Grateful Abundance

IMG_1718I had the privilege of visiting my family in Arizona last week, and we drove to Albuquerque to visit my Nana in her elderly care home. She carefully escorted us down to the dining area, where we sat in wooden chairs amidst dozens of walkers and chatty old folks.

As myself, my sister, her husband, and her new baby son entered the room, all eyes were drawn to us, and remarks about the cuteness and sanctity of the new baby came our way: “Oh wow, look at him!” and “How precious!“ That’s the great thing about having a baby in your company – it instigates a conversation starter with perfect strangers.

(Side note: A few hours later I carried bundled baby Tyler around Trader Joe’s. I embraced the attention given to me per their assumption that I was the mother, taking their questions in stride until someone asked me his birthday. I had to fess up at that point. Yes, I hope that someday motherhood will be a reality for me, but until then I will have to live vicariously through my sister.)

Back in the elderly home, I was struck by the stark contrast between this small little one with perfect skin and the women and men with age-old wrinkles that filled the rest of the room. And yet, both my nephew and my nana have a lot in common. It’s been said that we begin life and end life on our knees: In total dependence on others.

Life is full of beginnings and endings. Tyler, only 7 weeks old with a whole life ahead of him. Who will he be? What will he do? What challenges will he face and how will he overcome them? And my sweet Nana, 92 years old, with an amazing life behind her of raising my dad and his brothers, a life serving and loving others wholeheartedly.

Moments like these are powerful because you begin to see the fragility of life. We are born, we grow up and live for a few dozen years, and then we die. What will you do with the life you have been given?

Personally, I can live with great hope because of my faith. I take heart in living not just for this life but for the life to come. I live for a day beyond the grave, a day where there is no crying or hardship or pain, because of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross. And this redemptive vision enables me to live today with me great hope.

Seeing the generations together in one room helps you to appreciate where you are in the journey of life, and inspires you to intentionally live each day with renewed purpose: to love others with the love we have received from God.

But living in the moment is hard to do. For me, I tend to grasp after the “next” thing, longing for the next stage of life. I’m now thirty, which is maybe ⅓ of my life. What have I done so far? And what will I accomplish? It’s too easy just to run through life, looking towards the “next” to satisfy us, instead of embracing each day and finding the gift within it.

I recently stumbled upon a poem written by Jason Lehmen. There is great wisdom within this poem that was written when he was only 14 years old:

Present Tense

It was spring, but it was summer I wanted,
The warm days, and the great outdoors.
It was summer, but it was fall I wanted,
The colorful leaves, and the cool, dry air.
It was fall, but it was winter I wanted,
The beautiful snow, and the joy of the holiday season.
It was winter, but it was spring I wanted,
The warmth and the blossoming of nature.
I was a child, but it was adulthood I wanted,
The freedom and respect.
I was 20, but it was 30 I wanted,
To be mature, and sophisticated.
I was middle-aged, but it was 20 I wanted,
The youth and the free spirit.
I was retired, but it was middle-age I wanted,
The presence of mind without limitations.
My life was over, and I never got what I wanted.

Ann Voskamp, author of an amazing book called One Thousand Gifts, writes that in the wake of all the rushing there are a thousand broken and missed things, that in the haste we think we are making up time but in fact we are throwing it away. She concludes, “Our fall was, has always been and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.”

So, my new year’s resolution is to appreciate where I am here and now, to savor the moment, to have the attitude that, “This is the good life.” We cannot live in tomorrow because the gift of today is all we have.

Someone recently said that we should live life like the way we appreciate a five course meal. When eating a delicious meal, you receive each course as it comes, savoring in the flavors of each and every bite. You don’t dwell on what dessert could be like, because all that you have in front of you is a delicious savory soup or a meaty steak. In a really superb meal, you are living completely in the moment, savoring each and every bite, as well as the rich conversation with the people around you. In this new year, I want to approach each day as a delectable meal that God has set out before me to enjoy.

My desire for 2016 is to grow in my ability to savor the gift of each moment laid out before me. Embracing the moment means that I am trusting in the sovereignty of God to lead me and provide for my every need, in His way and in His time. David writes in Psalm 23 that, “The Lord is my shepherd, I have all that I need.” It’s as we understand God as our shepherd and our provider that we can live in the place of grateful abundance.

BostonServe Photo Gallery

Royal Blue 02 new

On October 24, 2015, UniteBoston hosted BostonServe, which encouraged Christians throughout Boston to serve in their neighborhoods together on one day.

It was the first time that UniteBoston held this event – and what a success! There were eleven projects taking place throughout the city.

Together, we can make God’s love for Boston visible in a way that one church cannot accomplish alone.

Check out the photos below to see God’s love in action!

 

Playground Clean-Up and Painting

With Symphony Church at the Jackson-Mann K-8 School

Cleaning up the Playground at the Jackson-Mann K-8 School

Trophy Cleaning and Painting

With Heart Change Fellowship at English High School

Cleaning, Painting, and Carpentry 

With People’s Baptist Church and North River Community Church
At Timilty Middle School

Codman Park Clean-Up

With Global Ministries Christian Church

Codman Park Clean-Up

20151024_114649

 

Harvard Square Homeless Outreach 

With Journey Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Boston, and others

Harvard Square Homeless Outreach

Visiting Elderly Friends

with the Community of St. Egidio, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Boston, and others

Ramsay Park Clean-Up

With South End churches, Friends of Ramsay Park, and Northeastern University

photo 3-16 photo 2-22 photo 1-23

Together We Stand With our Persecuted Brothers and Sisters

I’ve been humbled to read about the recent heightened persecution of Christians around the world; how in Egypt, 21 Christians were kidnapped in Libya and beheaded for their faith in Christ.

