Thursday, December 11, 2008

Like a Bridge...

A couple of days ago I was running along the East river. It is just over 4 miles from my apartment to the Brooklyn Bridge. I like to run to the bridge, then walk up South Street Seaport, and catch the 6 Train home. When I run by myself I usually listen to podcasts of Greg Boyd preaching, or music. I hate running, by the way. Some of my buddies here roped me into doing a 10k run every Sunday morning, and I don't hate it as much when I have someone to run with. But to be able to do that once a week I have to run during the week- usually by myself. So the messages or the music help the time go by with a little less pain.

On this day as I ran under the Manhattan Bridge and saw the Brooklyn Bridge in the distance, the sun was beginning to set and the view looking out over the East River was spectacular. At that moment the next song began on my i-pod...  an old Simon and Garfunkel song- Bridge Over Troubled Waters. Paul Simon once shared that he got the idea for the song when he was passing by a country preacher, somewhere in Scotland I recall, and heard him say that Jesus was a bridge over troubled waters. Simon did not include the name "Jesus" in the lyrics, but if you insert his name whenever you hear the word "I", it fits.  Check this out:

When you're weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all;
I'm on your side. when times get rough
And friends just can't be found,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.

When you're down and out,
When you're on the street,
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you.
I'll take your part.
When darkness comes
And pains is all around,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.

When I was young and listened to those words I never thought much about the meaning of the phrase "I will lay me down". As I continued to run along the river listening to the words I could see the meaning. There is no way I could get from Manhattan to Brooklyn without the bridge. I was incapable and stuck where I was. But there was a bridge. 

Life has its share of troubled waters we encounter. And as the lyrics of the song suggest, Jesus' offer to us is to be there and to be the way, that bridge over the troubled waters. If there is any doubt about that, remember that he literally laid down his life to make a bridge for us to see and know and be with God forever.

New Traditions

Last week our family picked out a Christmas tree at the corner of 19th Street and 1st Avenue, and then had the “joy” of lugging in 14 blocks to our apartment. It was a new and unique experience and a far cry from our long held annual tradition of driving to a tree farm north of Romeo, Michigan the Saturday after Thanksgiving, cutting down a 7-8 foot tree and hauling it home on the top of our van. Last year as we picked out our tree on a snowy day we knew that a special family tradition had come to an end. Christmas 2008 would be very different. And it is. It seems as though we blinked our eyes and here we are in a new and unrecognizable life as church-planters in the greatest city in the world- New York. Everything is new: Christmas shopping in the original Macys; (can you imagine a department store with 8000 employees?). The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade not on TV but in our “backyard”; the lighting of the tree at the Rockefeller Center; an ice skating rink dwarfed by  the skyscrapers of midtown; using subways and busses to get around as we do our Christmas shopping.  As I write this sitting next to our modestly sized and exorbitantly priced tree, I can look out the window down 33rd Street and see the top of the Empire State Building lit up for the holiday season. What change a year has brought! These will become our new Christmas traditions.

It has been nearly four months since we moved 650 miles east in response to God’s call to begin a new work in New York City. It has been very challenging and very joyful, although not necessarily both on the same day. We have learned much and know there is so much more to learn. And we have been amazed at God’s goodness to provide for us, to join us together with an awesome community of likeminded people, and to give us opportunities to touch lives with his love and grace.

As we move toward 2009 we are filled with a great sense of anticipation. This new year will bring great opportunities and challenges that we know we can only face with God’s help and direction. But our confident expectation is that he has led us here because he has plans to do great things to expand Jesus’ Kingdom and to make his outrageous love known. We are humbled to think that he has called us to play a part in his mission