The Ugandan judge presiding over our adoption case is scheduled to give his ruling sometime on Tuesday, June 5. Please pray that both we and the Littleton’s would walk by the Spirit as we await the news regarding our respective children, and please ask the Lord to hear our prayers and to move the heart of the judge to give an early and favorable ruling. At the risk of using words that cannot communicate the depth of our gratitude, thank you.
Last night Cindi and I arrived back at LAX around 9:30pm after a full eight days in New York and Boston. Our time in Boston was as refreshing and enjoyable as our time in New York City, for which we praise the Lord.
I’m not naive enough to think that everyone is interested in the details of our trip, but I’m interested in preserving the memory, and since I don’t have time to both blog and journal about the same thing, I’ll write a bit about the rest of our trip before moving on to other things in the days to come.
Before renting a car and making the 220-mile drive to Boston, we spent two more days (after my last post) in New York City. Having the New York Pass enabled us to visit a lot of places briefly and inexpensively instead of either paying a lot at each stop or skipping every venue that charged admission. It also diversified our trip since the guide book recommended places that we wouldn’t have known about and the free admission made us interested in places that wouldn’t have attracted our interest otherwise.
On Tuesday we began with a tour of the United Nations U.S. headquarters on the east side of Manhattan. If you want an interesting look at what the U.N. wants to accomplish by 2015, take a look at their eight brief Millennium Development Goals. Although I know next to nothing about the U.N., I was fascinated to learn that most nations in the world right now are U.N. members. The reason this was fascinating was not that so many nations are part of the U.N. but that there’s so much strife in the camp. I don’t think it’s spiritual to scoff at the humanitarian efforts of unbelievers just because they don’t know the true source of peace and blessing (which they don’t), but the U.N. tour certainly gave me a strong sense of gospel urgency. When you see billions of dollars and an equal amount of manpower being channeled towards helping the world in ways that are good but not ultimate and timely but not eternal, it makes you want to redouble your efforts in spreading the news about the one great Answer. I was also struck by how many countries and cultures are out there that I’ve either never heard of or know nothing about. Impacting the world for Christ is certainly a work of God. It’s too big for man to accomplish. So the first effort that should be redoubled is prayer.
After the U.N. tour, we headed a couple miles south and a half-mile west to Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks (NBA), Liberty (WNBA), and Rangers (NHL). The Garden has played host to such varied events as the Ringing Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, the NBA and NFL Drafts, NHL and NBA All-Star Games, and World Wrestling Entertainment’s WrestleMania’s and Royal Rumble’s. The first and second fights between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali were at The Garden since it was the pre-Vegas boxing mecca, and it’s also hosted massive concerts for Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel, Elton John, Elvis Presley, Barbara Streisand, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Pearl Jam, and more. Incredibly, the 5,600-seat WaMu Theater sits below the floor of the 20,000-seat arena, and sound-proofing prevents simultaneous events from disturbing each other. Oh, and under both of these is Penn Station, the busiest train station in the United States. Here’s to the industriousness of building vertically, both above the ground and below. This particular tour also taught me an old lesson in a new way. Our MSG tour guide spoke like a voice recording, which made the otherwise-interesting Garden seem somewhat tame and boring. However, our Fenway Park tour guide in Boston was personal, lively, knowledgeable, and genuinely passionate about us tourists and about his subject (more on him in the next post). This confirmed to me that in any walk of life, impacting people through communication has a lot to do with how you say what you say. This is why in my educational choices I put a high priority on the quality of the teacher, not just the content of the class.
From The Garden we took the subway north to the genuinely-spectacular American Museum of Natural History. People had told me that this museum was impressive, but no one had really described what was in it. I guessed the general content from the name, but wasn’t prepared for the amazing displays of various people groups throughout history as well as the massive amount of exquisite taxidermy. Sadly, we also experienced an overdose of evolutionary myths and propoganda in the rooms displaying various aspects of the greater universe. I got so irritated that I almost interrupted and contradicted a labelled “expert” who was answering questions and preaching his evolutionary faith under the guise of hard science. I held back, but I’m not sure if that restraint was virtuous or not. Muzzled zeal is not as praiseworthy as political correctness would have us believe. We need grace in our day to know how and when to speak and interact and confront with grace and truth. The saddest part of the entire scene was his audience: a Latino family of three who were drinking in his answers to their questions about the universe simply because he was the supposed expert. I object to evolutionary propoganda not just because it’s false but also because most of its adherents will not admit that it’s a matter of faith. If there is fact underlying it, it has not yet been discovered, and because I believe the Bible, I believe that conclusive, undebatable evidence will never arise. I am comforted by the candor of God, who freely admits that it is by faith that we understand and hold to divine creation (Hebrews 11:3). I love how God happily admits the exact grounds of the world’s objections. All of this aside, I would dare say that we have the capacity to enjoy such a wonderful museum more than any atheistic expert will ever be able to, because we know the Creator and Artichect of all that they have preserved so well.
