A New York Teaching Moment #1

I “heart” NY.  For those who know me, this is no big surprise.  I really do love New York.  I have been leading mission trips there for seven years now.  So when Sally and I found ourselves with vouchers for two round trip plane tickets and two free nights at any Sheraton Hotel, it was a no-brainer for me.  We headed to New York City.

I love the city, I love the parks, I love the food, I even love the taxis and subway.  But most of all I really love the people.  New Yorkers get a bad rep for being rude, but it simply is not true.  Everyone we meet is friendly and eager to help.  I don’t even experince that in my own neighborhood. 

We had some unique experiences on this particular trip last week.  We ran into Brooke Shields on 44th Street.  I think she suspected we were paparazzi because as she walked by texting on her cell phone, I gently and quietly ask her if we could take a picture which sent her running down the street saying she was very late.  Later we got to meet John Stamos (Uncle Jesse) and some other slightly famous people after watching them perform “Bye, Bye Birdie.”  Then finally, on our last full day, we got to be in the audience for the David Letterman show, who’s one guest was President Barak Obama!  That was crazy, to say the least. 

But all of these unique, wild and crazy experiences pale in comparison to what happened Sunday.  We slept in late (woohoo!!) and then headed to Brooklyn Tab for their noon service.  After church, we headed to our favorite urban BBQ spot on 23rd Street and then back to the hotel.  When we got off at 42nd Street we found ourselves in the middle of a MASSIVE crowd.  I mean, it was monumental!  It was like Rockin’ New Years Eve in Times Square in the middle of the day, in the middle of September.  We couldn’t move.  It was shoulder to shoulder for a far as the eye could see.  Surely, something huge was going on.  But here’s the cool part…it was a prayer service.  That’s right!  The 3rd annual Prayer in the Square was happening.  Thousands upon thousands of people singing “Blessed Be the Name” and praying in the middle of Times Square.  If you had told me back in ’78 when I attended Rockin’ New Years Eve on Times Square, with it’s seedy bars and strip clubs, that I would one day be worshiping Jesus along with thousands of other believers in the middle of Times Square in 2009, I would have laughed in your face.  But it was true and it was truly amazing.  As I stood there surrounded by the throng of worshipers, I thought, “This is just a tiny glimpse of what Heaven will be like.”

So, teaching moment #1: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. So many Christians act like Jonah, writing off NY as being America’s Nineveh.  They secretly pray that global warming will cause New York to become our own Atlantis.  But God is at work there.  He loves NYers more than I do.  And I’m here to tell you I met thousands of New Yorkers that love Jesus as much as you do.

Katy Trail Gospel

After almost 10 years living back in Missouri, Sally and I finally went on the Katy Trail.  For those who don’t know, Katy Trail is a State Park that runs along the Missouri River across the entire state.  You can ride your bike or hike from one side of Missouri to the other.  It’s one of Missouri’s best kept secrets.  The scenery is beautiful and the trail is dotted along the way with historic markers, wineries and small town Bed and Breakfasts. 

Saturday Sally and I drove across the river to the town of Defiance in St. Charles County to rent a couple of bikes and check out Katy for ourselves.  We checked in to Katy Trail Bike Rental and then headed across the road to the biker bar for some lunch.  Thoroughly nourished, we hit the trail.

Tom and Sally Hittin' the Trail
Tom and Sally Hittin’ the Trail

 We were told we could make it to Augusta in 45 minutes.  Augusta is the first stop in Missouri winery country.  Yes, Missouri has wineries.  Who knew?  Anyway, we took our time, looking at scenery, enjoying the nice tail wind at our back.  We saw acres of cornfields, riverbluffs and caught glimpses of the Mighty Mo shimmering in the afternoon sun.  It was a gentle  70 degrees which kept us from barely breaking a sweat.  We talked about the kids and we discussed the latest books we’d been reading.  (Peter Scazzero’s “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” is a great read, as is Timothy Keller’s new book, “The Reason for God.”)  We read all the historic markers along the way, telling us Daniel Boone and Lewis and Clark had slept there and we said “hey” to our fellow cyclists we passed on the trail. 

 We arrived in Augusta in about an hour and got off our bikes to explore the little town on the side of the hill.  After our walk we decided to head back.  I checked my watch and realized if we hurried and got back to the bike rental place in 45 minutes, we could save $10 dollars.

This is when things changed dramatically.  Sally, who had enjoyed the relaxing bike ride down, was now motivated to save $10 and she took off on her bike.  Do you remember the scene from Wizard of Oz where Almira Gulch bikes her way  to Dorothy’s house to take poor Toto away?  Anywho…the ride back was proving to be more difficult than before.  I’m not sure if it was an optical illusion or what, but it appeared we were now biking up hill.  Our tired legs were having trouble getting back in gear.  Plus, that wonderful tail wind we enjoyed on our ride to Augusta was now a fierce headwind.  If felt as if we were working twice as hard and moving half as slow.   The sweat started pouring down my face as I sought to keep up with the little woman.  I thought we’d never get back.  But in record time, with 10 minutes to spare, we made it back and were able to buy a sody pop and banana taffy with our extra money we saved. 

