Friday, July 30, 2010

Back To Reality

After spending a wonderful time away to celebrate our anniversary, we are back in New York.

Back to the noise.

Back to the crowds.

Back to the offensive advertising.

We did not miss that. Still, I know we live in New York not because it's so enjoyable and glamorous. We have a purpose. It is my prayer today that we will not lose track of it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Do You Hear Their Silence?

As I walk the streets of the city, I am often reminded of the overwhelming need around me. Looking through all the cardboard signs and listening to the beggars on the train may be exhausting and create the repulsive syndrome that I have named "Excessive Exposure" (not a very scientific term but it works for me).

and yet - think on this with me - the more I observe the more I notice those who do not walk
from a subway car to a subway car shaking their cup at me, or wait for me to come out from a coffee shop to ask for spare change... I see those who are... SILENT.

They don't impose their suffering on you. They don't ask you for help because they consider themselves beyond help. They sit quietly... and suffer... in SILENCE.


I want to challenge you today to keep your eyes open for those who need you but won't ask for your help: a coworker who needs to hear a word of encouragement, a homeless person who needs a smile more than a dollar, an aging parent who needs a phone call, a misbehaving child who only needs to be listened to - anyone... anywhere.

Open your eyes to see their suffering. Open your ears to hear their silence.

What will you do today to brighten up someone's day?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

One Way

I read this quote recently:

"All of our major institutions are hostile to orthodox Christianity. Our culture is relativistic and pluralistic and consequently hostile to anyone who is an absolutist and particularist... Devise some means - a poster, a letter to the editor, a speech to a social club - of proclaiming basic, essential Christian moral or religious teaching, and then wait for the response. For example, declare today that monogamous heterosexual marriage is the only legitimate outlet for sexual expression... Or declare today that Jesus is the only truth and only Savior of the world and imply by doing so that all other religions are false and misleading. Can you predict the response? You will be scorned. The only sin our civilization universally recognizes is that of intolerance, defined as not believing that all beliefs and lifestyle practices are equally valid. Say that there is one way or one truth and you have committed the worst 'sin' that you can commit today. Yet this is precisely what each Christian must believe, proclaim, and defend. Consequently, persecution will inevitably follow. You will be ridiculed. You will be socially ostracized. You will feel the pressure to conform to the fashions of the day. You may be denied a promotion. You may lose your job. We've seen it happen. You may be rejected by your family. Ask any recent convert from Judaism or Islam about that."

(from "When Grace Transforms" by Terry L. Johnson)

What are your thoughts on that?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Metro Overview

video

Just wanted to share with you this short clip with the overview of the ministry we're with in NYC.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Asking For Directions


"If we ask it directions, it could ingest us and spit out our bones."
(Marlin from Finding Nemo)


I don't know about you - but whenever we get lost driving somewhere it takes me no longer than five minutes of aimless driving to say, "Honey, why don't we just stop and ask someone for directions?". As women we often make men the subjects of many jokes about their gender-specific resolve to simply figure everything out by themselves.


Sadly if we take our jokes outside of the contest of driving – women are often the ones who fail to ask for directions. Directions from our husbands as to where we are going with our lives, our families, our children, our jobs, our future.

Instead we are subtly manipulating our husbands to make the decisions that we consider the best at the time.

I have only been married for two years yesterday and I am still learning to take directions from my husband. My biggest battle - which I believe many strong Christian women are dealing with today - was "What if the leading will never happen?" What if when I do ask my husband for a plan, he just stares blankly and says something in the lines of, "I do not know, why don’t we decide what’s for dinner first".

Through the mistakes made earlier in my own marriage as well as the observation of many other couples, I have learned six valuable lessons on following your husband's lead.

Lesson 1: Do NOT take it upon yourself! One very important lesson to learn is that the moment you take the initiative and take upon yourself the job of leading your family – you may never be able to give it up and your husband may never step up to the plate.

Lesson 2: Pray. Pray lots. Pray often. You can never underestimate the power of prayer or the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of your beloved.

Lesson 3: Submit. You may give your input but whenever your husband does finally make a decision about your life – you need to submit to his guidance.

Lesson 4: Praise him. It is important to affirm your husband when he makes a right choice. That will boost his confidence and encourage him to lead you more.

Lesson 5: Give him room to fail. At times your husband may make a faulty decision. You must give him room for error and forgive.

Lesson 6: Have faith. Have faith in your husband's abilities to lead your family (even if a faulty decision had been made earlier). Believe in your husband. He knows whether you genuinely think he can do it or if you're just expecting him to fall flat on his face. But what's even more important is that you have faith in your God. Whatever the circumstances were that united your husband and you with the bond of marriage - you are married now. And that is a sacred thing in the eyes of our Lord. Have faith in God and trust Him to carry your family through any challenges if you follow His principles of submission.

Do you struggle with any of these? I sure do. What will you do to help your husband lead you today?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Two Years

It's been two years since our wedding day.


Two years - filled to the brim - with love, respect, and friendship

with many experiences - some good, some bad

all lived through together

Two years... Looking forward to many more...


