#PrayersForOrlando

orlando-shooting-victims-2000_0Where is God in that? When we arrive at something that produces so much anguish, we must blame something. Is this just the way things are? How could you even begin to say this happens for a reason? This, this is horrifying wickedness. It makes no sense and falls outside of what we call right and what we call wrong.. This is something entirely bigger than that and it makes absolutely no sense. I ask again, WHERE is God in that?

The philosopher Alvin Plantinga addressed it like this:
Could there really be any such thing as horrifying wickedness [if there were no God and we just evolved?] I don’t see how. There can be such a thing only if there is a way that rational creatures are supposed to live, obligated to live…. A [secular] way of looking at the world has no place for genuine moral obligation of any sort… And thus no way to say there is such a thing as genuine and appalling wickedness. Accordingly, if you think there really is such a thing as horrifying wickedness (…and not just an illusion of some sort), then you have a powerful … argument [for the reality of God].

So God wants this? I think that is putting it a little to simple. God wants our surrender- our all. God wants us to rally behind one another, to support one another, to love one another; Sound familiar? Perhaps He must get us to that point in ways we can’t fathom as moral.

Recently, there was the largest mass shooting in US history that happened in Orlando. I think all of us would chalk this one up as a clear case of horrifying wickedness. …if you spend anytime on Facebook after an event like this, what is the first thing you see? #prayersfor_________

Where is God in this? What is praying going to do?

I don’t want to discredit the actions of praying after a tragedy, but I do wonder what a nation who actively works to rid God out of any public square is going to pray about and why this is impulsively the first line of defense. My opinion is that in the worst human efforts to produce such a tragic event, we somehow see only one logical place to turn. In a world where we can have the answer to anything in a matter of seconds, we suddenly find ourselves stumped. As horrific as the present terror is, we surrender our own agenda and cry out for someone bigger than ourselves- someone bigger than government. For a brief moment- United we stand, completely surrendered to God. Wow. 

There is no perfecting my agenda. I will always fail if I seek to make myself great. I may make all the money in the world, I may have the most beautiful bride (I do), but somewhere along the way I will fall short of perfection. We are an imperfect people and my logic will only lead me to an ultimately wicked end. Now, I probably won’t get involved with terrorism, but I will ultimately let someone down when my only motif is me. Others must come before me. This is why the secular expression “do what makes you happy.” simply won’t cut it in our horrifyingly wicked world.

In our efforts for moral reformation, we will never arrive at perfection alone. By our own efforts, there is no perfecting this material world. We are corrupt. And even if we could, would it ever make up for what happened in Orlando? I think not, there would still be a hole left gaping in our soul, that would still ache with memories.

But, that’s not what I believe. We will see a new heaven and a new earth. Keller writes:

In revelation 21, we do not see human being being taken out of this world into heaven, but rather heaven coming down and cleansing, renewing, and perfecting this material world. 

I believe that our prayers don’t fall on deaf ears. I believe what you WANT to believe- that, even if you hashtag #prayersfor____ to simply hashtag it, someone is listening. And someone, something, down the road is going to somehow, someway, make everything we don’t understand right. There is hope in that and I want you to believe it. I want you to mean it when you #PrayForOrlando. Like, holy smokes, really pray!!!

What starts as hope, we see a small glimmer of faith, and in faith there is glory.

C. S. Lewis wrote:

They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even the agony into glory.

“This is the ultimate defeat of evil and suffering. It will not only be ended but so radically vanquished that what has happened will only serve to make our future life and joy infinitely greater.” [Keller]

Top 10 Things To Do In NYC

I get asked a lot by people who are traveling to New York what they should do while they are there. I wouldn’t feel compelled to write this down formally if it weren’t always the same question and so frequently- “What can we do that isn’t touristy?” So if nothing else, this will simply serve as something I can point people to, rather than texting them a thrown together response.

Before I go any further, let me insert a disclaimer if I let you down with my suggestions. I am not a born and raised New Yorker, I am just a silly southern boy in awe of the big city. My list is composed of things that I’ve done and wish I did while i had the opportunity.

So now that we have established my ignorance, let me establish my credentials. I spent all of 2014 and parts of the surrounding years going back and fourth to the Big Apple. I went so much that we developed favorite hotels, airports, drivers and even dealt with a few manhattan land lords. I am no expert, but I have eaten at Katz’s and know not to dare ask for mayo. There, ya trust me?

1. Katz’s Deli.

Since I mentioned it already, I will lead off with it. You know the type of guy you expect to run into while visiting New York? You know, the guy who says “Don’t worry ’bout it.”? This is why you go to Katz’s. Unless you’re just crazy about pastrami on rye like I am.. See that tub in the picture below? Wait till ya see what’s in it..

