Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NYCUP Update Letter: Holy Crap!

30 March 2010
Holy Tuesday.

I'm not really sure what Jesus did on like Monday-Wed of Holy Week... Nor can I keep my eyes open and support my neck long enough to look into it tonight for how pooped I am (in more ways than one--more later). Nor am I still convinced that I have to cleverly contrive these letters and reflections to correspond to the historical Passion Week. What I do know's that during this week He was on the move and did a whole bunch of really intentional stuff, the glory and meaning of which would be revealed by the weekend... Similarly, God is on the move here and preparing me for this weekend too. I cannot believe how much we've done and learned, but even more incredible is how much God is doing in my heart and in this community... I don't how to begin so I'll try beginning from the beginning of the Plunge.

Beginning Saturday, Jonathan Walton, director of NYCUP, challenged us in all our proceedings especially in foreign situations to respond, as Jesus did, rather than merely reacting. In so doing, whether we share a sack lunch and a story with a homeless woman in Grand Central, or rebuke the man outside the 125th Street methadone clinic who leered at our girls, we bear witness to Christ Jesus, whose every doing was covered by grace, whose every word was true and laced with life. As such, we began each morning at 7:30AM in prayer and in the Word to draw nearer to the heart of Jesus. We are challenged by the many new situations we encounter to also to pray forward in anticipation; proactively and responsive, not just reactively.

How can I appropriately respond to encounters in this impoverished neighborhood? With the children who innocuously told me of their envy "because Chino food is mad good," and who re-laced my hi tops because apparently my Chucks were "not hood enough" for their liking. Or even with Harv and Robyn Bowman--the sweet whitest most mid-western couple who followed the call of God from their Ohio farms with JUMP Ministries to South Bronx. Here lies the poorest urban congregational district in the United States, yet it is situated less than a mile from the richest: Upper East Side. The challenges these people face, and what it means for them to pick up their cross to follow Christ, seem to find no root in my own experience of being raised in Naperville.

With what credibility could I respond? Pray for me as I am learning that truly, I represent not myself, not flesh and blood. The witness I bear is not of my world. Rather, I walk as a child of my Father, a daughter of the King, and so I—we—represent the Kingdom of God. And that comes with a whole different authority.

The sewage pump in the basement's utility closet which we call "the darkness" has been out of commission for at least two years, and the basement runneth over. But the neighborhood kids still sneak their way in for a place to play. They call it "turd surfing." Okay I'm seriously exhausted from squatting in the closet and scooping poop at the church all day. Too much so to even give you some words to lessen the weirdness of the image you must have... Ah... I didn't even say half of what I want to share... But sleep for tonight, to rise early tomorrow, and work, that the children might have a clean and safe space to play and to stay a child if only for another day. But more importantly, as the Lord purged the temple on that Monday, that 1800 Grand Concourse would be reclaimed from its filth to be a house of prayer, set apart.

Good night,


- the necessity of ... - "you guys need a hand? i like to keep busy you know, helps keep me away from the wrong people whie i get clean"
- "this church was a gem... you wouldn't know it now but that bell used to chime every sunday"
- there is a river of sewage... how do you react? jump in/save. go to the village and mobilize. engineer a damn. we need all those but ultimately any sustained response requires going to the SOURCE of living water. how else could i be so close to filth for any extended season unless i abide in him?
- you walk in victory esther, not just toward it.
- leave your messiah syndrome at his feet! you can be his hands, follow his beautiful-news-bearing-dirty feet, you can speak his words... but you can never replace him so abide in him!
- mighty to save / my glorious
- shock @ D from feed500 grand central... lord it is mercy that you are jealous for my heart thank you

Monday, March 29, 2010

NYCUP Update Letter: The Triumphal Entry

29 March 2010
Palm Sunday: The Triumphal Entry

Dearest Family,

First, my apologies for communicating so sparsely. If you are reading this, you have committed to praying for me this week; for this and much more, I give thanks! This last week has been so fast and full, and I believe I have felt the full force of your prayers and more importantly, of God's unchanging faithfulness.

