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

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.

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.

When the Boat Tips

Not every segment of this journey to NYC is smooth sailing.  In fact, right now, the boat we’re in is heeling at about 30 degrees and I am freaked out!

“Rough waters” would be a mild description of the last week of our lives. We can’t seem to find a place to live. Yes, you read that correctly. We’re supposed to believe that  God will provide the right place in the right time.  Sure…but the headwinds we face show no signs of abating.

Here’s the question that haunts David & I at night and wakes us up early in the morning:

What if we can’t find a management company willing to take a risk on us?

Now I know what some of you are thinking. “I knew this was a ridiculous move.  See, God wasn’t calling you to that concrete dangerous jungle with horrible schools and high crime rates.  Maybe now they will come to their senses and re-settle themselves.”

Well, frankly, we aren’t thinking any of those things. Through this 10 day testing of our faith, we are more resolved than ever that God has indeed called us to leave San Diego and that He opened the doors for us to move to New York City.  In my faithful moments, I’m able to affirm “God called us. He’ll provide a new home when it’s time.” In my panic moments, I say to myself, “Keep breathing.”

What I know is this, that while we are completely in the hands of God where housing is concerned, I don’t feel or see His hands.  It feels more like we are out of the boat with howling winds and pouring rain.  “Jesus,” I find myself screaming, “We don’t want to sink!  Rescue us!”  And the winds howl and the rains pour and I tell myself to breathe and I beg God to provide a home.

Today I read 1 John 2:1-2 followed by Hebrews 4:13-16.  Let me write these Scriptures for you the way I read them:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin…We have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered…Therefore, since we have a great high priest…Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we have a high priest who is able to empathize with our weaknesses…Let us (ME) approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

AMEN!  I have an advocate and here’s what I need my advocate to do:

  1. Find us a new home…TODAY!
  2. Protect my Anna from loneliness and feelings of abandonment when we leave her behind in San Diego.
  3. Heal my Kori’s heart as she leaves her best friends at church and school.
  4. Raise up my Matthew into a man of God called according to your purpose.
  5. Strengthen my husband in the days to come.  Give him courage and confidence in You.FullSizeRender

My guess is that you’ve got a few winds that rock your boat and send it heeling over.  Hear me.  I’m in the boat with you.  I’m scared to death.  Breathe.  And with every breath, beg the Lord to calm the seas.

Jesus, advocate for me and my friends today.  If you can’t calm the storm, calm the crew.  Amen.

Our Best Days

My favorite story in all of Scripture is John 4 because it’s my story. A used up and broken down lonely young woman, who felt rejected by her religion and often her peers, Jesus found me trying really hard to live life dependent upon no one but myself. Through the love of my grandma, He gently broke through my shield of self-protection to bring me new life, everlasting life here on this earth and in Heaven.   This story is full of enough nuggets of gold that we could live in it for months and still find new truths. And so, I thought, if I could leave my San Diego Friends with one story, I’d like to leave you with one that continues to speak to me, and hopefully to you, for decades to come.

Let’s begin in the 786 war spoils story of 2 Chronicles 28.  The nation of Israel is divided into two nations, the North and the South. The Northerners, specifically from the town of Samaria, invaded the South, taking prisoners specifically from the capitol of Jerusalem. Upon the armies return to Samaria, they were met by a prophet of the Lord, an agent of God, who spoke vehemently against this invasion and mis-treatment of their fellow God-followers and instructed the victors to return the victims home.

As 2 Chronicles 28:14 recounts, “So the soldiers gave up the prisoners and plunder in the presence of the officials and all the assembly. The men designated by name took the prisoners, and from the plunder they clothed all who were naked. They provided them with clothes and sandals, food and drink, and healing balm. All those who were weak they put on donkeys. So they took them back to their fellow Israelites at Jericho, the City of Palms, and returned to Samaria.”

I love the compassionate care the mighty warriors bestowed upon their captives. I love that image of them binding up their wounds, providing water for the thirsty and food for the hungry and giving the weak a place to rest…on a donkey…all the way to Jericho. I love that they had a change of heart and returned their brothers and sisters all the way back home.

Flash forward with me to the time of the NT. The Jews and Samartans do not like each other.   Jesus knows this, and yet, to an expert in the law trying to make sure he fulfills every letter of the law, Jesus tells this story in Luke 10.  Make sure you understand this scene. Jesus is talking to a Jewish leader.

There once was a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Jerusalem sat high on a hill with Jericho about 17 miles east. Marked by sharped twists and turns through rocks and along cliffs, robbers found victims easily among the travelers. One such traveler, not only did the thugs rob, but they beat him up badly, tearing the clothes off his bruised body and leaving him on the side of the road to die.

No worries, though, a priest happened to be going down to Jericho. Afraid to break his religious laws by touching the corpse, the priest passed by the wounded man on the other side of the road.

Soon, a Levite came to this exact same place where the man lay lifeless and barely breathing. He, too, didn’t want to break any Levitical laws that would make him unclean and unfit for worship, so like the priest, he passed by untouched and uninvolved on the other side.

Finally, a Samaritan, as he traveled the road, came to the very same place, and saw the wounded human.

The Samaritan didn’t see a corpse or a human too dirty to touch. He didn’t see a homeless beggar or a poor immigrant or a Jew or a Gentile.

The Samaritan SAW a wounded soul and took pity on him, bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them to soothe and comfort, gently placed his fellow man on his very own donkey, brought him to an inn, cared for him over night and then left enough money with the innkeeper to care for the man until he regained his strength, his life.

