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.

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.