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2. Get a Metro Card

This may fall into your definition of ‘Touristy’ but a trip is incomplete unless you experience the pulse of NYC. The simple madness of it all is the best part- entertainers, business men, homeless people.. You thought people watching at your local mall was interesting? Oh, and not to mention the amount of money you will save not dealing with a cab.

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3. Citi Bike

On the subject of transportation, A great way to fly across town on a beautiful day is renting a Citi Bike. There are bike racks set up all across the city that allow you to simply insert your card and ride to the next location (Likely by where you want to be anyway. They are everywhere, seriously..) One of my favorite memories from all of my time spent in NYC is the day we rode from the flat iron building, all the way down Ave of the Americas, weaving through traffic, eventually arriving in Central Park.  You just can’t experience that anywhere else.

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4. Madison Square Park

Like a political debate, I suppose if I mention it, I should allow it time to shine. Madison Square Park, like all NY parks in the summer, is a sight to see. I think this is when you fully understand that, “Oh, these people don’t have back yards to lounge around in.” It’s kinda funny the first time you see it. This park is particularly special because there is a Shake Shack right in the middle (Great Burgers!!!) and it is next door to my favorite building in the city- The Flat Iron Building. Bring a blanket, grab a burger and shake, and just chill before you nearly kill yourself riding through the city on a bike.

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5. Greeley Square

I would say this one is time sensitive. Twilight at Greeley Square is just cool. You are smack dab in the middle of the city, and like an island in the Pacific, a little oasis simply appears. I suggest evening time, only because of the Christmas lights that are strung from food vendor to food vendor.. I don’t think this will be an all night affair for you, but I think it speaks volumes for NYC.bwaybites.0.jpg

OK, Let’s talk food.

This is where I will definitely offend some people, but I’m only mentioning one spot- my favorite:

6. Lure Fish Bar

Fresh everything, incredible decor, A-List Celebrities, SOHO District… Yeah, this is a special dinner, indeed. —I regrettably will only glaze over “SOHO” as I talk about Lure. But this entire area of NYC, known by being ‘South Of Houston St.’, is SO special. Brick roads, great vibe, incredible food all over… But Lure especially is a real treat. The inside of the restaurant looks like a Yacht. I have never been on a yacht, but I’ve been to Lure, and that is close enough. Plus I saw Pharrell last time I went. If I had a yacht, I would invite Pharrell. So, so good.

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7. BROOKLYN

Much like SOHO, Brooklyn is a special place and deserves to be frolicked upon. Spend an afternoon here, walk around, take it in, and wind up at Brooklyn Bowl. Incredible venue, whether you like bowling or not- Live music, great food…and bowling. You may want to see if you can reserve a lane though… It’s a VERY popular spot..

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8. Rooftops

Jumping back to Manhattan, taking in an evening on a rooftop in the city is special. I have my favorites, but I’m not going to suggest anything here.. There are so many and they are all worth exploring. I will suggest, however, to be as close to the Empire State Building as possible.. or the Hudson… Or Central Park… Oh what the heck- there isn’t a bad view. Hint: Stay in a hotel that has their own swank rooftop. The better the view, the more VIP you have to be to access it (unless you are already staying there). SoHoChi_075_copy123.jpg

9. BROADWAY

Please see a broadway show. For me, would you? I can’t tell you how much I kick myself for going as many times as I did and I didn’t see one show. Everyone I’ve talked to who has been says it’s an unforgettable experience. I’m speaking blind here, but go. This is NY we are talking about.

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10. Redeemer Presbyterian Church

This one may seem out of place on this list, but I was an idiot for not taking advantage of my opportunity to hear Tim Keller speak live. If I ever go back, this will be at the top of my list. An author who has changed so many lives, helped so many grow in their faith, is standing in his NYC pulpit every Sunday, free of charge (I’ve actually learned that there is an unannounced rotation at Redeemer to help crowd control in his popularity, so this may be easier said than done). Maybe you can’t stomach the price of a Broadway ticket, I suggest catching a Keller sermon. It’s free & I have no doubt that it will be an unforgettable experience.timothy-keller-is-the-founding-pastor-of-redeemer-presbyterian-church-in-new-york-city.jpg

In closing though, let me encourage you to be as touristy as you hope not to be. Stick your head out of a cab window and look up in Time Square. Go to Ellis Island and learn something amazing. Go take a picture by the bull on Wall St.

Be silly. Be a tourist. Because truthfully I can’t wait to get back.