The Minutiae

“God is in the details.”

This is a quote that I have said many times in my life and I truly do believe it. I have been witness to this fact; been in front row seats, so to speak, of God’s detail-oriented work in the lives of those around me as well as my own. We like to focus on the big miracles of our time and often overlook or ignore the seemingly small miracles that happen all around us every day. I am guilty of this too. I have taken things that God has done in my life and chalked them up to chance, or to my own abilities or those of my family and friends.

We need to check our spiritual eyes on the regular, if not daily, in order to calibrate ourselves with the work that God both wants to do and is currently doing in our lives. This is why daily connection with his Word is so important (again, preaching to the choir here..). I am guilty of this as well, if i’m feeling strong or “good” an any given day, my tendency is to rely on myself and thus miss what God is doing around me.

When we are weak, we can see his strength more clearly.

Some may think that they need to be “good” or “strong” in order for God to show up and do stuff in their lives and they couldn’t be more wrong. The most transformative work God does is in the lives and hearts of those who are desperately wicked and in need of saving *raises hand*. Dat me.

When we come to a place of repentance and recognition of our own sin, the clouds of pride and perfectionism give way to clearer pictures of his varied grace, mercy and undying love. In this state, it is easier to see the minutiae of God’s handiwork. It is said, “Good things come in small packages.” and I’ll take that one step further into the subject of God’s work. “God’s good things often come in the smallest of details.”

I’ll give you an example:

Last week I met with a middle-aged gentleman named Sean at the New York City Rescue Mission. He had come to our co-op for clothes but wanted to talk to someone about transitional housing as well as employment opportunities. I’m glad that I could be the one to meet with him and help. His gentleness juxtaposed his situation. He has been living in one of the most hard, violent, prison-like shelters in NYC for the past 11 months. When he told me where he was staying my jaw almost dropped. I couldn’t believe that he was still there and still unharmed. I knew instantly that God’s hands of protection were on this man and I told him that. Anyway, to make a longer story less long (cus I could talk about stuff like this all day), we talked about his situation and he does have a caseworker through the shelter so I wrote him a referral from NYCR to his caseworker for help with a 2010e application as well as housing. I then directed him to several employment agencies where he could send his resume (thankful that he had one!) and hopefully get the ball rolling on work. He let me pray favor over him even though he didn’t pronounce Christianity and he left with tears welling in his eyes. I prayed for him throughout the week as he had stuck out to me that day and wouldn’t leave my mind. One of our follow up care team messaged our team on Wednesday saying that he had touched base with Sean and had been informed that Sean accepted a job with the Department of Education!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He just needs to wait for the background check to go through and then he will start!

My heart is so overjoyed at this small step forward! This is not a “golden ticket” for Sean, this is not the end of his hardship. He is still living in arguably one of the darkest places in NYC. What little time I spent at that shelter during my resource visit a couple weeks into working was the darkest moment I’ve been through emotionally and spiritually in a while. Much work still needs to be done in Sean’s life in order to get him back where he should be. But that DOESN’T nullify or minimize God’s amazing work in his life! A victory is a victory, no matter how small! I’m blessed to be able to say I was in the front row seat for that one. Looking in on the situation from the outside, one may think who is separated from the situation that it’s JUST a small step and his life is still messed up and there’s sooo much that has to be done. They wouldn’t be wrong, but because I was open to the work that God had for me that day, I am able to bless his Name for the small ways he works.

Stories like this are far less common than they should be in the work that we do. Focusing on how God moves in small ways keeps us encouraged and striving forward in the work that he has given us. If we are only encouraged by the seemingly big miracles then our hope will often dry up and we will become discouraged.

Take time to look for “the small, precise, or trivial details” of God’s amazing work. You’ll likely be blown away by all that is going on around you when you finally can see it.

I hope this story encouraged you! It sure did me. Keep your spiritual eyes open and focused!

Ben

Provoked to Love

I’ve just started reading Provoked by NYCR’s President and CEO Juan Galloway and the first chapter talks about how he has been provoked by God to love more fully and sacrificially. As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think about how I connect with parts of his story. I am a selfish person and one who does not love others out of my own self. God has had to do a bunch of work in my heart in order even get me this far; and I have so far to go. If I look back over my spiritual life, I can see points and seasons where I was being gently drawn towards love through the situations and people that had been put in my path and story.

Haiti was definitely a crucible moment for me: physically, mentally, and spiritually. I was surrounded by people who needed love more than many of whom I had met in life before. I had the chance to grow closer to love every day. Many days I didn’t accept that call and just kept to myself, but the days where I chose to love sacrificially were the days that I had more peace than anything. I was living in the will of God for my life more fully on those days. Looking back on that time, I know that God had called me to Haiti in order to work on my heart. While I was indeed helping people who really needed it and building up my brothers and sisters in Christ, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I needed to be there in order to have my heart molded.