The churning and returning of my heart begins with last Tuesday night in preparation for midterms. I had stayed up late to finish writing two essays and studying for two exams, so only slept three hours, which is never enough for my 9:30am to 7:20pm Wednesday class schedule. Before my first class, I was shaken with the news that a dear friend's mother, who had been as a second mom to me, had passed away the night before. With a heavy heart, I determined to survive the day, which I attempted by suspending myself in numbness and shock. In disbelief that God should break me this way amidst a busy week and pre-NYCUP, I entered the first of my two back-to-back midterms. It was my Bible as Narrative class, and the essays were a spiritual pummeling as I was forced for the duration of the exam to contemplate God's trustworthiness and leadership even if only as a narrative device.

In these moments I found that try as I might, I could not deny the truth of God's word or of His love. It was very obvious to me that it was not I who as clinging to the cross, but Christ who would not let me go. The cross was stalking me, I thought in frustration at God's disciplining love in my life, which did not feel merciful in the day's timing. His unrelenting jealousy was a mercy for which I could not give thanks that day... Nor was I thankful that He would make me to live and walk through last week and NYCUP this week not by my own strength and faith but by the LORD's grace and sufficiency in my utter weakness. He was demanding my attention.

In this posture I found myself in the South Bronx yesterday. I could not shake the sense that God would have me follow Christ on this holy week, of all weeks, nor could I deny that so dying to myself would end in joy and celebration and his resurrection in my heart. But that afternoon, totally unprepared sleep deprived and not even packed, I found myself unable to see the goodness of the cross. Instead I saw Christ weeping and praying alone. And cosmic child abuse. I would be led back to the cross in time for Friday, I felt, and God Himself would have to remind me again of Friday's Goodness. To His glory only, He's been doing exactly this.

As I told a friend whom I had asked to pray for me shortly before departing for South Bronx, "Your words won't change my mind or heart now but God... won't stop until He does. You can give thanks for that, even though I 90% can't right now." Praise the LORD. He has been softening my heart and renewing my mind. For my wounds which ultimately are inflicted or allowed by God, I need healing and restoration. And He has it all for me.

In just a day, God has turned my heart back to him and I welcome his triumphant entry. He saves me from my anger, doubt, and indifference. Please pray with me to continue inviting the Savior's lordship in my life and over the injustices that we are confronted with in the inner city. I can't wait to share more with you about what God's already done in this last day and a half and what I trust he will continue to do. But for now, I must sleeeep.



Thursday, March 25, 2010

how it is that the pitiful don't want your pity.

they want... to be unpitiful.

but those moments when i've actually grieved for her, thought of her, there is only aching joy, stabbing envy.

i cry, not for her, for me. messed.

if she can tear her gaze from perfection to see and take thought now of all your children still alive in bodies of death, she cries. she cries for them, for me.

for now with veil lifted and curtain torn, she sees, she feels what she knows, she rests. where faith has turned to sight, where the cup of every unmet desire overflows, every lonely thought and every unrealized impossible promise no longer harasses her with doubt.

and here, where you've said it is finished, we are left undone. to walk... strive... crawl... wrestle. scream. over your silence.

but such is my selfish, blinding, furious pain.

i cry, not for her, for me.

i will obsess, attend to the pain, lick the wound. i see it, not her. i see you, this is your doing, father. what more are you teaching me to expect from a father. i thought i could see past my earthly father but how are you any better. you say you want my trust, it feels you want my distrust.

omnia vanitas. i have chased the fleeting moments of the ease of standing on my own two legs on solid ground. then you cripple me and bid me walk on water?! i want satisfaction, sufficiency. not you. fullness, not faith. you refuse to satisfy me with trash.

it is mercy, really.

i don't want your mercy.

Mama Shiou

i cannot sing it this night.
your favorite hymn, those words you taught me to pray:

我的主 我心愛祢
我的主 我渴慕祢
愿祢爱来 吸引我


you're singing now, i know it,
before the face of the Yes to your every plea
now you rest from your toil; you find him wholly true
and i know i'll sing with you there.

and with your final heartbeat
kiss the world goodbye
then go in peace, and laugh on Glory’s side
fly to Jesus... and live

// chris rice

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

i cannot do this week. and i definitely cannot do next week. you will need to do it for me.

silence because the king is asleep.

wherefore, o lord, and why? it is a silence only god can bear.

wake up, you who died, and bring me to your resurrection.

