If You Can Make It in New York, Part 5: Ferry Ferry, Quite Contrary

One of the reasons I liked riding the Staten Island Ferry is that I was forced to slow down. I tend to be constantly in motion, either mentally or physically, and don’t usually like to slow down, so in a way NYC would seem to be the perfect city for me, but the movement in that city is even too much for me. However, there are times when I’m forced to slow down, such as on an airplane or boat, places I have no control of vehicular movement and can kind of relax. If I weren’t forced to slow down by circumstances, I would probably just keep moving and not even think about it. It might seem a bit contradictory, but although I hate to slow down, I sometimes appreciate being forced to slow down. So the ferry ride was enjoyable, as I could actually sit and talk to other people who couldn’t rush elsewhere either.

On the ferry, I met a guy who had served in war and was too jaded by what he had witnessed and didn’t want to talk very long. I also met a guy with broken English, so I really don’t know if we understood each other very much, but I got wrapped up in conversation with him. Before I knew it, the ride was over, and our group then went back around in order to ride the ferry the other way. For those who don’t know, pretty much what the ferry does is carry passengers back and forth across water between Manhattan and Staten Island, and as they travel, they are able to see the Statue of Liberty from afar. On our first trip across, I had not even seen the Statue of Liberty, so on the way back, I made sure to sit in the outer area of the deck I was on, just so I would have an opportunity to see her. During our return trip, I met one of the firefighters who had helped with cleaning up Ground Zero. He believes there’s got to be someone out there, but he wasn’t open to hearing what I had to say.

I thought she'd be a lot taller.
I thought she’d be a lot taller.

Although I might not have had anyone hear me out, the slow pace of the ferry was a contrast to the hustle and bustle that NYC is known for. Because of the slowness and calmness of the travel it allowed for opportunity to talk with people one-on-one, even if for a short time. There was no rushing by any of the travelers to get to the next destination; it was an atmosphere much like the park from that previous Sunday.

After we had regrouped and left the ferry, we were soon led to the site now known as Ground Zero, a reminder of a life and country that were much different almost fifteen years ago. Before we got to our destination, Sam told us how he had been impacted by that tragic day and its aftermath, having been doing what he does for years in NYC before all events of that day had transpired. He had lost people himself, but through this tragedy, he had gained a new perspective on what he does. Then it was time to go there and see firsthand how things currently look.

Statue near Ground Zero

Ground Zero has a paid museum, as well as a couple reflecting pool, which are free to visitors outside; at least, I think they’re reflecting pools. (They look like fountains with water constantly flowing down to I don’t know where). Engraved into the barrier along the perimeter of the fountains are names of people lost that day. The World Trade Center, once a center of business and commerce, has become a memorial ground for lives cut short. It goes to show that in the end, it’s still people who matter more than things. I can’t really describe how I felt being in that location, as I wasn’t directly affected by that day, but I have since come to know people who were.

After spending some time at Ground Zero, we eventually went to dinner in Chinatown (or Little Italy for others). In some ways it’s not much different from other places, since it has some of the same businesses, but it also has its own Chinese culture. We didn’t spend a lot of time exploring it, so I don’t know what all is there, but that’s New York: little time, lots to see and do.

It was a somewhat long day, and tomorrow would be our last full day of work, and who knew what that day would bring.

Chinatown

If You Can Make It in New York, Part 4: NYC Is A Microcosm of the USA

The first day was hard to talk to people because I was new to the area, and the second because people in New York City don’t seem to stop moving. Tuesday started out with even more difficulty. I should mention that I have a somewhat heightened sense of hearing, and we spent part of the morning talking to people beneath an overhead subway terminal. If you’ve ever tried talking to people above the noise of trains passing overhead, you would understand my experience. That is, if they’ll even pay attention to you. But that was just the morning.

The forecast for Tuesday called for rain all day, so the plan was to stick with the subways and later ride the Staten Island Ferry. As if talking with subways running overhead wasn’t difficult enough, trying to talk while they were constantly coming and going around me was nearly impossible. Each day seemed to add a new layer of noise as a barrier I could not overcome; I felt so useless trying to talk with anyone when I couldn’t even hear myself, plus the fact that trains arrived so often, which quickly cut off most encounters. I think I had one good conversation going before the guy I was talking with had to go.

