Mission New York — WANT TO JOIN US?!

We cannot deny it any longer.  We must embrace the call of God on our lives to New York City.  Ready?  WE’RE PLANTING A HOUSE CHURCH!!!

The story is this:  Real estate in Manhattan makes it almost impossible to start a traditional church, so we’re joining the vision of Bruce & Amy Barnard who came to New York two years ago with the vision of planting a house church in every neighborhood in Manhattan.  There are 39 neighborhoods.  Currently, Bruce and Amy host a house church on the Upper West Side.  On Easter 2016, we hope to launch the second Nazarene house church in the neighborhood of Hamilton Heights.  And we are very excited, and nervous, and scared to death, and CALLED.

It's Time
It’s Time

We can no longer deny that God brought our family here to be ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We believe this pre-war apartment building, at 75 Saint Nicholas Place, is the perfect place to do that.  We meet new people daily, new to the building, new to the neighborhood, and of course, new to us.  But not new to God.  We’re on a divine intersection and while we don’t have all the details worked out, we are moving forward.

The truth is that we should probably wait until we have this professionally designed website with coordinating logos and a mission statement perfectly crafted with catchy words and phrases.  But we don’t.  That will come as God provides.  In the meantime, we sure could use your help.

This is a little awkward, but here goes:

We need prayer support, graphic designers, and a celebrity chef.

We need pounds of pasta, a Christmas tree, and financial backers.

We need $2000/month to get things going OR  we need $2500/month so Beverly can give 100% of her efforts to relationship building.  IDEALLY, we’ll receive $3000/month so there are no worries at all and ministry can flow.

So, if you’d like to participate in any way for this new mission at 75 Saint Nicholas Place, Apt 5D, please email me.  God’s going to take care of this.  And it’s going to be so very exciting to watch His work.  Amen and Amen!

Here’s a quick guide on HOW YOU CAN HELP:

  • To contribute financially towards our $3000/mo goal go to:  Mission New York
  • To join our weekly prayer partners email me at beverlyrcook@gmail.com
  • To help with graphic design, web layout, social media, etc., email me at beverlyrcook@gmail.com

Finally, this begins a three-part series on the facts and funding of Hamilton Height House Church.  Up next:  Plan of Action: The launch countdown begins.  I’m so excited to share….!

The GOD of the Promise or the SIGN of the Promise? Choose Whom You will Serve

Well, if you read that last blog, black clouds of depression and worry might have taken over your soul.  Forgive me! I confess that I woke up more raw than when I went to bed.  I receive encouragement from your kinds words and prayers.

IMG_0987What I really need to do is count my blessings and trust in the GOD of the promise rather bend to the lack of SIGNS of the promise.  (This is a truth rooted deeply in the story of Abraham.  If you’d like to hear more, call me or message me. Let’s preach it together!)  In short, Abraham spent years trusting that God would indeed make him a father.  I’m not sure Abraham cared about becoming a father of many nations.  Even a man with an ego the size of Texas would be thrilled with just one descendant.  I am certain his wife didn’t need a shoe full of children.  She just needed one to nurse, to shelter, to love as her very own.  But TRUST they did AND they continued to live life.  They didn’t get stuck in the lack of the SIGN, but lived life with the call of God rooted deeply in their daily lives.

But TRUST they did AND they continued to live life.  They didn’t get stuck in the lack of the SIGN, but lived life with the call of God rooted deeply in their daily lives.

So here’s what I know today:  God called us here to be ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In the difficulty of the circumstances we face, we must not lose heart or forget our purpose.  Here’ s how we do that:

  • We will befriend folks as God leads. Yesterday, on the subway, David helped a college student with his Calculus homework while I chatted with his girlfriend.  We gave him David’s number and hope he calls again. (Darling young adults, Candace and Dijon.)
  • Our home will be a place teenagers are welcome.  Last night, Kori invited a friend to sleep over. (Note, my social child has been in school for THREE days!)
  • We’ll join fellowship with other believers. Today we’re joining a house church for dinner in our neighborhood.
  • Soon, we’ll host a pasta party for her school’s soccer team, invite our Super over for dinner, and work up the courage to invite the families of Matthew’s new friends over for dinner.

