rest.
Come.  Heal.

Take and eat.  The Gifts of God for the People of God.  Amen.

 

Eternal

Sometimes, maybe all the time, we need to focus on what’s good in our lives.  Psalm 136 helps us do that.  So, here’s the ancient song, personalized for my life.  Maybe you’ll find connections to your journey.  Maybe you’ll be inspired to write your own Psalm 136.

He makes the sun shine after the rain.
His love is IMG_3138eternal.

He forgives me when I cannot forgive myself.
His love is eternal.

He provides new opportunities when all the doors close.
His love is eternal.

He gives me a new song when the old one drones on and on and on and on…
His love is eternal.

He placed me in a family to belong all the days of my life.
His love is eternal.

He presses the restart button 70X7 and then 70X7 again.
His love is eternal.

He orders the seasons and brings life with each one.
His love is eternal.

He gives us children to makes us laugh, provide deep down joy, and to make sure we stay dependent on Him.
His love is eternal.

He unites us with perfectly matched life partners, to challenge us, support us, drive us a little nuts, and bring us warmth through the cold Winter’s night.
His love is eternal.

He makes us breathe, soar, and live.
His love is eternal.

Now you try:

He_______________
His love is eternal.

***Inspired from She Reads Truth: Psalms of Gratitude

Ask Anything

Lent Day 4.

In case your paying attention, we skipped Day 3.  I wrote, but nothing much came from it.  So onto to Day 4.

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:13-14

Really?  Anything?  I’ve grown up in church.  I’ve heard teaching on every interpretation of this.  But today, I decided to take Jesus at His word, His simple word.  I decided not to over analyze these words too much, but to just sit for a moment and write every thing I would really like to see Jesus do.

I imagined I would be writing a long time, that I would include the name of everyone I knew that needed physical and emotional healing.  I thought I might spend hours in the cozy comforts of my bed on this cold winter morning surrounded by my dogs, my daughter, and my favorite coffee mug.  I thought the list of “asking anythings” would begin in NYC, go through through middle America from Ohio down to Texas, west to San Diego, and then literally jump the ocean to friends in the East, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and even London.  (Hope you made list!)

But when I actually SLOWED DOWN to listen to the hopes of my heart, I didn’t find all the world tucked away.  I waited, pushing myself to come up with other hopes and dreams of my heart.  Of course, I long for an end to poverty and injustice and I wish for kindness to triumph over evil once and for all.  But if I’m honest, and I could really ask Jesus for anything in all the world, I would only ask for the fulfillment of these four hopes of my heart.

12549075_10208286506502393_5814108451553266629_nSo, deep breath…my “ask anything” prayers…

  • Open doors for Anna’s next steps in life.
  • Give Matthew Columbia Secondary for Middle School.
  • Provide the stage Kori is ready for and a soccer team that opens doors for college and a soul mate/best friend in this season of life that also knows you.
  • Give David a place of influence and success so that he may train and empower teachers to teach your children.

In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

Go ahead.  Slow down and do not fear.  Remember the squirrel?  What does your heart hope for?  Ask anything…in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

Today’s Batting Average

The above image demonstrates what I meant when I said I was batting .500 on the Lenten discipline of writing Scripture.

The point of writing Scripture is to slow down, to consider each word, every phrase, every “dot and tittle.”  The goal of writing the words of inspiration is to allow them to percolate, to pour onto paper like syrup pouring over piping hot pancakes.  The words should come out slowly, and then melt into the small open pours of your soul, bringing sweetness to the crusty places of your mind and your emotions.  If you practice the discipline of writing Holy Scriptures well, somedays you’ll need a little extra syrup to finish your plate and the last bite will soak up every last bit of 100% God-Syrup left on the page.

But I don’t do slow.  I take pride in accomplishing my entire to-do list every day and I work really hard at keeping my inbox clean.  Furthermore, I promise I can find you the fastest and most efficient way to get from point A to point B, although I sometimes I miss the departure dates by a week or two.  I often need to remember to value people above programs and I would rather grow a garden of tomatoes than an orchard of oranges.