----------------------------------------------------------------

Photos taken by our dear friend Lauren - if you live in Houston TX area and would like to schedule a photo session - feel free to send her a private facebook message.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Forgotten Art


In this age of technology and social networking pen and paper are becoming obsolete. Computers make connecting with people easier and faster.

And yet...

... do you agree there is a difference between getting an email from a distant friend or a card in the mail?


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Home For A Child

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."
- Jesus (in John 14:18)

I believe that the pure and undefiled religion is to look after widows and orphans in their distress.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this,
To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction,
and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
(James 1:27 KJV)

For years - since I had first started in ministry - it has been on my heart to encourage people to adopt, foster care or get involved in orphanage ministry. My heart beats for those who are without a parent in their lives.

I am asking my friends to share their adoption stories. I will feature them here on my blog and also I am setting up a new blog dedicated specifically to the orphans and those ministering to them: A Home For A Child. No posts there yet - but coming very-very soon.

If you have adopted a child and would like your story featured on my blog - please please leave a comment with your email address and I will contact you. If you have a ministry to the orphans - let me know and I would like to feature you as well.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Problem To Be Solved


- Barbara Johnson

Today is Week 5 of Courtney's Completing Him Summer Challenge and we're talking about prioritizing.

My mom has always been my example in homemaking. She has managed to fully run our home while holding a full-time job. She always made home-cooked meals. Our house was always clean. And as a new wife I had expected to face the same obligations. My hectic ministry schedule put a lot of pressure on me to have everything under control. I was stressed and despite all my effort it did not look like my husband was impressed by my efforts. Thus I learned early in our marriage life that things that I consider important are not so crucial to my dear husband. And I am trying to be careful to be mindful of them.

This week's challenge reminded me of my early marriage days: Make a list of 5 things you currently do and ask your husband to prioritize them for you of what is important to him.

I have opted to go a different route. Instead of making a list for him, I have simply given him a blank sheet of paper and a pen. After agonizing over it for 2 days (who would've thought it would take that long) he gave me back the result.

I was shocked.

Only one of the things on the list had something to do with homemaking - and that was dinner (hey the way to a man's heart truly does lie through his stomach). The other four had nothing to do with the requirements, chores, or obligations. They can all be summed up into one phrase: SHARE LIFE.

As we were discussing his list, Bryan looked at me and smiled. "Helen," he said, "all I want you to understand is that I am more important than anything you're doing for me".

That made perfect sense.

It does not matter how clean my living room is if it comes at a cost of being happy to see him come home. It does not matter how neat everything is put away when the smile on my face is missing. It does not matter how hard I try to manage his life if in the process I forget the very person I am doing it for.

I want to encourage you with the opening quote for my post. We cannot allow the problems we're trying to solve to become more important than the people we love and do them for.

On a side note - this applies to ministry life as well. How often do we allow ourselves to become so consumed with the ministry activities that we do that we are no longer enjoying it? We are no longer serving out of the overflow of our hearts. We are so consumed with the preparations, and schedules, and programs that we run ourselves into the ground - not even finding half an hour to spend with the Lord.

If you're getting frustrated with your marriage or your ministry - maybe it is the time to look at what you do and who you're doing it for and reset your priorities.

What is important to the one you love?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Through Jason's Eyes

This video is a reflection of the four months spent at Metro Ministries here in New York. It was done by Jason - an intern from Texas - who was assigned to our team.


Jason has also described some of his experiences in more details on his blog - http://jasonhigley.tumblr.com/

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Stolen Prayers

I often get distracted when I pray. As a full-time children minister I have mastered many spiritual disciplines... but prayer is still difficult for me. Maybe I never learned how to pray growing up in a non-Christian household. Maybe I've been trying to hide my prayer life for so long that I am forgetting what it's like to spend a long time in an intimate conversation with my Savior.

My prayers have always been quick, almost stolen breaths.

I look up in the shower and talk to Him about my day.

I exhale as I go into my office with a quick request for help.

I steal a breath mid-conversation to ask Him for wisdom.

But I want more. I want to learn to wait patiently until He speaks. I want to go past my list of requests into a deep communion. I want my heart to connect with His.

I read this honest blog post on prayer - and I wanted to share it with you. It has some good tips on how to fight distraction during prayer time.

And if you have found something else that works for you - hop over to comments and let's talk.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Power of Encouragement

"See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness". (Hebrews 3:12-13)

I don't know about you, my friends, but I need to be very careful with my heart. At times when God seems silent, when the proverbial storms shake my proverbial boat, when things in life do not go as I wish... my heart may waver.

The passage says to encourage one another daily. It is so important to surround yourself with a people of like faith, of like passion who will always be on guard for your heart.

Here are the few things that I am doing.

1) Find friends you can share about your quiet time with. It can be your friend, or a mentor - anyone who understands the importance of accountability. Something that I am doing right now is Good Morning Girls group (for explanation of what it is click here). Good Morning Girls group has allowed me to daily touch base with several women on pursuit of God even amidst our hectic schedules. We share our struggles, pray for each other, and keep each other accountable on spending time with the Lord.

