Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Starbucks Standard

I went to a birthday party in Queens on Monday. You could tell the neighborhood was newly hip. Here in New York, it seems like we mere humans are never rich enough to afford living in the city, so we comute in from the various boroughs. And as more and more of us move out into the boroughs, the boroughs become more and more hip. As I was walking through this neighborhood with my friend Diana, the comment was shared that you can judge the safety of a neighborhood by the presence of a Starbucks. Right then, as we turned the corner, we saw one. Starbucks, proclaiming that this neighborhood must indeed be safe.

I've been thinking about my future (no conclusions yet, though) and I realize that should I stay here in New York past June I will need to seek residence somewhere outside of Manhattan. Of course, a miracle might happen and I might find myself still living on the island, but truth be told, it might be nice to live in a borough. I was thinking about the Starbucks safety test. Is it true? Can you judge the safety of a neighborhood by the presence of a Starbucks Coffeehouse?

Well, I have some thoughts on the issue: Starbucks is expensive and it takes a fairly good and steady income to afford a coffee drink at $4.00. And the company is smart. They aren't going to open a store in a neighborhood where people can't afford to buy the drinks. So, it is fairly safe to say that any neighborhood that Starbucks invests in is probably on the rise.

So here is where I ask: is it good for a Christian, for someone who is seeking the shalom or peace of the city and the people in it, to purposefully live in the upper crust? Should we make sure we move into safe neighborhoods? or do we make sure that the neighborhoods we live in are becoming safe places through our presence and fight for justice? I have a general idea of those who read the blog (I have a site meter) so I know that some of you live in safer neighborhoods and some in not so safe neighborhoods. What do you think? What does society say on the issue and what does the Bible say on the issue?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Photos from New York Touristing... more to come

People are funny about their dogs here in the NYC

STARBUCKS... just in time for a walk through the Park

Sarah and I at Alice's Tea Cup

Chubs and I at Katz's

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Red frocks

Today I let a guy named Joel pray for me. Or was his name Josh? Or John? In any case, I saw him standing in the subway, tall and lanky, long shaggy hair, kinda emo looking. Over his hip trendy clothes, he had a red smock on that read "prayer changes everything". I walked straight up to him and asked who he was with. I figured he was probably with some church and I was curious to see who was sending their youth out into the subways to pray for strangers. There was a whole group of them there. All in their red frocks, walking up to strangers, asking if they could pray for them, walking alongside them as the strangers almost always said no. My red-frocked and prayer-ready friend seemed glad to have someone show interest. We talked for a few minutes and I found out that the group was actually a DTS (Discipleship Training School) with YWAM (Youth With A Mission). ((Sidenote: ever notice how ridiculous we can get with acronyms?)) So Joel prayed for me. I couldn't think of anything in particular to pray for so he just prayed a general prayer for me. It was sweet and odd all at the same time. May God bless those DTS students and their red frocks.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Future in the Potter's hands

I heard a quote recently,
"The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating.” (John Scharr, whoever that is)

And with all the decision making in the air right now, this quote caught me off guard. I liked it. And then I was nervous that I liked it because I often like things that are less than godly. So I took a moment and examined it. How does it fit into the story of the Lord, the One who laughs at man trying to plan out his own life, for only He can direct man's steps. That's when the image came into my head: Me, at a potter's wheel, creating my future, slowly and carefully molding the clay into what I desire. So much control, so much pressure to create something worthy.

But I am not the one directing my hands over the smooth wet clay. The Lord's arms are reached around me, His hands lie over mine, strong and confident, and my hands relax under the strength of His. I had felt the weight of my decisions, the pressure of producing something beautiful. But now the Master Potter is here, His hands guiding mine. It is still my hands that are molding the clay, this is still my life, and I am making decisions. But really, His strong hands are over mine and He is wielding full control over this creation before us. In any case, it was an encouraging way to begin the day.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

"It's harder in the city" is just an excuse

Warning: I'm going to say some things in this blog post that might step on some toes. If you're offended, deal with it.

One of my closest friends (in California) asked me if it was harder to be a Christian in the city. Some of her other friends who had moved to the Big Apple, had stopped going to church and stopped doing those Christian things they had done in college, claiming that it was harder in the city to be a Christian. So I ask, is it harder here in the city?

So many thoughts came to mind when I began to ponder this issue. One of the first things that came to mind was the experience I had a day or two into living here when I realized that unlike the suburbs, where the homeless and ugly are hidden, the city hides nothing. I heard people commenting on the smell left on a subway seat after a homeless person sits there. I thought about the countless times I am asked for money each day as I go to work. The city hides nothing. All the ugly people ride the subway with the beautiful people. This experience is one of the greatest benefits of living in the city. I challenged hourly to examine my heart, to see if I am judging and proud or humbly loving and serving. Honestly, I am usually left convicted that I am judging. I don't want to love or serve "them". I tend to turn my eyes the other way, or turn my music up on my ipod. In the suburbs I could forget about the ugly people of the world. Sure, I saw them on tv, maybe. But in the year and a half that I spent in Glenside, I don't think I came across a homeless person more than a handful of times. And even then, they were "clean" compared to the people I see here in the subways.
As I pondered the issue of being a Christian in the city, I began to wonder what kind of Christians we are if it is too hard to be a Christian in the city. ( I know, I lack grace and compassion, but I want to call things out for what they are.) Is my Christianity something I enjoy as a hobby, and there are more interesting things to fill my time with here in the city? Is my Christianity a list of events I attend (sunday morning church, wednesday night bible study, etc.) that here in the city are unneccesary or too time consumming? What is my Christianity? It is easy to be a "Christian" where everyone else is because you give up nothing in your Christianity. It is easy to be a "Christian" where everone hides their mess and brokeness, but what is Christianity if there is no brokeness? Did Christ come for the beautiful, or the ugly? The healthy, or the sick? Who are we kidding? Christ said that if we wanted to follow Him we had to take up our cross. What? What is that supposed to mean? I'm not sure I can answer that. But I can tell you this: True Christianity is not just a hobby, or bunch of events that you go to so you can make friends. True Christianity is a deep conviction that there is no where else to turn for Jesus holds the Words of Life. For me, the city draws me close to God. In the city, I see the lack of shalom in every crevice. All the broken people, broken relationships, and broken systems, right in front of me. I'm also keenly aware of my own temptation to ignore God. When everyone around me seems to be doing what is good, I forget that I live for Christ. When all seems to be good and okay (which by the way, there is JUST as much brokenness in the suburbs, we just hide it better out there!), I'm not forced to deal with my own sinful and broken heart.

So is it harder to be a Christian in the city? No. And, if I may be blunt, anyone who uses that excuse for why they haven't gone to church in the six months they have lived here is in denial. I would guess they had been living off of the easiness of "christianity" in the suburbs and had not actually felt their own deep despairing need for the Lord's grace in their own lives. Well, now is the time to stop turning your eyes away and turning up the volume on your ipod. The Lord is calling you to live in the world, a messy broken place where people are ugly. He has given you a chance to have a redeemed life, even in the city. For the city hides nothing. And if you are not a true believer, one who is desperately in need of the grace of God, the city will show it. Thank God for His goodness, for He never turns away those prodigal sons and daughters who come crawling back to Him.