You’ve got a friend in me.

Hey guys–happy February. Not sure how this month is almost over but it is! I’m working on some blog posts for this year that are a little less update and a little more what God is teaching me. These lessons are playing out in ministry all over the city and I have seen them first hand in my life so I wanted to share some of them with you. Here’s the first one.

Friendship. (one of my favorite words!)

Following Christ requires relationships. It’s one of my favorite things about being a Christ follower; we get to share our lives with others! Many of those relationships are fun and life-giving but others are a bit more complicated—co-workers who are difficult to work with, family members who stir up conflict, and neighbors who aren’t very neighborly. Jesus taught us a lot about navigating relationships and here are a few things we can learn from His interactions with others—

*Always respond with truth.
This is a hard reality about relationships. We must be honest with those we care about even when it’s difficult. The truths Jesus shared with others during His ministry were not always well received but He spoke them nonetheless.

*Be direct and authentic.
Jesus didn’t butter people up with flowery language. He spoke the truth directly. We are called to do the same. Authenticity builds genuine, caring relationships even in the most difficult situations.

*Use any opportunity to share your message.
Jesus took advantage of every opportunity the Farther gave Him. Everyday we are given opportunity to take our life-changing message to those around us. Intentionally seek these opportunities and respond with the hope and joy Christ gives you daily.

*Choose people over tasks.
In the story of the Samaritan woman, Jesus was on his way to Galilee. He had somewhere else to be but knew the Samaritan people were too important to pass up. Relationships should always trump tasks. This is particularly hard for our human nature. We are busy people. We like to get things done. While choosing people over tasks can be difficult its a very rewarding decision.

*Be compassionate.
Jesus was often weary, physically hungry, and tired, but he chose compassion for others over immediately meeting his own physical needs. One of the greatest gifts we can provide others is the gift of compassion, a helping hand in times of trouble or a kind word after a long difficult week.

*Be an initiator.
Jesus didn’t wait for His followers or others to ask, He took the initiative to their lives. I’ve never had a close relationship that didn’t require work. Take initiative whenever possible to build strong, healthy relationships. Invite a coworker to lunch, ask a neighbor to go on a walk, etc.

*Experience communion in true friendship.
Throughout Christ’s ministry we see true and authentic connection with His disciples. Verses like John 15:15 show us how much Christ cared for His companions. “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends…” Truly investing in others’ lives can be tricky but it’s worth it. Authentic connection with other believers strengthens faith, and friendship with non-believers gives opportunity to share the gospel through word and deed.

(Read John 3: 1-21, John 4:1-26-42 to see these things played out in Jesus’ relationship with Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman and his disciples.)

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Tips for the best 2016

Its hard to believe its 2016 already, it seems like just yesterday I was in 3rd grade writing 1989 on the top of papers. I’ve never really dreaded the passing of another year but as the numbers after 20 keep increasing, I’m starting to feel like life is flying by. To be honest there have been years in my life that have flown by without much accomplishment or even movement. These years are all a part of the bigger plan but I really want each year to be full of accomplishment, pride, and movement! So here’s what Im going to do to make it a great year, no matter the outcome!

  1. I’m going to be authentically me. I’m going to enjoy who God created me to be and not try to be anything else, I’m going to be happy, excited, sad, angry, frustrated and all the other emotions I sometimes try to avoid.
  2. I’m going to set goals…goals for each area of my life. Spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional, and health goals. I’m going to work hard to achieve those goals to build a stronger, healthier me.
  3. I’m going to work hard. I always feel so blessed by the ministry God puts into my path and I always feel the responsibility to work hard to achieve what He has given me! This year will be no different. The ministry may ebb and flow but I will press on to finish the work He has called me to (Acts 20:24)
  4. I’m going to rest hard. This might be the hardest goal for many of us to achieve but I believe it honors God when we give our bodies the rest we need! Rest for me includes watching movies, reading, traveling, hanging out at the park, and goofing off with friends. This will happen often in 2016.
  5. I’m going to love well (1 Cor. 13:4-7). Life is too short not to!
  6. I’m going to live optimistically. It’s easy to let every hardship or frustration bring us down but I’m going to work hard to not do that this year. I’m going to look at every situation as an opportunity and find meaning in it.
  7. I’m going to think like Jesus (Phil. 2:5). This one is going to be hard but if I think like Jesus, I can act more like Jesus and that is my goal to be more like Christ and less like me. I’m going to be humble, active, strong, obedient, loving, etc.
  8. I’m going to be grateful. The last few years have taught me so much about gratitude and I’m going to embrace every opportunity to be grateful.