And to the expert in the law, Jesus asks, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor?”

++++++

These two stories take place in 3 distinct geographical locations: Samaria, Jerusalem, and Jericho. The hatred between these tribes of people runs deep and long. There are centuries of disdain between the Samaritans and the Jews AND yet in each of these stories, in the midst of the tension, there is hope and there is healing…and that is what intrigues me.

What motivated the victorious and even vicious army from Samaria to tenderly return their Israelites enemies to Jericho?

Why did the Good Samaritan “see” the wounds of the traveler and stop to help when the deeply devoted religious leaders walked around the messy and the dirty?

And why, to bring in my favorite story, did Jesus “have to go” to Samaria? John 4:4 says that Jesus “had to go” to Samaria. It’s one of the most convicting and interesting phrases in the entire Bible. It’s the only time in the gospels that this phrase occurs in reference to Jesus. The only other time something similar occurs is in Matthew 16:21 when Jesus “began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

Sit in this for a moment. Two places Jesus HAD TO GO:

To Samaria & To Jersusalem

Are you seeing this? Are you making a connection? Are you at least intrigued?  Why did Jesus have to go along this particular route, from north to south, from one wounded place to another?

Because Jesus came to heal our histories.

He not only came to heal our histories, but to reorient our future and He does this right in the midst of our present.

Jesus comes into our present, to hear our history and reorient our future.

That’s what happened when the prophet called out to the victors in 2 Chronicles. The victors, hearing the voice of the Lord, completely reoriented the future of their captives by returning them to their homeland. God entered the present circumstances of both the victors and the victims and set their futures on a course for life rather than death.

Undoubtedly, it was God in the Good Samaritan that stopped to bind and heal the wounds of his fellow man to re-set his future from death to life. In the midst of the messiness, the hands of God reached down into the wounds of the traveler, bringing hope and healing, re-orienting him from victim to victor, broken to whole, dead to alive.

There is a beautiful truth found over and over again in Scripture. Sometimes we talk about how God brings beauty from ashes or that our Lord makes all things beautiful in His time. Whatever Scripture we quote it comes down to this one simple truth:

Jesus comes into our present, to hear our history and reorient our future.  

 Tenderly, I ask you, my readers, what in your history needs healing? Where are your hurts, your pain, your struggles, your stresses? What sin are you hiding or what memory are you trying hard to suppress?

Listen, no matter how messy your life has become, Jesus desires to come into your life right now, in your very present circumstances, to heal your history and reorient your future.

It’s really just another of saying, “You’re best days are before you.”

Blindfolded Child Seeking Tender Mother

WATCH THIS FIRST:  VIDEO TO MAKE YOU CRY

Did you watch it?  If you did, you need a mountain of tissues.  If you didn’t, what follows will make absolutely NO sense whatsoever.  Once you’ve dried your own tears, forge on.

Today at church I had the privilege of praying for mothers.  In one service, I asked all moms to stand.  Before I reached the end of the invitation, one mom literally SPRUNG to her feet, proudly proclaiming by the smile on her face, “YES!  I am a mom!” (Clearly, she’s beyond the sleepless infant years, but still young enough to spring up.)

In the next service, the above video played.  I guess because we needed a little more emotion in that moment, my husband began playing the piano as I reluctantly ascended to the platform.  (I did find locking eyes with him on my way up reassuring.  He knows me too well.)  I stood for a moment begging God to get me through the next few moments without an embarrassing meltdown.  This video, the one you were supposed to watch before you began reading, the one I had already seen twice, is about so much more than children knowing their mothers, and buying jewelry.  It’s about the creation finding the creator.  Don’t skip over that last sentence.

It’s about the creation finding the creator.  

I want my children to know me well enough to find me.  When they’ve wandered far from home, I want them to be able to find their way back where they will find my delicate fingers, my gentle arms, my soft skin,  my tender embrace, and my warm heart.  I want my creation to know me, their creator.

And so I touch them daily.  I kiss them and I hug them and I tickle them and sit crowded on the couch under covers so they will know my touch and they will know me and my deep love for them.  And if my creations know me, their creator, they will always be able to find their way home.  My heart prays this is true.

My children are just like yours.  They test out other moms and other family systems.  The grass is often greener at Tiffany’s house because she can watch PG-13 movies before she’s 13.  They often long to be like Josh’s family because they go to the desert instead of church.  (For non-Californians, “the desert” is a weekend spent on two to four wheels, literally “in the desert.”  Sand covers every inch of your body for 48 hours.  Most Southern Californians love their desert. I do not.) One of my sweet darlings recently remarked, “Listen, my mom still calls parents to make sure the party is supervised. You’ve got nothing on me.”

But maybe, if my wandering creation knows me, they will eventually wander home.

And that’s where this video intersects with my Lord.  I wander.  I test out other family systems.  I stumble through this life blind-folded by jealousy and hurt and ambition, until I finally find my Creator once again.

Do you suppose God is like those moms, patiently, hopefully waiting for us to remember His delicate fingers,  His gentle arms, His soft skin, His tender embrace, and His warm heart?  Hmm.  Yes, I suppose so.  And I also suppose that there is nothing more important than for the Creation to be known by the Creator.

Watch that video again, with Jesus in mind. Our Creator wants to know and be known by His Creation.  Seek Him.  You’ll find Him.

O Jesus, sometimes I need your strong arms and your mighty voice.  And sometimes, I need your tender embrace and your gentle whisper.  Today, I celebrate your delicate touch.  Your Creation comes home to you, My Creator

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