I’m a pretty stubborn guy when it comes to spiritual disciplines and practices. I don’t take the hints easily and God rarely ever gets my “yes” when asking the first time. I am ashamed to admit this but it’s true. I can’t understand the patience of God when it comes to people like myself. Yet he still chooses to offer me great opportunities to serve him and expand his Kingdom? Like whaaat…

Well this new opportunity in NYC is no exception to his continual call to grow in love. My love has been challenged over and over while serving the people of NYC and I am grateful to say that I believe it’s been growing. God knew that I didn’t care for homeless people or people of NYC for that matter, yet this is where he chose to send me. The stretching is real folks! 1 Corinthians 13:3 says, “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” (NASB) This is the true challenge: that we, that I not only give people stuff, but that love is given. Love is a spiritual muscle and it needs to be trained in order to grow stronger and expand. This is why God puts us in challenging situations and gives us the grace to not only get through them, but to grow in the process.

My love hasn’t always been this warm. It used to be cold. It definitely isn’t as hot as myself or God want it to be. There’s much learning and growing to do in the love department for me but I know that I am in the right place for it to happen. I just have to let go of my selfishness and open my heart to those who need to be loved.

A quote in the first chapter of Provoked caught my eye, it is actually a passage from another book called The Three Battlegrounds by Francis Frangipane. It reads as follows:

“Is your love growing softer, brighter and more visible? Or is it becoming more discriminating, more calculating, less vulnerable and less available? This is a very important issue, for your Christianity is only as real as your love…”

This text is provoking.. provoking of thought and inward assessment of one’s own love. Let it provoke you like it is provoking me to love others more fully, more readily, more sacrificially.

Blessings,

Ben

Un-compromising Myself

I have been compromising myself recently. I have slipped into apathy when dealing with habitual sins and as a result, I have been feeling sluggish and off over the past week or so. It’s time for a change.

I need to press that reset button and in doing so I am taking a 30 day social media (IG, FB) as well as cutting out white flour and sugar from my diet. The cutting out of food came from an increased feeling of apathy towards health and I’ve been convicted that I need to not only focus on building myself up spiritually but physically as well.

Today was the first day of no social media and so far it’s been alright. I have been largely distracted by work but there were several times during it that I found myself picking up my phone and looking at it for no reason.. because I no longer have social media! For those of you who know my personal struggles then you can imagine that social media exacerbates them. It has been a tripping point for me more than usual lately and that’s what has spurred this fast.

At first I told myself and my mens group that I would be committing to no social media after 10PM but one of my brothers pointed out that a cut off time won’t be enough, that it would have to be a total cut off of social media for a time to be able to reset. At first I didn’t want to believe him and started making up excuses and building myself and my own self-control up and telling myself I could do it with just this small correction.. welp.. that didn’t go too well either so here I am! I am man enough to realize when I am wrong and in need of help and so this will be my petition to you all to lift me up in prayer during these next 30 days! I covet them. I have failed over and over on my own and I need to hold fast to my Anchor but that won’t come easy. My tendencies, especially in the areas of my own sin, are to try and fight it by myself and mess it up again and again. I plan on doing more spiritual reading during this time as well as getting back into the habit of praying.

In all these things I need help. I don’t want to read more! I don’t want to pray more! I want to go on sinning in comfort! My pursuit for righteousness has been less than amicable and I wish to change that. I need to learn to run from my sin and to Him who has given and continues to give victory over it.

Aside from eating better, I also plan to go to the gym more often because I don’t take care of this body I’ve been blessed with enough.

This will be a time of sharpening,

of dying to self,

of pulling.

By His grace alone,

Ben

Spiritual Kintsugi

Kintsugi (golden joinery) is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

God loves to take broken things and restore them. He loves to take people who are wrecked and make them whole. He is in the business of repairing so well that the final product is simultaneously still scarred yet still more beautiful than the original.

My understanding of this Japanese art form first came from research with Jericho Cruzado when we were expanding our ideas for more Herald Threads clothing. We loved the idea of how this art form is exactly how God works with his children. That idea never left me and I have carried it through much brokenness and taken much encouragement from it because I know it to be true; this is exactly how God works.