I hope this list will encourage you to live 2016 intentionally!  What are some ways you will make 2016 a great year?

Prayer Request

Hey all. It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks and I haven’t been able to post much. I did want to ask you real quick to pray for this weekends Coats for the City distribution we are taking part in. Over the last few months churches from all over North Carolina have collected coats to be given away in NYC.

This Saturday 14 churches around the city will distribute thousands of coats to those in need. Our church is one of those sites. We have been exciting praying and hoping this event will be a great opportunity to show love and grace to our community as well as open doors to be a part of changing lives for eternity in LIC.

Throughout LIC over the last month we have been collecting coats through our church, apartment buildings, jobs, and partners like you all. We are so grateful for all who have contributed to make this event possible. Last night I had the privilege of seeing this love in action. A couple church members agreed to help me get the coats from a church in Bayside and after we placed them in storage, we dropped off a couple special gifts with some ladies that Matt and Jina met at Thanksgiving and the outpouring of love from this couple to these ladies was such an example of what this weekend is about. It reminded me of how special this privilege of sharing the love of Christ with others really is and how big of a deal this weekend is going to be.

Will you pray with me as we make this happen today and tomorrow? Pray specifically for the men, women, and children that will receive the coats, pray its a special blessing to them. Pray that our volunteers have the opportunity to share the hope of Christ with those they talk to. Pray for the logistics to all come together. Pray our church will be encouraged by what God is doing in LIC.

Thanks for being a part of what God is doing in NYC! Can’t wait to share with you next week about this weekend.

These two things…

Today I thought I would share a few quick updates about two very important areas of my life!

Relationships
Many times last year I talked about the need for deep, meaningful relationships and how finding friends here is difficult. Over the last few months God has really blessed me with several relationships that are turning into great friendships. This is a blessing in many ways!

Over the weekend, I was hanging out with some friends and I came to the realization that my relationships here are fulfilling and meaningful, fun and exciting, and good for my heart. It was like an “aha moment” I had been waiting for!  I’ve never once felt “friendless” here but there were moments in the last couple months that my relationships began to feel deeper. A couple times that was through a heart to heart conversation about hurts in my life and several times it was just over a fun card game or meal together. I love the way friendship works and I truly cherish what God is doing through the people in my life.

Some of those friends are in my feature photo. This was my small group having a meal together last night! It’s so fun to dive into God’s word together weekly, laugh at each others stories and share our hearts with one another through study and prayer. I’m grateful for them and all God is teaching me through them!

Grace Ministries
The holiday season is always full of ways to show the grace and peace of the Lord to others in our lives. At New City Church we are happy to take those opportunities to see God move through our neighbors and new friends. Over the next month we will be a part of three opportunities to see that happen!

Box of Love
This Saturday 8 volunteers from New City Church will volunteer with Cru Inner City to help pack Thanksgiving food boxes that will be distributed throughout the city. Cru plans to pack over 4000 boxes that day and host over 500 volunteers. The NCC crew will help set up for the event and then do a shift of packing. This will be the first grace event for many of our church members. I am so excited about the opportunity to serve alongside them.

Thanksgiving at Hour Children
Next week as we gather around our dining tables to celebrate Thanksgiving with our families, members of NCC that are still in NYC will be preparing and sharing a meal with our friends at Hour Children’s My Mother’s House. Over the last year, we have been getting to know these ladies and providing a meal for them every other month. It’s such a special opportunity to share Thanksgiving with them!

Coats for the City
This past Sunday we started a coat drive at our worship gatherings. In December we will be distributing coats to those in need in our area. We are excited to be a part of making many people’s winter a little more bearable. If you received my monthly newsletter you read about the opportunity to be a part of this coat drive. I would love to have as many of you as possible participate. If each person who read my blog/newsletter was able to send 1 coat that could potentially be an extra 300 coats for us to distribute. If you want more information about making that happen just shoot me an email!

Prayer Requests:

My roommates Chelsi and Corinne found out recently that both of their moms have breast cancer. Corinne’s mom is having surgery tomorrow. Pleas pray for each of them as they walk through this journey.

Pray for our three grace events Box of Love, Thanksgiving, and Coats for the City.

Pray for Patrick as he travels over the next week or so doing support raising and being home with his parents as his mom has surgery next week.