So writing Scripture, SLOWLY writing Scripture, is hard for me.  My mind drifts.  I am forced to pay attention to every detail and I have to follow the written word.  I can’t make my own path.  I can’t assume what comes next or let my eyes wander across the page.  And I can’t write more than I can digest in a day’s time.

So, I fail sometimes, even at the simple discipline of writing Scripture.

Here’s the good news….I can start over…exactly where I left off.

Now that’s something worse thinking about, starting over exactly where you left off.  That means I’m batting a thousand, if you do math, and baseball, with God.

 

Show Me The Father

One of the churches we currently attend invited us to live in the farewell discourse of Jesus found in John 14-16 during the Lenten season.  The truth is that our rector challenged us to memorize these last words of Jesus as John records them.  I have not submitted to that challenge because I can’t memorize and I don’t like failing. (Ugh!)  Instead, I spend a few moments every morning writing these Scriptures.   The discipline of writing Scripture requires me to slow down, digest every word, and ask Jesus to bring meaning and life from these words.

Lent is only four days old and I’m batting .500, which in the major leagues means I’m highly successful.  HAH!  But let’s go with that.

DAY 1:   Philip said: “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

I spent the day looking for the Father.  I found Him on my way to work, just as I exited the  subway on the south end of Manhattan.  Keep in mind that I work in Battery Park.  On my walk from the subway station to my office, I can see the bronzed Bull of Wall Street, the triumphant One World Trade Center, and the majestic Lady Liberty still hoping to welcome the tired, the poor,  and the huddled masses yearning to IMG_2689breathe free.

But on this Day 1 of Lent, as I looked for the Father, hoping that a glimpse of Him would be enough for me, I saw Him in…wait for it…a SQUIRREL!

“Bev, surely you can do better than that.”

Oh I wish I could, but that’s all I got.  That little squirrel stood erect on this tiny portion of protected grass.  She stood on top of a rock, nibbling on the seed between her paws and carefully protecting the remaining red berries at her feet.  And she was chubby!  The mild New York winter never forced this little rodent mammal into hibernation.  Someone needs tell her swimsuit season is just around the corner!

I kept looking for God the rest of the day, but I never found Him.  But everytime I thought of that plump little squirrel on that tiny patch of protected green space, surrounded by gigantic cement trees humans call buildings, oblivious to the hundreds of people passing her by, thoroughly enjoying the table before her, I smiled.  I’m still smiling.  I’m smiling because God gave me a little glimpse of something that brings me great joy, animals and because right there in the middle NYC, I saw the embodiment of Psalm 23….

He will make me lie down in green pastures,
Though I walk through the valley in the shadows of death, I will fear no evil,
He prepares a table before me in the presences of my enemies

 

Thank you, Jesus, for the squirrel.

Show me the Father and it will be enough.

Tomorrow

     Tomorrow, two of my favorite churches celebrate significant milestones. My friends in both places anticipate a day of reunion and hugs and kisses and laughter and tears of great joy. We go to bed tonight excited about the old friends we will see and the memories we will retell.  I can hardly wait to hear former teenagers reminisce like old grandmas on the front porch, “Remember when we blew up the toilet at camp with our firecrackers?  How many times did you actually back into something in the church van, Beverly?  Remember that time we drove all they way to Angel Fire and remember us showing you where  one of us almost fell off the mountain and remember that time we got kicked out of Six Flags and then there was the time….”IMG_1882

But I’m also looking forward to this invitation,
“Bev, come meet my children.”  

My heart is so excited to meet the FUTURE.

     Tomorrow, at Houston First Church and San Diego Mission Church, we will lift our hands in praise to God for His faithfulness to us in the past.  We will bow our heads in humble thanksgiving for His constant provisions in seasons of difficulty and strife.  But above all, we will kneel at the cross, stand shoulder to shoulder, lift our voices in adoration and expectation about what God will continue to do through His Church.