I am so broken, so needy. Many of you know this from past blog posts or just from knowing me. Even with my short time at New York City Relief, I have felt this reality. The work that I have been chosen to do in NYC is incredibly big, bigger than I am qualified to tackle. The under-qualification of Ben is vast! BUT I know that God is using me in my brokenness and transforming me into something far superior, far more beautiful than I ever could have been without Him and without this. As I continue to struggle with my own sin, I am daily reminded that even if in a worldly sense I am under-qualified, God has qualified me and is qualifying me to do this. I am so humbled to be counted worthy and trusted with this work. He will not let my shortcomings get in the way of the work that He is doing in the lives of so many.

Again and again I am amazed at where God has called me. In one sense, what I do is very tangible and felt in the physical world: connecting the needy to resources. In another sense it is intangible to the physical realm and strongly felt in the spiritual. The waters are deep, the waves are high, but He will keep me afloat! My hope and strength are in Him!

There is still so much to learn, but I’ve got the best Teacher.

Take courage in this: if God is calling you to something, He will qualify you. It doesn’t matter what other people may speak into your life, or what you even think of yourself. He sees greatness in you and wants to use you for His kingdom. So don’t be like me and resist until he decides to lovingly toss you into chaos. Say “yes” to the thing that you know He has been gently pulling you towards. I know it will be scary, I know that you will feel under-qualified and I’m not discounting that those may be true, but God is someone who will be there empowering you to do everything He has spoken over you.

From one broken person to another; your brokenness doesn’t disqualify you. You are being lovingly repaired to become stronger, more beautiful, more alive than you ever have been before.

Don’t trust “the process,” trust His process.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

The greatest upsets in todays world are the people who are seen as nothing but let God use them for everything.

Be one of those people.

Blessings,

Ben

 

Consistently learning – constantly growing

I was inspired to start reading again yesterday by my buddy and coworker Sebastian. I picked up where I left off last year in Unlimited Grace by Brian Chapell and it came not a moment too soon. The chapters I have read in the past 24 hours have been no less than perfectly timed and placed when God knew I needed them.

I’m consistently learning about how to love others and love them in a way that points to the Gospel and the Ultimate Love of their lives. Grace plays a huge part in that Love. It has been just as beneficial to me as it has been to those who I cross paths with during our outreaches, if not more so. I’m learning about Grace so I can give others grace. I’m learning about Love so I can love others as He intends. Today as I am reading chapter 17, How to Apply Grace to Instruction Pt. 2, I can’t shake the feeling of divine timing in my life. There can’t be anything about this that is coincidence. Nothing can be out of place. I also am flooded with the feeling of, this is a time of stretching and growing for what is to come.

As God has been constantly growing me to become more of the man that He wants me to be, I am greatly reminded of his plan for my life. It’s not my own, it never has been my own, and it won’t ever be my own. It has taken me living in a different country to figure this out and even now I am still not fully aware of the grandeur of this plan. I’m just honored to be seen as fit for the Kingdom and for kingdom change in other people’s lives. I am so broken and in need of a Savior and yet that Savior is using me in my brokenness to point other broken people back to him?! Like wuuuuut..

I am fully convinced of this: that amazing things are being prepared for me, things that are too amazing to comprehend right now. I know certain people in my life are going to play pivotal roles in that future and I will have the privilege to walk alongside warriors for Christ. I’m honored to be counted among them.

My future is brighter than the sun, because it is based on and written by the Son.

Thank you all for being rocks in my walk with Christ.

I am the product of praying parents.

I am the product of grace that won’t give up.

Peace and blessings,

Ben

He’s Got the Final Say

What an emotional rollercoaster of a Saturday!

As those who know about Kevin (see previous blog post) know, I have been working with him since Wednesday trying to get him started on his new life in Florida.

I started the day checking my email at the office and seeing that this bus company that we had been trying to use to get a ticket down to FL hadn’t gotten back to me and the bus we had wanted to get a ticket for was leaving at 4PM today.. discouraging. So I checked with my supervisor in order to get a ticket from Greyhound because they are a known and trusted bus company and wouldn’t give us the go-around if we used them. Knowing that unconfirmed ticket purchases would be voided between 24-48 hrs from purchase from the previous company, he gave me the green light to buy another trusting that we wouldn’t be paying for the first one we tried to get. Ok, so I had a ticket with a confirmation number and even printed out an e-ticket to give to Kevin when he showed up in Harlem. As you may remember, I had given him directions to get to our outreach today and two one-way metro tickets so he could get there and then down to the bus station on the lower East side.

The day was dreary and wet and frankly, depressing. I don’t like wet weather when it’s under 75 and it was cold today. We spent the day serving and chatting and I kept a watchful eye out for the expected arrival of my friend. I was excited to give him this new ticket with a solid confirmation of the start of this new life that we both wanted so badly for him.

The day trudged on and still no sign of Kevin. I became increasingly more anxious that he wouldn’t make it before we left.

