Giving Thanks

“To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us — and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.” – Thomas Merton

Today is Thanksgiving Day, and it’s also the six month anniversary since I’ve returned to America after traveling to 11 countries in 11 months. What is ironic about this is that all I’ve been able to do since I’ve arrived back in America is give thanks.

On the outside, it might seem like I am living the same life as before. I’ve gone back to serving with my same home church in the heart of Boston. I’m still dreaming with God about how the Christian community can work together and be all that we’re created to be, living in true unity.

Yet, my daily mindset has completely changed. When you live in homes all over the world, you realize all the things you have, and you appreciate the little things that previously you took for granted.

When I step into the bathroom, I thank God that there is toilet paper, a global luxury. When I flush the toilet, I remember the places where toilets are just holes in the ground (there are more cell phones in Asia and Africa than toilets!) I thank God that I live in a part of the world with adequate sanitation.

 When I put my head back underneath the warm showerhead and steam fills the room, I remember my African bucket shower, my head sticking out above the sticks arranged together in a circular shape, the moon reflecting into my bucket of cool water and sponge splashing over my skin. When I turn on the sink faucet, I remember the dozens of gallons of clean water we carried on our heads or painstakingly pulled up from the well (the average woman in Africa and Asia must walk 3.7 miles to collect water!) As I place the cold glass to my lips, the water soothing down my throat, I thank God that I have access to clean water, which is something one in nine people in the world do not have.

When I place my clothes in the washing machine, or the dishes in the dishwasher, I think of how my African friends questioned why us Americans need a machine for everything. When I plug in my computer, turn on the light, or push “start” on the microwave, I remember the many countries where electricity was sporadic or rare. I thank God for the privilege of modern technology and machinery to give me more time, but I remember that in Africa, although you get less “done” in the day, somehow it seemed the most productive moments were deep conversations with neighbors or playing with the local children. 

When I get woken up in the morning by the trash man’s clanking bottles, my mind takes me back to the piles and piles of raunchy trash that wafted an ever-present stench around the streets of India. I remembered the children who lived in the dump in Cambodia and whose entire livelihood was built upon digging through other people’s waste to find enough cans and bottles so they could buy some rice. Although my instinct is to be upset for getting woken up, I thank God for the privilege of having someone come to collect my waste each week.

When I lay down on my queen-sized pillow-top mattress and stare outside the window at the stars, I remember how the family in Malawi moved out of their home and slept on a woven mat on the dirt so my team could have a place to lay our heads. I remember snuggling in my down sleeping bag in Nepal, in a stone home with no heating. I place my hands on the heater in my room exuding warmth, and I give thanks.

When I bite into our Thanksgiving turkey, I remember the Kenyan family that mentioned how the tender taste of meat is something they dream about all year only to enjoy on Christmas day. When we throw away the extra meatballs and noodles that no one wants, I remember the hundreds of dirt-caked children in India coming up to us, pleading for food, saying, “Canna, Canna.” I give thanks for my daily bread, and pray for those who are hungry today.

When I step foot outside my door, I thank God for the freedom to go wherever I want whenever I want to. I remember the women in the brothels of India and the bars of Thailand who were stuck, enslaved in many regards, doing this work because of decisions others made for them. Honestly, freedom is a luxury that I never really considered before, and my only response is to say, “Thank you.”Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 12.50.11 PM

When my feet press into the soft carpet in our living room, I remember when my toes scraped against the dirt floor of the homes the size of my American closet. I give thanks for the home that He has given me, but my mind is not far from those who have less.

The awareness of my own privilege goes so much deeper now. It has made me more thankful, more often, and for smaller things. Things have shifted for me – I could never have found that deeper gratitude if I hadn’t lived on less. Truly, in America we are so blessed beyond belief.

How could I be silent when it’s time to praise You?

Now my heart sings out loud, bursting with joy –

A bliss inside that keeps me singing,

“I can never thank You enough!”

(Psalm 30:12 TPT)

Boston’s “Quiet” Revival Gets Noisy

Basil Yarde has a unique “birds-eye” view of God’s work throughout the region as Director of Church Relations at Salem Communications. It was an honor to sit down with Basil to hear more about the spiritual revival and awakening that he sees.

At a recent New England leader’s gathering, Basil Yarde enthusiastically proclaimed that he has the best job ever. When asked to explain, he said, “I get to interview and see what God is doing all over the region.”

These past ten years, Basil has seen remarkable change among the spiritual landscape of the city: “When I came to the city, I knew that revival was coming, but people told me that I was crazy. They would say to me that Boston is God’s frozen chosen and that nothing happens here. And some of these same people are now saying the thing that I came saying, that revival is here.”

What indicates that the revival is here? Basil has seen a number of churches recently inherit huge parcels of land and large buildings. One is the ever-growing North River Community Church, which was built recently on 45 acres of land. The same thing happened with International Family Church in North Redding, who was able to get a large factory for half price (7 million dollars). Basil remarked, “When the Reebok people were building, they had no idea they were building for God’s harvest!”