My Friends, do not get stuck in the LACK of the SIGN of the Promise.  Trust in the GOD of the Promise.  Your promise is different than mine, but our God is the same.

Though your destination is not yet clear…You can trust in the promise of this opening…Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning…that is at one with your life’s desire (John O’Donahue)

The Seas are Angry These Days

I’d like to dispel the myth that when one steps out of the boat to follow the call of God, the rocking ocean becomes a glassy sea, that birds sing beautiful melodies in angelic voice, and that your home is filled with constant laughter and cooperation and high-fives of congratulations and success.

What really happens is that the through the glassy sea, you can sea the sharks waiting to devour your failing flesh. Fear grips you in the middle of the night as the picture perfect glass rapidly thins.  The melodic song of the birds becomes a constant pestering of gnawing worries chirping  “what if” and “what-do-we-do-now?”   And while laughter still comes, it is followed quickly with a big gulp to choke back the tears piling up behind the concerns and frustrations and exhaustion of moving your car twice a week for street cleaning. (I promise.  This is no easy feat.)

In the last week:

  • The kids started school and they LOVE it.  They are still laughing.IMG_0950
  • David started school.  The Bronx is not Scripps Ranch.
  • I did not get a job I really wanted…and I need a job.
  • Our car got towed.  $200 and a day of traveling from one end of Manhattan to the other, brought our family van home.  (NOTE:  In some New York sense of wisdom, you pay to get your car on the extreme far south end of the island.  My car was parked on the extreme NORTH end of the island.  WHAT?)
  • It may be February before the Department of Education decides to pay David at the correct
    pay scale.  Currently, he’s considered a first year teacher.  He will bring home less than $3000/month.  (Did I mention I need a job?)
  • Led by the Lord, I invited someone to pray with me.  Through her tears and worries, she DECLINED!  (Are you sure you called us here?)
  • A day after we got our car back, some misguided youth tried to break in, a feat rendering our lock and window controls useless.  They took NOTHING…there was nothing to take!

I tell you, Dear Friends, about these potholes because I’m guessing someone needs to know that even when walking in complete obedience and dependence on God, life can be really hard.  I’m writing in the midst of the trial BEFORE our circumstances change, hoping you can relate to the desperation taking over our daily lives.  We are trying to keep our eyes focused on the GOD of the promise rather than on the complete lack of SIGNS of the promise.  But that doesn’t mean we are filled with joy and peace.  We trust, but we’re worried.  The seas are angry these days.

In the midst of the angry seas, we’re trying desperately to remember the mission to which we were called to New York —  to be ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I’ll write more about that later.  For now, I take my greatest consolation in that life could be worse.  We could be trying to potty train a two-year on the subways of New York.

THE RE-FRAMING REVOLUTION

I just got off the phone with my mother-in-law who shared some very tragic news.  Someone close to us has chosen to end her battle with a long-term illness leaving behind a husband and children.  Now in hospice care, they huddle tightly together, clinging to their last moments as a family.  Our hearts hurt.

It gives me some perspective because as difficult as adjusting to urban living has been, we still have every member of our family alive and well.  We face some challenges, but all of the Cook Family challenges are 1st world problems.  I need a re-framing revolution of my worries:

Instead of griping aboutcropped-fullsizerender-1.jpg making FOUR DIFFERENT grocery treks in one week, I am thankful I not only have money to buy the groceries, but also the ability to navigate my way through hot subways and crowded streets to whole foods markets where the prices are less and the food quality better and the stores SO MUCH cleaner than my neighborhood FoodTown.

Rather than complaining about what the humidity does to my hair and my general demeanor, I must choose gratefulness for the window unit in my bedroom.  (Truly…it saved our marriage.)