After being in NYC for about a day or so, what I felt in the subway terminal at one point is probably best described as discouragement or defeat. If I must be honest, there were times during the trip I felt a bit disconnected from everyone else with me, and it was those times I felt the most vulnerable. Besides heightened hearing, another thing about me is that I spend a lot of time being introspective, and it sometimes creates a sense of isolation, no matter how many other people are around me. I’ve really only become social within the past six years or so, but whenever I am not actively talking with anyone else, finding a conversation to join, or noticing the noise level, I tend to become introspective. This trip was no different; if I wasn’t talking to a stranger or someone I was traveling with, I sometimes became very introspective.

I felt so discouraged because I saw many people rushing around, few having time to stop and talk or even willing to accept a tract as they passed by. People are so rushed in this city that never stops moving, and they don’t seem to have time for God. Not only do people not have time for God, but as I also noticed on subways and other areas, people put on headphones or bury themselves in reading material or some electronic device, so they don’t necessarily have to acknowledge others around them between where they were and where they’re going. Since I’ve seen this back home and other places outside New York as well, it occurred to me that New York City is just a small version of the country as a whole; we have such an individualistic culture and individualized distractions that it’s easy to tune out whatever we want. We’re too busy for God and too self-absorbed for other people. I can’t say I don’t do this myself. I currently live by myself, so I know what it’s like to feel isolated or lonely, and not always by choice, but sometimes I think we bring those feelings on ourselves by our actions or inactions.

While the subway and its busyness felt discouraging, the Staten Island Ferry we would be on later that afternoon was one of the times I enjoyed during the whole week.

Times Square

If You Can Make It in New York, Part 3: It’s A Long Story, Just Get the Firehose

The following day (Monday), we went to a different area of the city; whereas previously we had gone to a park in which people were mostly sitting around and relaxing, that second day was a hustle-and-bustle kind of day along the sidewalks elsewhere. People were constantly moving, so I felt even less able to engage anyone in conversation, but I did finally manage to talk to a few people that day. Sadly, not all of the conversations went well; in fact, one of them was a bit intense.

This particular conversation I had was with a guy whom I simply thought might have overheard what members of my team had been talking about with someone else. Unfortunately, after talking with him shortly, I found his view on the Bible so distorted and awkward that I didn’t know what to make of what he was saying; he knew certain verses but somehow was way off their context or even what they said directly. I wouldn’t say he was crazy, but he was severely misguided in his interpretation and somewhat abrasive in his speech; in fact, I afterwards found out he belonged to a cult I’d never heard of before. Jeff was able to get me out of the conversation, and we walked a little bit down the street, but then this guy walked up and started to talking to me again, until Sam engaged him in conversation, and we were able to move on. I think I was still reeling from that experience for a while; it kind of stuck with me throughout the week. In hindsight, some of what he had said was a bit laughable (not necessarily in a good way though) because of how he used the verses compared with the correct interpretation. But I digress; however, I became a little more cautious about approaching people on the street after that experience.

Another conversation I had that day just kind of went in circles, with the guy I talked to saying he had moved beyond the Bible and saw all religions as having pieces of truth. The conversation might not have gone anywhere, but at least he was a nice person to talk to.

As we were nearing the end of our time in the area, as I was waiting with one of my teammates, a lady walked over to us and asked for prayer for a specific issue. I had noticed her previously during our time there, but she had been working at one of the stores, so I never approached her. She wasn’t a believer, but it was still encouraging that she had come over and asked for prayer. Since she was still supposed to be working, I had a brief time to talk but was able to share the Gospel with her and pray for her request.

We headed to dinner that evening around Union Square, but before we arrived there, we had gone to the underground part that shows names of those lost on September 11, 2001. I can’t say what I ate tasted great (I think I’ll avoid goat cheese), but I did get to have a brief religious discussion with the guy I bought my dinner from. He was friendly, but he disagreed with some of what I had to share.

