What it means to remember

As my hands rhythmically pulled the fiberglass oar in and out of the water, an all-too-familiar sting surfaced on my palm. I looked down and saw the soft tender skin blistering underneath unfamiliar rubbing, and I remembered.

It was our alumni weekend for Gonzaga University rowing – and this year, I found myself surprised that I was one of the oldest alums. It seemed like just yesterday that I was spending sleepless nights glued to my notes studying before midterms, only to plop myself into a boat a few hours later, with only the moonlight to shine upon our eight breaths cascading together in motion.

As I prepared to spend the week out here, I thought most of my time would be spent re-connecting with friends and fundraising. While these things did happen, it was to a much lesser extent than I was expecting. Planes were delayed, work schedules conflicted, and people out of town. I came to the conclusion that it was altogether terrible timing. So why was I here?

Over the course of my stay, I began to see that the reason why I was in Washington this week was to remember.

I’m one of those people that is always thinking about the “next.” To my fault, my default is to plow ahead, even if I need only take a few steps backward to re-orient myself. I saw this the other day when I was biking to a friend’s house and I missed her turn. I knew that I missed the road, but I kept going for about a mile, believing that I would be able to take the next road to cut over to her house. The turn never came.

Sometimes we refuse to turn around. But I’m learning that we must. That’s because we cannot move forward effectively in the plans the Lord has, unless we first take time to look back.

This weekend, I had the chance to go to my favorite spot on campus – a neat little boulder situated nicely on the bank of the Spokane River. The best part about the rock is that it has a nice backrest for sitting. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s a knack for finding good sitting rocks.

And on that rock, I remembered. 1027031603

It was on that rock that tears had run down my face as I found out I would no longer be receiving my volleyball scholarship – but little did I know that God would open the doors for rowing and I would find my niche in a capacity unparalleled to my volleyball career.

On that rock, I had spent countless afternoons pouring over books and notes, studying as the playful breeze swept over the trees and the geese honks cheered me on.

On that rock, I remembered how my friend Lynette and I had spent evenings huddled together chatting, as she mentored me through how to live out my newfound faith in Jesus Christ.

I realized that everything that happened here had rebounding effects on the person I am and am becoming. Little did I know that the Lord would use my time rowing to instill in me an incredible amount of discipline, structure, and perseverance. I never would have known that 3 ½ years after I received an endorsement in teaching English as a Second Language I would be teaching English in nations all over the world. Little did I know that God would use my teaching degree not to teach elementary school children, but to inspire congregations in their relationship with Jesus Christ.

I am like the maple tree, leaves blooming and falling as seasons come and go, but my sturdy frame remains, continuing to grow taller and taller as more of me – more of who God has made me to be – comes out.downsized_1027031532a

It’s when we remember that we gain a bigger perspective – in who we are, in where we’ve been. Understanding this is fundamental in helping us to discern where we are going.

Even Jesus himself looked back. In John 13, Jesus shows “the full extent of His love” by washing His disciples’ feet. But before he did this, it says that he remembered of the authority given to him in his relationship with the Father – that he had come from God and was returning to God.

Michel Quoist said that “To recollect yourself is to recover all your scattered energies – those of the mind, the heart and the body. It is to reassemble all the pieces of yourself flung on the four corners of your past or the mists of your future, pieces clinging to the fringes of our desires.”

Remembering isn’t just about the moment. It’s re-membering. Tying together the members, the pieces. In the same way, recollecting is re-collecting what has happened to you and seeing the thread of God’s mighty story weaving through it all.

Who are you becoming? What has happened in your life to shape the person you are today?

Will you take time this week to look back and remember?1027031534

Singleness: Longing for Marriage Without Obsessing Over It

Life is an interesting journey, isn’t it? One of the most intriguing things that I’ve been learning about lately is singleness and dating. As a single person, I’ve heard many different things:

  • It happens when you’re not looking
  • Just pray harder. And don’t be so picky.
  • It’s great to be single…you’re so free!

Even Paul says 1 Corinthians 7:7 that he wishes that all men were as he is, single! A few verses later, he says that while a married man is concerned about the affairs of the world, singles can be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit (v. 35).

I’d say that 90% of the sermons on singleness reference this scripture passage. That’s great, but I don’t think it really addresses the underlying frustration of most singles – living in that place where there’s a desire in your heart for something, but we haven’t seen the fullness of that promise come to pass. We get told that “If you feel lonely, you’re not being spiritual enough. So you should just pray more.”