At the end of the outreach there was still no sign of him and as we packed up I couldn’t help but feel defeated. How could it come to this when I had provided the means to get back to us and receive what he needed to move on?

In a last-ditch effort to get Kevin on a bus to FL today, I emailed him with the ticket confirmation number as well as the new location of the bus station and time of departure, 9:30PM (it was different than the previous station/itinerary we had hoped to use.) As we start our drive back to base in Elizabeth, I am constantly checking my email in hopes that he would be able to use a library computer and get my message.

About 20 minutes later I hear the ping of a notification and it was an email from him!! Hallelujah! He had gotten my message!!! Aaahh I was so happy. He had gotten stuck in Long Island and said he had been waiting and hoping for an email from me. The new bus station location was actually close to where he was and he had ample time to get there as it wouldn’t be leaving for another 6+ hours!! I am amazed. God works in such strange and frustrating but beautiful and perfect ways. I then contacted his friend who is going to put him up in his house and give him a job and sent him the itinerary. Everything is set. In God’s timing. I now have the peace that my new friend will be starting a better life within the next 30 hours! SO HYPED!!!!!!!!!!!

Today wasn’t fun. The angst of waiting and hoping and the let down of what was visible held sway over me while I couldn’t think of what was invisible; the plans God had in the background. God truly is amazing.

I was reminded tonight of the sacrifices and plans that God had and has for his children. This story is just a minuscule taste of the salvation and renewal of life that God laid out in the sending and sacrifice of his Son. Like I’ve said before and will continue to say, I’m just blessed to be a part of it.

Thanks for all of you who prayed for this and please continue praying with me for safety over Kevin as he travels south and prosperity and renewal as he restarts.

Blessed Easter.

Ben

Season of blessing, season of growth

Since starting my new job with NYCR (see previous blog post) I have really seen God’s hand of blessing on my life. It’s been an interesting couple months since I started and I am slowly getting the hang of things. There is still soo much to learn but my peers have been very encouraging and helpful in all areas. I felt like I had to learn everything anew when I first started but I know now that that wasn’t and isn’t the case. God laid the foundations for this job while teaching me in Haiti. Never did I think that I would be doing this kind of work in the US, much less in NYC! But as we know, God rarely ever works inside the realm of our understanding or imagination.

I’m learning how to care for people who aren’t like me, better. I’m learning how to sacrificially serve those who I wouldn’t necessarily want to be around or in contact with, much less talk to. I’m learning how to love. Years ago I thought I had that down pat but as I mature I realize that I don’t really know that much and everything is a lesson, its just up to me to learn from it or let it be wasted.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy. It’s physically tiring running an outreach but it’s more so spiritually and emotionally. On the days when it’s tough emotionally or spiritually I find myself exhausted rather than just tired. It is so worth it though! It’s humbling and exciting to be a part of the work that God is already doing in someone’s life. Often times it’s heart-breaking or depressing but to come out of a one-on-one meeting with someone and have been their daily dealer of hope is marvelous.

I’ve experienced this feeling this week as I have walked alongside a young gentleman named Kevin. He is 28 yrs old and has been on the street for 2+ months after losing his career job as an interior renovator with a company in NYC. He is smart. He is hardworking. He is even-tempered. He’s even patient, which comes as a surprise for someone in his position. I could see myself becoming best friends with this guy who’s my age if I had the time to put in to a relationship. We are currently in the process of sending him down to FL where a friend of his has a job and a place to stay for him if he can get the bus ticket down. If all goes according to plan, he will be on a bus at 6PM tomorrow night traveling towards his new life; a life of hope, security and prosperity. It’s been my utmost pleasure to be the point-person for this guy and to arrange everything. I wish that I had more time to get to know him but we are excited for this opportunity that has been given by God! Tomorrow I will be meeting with him for the third day in a row to give him his bus ticket confirmation and a last encouragement and prayer as he starts this new and exciting chapter of life. Please be in prayer for him! Cover him and his journey to FL with safety, prosperity, and faith. Where his situation was hopeless just a couple days ago, there is now hope!! And I get to be a part of it?!? Like whaaaaaaat?? MAN God is so good.

AH! don’t we serve an awesome God?

As I continue to step out onto the streets of NYC each day, I pray that God uses me in ways such as these. I want to continue to be a beacon of love and hope for those who are disdained and shunned. It’s only by God’s grace that I can be.

My heart is so full. My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me into the heart of one of the darkest places on the earth. I am a weapon against the forces of evil that entangle NYC. I am God-sent.

Please continue lifting myself and NYCR up to God. We need protection from the Enemy! We need rest and renewal each day. We need faith and hope to share with those who don’t have any. We need Grace to be grace!

God bless,

Ben