Names of people lost on 9-11
Names of people lost on 9-11

After dinner, it was back to work; this time we got to see the paint presentation and tried talking to people that way. The paint presentation is a way that someone explains the Gospel while painting what s/he is talking about; it’s very interesting to watch someone drawing a picture while sharing a message. We then try to engage with whomever may have been listening/watching this, or conversely, try to talk with those who are walking by/away midway through the presentation.

Later on, it was time to head back to the church, and that’s when we got lost in New York City (we did have a guy named Kevin with us). Let me just explain what Sam had told us from the get-go; if he wasn’t with us, we were lost, because he knew the city. Whether we were on the subway train and he wasn’t or vice versa, we were lost. Not all of us made it to the train we were supposed to get on, but those of us who did were “lost.” Those few minutes without Sam were pretty exciting and somewhat hilarious. Not every day would be this eventful or chaotic, but some things did just seem to get more difficult with each day that passed.

nosam

If You Can Make It in New York, Part 2: The First Step Is Almost Always the Hardest

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. -Matthew 28:19-20 NASB

IMG_3265

Our first afternoon in New York City, we took the subway to Bryant Park. (Without looking it up, I could not tell you at all what part of NYC that is; we took the subway all over, so I have no idea what is where or how to get there.) It was our first day, but already we were supposed to go talk to strangers about the Gospel. Incidentally, this was a first for many of us, whether it be this type of trip or even going to New York. I don’t know what is it about talking to other people that can be so nerve-wracking, more specifically when it comes to matters of faith, and even more so when you know what you believe is truth others need to hear. But anyway, in order to accomplish our objective, we had been split into teams of four: three of us Texans plus a student/intern from Word of Life, the organization we were working with that week; my team leader was Jeff. So there we were in Bryant Park with the intent of talking to people we had never met before, and after a brief team huddle and prayer, we were off to spread the message.

Honestly, I’ve never really been good at walking up to people and starting small talk. I’m an introvert, and it’s taken me years to get to a point in my life in which talking to people is somewhat enjoyable, but starting a conversation can still be a challenge for me, especially with people I don’t know. Being thrown into this the first day of my arrival did not really make it easier on me. I’d rather have just handed out tracts than talked to people; that would’ve been a lot easier (maybe more cowardly). The first guy I remember talking with had a somewhat thick Spanish accent; he was from Mexico and had recently lost a loved one. I think he was a believer, but I can’t be sure because I had trouble understanding him during our conversation. I do know he had needed someone to talk to about what was going on with him, so I was able to minister to him in that way, even if I couldn’t always figure out what he was saying. Another conversation I had was with a young woman who was respectful of what I had to say, even if she didn’t agree with me. I talked with a guy until he got distracted by a phone call; he had told me that if humans can figure out how to get along, then we can figure out what’s out there (or something to that effect). I also met a man who was a believer; he seemed so negative with how some Christians go about sharing their faith, but we had a nice short theological discussion before it was time to leave for the day. Needless to say, I still wasn’t sure what I was doing, and I felt a bit discouraged with the whole experience that day.

I didn’t think things had really gone that great, but if all we were going to do was walk up to people sitting there and start talking to them, maybe things wouldn’t be so bad. Ha, I was still getting my feet proverbially wet, but was I in for a rude awakening the following day.

If You Can Make It in New York, Part 1: Getting There Is Just the Beginning

It is the best of cities; it is the worst of cities. If I may borrow from Charles Dickens just a bit in order to describe New York City.

Recently I had a chance to visit New York City for the first time ever. I was there with some people from my church, and our reason for going was to do what is known as “open air evangelism” or “street evangelism.” It’s pretty much walking up to complete strangers and telling them about Jesus Christ, allowing them an opportunity to place their trust in Him. At least that’s the point of it. Somehow over the centuries, we’ve made it so difficult on ourselves to do something that should be so simple, but we were determined to do this.

Now that you know why we were there, let me back up several months to briefly explain how this came about. Ever since last year, the church I go to (Woodcreek in Richardson, Tx) has been doing something called “Everybody Matters.” Why? Because they do. Humans made in the image of God matter to Him, so they should matter to us. Because everyone matters, we should be reaching out to them. Not far removed this overarching theme/objective, our young adults community was exploring what that meant to us as, well, young adults in North Texas. Towards the end of last year and the beginning of this year, we were given lessons (for lack of a better word) on how to share the Gospel with various groups of people. This culminated with the idea to take what we were trying to do beyond our little bubble of life into somewhere else, and a missions trip was born; without going into a lot of details, NYC became the destination.