Instead of worrying about Matthew walking a block to and from school by himself if I don’t find a job that allows me to work from home, I want to be thankful that our 5th grader is a level-headed young man we can trust to get himself safely home, eat a handful of chips and red peppers, and then begin his homework.  Thank you, Lord, that Matthew can walk and think and run and laugh…and build amazing spaceships and super heroes with Legos.

Rather than losing sleep over all the known dangers that lurk in this city for a blond, 15-year-old girl traveling the subway alone,  I choose joyful confidence in a young lady that loves to be independent, that needed a place to spread her wings and believe that New York is just that place.   So tomorrow Kori will leave home at 7am, travel from W. 153rd to E. 22nd to meet a brand new soccer coach and go with him to her very first practice on Randall’s Island.  She’s attending School of the Future beginning 9/9.  She’ll make this trek every day, a journey that involves two transfers on the way to school and three on the way home from soccer practice.   She will compete on Randall’s Island and Central Park and eat lunch in the shadow of the Empire State Building and along Park Avenue.  Lord, help me be thankful for this experience, and a young lady more than ready to take her bite out of the Big Apple.

We are still not sure how we will pay for the last year of Anna’s college.  Washington and Jefferson is not cheap.  But our girl is graduating in four years with a Math degree and hopes to teach in underserved schools.  We have no need to fear or complain.  She’s healthy and vibrant and more than capable of taking the next steps into adulthood.

My husband started work today at HERO High, where he is now the department lead. (I’m not surprised and so very proud of him.) His classroom does not have a working smart board, there’s a leftover copier taking up needed space in the classroom, and he’s not sure if the air conditioner works.  This is clearly not upper middle class white America.  But it’s
a mission and he gets paid to help kids learn, to help teenagers hope for a better future, to believe in them when every surrounding circumstance tells them they cannot succeed, they cannot escape poverty, they cannot dream.  This is so much more than a job and it’s much more than a living wage.

Yep.  Every mountain in the Cook Family life is really a sign of how privileged we really are.  I’m guessing that’s true for most of you reading this blog.  Please, please, take a moment to re-frame your worries.  You might even post them.  That’s it!  Let’s start a revolution.  Let’s call it the THE RE-FRAMING REVOLUTION.  Ready?  GO!

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.”

The Elite 8 and Then Some

We thought you might enjoy an update to our prayer list.  The still-needed-desires-of-our-heart are in my personal favorite HAPPY color. 
The moment we began talking about moving to New York, butterflies took up residence in my belly.  Led to Psalm 119, I began every day praying through words of encouragement and promise.  Please know this, I’m not always a daily Bible reader, but I know when God wants me living in the pages of His story.  I also don’t set aside an hour a day at zero dark thirty to pray.  But again, when He leads me to raging waters, I lie down in green grass.

In the rich hope of Psalm 119 I found comfort, strength, courage, and a list of eight essential needs.  If you’d like, this is how you can pray with us.  I’ll let you know when God answers another one. Come along for the ride….it’s a good one!

1) A job for David. – DONE. HERO HIGH in the Bronx.

2) UPDATE — All of our kids seem to be doing well.  Keep praying.  Final goodbyes are just around the corner.  A school for Kori — and that at some point her heart, while broken and hurt, will be excited about the adventure ahead. (You can also add a soccer team while you are praying for her.  I’ve picked one out.  We just need there to be room on the team.)

3) UPDATE — David embarks on the trek to find housing this week.  (Yes, a husband is going without his wife.  That’s okay.  I totally trust him, I think.)  Pray for the most perfect place to call our home and raise our family.  Housing — We have an area we like to live in, and no, it’s not Central Park. We need 1000 square for $2500.  I would like 1200 square feet for $2500.  Yep…you read that right.

4) Storage — There are a few things we just can’t sell, but we don’t want to pay for storage  DONE!