Monday, March 22, 2010

NYCUP Support Letter: Passion Week

27 March—2 April 2010

Dearest Family,

Next week is Passion Week… Remember? I confess it sneaks up on me nearly every year. As I reflect on how Jesus spent his final days, he begins to reveal what matters to God’s heart. Christ bids me to follow him on this path to the cross: To suffer, lament, and die while giving God glory. To enter next week with him. To share in his heart that wept over the city, that scorned fruitless religion, that pled and bled as his own disciples slept.

Next week is also my spring break, and I am tempted to sleep. A month ago, I was invited to the South Bronx for NYC Urban Plunge (NYCUP), a week-long inner city missions trip sponsored by InterVarsity. I know very little about it but the details I can share with you so far follow: With seven other students I will be wrestling with God’s heart on issues of systemic injustice, poverty, and racial reconciliation. We will be living and learning in community about an abundant life of freedom in Christ’s service, and we will be working on renewing a rundown church building into a community center.

Until this past weekend (cutting it close, you know me), I tried to ignore the growing weight of God’s invitation to recover or discover his heart for the city and for me. As you may know, my heart’s grown a bitter self protection and invulnerable indifference in/to this city—and consequently to God—these last years… I have rejected as he beckons me to break, again. Enough, LORD, my heart says and shrinks.

In God’s mercy, he continues to beckon. I write to ask for your prayers as our Father gives me the grace to obey and to follow his Son, who himself was homeless with no place to rest his head, whose food was to do the will of His father, whose obedience led him to the violently Good Friday. And as these letters go, I also want your money. The NYCUP cost is $400 and any money you give in excess will go to future support of the organization, to ensure that it is sustainable and able to serve for years to come. Please reply to my e-mail if you are willing and able to give either/both your prayer or monetary support up to $20, and of course if you have any questions. I will respond with prayer requests and updates. Also, I ask that the majority of you who are students refrain from sending money. Your prayers and friendship have helped carry me this far. They, not money, are what I most covet from you, and I trust God will continue to provide.

I hear His promise. Friday is not safe, but Friday is Good; Friday is Good but Sunday is final. Death is captive in His victory train, the chains of failure and fear—my chains—are loosed. I am forgiven and free. It is finished! I pray you also continue to hear and follow his merciful beckoning in your own life, and that we will believe into his power and remember his promises as we contemplate this holy week. Thank you for being an example in this and for your continued love and support! I would love to hear how God has been loving you and not letting you go, too.

Gripped by and grappling with grace,


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Inebriate It

they have forsaken the LORD to cherish whoredom, wine, and new wine.

there is a truer escape
a deeper well whose drink drowns fear Ps 91.9
wean Your child from bottles of sclerosis
draw me again to that fountain filled with blood
to believe Your goodness
only You slake and forget lastingly Jn 4; Jer 31.34
and You grant sleep to Your beloved Ps 127

Living Water, rain down on me
LORD I need more of You

we are thirsty, o Jesus
we are thirsty for more of You

Oh! that I might repose on Thee!  Oh! that Thou wouldest enter into my heart, and inebriate it, that I may forget my ills, and embrace Thee, my sole good!

// The Confessions, Book I, Augustine

Sunday, March 14, 2010

How to be at once unbearably needy and unselfish.

And another:
Mrs. Fidget very often said that she lived for her family. And it was not untrue. Everyone in the neighbourhood knew it. "She lives for her family," they said; "what a wife and mother!" She did all the washing; true, she did it badly, and they could have afforded to send it out to a laundry, and they frequently begged her not to do it. But she did. There was always a hot lunch for anyone who was at home and always a hot meal at night (even in midsummer). They implored her not to provide this. They protested almost with tears in their eyes (and with truth) that they liked cold meals. It made no difference. She was living for her family. She always sat up to "welcome" you home if you were out late at night; two or three in the morning, it made no odds; you would always find the frail, pale, weary face awaiting you, like a silent accusation. Which meant of course that you couldn't with any decency go out very often . . .
Mrs. Fidget, as she so often said, would "work her fingers to the bone" for her family. They couldn't stop her. Nor could they--being decent people--quite sit still and watch her do it. They had to help. Indeed they were always having to help. That is, they did things for her to help her to do things for them which they didn't want done . . .
But the proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift. We feed children in order that they may soon be able to feed themselves; we teach them in order that they may soon not need our teaching . . . It must work towards its own abdication . . . Where it does not, the ravenous need to be needed will gratify itself either by keeping its objects needy or by inventing for them imaginary needs. It will do this all the more ruthlessly because it . . . regards itself as "unselfish."
// CSL, The Four Loves, p. 50

You used to like Lewis.