This idea was presented to us, and it was opened to anyone interested in taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to NYC; it had started with young adults but soon grew to include anyone within the church. From the moment I heard this announcement, I was on board. It wasn’t because I had everything figured out or knew what to expect. Quite the contrary; frankly, I had no idea what to expect. Something you should know about me is I like trying new things and sometimes going to new places. I’d been on a couple missions trips prior, but those times the objective was different, though related; I’d also never been to New York (almost did in 2010). So this was perfect for me, and I was gung-ho to go.

As the months passed, my eagerness ebbed and flowed; life has a way of doing that to our excitement for future events. And then came the event. I don’t know that I was ever fully prepared for this trip, as I didn’t necessarily have any pre-conceived expectations, and when I got there, I was never fully taken in by the sights (as in “this is the most awesome place I’ve ever been”). Don’t get me wrong, there’s something about New York City that kind of draws you in, but at the same time, maybe there’s this sort of disconnect I can’t explain. Or maybe it was just me; after all, I was in a new place with people I’d somewhat gotten to know before this trip. We all were there for the same purpose, yet there were times when it was basically just me with my thoughts in a city I didn’t know.

We arrived on a Sunday afternoon at the church we would be staying during the week. The church we stayed at has multiple services in different languages on any given Sunday, which means the building was not ready for temporary habitation when we arrived, so what did we do in the meantime? Our leader Sam liked to say, “the best way to kill time is to work it to death.” So he had us go do what we came to do, but I’m pretty sure none of us were prepared for that just yet. I think we were expecting to get to work the following day after getting our bearings and such, but that first day we got right to work. And that is where this story really begins.