 Congratulations, HFC!  Well done, Mission Church.
Your best days are in front of you.

MISSION NEW YORK: Hamilton Heights House Church Goals and Financial Target

IMG_1697The easiest part of sharing this dream is over.  Casting a vision and making plans come naturally to us.  We could talk a long time about we hope to accomplish, but it’s time to talk about the more uncomfortable part of making our dream into reality:  finances.

Below, you’ll find a three-tiered budget plan and a link to FAQs.  We’re on unchartered territory for us and we want make sure we are completely transparent about how and where we will spend your donations.  Remember three covenants as you consider giving:

  1. We will never know how much you give.  We know who gives so we can write you thank you notes.
  2. We will give away anything above our most basic needs and ministry investment, estimated at $50,000, to organizations fighting against human trafficking
  3. If and when Beverly finds full-time employment, we will need much less for ministry expenses only. (At the time of writing, she’s been called back for two more interviews, one at Macy’s Flagship store, (SO FUN!), and one at a Christian college in Manhattan.)

HAMILTON HEIGHT HOUSE CHURCH GOALS and FINANCIAL TARGET
LAUNCH DATE: March 27, 2016

EASTER SUNDAY ATTENDANCE GOAL: 25 (not including our family)

FINANCIAL GOAL: We estimate we can do the bare minimum of this missional work for $2500/month. $3000/month ensures Beverly is able to give 100% of her time to relational, church planting and missional efforts. $4000/mo would be even better.

  1. 17% — Relational Activities (meals, events)
  2. 7% — marketing
  3. 76% — personnel (housing)

In the interest of accountability, HHHC will provide:
Monthly E-Newsletter to Include relational activities and financial statement

HHHC operates as a ministry of Mission New York, a 501C3 non-profit established as a ministry of the Metro New York District Church of the Nazarene. Mission NY and HHHC rely solely donations to fund ministry in Manhattan. All funds are contributed through this account. It is managed by a treasurer.

  • READY TO JOIN US?  GREAT!  Donate on-line here: HHHC DONATION
  • GOT A FEW MORE QUESTIONS?  So did we: FAQs

I cannot promise this is the last post about Mission NY and the Hamilton Heights House Church.  I can promise to keep you updated as we progress.  If you know me well, you know I live transparently and I don’t compartmentalize my life.  I don’t have a “work life” and a “family life” and a “spiritual life”  Life is just life and so my cell phone falling into the subway…..

FAQs — Hamilton Heights House Church

Need to know more?  We’ve compiled a list of questions we’ve asked ourselves.  If you still have questions or need to talk this through, please email beverlyrcook@gmail.com or FB messenger us.  We promise to answer quickly and set up a time to talk by phone if you’d like.

WHY DO YOU NEED FINANCIAL SUPPORT? Excellent question. We need financial support because this is a missional effort and missionaries often raise their own funds. The HHHC is much like an assignment for InterVarsity or YWAM or WYCLIFFE. Those missionaries raise their funds and so are we.

COULDN’T YOU BE BI-VOCATIONAL? – YES! And, we are! David is teaching at a public school in The Bronx and Beverly is actively looking for employment. However, every interview ends with, “Clearly you are a gifted minister and I know God is going to open doors for you.”

WILL YOU NEED SUPPORT IF BEVERLY GETS A JOB? Yes, but not nearly as much. We promise to keep you posted and Beverly will keep looking for employment that allows enough flexibility to build relationships and care for our family.

WHAT WILL YOU USE THE FUNDS FOR? Everything! If this church plant was sponsored by another church, we would have a full salary to support us. Since it is not, we must raise those funds. See PART 3 for more information on our financial target.