From the museum we walked across 8th Avenue to Central Park which covers 843 acres, 6% of Manhattan. This is not your average city park. We made our way to the Great Lawn where we sat on a bench for awhile and then laid down on some shaded grass for a short nap amidst the joggers, commuters, tourists, readers, couples, softballers, frisbee throwers, and dog owners. After enjoying this outdoor peace and beauty, we headed down to Pier 83 along the Hudson River where we hopped on the two-hour Harbor Lights Cruise, again courtesy of our New York Pass cards. Since Cindi was thinking ahead, we got the spot at the very tip of the bow (before everyone packed in behind us) where we could see three sides. The cruise took us south down the Hudson River between Hoboken, New Jersey on the west and Manhattan on the east. After coasting alongside the Manhattan skyline, we cruised past Ellis Island, turned around at Liberty Island, and headed north up the East River with Manhattan now to the west. We passed under the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge as we watched the sun set in the west behind the skyline. After making a U-turn around dusk, it was time to see the lights of the city. It was around 9:00pm when we arrived back at Pier 83, and the cruise was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
Since we hadn’t had dinner yet, we asked a random person (for the second time in three days) for directions to Carmine’s, supposedly the best Italian food in the city. This time we found it, but we also found that it was around $20-30 a plate. I’ve always thought that it’s stupid and bordering on unforgivable to spend $20-30 on a restaurant meal except on extremely rare and very special occasions, so we moved on to Bubba Gump Shrimp Company around the corner which was actually less expensive than I thought it would be (i.e., not in the stupid-and-bordering-on-unforgivable range).
Wednesday was our last day in New York City, and we capped it off with a visit to the Statue of Liberty after spending the late morning preparing for our trip to Boston. Unfortunately, September 11, 2001 was the last day that people were allowed to climb up inside the statue to look out from the crown, so we had to content ourselves with the view of the city and harbor from the observation deck (when I was in high school my family made a trip to New York City and we went to the crown on that visit). It makes me wonder how many small things the terrorist attacks of 9/11 have changed. After taking the ferry back to the pier at Battery Park, we hopped on the subway and headed north to pick up our rental car for our trip to Boston. Driving the agonizing two miles from Budget back to our hotel (at 5:30pm) to pick up our bags made me thankful for the subway and confirmed my trip-long thought that if we ever live in a city like New York, I’ll definitely use public transportation a lot. On our way out of the city, we stopped at Shake Shack on Madison Avenue and 23rd St. to eat their highly-recommended Shackburger, and although it was a good burger and worthy of high marks, I think that In-N-Out is better. But Shake Shack does get a point for their convenient webcam that shows you how long the line is at any given time (it’s usually long).
The 3.5-hour drive to Boston was pretty and uneventful, and we awoke on Thursday morning to a brand new city that we’ve wanted to visit for awhile (more on Boston next time).
Spending eight days in downtown city life has revealed to me the independence and individualism of American culture in a new way. I’ve mainly experienced this independence in suburban settings where people seem spatially distant and materially insulated both from their fellow man and his circumstances. People in the suburbs seem almost afraid of each other; afraid of proximity. They’re awkward, and not quite sure what to do when they encounter a stranger. But in the city, people seem to be more indifferent. People live and work and walk and commute so close to each other that they stop noticing each other. There is a certain callousedness in the city that is usually thought of as tough and rugged. I think it is those things, but it is also hardened and many times self-absorbed and tunnel-visioned. It makes me hope that there are real Christians out there (starting with but not limited to the leaders) who are praying and dreaming and planning with friends and fellow believers as to how they can strategically move to cities around the world and build gospel-saturated relationships through which they can impact these cities for Christ. Not moving because there’s a good job opportunity or a booming housing market or a fun culture or blood relatives nearby, but moving because there’s gospel need and gospel possibilities there. I have my doubts, but I also have my hopes. May God raise them up.