teamstart

First John: Poetry Bible Edition

Word of Life, from the beginning
                 We have heard Him
                 We have seen Him
                 We looked and we touched
 Life manifested to us from the Father
                 What we witnessed, we proclaim
 We fellowship with the Father
                 And His Son Jesus Christ
 This is our joy. This is our message.
                 God is light, possessing no darkness.
 If we say we have fellowship yet walk in darkness,
                 We live a lie, not truth
 But if we walk in the Light, we have fellowship
                 And Christ’s blood cleanses our sins.
 If we say we don’t sin
                 We live, though deceived
 But sin when confessed
                 His forgiveness receives
 If we say we don’t sin
                 We call God a liar
                 His word is not in us.
 Little children, don’t sin
                 That’s why I write
 But if you do sin
                 Your Advocate is Christ
 For us and the world
                 Sin is why He died
If we obey Him
                 We know Him.
 If we say we know Him
                 But do not follow Him,
                 Do we really know Him?
When we keep His word,
                 God’s love is perfected
 But when we don’t listen,
                 His word’s misdirected.
To walk as He walked
                 This commandment’s not new
 Though you heard it before
                 Yet I rewrite it to you
A new command I also write
                 To hate your brother
                 Is darkness, not light
                 To walk with hate
                 Is to walk without sight
 I write to you, children
                 Your sins are forgiven
                 And you know the Father
 I write to you, fathers
                 You know Him
                 Who is from the beginning
 I write to you, young men
                 You overcame the evil one
                 You are strong
                 God’s word is in you.
To love the world,
                 Its lusts, which are passing,
 Is to hate the Father
                 The One who is lasting
You know the truth
                 It’s to you I write
 You believe Jesus
                 Is He who is Christ
 Those who deny this
                 Deny Father and Son
 And are not anointed
                 By the Holy One
Now this is a promise
                 We have in Christ
 We’ll not end in death
                 But from the grave rise
 For God grants His child
                 Eternal life
This is a promise
                 That you can receive
 For you are His child
                 If Him you believe
How great is God’s love
                 To be called His child
 Yet the world does not know us
                 For it did not know Him
Abide in Christ
                 Then when He appears
 Your confidence assured
                 You’ll have nothing to fear
Though we know not what we’ll be
                 When Jesus we see
 We know we’ll be like Him
                 He is our surety.
 In this we hope
                 And live with purity
Sin and lawlessness
                 Are one and the same
 Yet conquering sin
                 Is why Jesus came
 Sin is of the devil
                 So don’t live as he
 Righteousness is of God
                 So live righteously
 This is how a child is known
                 Which father he has
                 Whose seed has been sown
 The seed of God results in what’s right
                 Love for one’s brother
                 Love for each other
Look at Cain
                 His brother he killed
                 The reason because Cain was e-vil
Don’t be surprised
                 By the world and its hate
 Give me a moment
                 I’ll elaborate
 Death and life are mutually exclusive
                 Hate is of death
                 Life is of love
                 Hate is from below
                 Life is from above
What does it mean?
                 Perhaps you might ask
 Let me illustrate
                 With one simple task:
 You can help someone out,
                 A brother in need,
 Yet choose to ignore him
                 That’s living selfishly
 Love not in word only
                 But also in deed
 Love is best expressed
                 When sacrificial, you see.
In this assurance
                 Our hearts can confide
 By this we can know
                 It’s in Christ we abide
 This is confirmed
                 By His Spirit inside.
Now not every spirit
                 Represents Jesus Christ
 Don’t follow the false ones
                 His humanity they deny
 They are of the world
                 They follow a lie
Love is of God
                 Let’s love each other so
 That we demonstrate love
                 Of the God that we know
 His Son’s death on the cross
                 How His love He did show.
No one’s seen God
                 That much is true
 But of this we testify
                 And pass on to you
 Jesus is God’s Son
                 Who came in the flesh
 This is a truth
                 His children confess
By this you can know
                 Your love is sincere
 When you live in the world
                 Yet without fear
 Of the day of judgment
                 As it draws near
Love casts out fear
                 And God first loved you
 Because of God’s love
                 You can love too
Now if you say you love God
                 Whom you’ve not seen
 But then hate your brother
                 How can this be
 When love’s a commandment
                 God gave unto thee?
Christ is of God
                 His life He did give
 In order to show us
                 How we ought to live
The world full of fear
                 Cannot know love
 When it denies
                 The One from above
 This is the world
                 That Christ overcame
 If you believe Him
                 You’re promised the same.
Both water and Spirit
                 And also the blood
 Testify that Jesus
                 Is man, yet He’s God
 The Spirit is truth
                 And so cannot lie
 This is the message
                 That He testifies
These three witnesses
                 They all agree
 Christ put on flesh
                 Yet is still deity
 God’s Son is the one
                 Who grants victory
These things I have written
                 To you who believe
 And know eternal life
                 Is what you receive
Since we’re God’s children
                 He hears our prayers
 He gives what we need
                 And that shows He cares
 So if you have a request
                 He wants you to share
If you see a brother
                 Who’s caught in sin
 Pray that God will grant
                 Victory to him
There is a sin
                 Which leads not to death
 But sin at its core
                 Is unrighteousness
Those born of God
                 Cannot keep sinning
 For God who is holy
                 Is the one who is winning
 And He is the one
                 In whom we’re depending
 He’s also the one
                 Who gives understanding
Here’s one last thing
                 That I wish to convey
 It’s by Christ’s death
                 Sin’s washed away
So follow the truth
                 Not that which is false
 It wasn’t the idols
                 That died on the cross.

Insociable Media

In the age of social media,
Our convictions are certain
It doesn’t matter what happened
Or who may be hurtin’

We can honor people
Who do nothing great
Or quickly crucify those
Who make a mistake.

Circumstances don’t matter
We’re so quick to judge
We don’t need all the facts
Video alone is proof enough

We’re judges and juries
We know exactly why
That thing happened.
Our views cannot be denied

Responsibility
No one wants to take it
Everyone else’s fault
That’s why we can’t make it

Hate is all around us
The Internet just made it faster
Alert everyone you know
About each human disaster!

People are jaded and cynical
It’s so commonplace
We point out others’ failures
And leave no room for grace

It’s easy to condemn
Where you’ve never been
And pass on blame
To whomever you shame

There are wrongs in this world
That much is true
But when quick to judge,
What if it were you?