A maternal vampire who can never be caressed and obeyed enough.

To Joshua:

The most unlovable parent (or child) may be full of such ravenous love. But it works to their own misery and everyone else's. The situation becomes suffocating. If people are already unlovable a continual demand on their part (as of right) to be loved--their manifest sense of injury, their reproaches, whether loud and clamorous or merely implicit in every look and gesture of resentful self-pity--produce in us a sense of guilt (they are intended to do so) for a fault we could not have avoided and cannot cease to commit. They seal up the very foundation for which they are thirsty. If ever, at some favoured moment, any germ of Affection for them stirs in us, their demand for more and still more petrifies us again. And of course such people always desire the same proof of our love; we are to join their side, to hear and share their grievance against someone else. If my boy really loved me he would see how selfish his father is . . . if you loved me you wouldn't let me be treated like this . . .
And all the while they remain unaware of the real road. "If you would be loved, be lovable," said Ovid . . .
The really surprising thing is not that these insatiable demands made by the unlovable are sometimes made in vain, but that they are so often met. Sometimes one sees a woman's girlhood, youth and long years of her maturity up to the verge of old age all spend in tending, obeying, caressing, and perhaps supporting, a maternal vampire who can never be caressed and obeyed enough . . .
// CSL, The Four Loves, p. 41

You always did like vampires.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rainy Day Flea Fun

Acquisitions from a slow Saturday afternoon at the Brooklyn Flea with Norman, Steph, Adoree:
  • $2 Floral lace
  • $5 Poker cards
  • $5 Pewter rose ring
  • $10 Brooklyn Industries black cotton fleece


Friday Funnies

Jessica:  they call "us" team rocket
 which was a pokemon reference i didn't get
 until they said the peoples names were jessie and james

Pearl: haha you giddy cheeseball

Norman: "its 4:38 pm. do you know where your children are?"
 I DO!

Kevin: dranks are like unwholesome lovers
 they take you for a spin
 and then leave you reeling

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

John Bunyan on Religion v. What's better and actually works

"Run, John, run," the law commands,
But gives neither feet nor hands.

Better news the gospel brings;
It bids me fly and gives me wings!
solā gratiā Dei
// Pilgrim's Progress

Thursday, March 4, 2010

They're watching, they knoowww!!

Today our apartment received an anthropologie catalog in the mail addressed to ESTHER SHIBATA.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A New Docetism: We are not minds, we have them.

I could only love newliteracy more if it were more readable. I've been sitting on the last post for a month; in it, Dan describes technology like Facebook as a "modern medium for an ancient heresy... the new docetism." It tickles me and here's the gist:

As the Gnostics discarded Christ's humanity and kept only his divinity, we similarly sacrifice incarnation at the altar of ease. One way we dehumanize other humans and ourselves is by dissociating bodily presence from our minds in online communities, we conceive of ourselves as essentially minds.

Closing his thoughts he writes and compares the internet village/community/church to other cultures:
"Tribesmen in North Africa, like Native Americans... They don't want to hear your thoughts until you've sat with them for extended periods of time, not talking; this is how they get comfortable with one another. They require you to not talk but move with them for weeks to get to know you in a way that is deeper than words. Missionaries often make the mistake of going into a culture and talking right away.
"So how are we showing love towards one another through these online mediums? ... We're not doing love much justice by copping out to convenience. I'm not going to get into defining love but if it something we mean deeply, love can only be expressed personally, in presence..."

I am grateful to have such friends. The ones who are okay with silence and with simply being near. They are credible witnesses, trustworthy ones who are more than disembodied text.

Our supreme example is Christ--the incarnate Word:
"God's greatest act of love to come to us in human form and die on a cross for our sins sums it up pretty good... Shalom is something that we have little notion of today thanks to our dulled sensitivity to the spirituality of things. Powers such as Facebook continue to assert their dehumanizing agenda in an attempt to further divide our beings and souls into commodified pieces..."