We had a few minutes before we needed to head back to civilization, aka. St. Louis County, so Sally went next door to the antique shop while I waddled my aching bones over to the rockin’ chair on the front porch.  (“…and there’s Uncle Joe who’s amovin’ kinda slow…” )  While I sipped my sody, I began “philosophying” to myself about our ride and how it really paralleled life. 

I believe we can go through life either taking it one step at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, like we enjoyed going to Augusta, or, we can take the fast track and work twice as hard, peddling faster and harder, fighting the head winds, striving for more, ignoring the scenery and each other in order to save a few bucks we will just spend on something else, like sody pop and taffy.

I don’t know if its my age or what, but I’m going to try and focus on the former and let the young fools live out the latter.  Life’s too short to waste it on the fast track to Defiance.

Broken Worship

My heart is a cavernous abyss gasping for fulfillment

My eye is a broken mirror searching for meaning and truth

My mind wanders the wilderness of pleasure seeking gratification

While my feet stumble and fall fleeing the scene of the crime.

 

My face finds its resting spot in the dust of the earth

My belly surges forth the content of greed and excess

My tears open wide and water the pavement

While my heart breaks and shatters into a mess.

 

That’s when I see His dusty bare feet walking towards my pitiful frame

And then his robed knees hit the ground landing in the river of my vomit and tears

His hands reach down for my pathetic face lifting my chin into His light

His eyes penetrate my brokenness and soften the shards of my heart.

 

I have found fulfillment, meaning and truth

 I have discovered complete gratification of mind

I can now stand on the firm foundation of Christ

As I worship and glorify the Lamb.

Redeeming a “hot one”

Sally and I are known to take late night road trips to faraway exotic destinations.  Like last night, we had both had a pretty stressful day so I suggested we get in the car and drive down to Fenton for a “hot one.”  For those of you who’s mind may be going down the wrong track at this point, I should tell you a “hot one” is a Krispy Kreme donut hot off the grease rack.  Yes, we are willing to spend half a tank of gas just to eat one hot donut.  Sad but true.

Anyway, we got down there and found that the “hot now” sign was not illuminated but we figured we might still get lucky.  We drove up to the drive thru and ordered two glazed and then pulled up to the window.  As I rolled down the car window I noticed that there were indeed “hot ones” riding the conveyor belt, fresh from their glaze shower.  I asked the girl at the window if we could get our donuts off the conveyor belt, but she told me they were not donuts, but cinnamon buns.  I looked at Sally and I guess she wasn’t really paying attention because she said she just wanted the original glazed.  So we took the cold donuts and drove off.  I was pretty disappointed because I got talked into settling for a cold donut when I could have had a hot cinnamon bun. 

We needed gas so I stopped next door at Quik Trip and filled ‘er up.  I ate the cold donut with my left hand while pumping gas with my right and got back in the car.  As we drove off, Sally said, “a hot cinnamon bun does sound good.”  That’s all it took for me.  I made a sharp right turn and went back to Krispy Kreme to order one hot cinnamon bun.   I had mowed the lawn AND gone to the fitness center, so I thought I could justify a second treat.

As I pulled up to the window, I said, “We’re baaack!” and reached for my wallet again to pay for the hot one.  The girl at the window recognized us as just having been there 5 minutes earlier.  As I handed her the money, she proceeded to tell us her little girl had just been taken to the hospital.  She had been riding on a motor scooter with her uncle and got her foot caught in the spokes.  I could see she was worried about her little girl so I offered to pray for her.  She said she would appreciate that so I stopped right then and there and prayed for her little girl Katelyn.  After the amen, the cashier thanked me and closed the window.  I almost drove off without the cinnamon bun.

As I drove home I thought to myself, isn’t that just like God to use my sweet tooth to minister to this young mom.  I was going back to Krispy Kreme out of gluttony, but God redeemed the situation by ministering to the cashier.  Can God really use sinful behavior like gluttony for his purpose?  Sure, it happens all the time:  A man goes to the computer to view pornography but finds himself on a ministry site instead causing him to repent and turn his life around.  A young woman decides to go to church in order to find new clients for her small business but instead gets involved in a Bible Study where she meets her future husband and they eventually get married and have a child who gets called into missions.  In the Old Testament, when Joseph’s older brothers sold him into slavery, little did they know that what they meant for harm, God used and redeemed and an entire nation was saved from famine.

Romans 8:28 states, “and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”