5) Extended Family. – This is hard for our extended family, but they are coming around.  Our parents taught us to walk by faith and are starting to understand that we learned to walk by faith from them.  DONE!

6) UPDATE — We are so proud of this girl!  She has a summer job she LOVES and many friends to take good care of her.    Anna — She is quite concerned, and she will need a place to stay in San Diego from July 1- August 15ish.  Keep praying for her, but she does have a place to stay.  God opened up HUGE doors!

7) UPDATE — This is becoming more urgent.  The truth is, I don’t have any desire to work right now, so please pray for a rejuvenated spirit.  A job for me — I really only want to work part-time while my family gets settled and I have church all picked out.  (The best  We’ll see what God opens up.  I need to make $30,000-40,000/year.  How can I do that part-time?  Only God knows.

8) We had the most beautiful send-off.  God did something supernatural between us and Mission.  As my friend Susan says, “We are forever ingrained in the tapestry of our stories.”  We’re spending our last few days savoring our rich friendships. Favor from Mission Church — This is going to be so very painful.  Honestly, I can’t stop crying, but I know God will heal all of our hearts.   – This is painful, but everyone seems to have seen this coming. God has been preparing them, too.

That was the original eight.  Since then, I’ve added a few more and in the days to come, I’m sure the list will grow.  Still up for praying with us?  Please do!

9) We need a free place to stay in San Diego for the first two weeks in July so our kids can go to their camps. DONE!

10) UPDATE!  Done!  Thank you, Susan Orr.  Our dogs — We need wisdom on how to handle this move with Stella and Lizzie.  And, we need a place for them to stay 7/3-8/2.

Better is One Day…in New York City?

In late March, David and I sat down for one of those “what’s next” discussions.  The adventurer in me loves to talk about next steps.  My cautious and steady husband does not.  Our marriage chat took an unexpected turn when I bravely asked this life-altering question, “Honey, if we moved somewhere for your job, where would we go?”  He answered quickly, “New York City.  If I teach there, I will have taught in the three States that shape all curriculum for the United States and I will add ‘urban’ to my resume that already includes ‘suburban’ and ‘rural’ schools.”

Less than 48 hours later, David had made it through round one of the application process in NYC and within 10 days he had invitations to come interview.  Four weeks later we set off on an investigative vacation.  Even in that, God worked.  We spent five days in New York for less than $1000 including airfare and rested in an amazing apartment on Roosevelt Island overlooking mid-town Manhattan. In our five days, in one of the world’s most exciting cities, we met with a real estate broker, worshipped in one of my favorite churches, experienced the beauty of our global Nazarene family, got lost in East Harlem, ate crab cakes in Grand Central station, ordered cupcakes from an ATM, and began to master the subway.

And four interviews later, David got a job.

So, this summer my family will embark on an adventure more exciting than moving from Lubbock, Texas to San Diego, California.  We pack up June 29, live as vagabonds for a month, and then take on Manhattan.  We will sell almost everything we own as we downsize from 1600 square feet AND a garage to 1000 square and a stoop.  David will teach at HERO High and we have no idea where the kids will go to school or where I will work.

But we do know that “better is one day in His courts than thousands elsewhere.”  Better is one day in the concrete jungle of New York City than 1000s on the beaches of Coronado.  Better is one day in the wintery, frigid temperatures in the five boroughs than in the sunny February of Southern California.  Better is one day where ever God leads than 10,000 else where.

I learned that lesson watching David’s grandpa move from his home in the West Texas plains to the showy cowboy city of Dallas.  After growing up in Abernathy, he and Grandma made their home in those cotton patches for at least 60 years. People asked Grandpa, “Do you think you’ll like living in Dallas?”  I leaned into hear his response, “Yes.  It’s where God is leading us.  It will be perfect.”

O Grandpa.  I’m trusting you on this one.  San Diego to New York City?  Can we make it there?  Yes, but only because that’s exactly where God is leading the Cook family.  “Better is one day in His courts than thousands elsewhere.” (Psalm 84:10)