2) Be open. While not everything is meant to be shared, we often cover up our sinful attitudes rather than confess them and work through them to freedom. Have someone in your life you can be open with. For me - that someone is my husband... and as embarrassing as it may be for me to admit certain things to him - I am always glad I do.

3) Stay in the Word. Support system is extremely important and yet there may be times when you do not have the support you desire. You must read your Bible regularly to know what God is like and thus to build up your faith. Choose the pace of reading you're comfortable with and stick to it.

4) Encourage those around you. One of the greatest feelings in the world is to "make someone's day". Find someone today who you can encourage.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Thankful

The great things in my life:

AMAZING husband


loving family


wonderful in-laws

faithful friend

people I can invest my life in

my ministry

Monday, July 5, 2010

What My Mom Taught Me About Marriage

Today is my parents' 31st wedding anniversary.

I have learned a lot of things from my mother about marriage without her trying to teach me.

FAITHFULLNESS - she stood by my father's side always: through the heights of his teaching and writing career and through the valley of his terrible sickness - truly through the good times and the bad.

TENACITY - it took a lot of determination to keep our family through the critical changes in history (fall of the USSR, change of the government and all social structure), and through the critical changes of our family (getting our own apartment and sudden progression of Dad's illness).

RESPECT - I watched my mom live with her in-laws in the same small 2-bedroom apartment for 13 years (ok, so I only remember maybe the last six as I was 11 when we moved) and I never remember her arguing with them over anything. She was always quiet and respectful of their opinions.

FRUGALITY - oh how I wish I were smarter to learn more. My mom never wasted a penny. She knows all the prices for everything all over the city and she would go to great lengths to but things cheaper, to build smart yet delicious meals around what's on sale.

DILIGENCE - she never stopped. Our house was always clean, laundry always done, homework always checked, food always prepared. And all that on top of her full-time job.

And - most importantly - LOVE and SELF-SACRIFICE. Her whole life is dedicated to our family and all her choices are made for our benefit (at least within her understanding of what's best for us).

As I look back I remember times when in my anger I would resolve to never become like my mother. And now - how I wish I had learned more while I was still under her roof.

Sorry For The Cheese :)

"Admire = to have a high opinion of; esteem or respect."

OK, so if you know me at all - you have to know this about me:
On a level of 1 to 10 my skillfullness in Words of Affirmation is...
Negative Seventeen [deep sigh]

Yes, it's true. I am not good telling people what I appreciate about them. Ironically, I am married to the man whose main proverbial love language is [drum roll please]... yes, indeed - Words of Affirmation... [even deeper helpless sigh].

It's not that I do not love him or do not notice the little (and big) things that he does for me... it's just that I feel weird and awkward... even insane... saying it. And knowing that he needs me to say it - still does not help.

Last Thanksgiving I wrote him a list of all the things that he does that I am thankful for. Here is that list:


- you love me and take care of me

- you pray for me and with me

- you are always there when I really need you

- you bring me Starbucks

- you’re never too proud to say “I’m sorry”

- you want to spend the rest of your life with me

- you open the doors for me

- you carry heavy things

- you make Thanksgiving turkeys

- you are quick to make peace

- you love me even when I have bad attitude

- you come on Sidewalk with me

- you always assure me that I am beautiful

- you always make sure I have water on my nightstand


There’re so many reasons… even as I pasted this list into this post I could think of few others…


But I think the most important one would be -

YOU MAKE ME BETTER!!!

You encourage me to see the best in people.

You set an example by forgiving those who hurt us.

You reach out to others even when I feel that they've used up their chances.

You are compassionate, gentle, loving, and kind.

You stand up for what is right.

You are moved by injustice and suffering.

I LOVE YOU!!!

Let the wife make the husband glad to come home,
and let him make her sorry to see him leave.
(Martin Luther)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Trip to Dave and Buster's

This past Tuesday, June 29th, was the first official day of summer break for the kids here in New York. We celebrated it by taking the kids who won the attendance contest to Dave and Buster's in Times Square.

Here are my funny winners.


We had a nice meal - oh boy! these kids can eat!


We played games to our hearts' content

And of course we finished our day off with a nice ice-cream treat

Good times!!!

Thank you so much to everyone who sent us money to make this amazing adventure possible!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Speechless... (Unexpected Follow Up Post to He Has Not Turned Away My Prayer)

I am humbled today. Speechless.

I know that God answers prayers. I do. I am a children pastor, after all.

I know that when you pray God can move mountains and obstacles. I've seen it (even in my own life before).

I know that there is absolutely NOTHING impossible for God. I believe it.

But today... My praise and gratitude get stuck in my throat. I am overwhelmed. I have nothing to say. I am amazed. Grateful. Slightly embarrassed. Surprised. Speechless.

On Monday Courtney from Women Living Well encouraged us to ask our husbands how we can pray for them and do so daily. I did ask (see my post here) and I did pray.

I prayed for God to give my husband wisdom to make the right choices - and I have already noticed how he was becoming more decisive when I needed him to be. I prayed for promotion (we were hoping in September) but already this Friday Bryan received a phone call from his supervisor about setting up his promotion interview within the next few weeks.

I am ...

... grateful ...
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