So in that moment of loneliness, many singles simply push away their feelings, when in reality they are feeling a powerful theological truth in their souls. I wrote a sermon about this – titled “Singleness: Longing for Marriage Without Obsessing Over It.” You can download or listen to it here: http://jcboston.org/single-part-1/

When we talk about singleness, we must also go back to the beginning of creation. In Genesis 2, we see that God has set up the world in such a way that it was not good for man to be alone. Longing for a partner was deeply seated in Adam’s nature – a longing that none of the animals could satisfy. So a woman was “fashioned” for him out of Adam’s rib, created as an “ezer kenegdo” for Adam (Gen. 2:18). This word is tricky to translate (“helper” or “help-meet” in most translations) but what it does not mean is that Eve was created as a slave or servant for Adam. In fact, this word “ezer” is used in every other instance in the Old Testament to refer to God – when they needed help from God to come through desperately. God was their only hope, their ezer. With the word “kenegdo” meaning alongside, opposite to, or counterpart, we see that the original creation of woman is not just to serve man but to be his lifesaver, his sustainer beside him.

The mission to be fruitful and cultivate the earth was given to both Adam and Eve together, and we see man and women standing together, a perfect partnership. It is only after sin enters the world that male dominance appears – but that was not the original intention of God’s roles for men and women.

From my albeit limited experience, here is some practical advice I have for singles:

1. Respond to loneliness by turning to God

One of the biggest things that singles complain about is loneliness – but it’s important to understand that everyone feels lonely to a certain extent, not just singles. Being in a marriage relationship itself will not fully satisfy the longings in our hearts. Unless we are set in our relationship with Christ, we will always be unsettled. That’s because as wonderful and exhilarating that love from another person is, we have to know that it is only a reflection of the great love Christ has for us.

Loneliness can become an escalating downward pit – we begin by feeling alone, which leads to wondering if God really has someone out there for us, which leads to us doubting that He has the best in mind, and then we wonder if God is really there at all. Therefore, because loneliness is a result of separation from God, we must respond to loneliness by turning to God.

Application:

When you’re experiencing loneliness, I’d suggest that you dig to the root of it by answering “I am lonely because…” Are you blaming God, yourself, or other people? Replace these lies with truth from the Word.

I know the other day I was feeling quite lonely when I met single women in their 30’s and I realized that that could be me – that it was possible I might never be married. But as I prayed, I realized that I am single because God is abundantly good to me, because that is his best for me. We are all made to be conformed to the image of Jesus – and that looks different for each one of us. It sounds cliché, but this is something you will have to work through with Jesus and have him speak into your unique hopes, dreams and longings.

2. Celebrate where God has you now

As a single, it’s easy to have the view that being single is a temporary purgatory – “Get me out, get me out.” A few months ago, I set myself on this single-minded quest to find the man to share my life with. After some awful dates and many funny stories later, I sensed God telling me, “Stop trying so hard. You don’t have to force anything to happen. Just rest in me and celebrate where you are now.”

Many people get stuck in the opposite perspective – “Woe is me…I’m just waiting for the right one…” Personally, I’ve experienced many Christian men that are in this place, and I want to encourage the guys to be bold and pursue women! In my experience, this is something that the non-Christian world is doing well– non-Christian guys really know how to date girls and pursue them. Girls like guys who take initiative, who don’t wait around and “see what happens.” There are things you can, and should, do to cooperate with God’s purposes in your life. So if you’re desiring marriage, what steps are you taking to pursue it?

Loneliness makes us quest to find someone, and that’s ok. Don’t expect it to go perfectly – You’ll make mistakes. It will be awkward. It will be difficult. It probably won’t happen the way you think it will happen. And that’s OK.

The reality is that many of us aren’t ready for marriage. There are things that He wants to work out in us before we’re ready for our spouse, and our spouse is ready for us. So a prayer that I’ve prayed recently is, “God, do what you have to do in my life to prepare me and my future husband for marriage. My sole desire is that I might become the woman of God that you desire me to be.”

Application:

To be single is to be in the place where you long for something more, but also celebrate where God has you now. If you focus on what we don’t have (in the future) or what happened (in the past), you will be miserable.

To celebrate the now, start a gratitude journal – pay attention to little joys of common moments and write them down. This has helped me to change my perspective from “Woe is me” to “Wow, God is good to me. There is a lot I have to be thankful for.”

3. Use your time to serve others

When you’re single, it’s easy to fall into trap of self-absorption – since there’s no wife to support or husband to pamper, now is the “you” time. Society tells us that singleness is a time to satisfy our immediate desires with no strings attached.

But the irony about “singleness” is that none of us are really single. The next time someone asks you if in a relationship, your immediate response should be that you are in dozens. Even if you’re not a husband or wife, you are still a daughter, sister, or friend. So the question becomes: how are you investing in these roles that God has given to you?

Many of my married friends talk about how much they have matured in marriage. I think this may be because marriage is based on a covenant to commit to the other person for life, through good and bad. There’s something that happens in the daily grind of serving others, but this selfless love doesn’t have to happen exclusively in marriage. God so loved us that he gave his son to us – that’s the kind of love he asks us to have, not self-seeking but a giving, sacrifical kind of love. So as singles, we must pursue contexts where we can be selfless, in the midst of limitless opportunities to be selfish.