In addition to this, here in the metro Boston area, several large Catholic churches have become home to smaller Pentecostal ministries and churches, such as the Greater Boston Vineyard in Cambridge. Youth With A Mission in Somerville recently acquired a massive 21,000 square-foot building in Somerville. Other churches are forming new sites to reach more people, such as Fenway Church, Grace Chapel, Pentecostal Tabernacle, and Alethia Church. He says, “All of these churches have a vision for souls – God is giving them barns to bring the harvest in. These churches are not pulling people from other churches, but rather being filled with new people that are coming into the Kingdom. For me, that is major proof that revival is here.”

Not only is God increasing the capacity of churches, but He is birthing dozens of new ministries in the city. Ten years ago, Basil heard about one new ministry every month. Now, there are three or four times that many popping up.

There is one vision of revival that stands out as prominent in Basil’s mind, a vision that God gave him when he first arrived to Boston: “The Lord showed me that people were walking down the street crying. They didn’t know why they were crying, but the weight of God’s glory was so strong that people were feeling remorse and wanting to repent. Rather than churches going out, people were knocking on church doors to get right with God.”

Personally, when I moved to Boston, I was inspired hear many groups of Christians believing for a large spiritual revival and awakening in the region. However, each time I left the prayer room I became discouraged in my neglect to see the answered fruit of these prayers.

Despite this, I believe that the lack is not on God. He is working; it just takes eyes to see. Through creative genius, He is birthing new ministries, increasing the capacity of churches, and reviving our city. It is only when we are able to have a bigger perspective not on us and our church but on God and His Church that we are able to truly detect the mighty workings of our King. Indeed, there is a monumental fabric of redemption and restoration that is being woven through the Greater Boston region.

The Church is growing…do you see it?
Boston’s Quiet Revival is becoming loud…can you hear it?
What is God doing in your midst? We invite you to post on the UniteBoston blog here

balance.

All my life I’ve been super driven, focused singularly on one thing important to me at that time in my life.

In high school, I was in a program called Odyssey of the Mind (Yes, I was, and am still most definitely a nerd). I spent countless hours under lamplight carefully constructing small 8” structures of balsa wood and super glue. I was so into it that my fingerprints started to come off because of the number of times I peeled off the hardened glue from my fingertips. I did this all in hopes that we would make it to the World Finals (which we did.)

As I came into my senior year, I decided I wanted to play volleyball in college. So my parents taped a $20 bill to the roof of our garage and I worked to improve my vertical jump. One day, I reached it, and then I touched the rim, and six months later I received a full-ride scholarship to play Division I volleyball.

My junior year, I switched to the Gonzaga University rowing team. Not only did I find out how much I loved the sport of rowing, but I also discovered that I was naturally gifted as a rower. Upon graduation, I moved out to Boston to train with the goal of making the national rowing team.

Then it was UniteBoston – I was determined to do what I could to help churches in the city work together. I fasted & prayed, studied books, and have met hundreds of pastors and leaders over these past three years.

Paul writes about how he “strenuously contends with all the energy that Christ so powerfully works in him” (Colossians 1:29). I really resonate with that – It’s like my life has been a consistent story of all my energy being poured into one thing.

While single-minded devotion is a good thing, at this time in my life, I’m seeking balance – that all these streams might become channeled together to create one, big, mighty river.

What is balance? Merriam-Webster dictionary defines balance as “A state in which different things occur in equal or proper amounts.” These equal and proper amounts are easier said than done; most of the time, different aspects of life tend to overtake others.

For me, that’s ministry. My M.O. is to be a work-a-holic, and when your work life intersects with your greatest passion, the things that you do bring you so much life that you just want to do them all the time.

Recently I’ve come to understand that yes, that work I’m doing here in the city is indeed important. But God never wanted me to be so focused on it that I would lose other good, parts of life, like spending time with family, being healthy, or having a social life. Our purpose is not to be ministry machines; it’s to be sons and daughters of Jesus Christ. Sons and daughters are not focused on obeying orders; they just live life out of relationship with their Father, displaying that “in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

This is revolutionary. It means He is just as much in my time playing Frisbee or in the afternoon traffic jam as my morning devotional times. It’s just a matter of perspective. Our challenge is to so integrate Jesus into us that we don’t even need to be aware of Him, like the air we breathe.

From what I can tell, our society sees balance as juggling plates – school, work, friends, family, hobbies – the list goes on and on. There are dozens of books about organizing, strategizing, and maximizing. But the problem is that it can be incredibly exhausting to view balance as keeping all these plates up in the air.

In contrast, when I think of balance, I see someone whose feet are on the ground, firmly planted. In fact, another definition of balance is “the state of having your weight spread equally so that you do not fall.” What I believe balance really speaks of is a rootedness, a groundedness. When you stand on the rock of Jesus Christ, everything else falls into place. It’s like standing in the eye of a hurricane – while everyone and everything swirls around you, there is peace in your midst. Because balance is a state of equilibrium, leading to stability and ultimately harmony among all that life entails.

Balance doesn’t come from the outward activities of our life. It comes from the inward posture of our heart. It is when we see Jesus in everything that we have the balance that we all desire.

1118031514a