Wanna Know What I Do For A Living?

Most people who know me don’t really know what my job is, unless I work or worked with them, so the simple answer I always give when people ask is “data entry and check processing.” (Sounds super exciting, huh?) But the more complicated answer is that I don’t really know how to explain it to people who don’t already know what I do.

1. I’m not always good at explaining things, even if I do understand them myself.

I can extrapolate information and solve problems; just don’t ask me to explain what I know or how I figured it out. (Even if I explain something innumerable times, people still don’t get it.)

2. I work with somewhat confidential information and don’t want to reveal anything I’m not supposed to.

That can make it difficult to tell people if/when I do see something interesting/funny that pertains to the work itself.

3. There are details so specific to what I do that I didn’t know about them until I was where I am.

Sure I could probably try to go into some of those specifics, but you’d really have to want to know. Otherwise, I might bore or confuse you with details (see #1). Besides, when my friend who helped get me this job explained what he did, I imagined it so much different than reality, and I don’t think he necessarily explained it poorly.

4. We’re not open to the public.

Dealing with the public may not always be great, but many places you can go into and see exactly what people do there; nobody has to tell you what is supposed to happen. I don’t work in one of those places. In fact, whatever I work with stays on site, and I almost never have any sort of direct dealings with any of our clients or their representatives (only if someone is touring the facility during my shift). If I’m not producing anything specific and no one really interacts with me from the outside world, I don’t really have anything to show as an example of what I do.

5. Sometimes I’m not really sure what I do myself.

Of course I know what I do directly and on a daily basis, but if I wanted to take a step back and look at any sort of big picture, I would have no idea what I was looking at or for. I’ve also been where I am long enough to have developed some sort of skills, but I’m not even sure how to quantify whatever skills I may have developed during my time there. (I am working on a “What have I learned?” list, but that’s for another time and is not exactly skill-based.)

So many times I hear people talk about their jobs, and I understand what they do. I may not want to do what they do or fully understand all the details of what goes on, but at least I can have somewhat of a grasp. My job is not one of those jobs, but I don’t really know how to explain what I do either, other than “data entry and check processing.”

ABC’s of Worry

As you
Become more like
Christ, your
Development should become more
Evident in your life.
Faithfully you’ll begin to let
God control everything, as
He is supposed to.

If you
Just
Keep
Letting him do
Mighty works in you, there’s
No telling what can
Occur in your life.

Perhaps you’ll
Quit worrying about things that don’t matter,
Remembering there’s a plan for your life, even when things
Spiral seemingly out of control.

Trust is so important to
Understanding the
Very nature of all God has in store, but if you just
Worry, you’ll miss everything around you and only
Xhaust
Yourself, making it hard to catch some
Z’s.

Getting Old

(To the tune of “Let It Go”)

The hair is white on my head top tonight
Not a dark one to be seen
Reflection in the mirror
Tells me I’m not seventeen.

And now I’m wondering why I came into this room
Not really sure, I’ll remember soon

My hearing’s gone; it’s hard to see
Growing old’s not what I thought it’d be
I’ve lost my mind, and who are you?
Cause I don’t know!

Getting old, getting old
I’m not so young anymore
Getting old, getting old
Turn up the heat. It’s cold!

I don’t know
What you’re trying to say
My hearing’s gone,
And I can’t seem to find my hearing aid!

It’s funny how my eyesight
Makes everything look small
And the glasses on my forehead
I can’t seem to find at all!

It’s time like these I miss my youth
The best that I can hope to do
Is not forget discounts for me. Stuff’s free!

Getting old, getting old
I am not so young and spry
Getting old, getting old
New things are hard to try

Tried to stand
But then I fell
Balance is gone!

My hip was fractured when I fell onto the ground
Went to the hospital and wore one of those patient gowns
My doctor says that I will not heal very fast
I’ve also thrown my back,
I really miss my past!

Getting old, getting old
Waking up at the crack of dawn
Getting old, getting old
I know it won’t be long!

One more thing
I should probably say
My memory’s gone.
Who are all of you people anyway!?