When you’re single it’s easy to have hidden sins and hide little practices that are happening in your life. But secrecy is the tool of the enemy – as a single, we must pursue community and accountability so we can live life in the light.

Application:

Evaluate your calendar and bank statement. What are you actually doing with the time and treasure God has given you?

Each of us should have at least one person that we’re discipling, and one person that we go to for accountability. Whose life are you pouring into? Do you have someone that you trust to turn to, that holds you accountable?

If you don’t have those people, then who in your life is God asking you to reach out to?

Last, I want to leave you with some great resources I found while writing this sermon:

Praying for Boston

PRAY FOR BOSTON

“Seek the peace & prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper…” (Jeremiah 29:7)

During 10 Days Boston, the “I Am Second” Boston Expedition, and the United Night of Worship, Christians throughout the city shared prayer requests and praises for Boston (see photo at right). Here’s what you said:

Praises for Communities

  • Allston – Laborers from metro-west join Bostonians
  • Allston – More people are willing to talk about Jesus
  • Cambridge – Praise for the foreign-born population who can take the gospel to their home countries
  • Chinatown – Praise God for a bold expression of Christianity – the crime rate and homeless population has gone down.
  • Dedham – There is a Catholic/ecumenical group that is developing
  • Dorchester – Praise God that a friend was miraculously healed of cancer!
  • Lexington – God is stirring hearts for prayer at Grace Chapel
  • Lower Mills – Has the densest presence of churches in Boston
  • Malden – Praise for a new Chinese church plant and a mayor who is friendly to churches
  • Orchard Gardens – 16 new Christ-followers!
  • Somerville – Local churches (such as Vida Real) are being obedient to discipleship and evangelism
  • Somerville – YWAM Missionary center is finalized

Praying for Communities

  • Brookline/Coolidge Corner – Pray that it would be crime-free – May the Lord change hearts on the streets!
  • Cambridge – Pray for the homeless community
  • Cambridge – Pray against the intellectualism and universalist mentalities
  • Charlestown – Pray for more jobs, kids, youth, safety
  • Chelsea – Needs a church for its AME population
  • Codman Square (Dorchester) – Pray for the safety of our youth, especially in the early morning hours
  • Dorchester – Pray that churches would look outside their walls to reach out to others
  • Harvard – For souls to be saved, that the love of Christ would permeate dorm rooms
  • Harvard – Pray for abundant provision for church plants in the area
  • Jamaica Plain – Pray for a hunger & thirst for holiness and righteousness
  • Lexington – Someone who grew up in Lexington had never heard of Grace Chapel; pray that churches would effectively reach out to their communities
  • Mattapan – Pray that the cycle of violence might end
  • Medford – Pray for the Vineyard church plant
  • MIT – Pray for boldness and transformation among the believers
  • Roxbury – For the body of Christ to get involved to end gang and drug violence
  • Waltham – Lord I lift the church in Waltham, especially the children. Let love abound. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

                  

City-Wide Praises
  • Diversity of people groups in Boston and the way that ethnic congregations are flourishing
  • 67 professions of faith and 20 new “I am Second” Groups started with the recent E3 evangelism training
  • Divine appointments on trains and buses
  • 10,000 people who attended the United Night of Worship 2013 and the 75 people who responded to turn towards the Lord!
  • Thank God for His abundant resources for His work
  • We in New Hampshire are so glad that the Spirit moves in Boston so powerfully. He is good!

UNOW 2013 (Photo Courtesy Glenn Silva)

City-Wide Prayers
  • That a new generation of youth would rise up and declare Jesus as Lord!
  • Jesus, we humble ourselves as your Church and seek You first
  • Pray for the new mayor and that the people in authority would govern wisely
  • Pray for spiritual renewal and sound doctrine to be preached in every church
  • Pray for health and healing for all those who are sick
  • Pray that all who accepted Christ would be protected against attacks of Satan
  • Pray for the end of abortion
  • For supernatural awakening, and that Christ’s movement would overtake!
  • Pray for a Christian radio station from the Renew FM network in Downtown Boston
  • The workers are few but the harvest is plentiful; pray for more laborers for the harvest field!
  • That the Holy Spirit would unite Christian community in Greater Boston for God’s glory!
  • May all be blessed

Photo Courtesy Sam Benesh

We encourage you to take time this week to lift up the city in prayer. Though we all come from different denominations and backgrounds, we can be united in praying for our city.

A great place to post ongoing prayer requests & praises is the UniteBoston forums

Yes, we are “Boston Strong” – our strength comes from our unity and faith in Jesus Christ.

May His kingdom come and His will be done in Boston and to the ends of the earth!

In Him,

The UniteBoston Team