SHOULD YOU HAVE WAITED FOR A FINANCIALLY SPONSORING CHURCH? No. God sent us here. It’s time to get started. We are hopeful that 4-5 churches will join our efforts and pledge a large portion of monthly support. The Lamb’s Manhattan Church of the Nazarene is the only Nazarene church in Manhattan with a building.  It’s a FANTASTIC church, but there is room for more and a need for more.  That’s why Bruce and Amy Barnard moved to NYC over two years to begin this house church movement.  Building the Kingdom in New York City will take partnering churches and people from all over the country, maybe from all over the world.

WHAT IS THE HOUSE CHURCH MOVEMENT AGAIN?  It’s a vision of Bruce and Amy’s to plant a house church in every neighborhood in Manhattan.  (NYC consists of five boroughs.  Manhattan in one of those.)  See this post for more information on our calling to Hamilton Heights.  (Manhattan has 39 distinct neighborhoods – follow #imagine39 on FB and twitter to see the vision going forward.)

WILL YOU KNOW WHO GIVES MONEY? – We will know who gives, but not how much. We receive monthly reports from Mission New York and they are required to file quarterly reports to the Metro NY District. As such, we get a listing of who gives so we can thank you, and you will receive an end of year donation report. Mission New York is incorporated under the State of New York, and is an Integrated Auxiliary of the Metro NY District; as such, your donations to this 501c3 are tax deductible.

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH? In this first year of operation, we will give away all funds beyond our most basic needs and ministry investment, which we estimate to be $50,000. We will donate additional funds to organizations fighting against human trafficking. We also pledge to tithe on what’s given just like we would any other salary. And as an “Organic New Start Church” in the Church of the Nazarene, we intend to fully support our obligations to the district, educational college, pensions & benefits, and World Missions for the International Church.

WHO ARE YOU ACCOUNTABLE TO? God, each other, Mission NY, The Metro NY District Church of the Nazarene, The International Church of the Nazarene, and our supporters both financially and spiritually.

MISSION NEW YORK, PART TWO: INTO ACTION WE GO

If you’re going to join a mission, you want to know where the mission is headed.

Always point up
Always point up

 Here’s the PLAN OF ACTION from now until the official launch date of our house church.

HAMILTON HEIGHT HOUSE CHURCH
PLAN OF ACTION LEADING TO LAUNCH DATE — EASTER 2016

FALL 2015
HOST:
5th Floor Fall Party in our Apartment
Coordinate dinner with family across the hall
College Game Day Party
Pasta Party for Kori’s Soccer Team
Invite 2-3 Families from Matthew’s School over for dinner

CONNECT:
Walk with ladies in our building
Coffee/Tea with moms from Matthew’s School
PLNU & SNU Alumni in New York
Kori’s Soccer team
Matthew Soccer team

PRAY:
For receptivity in friendship
Open doors of conversations that become about God and faith in Christ

CHRISTMAS 2015
HOST:
Holiday Christmas Party for New Friends
Tree Decorating Party for the Building

CONNECT:
Make & Deliver Christmas Cookies to entire Building

PRAY:
Become the Team Mom for Kori’s Soccer team?
For receptivity in friendship
Open doors of conversations that become about God and faith in Christ

JANUARY –MARCH 2016
HOST:
Weekly Soup Nights – begin asking for prayer needs, writing follow-up notes for prayer

CONNECT
Continued coffee/tea with moms from Elementary School

PRAY:
Constant Prayer for EASTER 2016
LAUNCH DATE: Sunday, 3/27 – EASTER BRUNCH OR POTLUCK?
Celebrity Chef to come cook for us?

BEYOND EASTER 2016
Beyond Easter, we plan to become a weekly church gathering.  We will need to evaluate our efforts constantly.
We will tweak and plan, and look for more avenues of connection points, perhaps college ministries at Columbia, CityCollege, and NYU.
We will constantly hope to continue serving as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

UPDATE:  In less than 7 hours from the original post, a graphic designer, a technical expert, and several prayer partners joined the team.  Please email beverlyrcook@gmail.com or message me through FB to join the prayer partners or to commit to one of the many volunteer teams we need.  And, don’t forget, you can support this mission financially, too.  More about that in Part Three.