Confession: I’m an extraordinary junkie

If we’re honest most of us long for the extraordinary every day. Each day that goes by without some grand event or happening, leaves us feeling bored and underwhelmed. Is this all there is to life? Will there ever be more? What if this is never enough? These are questions that plaque most of our culture. I admit I am victim #1. I am an “extraordinary junkie”. I want everything in my life to be perfect all the time. I want every experience to be the most fun ever. I want every conversation to have profound impact on not only the rest of my life but the whole world. I want to go to bed every night thinking “wow, this was the best day ever”. Its no surprise, when I feel let down or disappointed, I examine my expectations and realize they are WAY out of line.

There are days of extraordinary in my life. The day I accepted Christ as my Savior, the day I first sat with a child as they prayed to receive Christ, days I spent overseas seeing God at work in other cultures, my first day of college, my first date, the day I graduated from seminary, the day I moved to NYC. But there are also a lot of ordinary days of my life. Days where I have spent all day in class or at a computer working. Days with ordinary conversations with ordinary people. Days like today when I got up, worked around the house, read an article on the internet, rode a train to a coffee shop and worked for a few hours, then later took a bus to babysit and then head home and go to bed, having made no real extraordinary impact on the world around me.

What a failure today must be… right? Well no, not at all! I read an article recently about ordinary verse extraordinary. This article challenged me to see that God uses ordinary people, in ordinary times, to do ordinary things… that ordinary is actually usually God’s call for our lives. As we live an ordinary life, in ordinary relationships, in ordinary jobs, we then let God do the extraordinary. The power of the Gospel is the most extraordinary thing about our lives. We don’t need to chase down extraordinary dreams or live in constant search for more, we just have to be willing to let the Lord work through us where He has called us. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take risks. We should! We should strive to be the best version of ourselves, we should be faithful and obedient in God’s call, but we should also understand that sometimes that call is to do the ordinary… to serve by teaching Sunday school at church, to take a meal to new parents, to offer a listening ear to a hurting friend, to volunteer at a local homeless ministry, to work hard at our jobs.

I was most challenged when I realized that in this extraordinary place that God has called me my ministry and life is sometimes just ordinary. That’s hard for this “extraordinary junkie” to admit, but its true. God called me to this place, in my obedience I took the risk, and there are days where the extraordinary happens but most days are just ordinary. Most days I am faithfully living, obeying and enjoying life. Some of those days I’m even bored, but thats ok because God is up to something!

Why did I feel compelled to write this.  One, to admit to you (and myself) that my life is ordinary and that is ok. Two, to challenge you to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary way by seizing opportunities either big or small to show the love of God to those around you.

Prayer Requests:

Honestly, lately I have struggled with this thought of my life here not being exactly what I thought it would be. Pray with me that God will continue to use my faithfulness to accomplish His work and that I will continue to embrace ordinary.

Pray for ordinary opportunities for myself to serve God. Pray for ordinary opportunities in your life to serve God.

A Fall Event to Remember

Picture  a crisp, cool Fall morning with birds chirping and people frolicking about (I like to pretend we still use the word frolic!). That was the picturesque day of our LIC Community Carnival.  As we began to dream and plan this event, we pictured it a lot like this! People from all over the community interacting with our church, having fun, and experiencing grace and love through our volunteers.

We had 30+ volunteers from 5 mission partners join us over the weekend for our 1st annual LIC Community Carnival.  We had a duck pond, pumpkin bowling, face painting, frisbee golf, dog treats for puppies, and so on. As we planned over the last six months we were excited to see how God would use our mission partners to make this event a success. We truly collaborated with our teams as they planned booths and activities and we pulled together the logistics and decorations and invited our rapidly growing community!

As the weekend approached, the weather constantly called for rain on Saturday. As I have worked with volunteers over the last year, in my humanness, I always pray and hope everything goes exactly as planned.  This was not shaping up to be one of those weekends, with 100% chance of rain and the heaviest of it falling on the time we were to have the carnival, we decided to push back the event to Sunday. We trusted God’s sovereignty and watched it rain on Saturday as we hung out with teams around the city, and ironically enough around 3pm the weather turned gorgeous and led to the beautiful day we had Sunday.

We began setup up Sunday morning around 8:30 and by 11 were in full swing as members of our community filed in registering for door prizes, playing games, singing karaoke, getting their faces painted, and enjoying the company of those around them! By the time we wrapped up the day, we had over 700 individuals/families register for the event and 54 express interest in our church. We had numerous conversations about the work of our church and what brought us to LIC. We are excited to follow up with these families and get to know them better. This Thursday evening we are hosting a Meet and Greet and inviting those we met as well as others in our community that we have gotten to know. This should be a fun time and a great opportunity to get to know more families/individuals in our community.

