Many of you know I wrote a book this summer and am in the process of trying to get myself a literary agent (if you are related to an amazing literary agent, please hook a brotha up). Anyway, this week, I thought it would be fun to do a little sneak peek chapter leak…
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Life with God is easier than we think. Most of us are simply trying too hard. We’re straining and we’re stressing, but all that effort is for nothing.
God doesn’t want your works, He wants you.
And there’s more.
The life that He has for you includes peace and rest.
Sounds too easy, doesn’t it? Just too good to be true.
Too good to be true is God’s specialty.
Unmerited. Undeserved. Unexpected.
That’s His way.
He is the true Hero of the story—the Hero who saves the day, settles the score, makes a way where there seems to be no way…
He loves us more than we know.
He loves us now, today. And not just some future, perfected version of ourselves, but our real selves. He’s not disappointed in us. Actually, He delights in us.
I’m pretty sure all the really important things He wants us to know in life, He whispers to us. I hope you will hear God whispering as you read this book.
The pages that follow are some things I’ve heard Him whispering to me lately.
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Life With God Is Easier Than You Think
Yeah, yeah, I’m up at Brooklyn, now I’m down in Tribeca right next to De Niro, but I’ll be hood forever.
—Jay-Z (Empire State of Mind)
I’m giving you an unshakable peace. Yes, you live and work in hostile territory—but there isn’t one good reason to be concerned. I am victorious over it all. —Jesus (John 16.33 paraphrased)
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Several years ago I led a team of college students on a trip to Brooklyn, NY to work with underprivileged children. Of course we were excited about all the typical New York sights and landmarks…
The Statue of Liberty
Grand Central Terminal
The Empire State Building
The Brooklyn Bridge
Honestly, I also had shopping on my mind—this is New York we’re talking about (and this was before we had H&M, All Saints, or Zara in Seattle). But our purpose wasn’t tourism or shopping. Several times I reminded our team, “We’ve come to roll up our sleeves and serve.” The reminder coming out of my mouth was just as much for me as the team of students I was leading.
We were partnering with Metro Ministries, famous for what they call “Yogi Bear Sunday School,” an outreach to kids in the Brooklyn area. Started in 1980 by Bill Wilson, the ministry reaches over 20,000 kids in New York City each week. That’s 20,000 kids from some of the toughest neighborhoods anywhere.
After a red-eye flight from Seattle to New York, our team checked in and had a brief introduction to Metro Ministries. Our tour guide was a Puerto Rican, twenty-something staff member nicknamed “Scar” because of the obvious scar on the right side of his face. Scar had our clear and undivided attention.
We were given Yogi Bear T-shirts and Metro Ministries lanyards with instructions to wear them because “People in the ‘hood love Yogi Bear Sunday School and won’t shoot you if they see you’re with Yogi Bear.” I wanted to ask if he was wearing his Yogi Bear T-shirt when he obtained his scar, but decided to hold the question for now.
Yikes! I wasn’t in the habit of wearing cartoon character clothing, but it looked like this would become my new favorite T-shirt, at least while I was in the Brooklyn ‘hood.
I was beginning to think this ghetto was a little more intense than the South Seattle neighborhood of Skyway that I grew up in. I always said I grew up in the ‘hood, but now that seemed like a ridiculous over-statement.
On our first night with Metro Ministries, we bunked down in their gym. The guys slept on one side of the court, the girls on the other. Sleeping on a concrete gym floor is uncomfortable, but there were a few other unsettling details, like team members hearing “rustling” noises under the bleachers. Rumors of rats began spreading like “news” on TMZ.
We had a student with us who had severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and would often do rather strange things. After midnight on our first night there, he plugged in a vending machine that lit up the entire gym with its fluorescent glow. We all started complaining. Next, we heard the clinking of quarters into the machine. He selected Mountain Dew, and the can of pop came crashing down. He popped the top and started drinking. We were concerned about how much noise this guy would be making through the night with him all hopped up on caffeine and sugar, but he unplugged the vending machine, threw away his empty can, laid down, and promptly fell asleep. Thank God for minor miracles.
We certainly weren’t used to the sounds of the ghetto through the night…
We heard some intense yelling that sounded like it could be on the Maury Show right outside our door at 1:30 in the morning. By the way, I didn’t tell you about the door. The double metal gym doors were padlocked with a huge chain from the outside to keep us “safe.” I kept wondering what the fire escape plan was.
A car alarm went through that annoying sampling of alarm options 28 times before the owner finally turned it off. Ten minutes later the alarm was going again. Some of our guys memorized the alarm pattern and mimicked it later in the night.
Loud firecrackers exploded in rapid succession—or maybe it was gun shots being fired. The gym didn’t have any windows, so we couldn’t look and see what was happening.
And there was the music of an ice cream truck driving through the neighborhood slowly at 3:00 AM. Uh, yeah that was strange.
The following day, after our wonderfully refreshing night’s sleep in Brooklyn, I asked one of the Metro Ministries staff members about the whole ice cream truck thing. Were people really buying Creamsicles at that hour? Or maybe the ice cream truck driver had gotten really high and lost his sense of night and day? What’s the story?
I wasn’t expecting his answer: “No, but sometimes the trucks also sell cigarettes and maybe even drugs—so if you hear the music in the middle of the night, it’s not for ice cream.”
Ice cream trucks that sell drugs? Wow.
We were in a strange and unsettling place. It was like a war zone. We were living and working in hostile territory.
And although I continued to be surprised with every piece of new information about this foreign place, I wasn’t worried about the safety of our team. It was weird. Maybe it was the Yogi Bear T-shirt that brought me a sense of peace…
or maybe it was something else entirely.
Come back tomorrow for some more leakage! It’s a post about ESCALATION.
QUESTION FOR YOU: Have you ever felt like you were living and working in hostile territory, AND had a sense of deep peace at the same time?