What better way for you to experience the fun we had than with photos! Take a look!

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From the Beginning

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Random Photo Shoot

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Getting Started

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Set up

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Slip Disc Ministry Booth

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Volunteer Prayer Time (so thankful for our partners as well as the 10 or so church volunteers that made this event happen)

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Team from FBC Seymour

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As most of our teams were flying out on Sunday, we ended the day with a few faithful volunteers that helped pack up and get everything back to storage. In typical NYC fashion we waited over an hour for a Zipcar to be returned so we could carry all this stuff back and when I rounded the corner to meet up with the volunteers, this just made me laugh. Great use of resources!

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Pumpkin Painting

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Catapult fun!

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Duck Pond

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Registration Team

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This backdrop for ministry here never gets old

Prayer Requests:

Celebrate with us the success of our carnival!

Pray with us for the Meet and Greet this week.

Continue to pray for relationships we have started and continue to grow!

The Elephant in the Room

This blog post has been sitting in my drafts for about nine months now, basically with a title and a thought behind it, trusting God when trusting God isn’t easy.  This idea has been on my heart for a long time and putting it into words as been difficult for me but here goes…

Proverbs 3:5, Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding”  This verse is very popular and is a great encouragement to where our trust belongs.  As Christians, much of our faith is based on putting our trust here and letting God lead our lives, but what about those times this is not that easy. 

I think we could all agree that trusting God is easy when our lives are headed in the right direction, when things are going the way we want them to go, when everyone we love is healthy and happy. But what about when life gets difficult… you lose your spouse or a loved one, face huge financial struggles, are plagued with illness, lose a job,  or (as in my life) you face an unimaginable tragedy.  I think all of us could point back to a time when one of these things rocked our world.

I look back over my life and about 90% of the time I easily have put my faith and trust in God and knew His plans for me were perfect and protective.  But there is that small percentage where I worried His plans weren’t perfect.  [Side note: It’s good to know that when I doubt God or His plan, it never actually changes his plan and His love for me!]  So what caused those periods of doubt or distrust… a couple of things. One, sometimes I worry my sin can change God’s will for me, mistakes we make do have coincidences and some times situations are made harder because of sin but I don’t believe sin changes God’s love and will for your life.  Two, sometimes bad things really do happen.  This is where I face probably my greatest troubles.  Our fallen sinful world leads to pain, death, and destruction and this is very scary.  But what isn’t scary is that God’s love and will for you life is never rocked by this tragedy.

As I have shared before, I was in a tragic car accident when I was a teenager and this event shock my world… it brought sadness, guilt, and fear into my life in ways I had never experienced before.  I welcomed a new reality of anxiety and questioning. 16 years later, I still see the affects of this event in my life, fear creeps in at the most seemly ridiculous times, anxiety can pop up unexpectedly and I even sometimes question my trust in God. Can He really work all things to our good for His glory? How could this ever be seen as good?

Recently, I was having a similar conversation with my roommates about this very thing… why is there tragedy? how is God at work in it? why does He allow bad things to happen? why is this life so hard at times? Honestly, I really just don’t have answers to a lot of these questions. In my own life there are many unanswered questions about why God’s plans work the way they do and how I should most appropriately respond to these things. BUT I trust God knowing that in His Word we see life, hope, love, and joy come about in ways that are unexplainable.

I trust God knowing that this world we live in is not our home, that our journey here is alien to us and will be uncomfortable and not fun at times. I trust God knowing that He came to give us abundant life and in that abundance we will find joy, hope, and happiness. I trust God knowing it won’t always be a bed of roses. I trust God knowing it won’t always be safe. I trust God knowing His plan and His way are not my plan and way.  I trust God when I don’t want to trust because I know His love for me outweighs anything this world has to offer.

The struggle to finish and publish this post has been a long journey but I hope it will be an encouragement to many!  I would love for others to share their thoughts below on trust and times in their lives when trusting God has been hard.

Prayer Requests:

I love being able to share on my blog ways others can pray for me and the work of the Lord in NYC. Continue to pray for the work of New-City Church as we continue to grow and reach our community.

Pray for C a new friend.

Pray for those around this city that are hurting and feeling alone, pray they find joy and hope through Christ and that the Church in the City will be the place they find that.