In fact, since Jesus laid down His life, 43 million Christians have become martyrs.

While in America I have experienced a bit of emotional and verbal chastising due to my faith, it is hard for me to wrap my mind around the pain and mental agony for those who are imprisoned or even killed for their faith. The degree to the persecution that I have experienced in America is not even comparable, causing me to question how I would respond in that same situation. Another part of me wants to disconnect and run away because the pain is too hard to think about. But when I take this is to prayer, I weep, tears streaming down my face… their identification with Christ’s suffering on the cross and the depth of a faith that is tried and true inspires me to live more fully.

In his homily to conclude the week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis writes that this is an “Ecumenism of Blood.”

As the body of Christ, our brothers and sisters around the world are part of us – and through prayer we can fulfill the command that “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it.” (2 Cor 12:26)

Whenever a persecuted Christian is asked how we can help, the answer is always, “Pray for us.” Let us unite in prayer for the persecuted church, in the spirit of oneness that Christ asks of us.

Sermon – Kingdom Come: Thru Me

You don’t need to look farther than the recent hit movies to see that as a society, we are obsessed with the supernatural. The innate desire for a reality greater than our own is apparent. In fact, while belief in heaven & hell have remained steady in recent decades, the number of Americans that believe in religious miracles has increased 22% in the past two decades (Huffington Post).

The bible asserts time & again that God backs the gospel with supernatural signs and wonders (Acts 14:3, Hebrews 2:4, Mark 16:20). Yet, many times we reduce the gospel today to a mere intellectual message, rather than a God encounter.

God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and give us the ability to walk as Jesus walked and do what Jesus did. When we say “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” the reality is that God is inviting us into answering this prayer.

I shared a sermon last Sunday on the what and why of miracles, and their importance in our theological framework as followers of Jesus. In fact, in Mark 16:17, 20 the bible boldly claims that miracles are that which should characterize us as Christians –

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well….And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.”

This scripture challenges me – it says that the requirement for seeing these miracles is not to go to seminary, or memorize long passages of scripture, or fast for a week – but it says all that we have to do is simply believe. These signs and wonders do not replace the gospel, but are signs of hope for a better future, so that our faith doesn’t rest on man’s wisdom, but on God’s power (1 Cor 2:4). We must restore our faith so that we can pray in expectation that is as big and as powerful today as we see in the bible.

Hear more about the miraculous God that we serve by listening to my sermon here!

http://jcboston.org/kingdom-come-part-1/

Journey’s Church First Missions Trip

Last weekend, three of us ladies went to New York City to serve the people of New York in various ways. We partnered with the New York School of Urban Ministry, who coordinates service projects with teams throughout the city.

After taking a bus down to the city, we arrived and were immediately ushered into clown costumes for our evening ministry in a local park. While I ran around and acted goofy, Cathy and Sarah made dozens of balloon animals for all the kiddos. We sang bible songs and shared a bit about Jesus while trying not to trip over our clown-sized massive feet. It was a lot of fun – and, once the kids got used to us, they found out that us clowns really aren’t all that scary!photo 1(2)
photo-34

Saturday morning we helped a local church clean & organize their storage closet. Spring cleaning, yeah! We also did a prayer walk in the neighborhood, and came across a family mourning. It broke our hearts to hear that their son had been murdered just two days before. I was able to lead them in a time of prayer and through tears we all sung “Amazing Grace” together.

photo 2(1)photo 3(1)

That evening we headed out to serve hot dogs and deliver blankets & toiletries to people who are struggling with homelessness near Penn Station in downtown New York City. It was powerful to sit down with these men and women to hear some of their stories and the situations they are going through. We are all broken and so in need of God!

photo(1)

Sunday morning, we worshipped at the Brooklyn Tabernacle, and had some time to see some of the other sights around the city including the Brooklyn Bridge, the 9/11 Memorial and Central Park.

Sarah wrote – “God taught me three things through this trip. First, that He is with me through all things that happen- good or bad. Second, that God’s will always prevails no matter how frail I am, and third, to not be afraid and not be discouraged because God is with me to help and fight my battles.”

It was a wonderful weekend and we were super blessed to have this opportunity to learn from what God is doing in New York City and bring it back to Boston!

photo-29

 

Have you ever wanted to go on a treasure hunt?

ImageTreasure hunting is no longer just for children, or those storybook figures that find dusty maps in attics that fall apart at the seams. Whether you’re five or fifty, anyone can go on a spiritual treasure hunt.

You might be thinking, what exactly is a spiritual treasure hunt? It’s simple. First, you pray and ask God for clues of the people that you might encounter, people that are ready to receive Jesus’ love. The clues could be locations, a person’s name or appearance, or prayer needs. You write these down and use these words of knowledge to lead you to the “treasures,” the people who correspond in some way to the clues. Truly, it’s a grand adventure just waiting to be had – I have found this prophetic evangelism to not only be effective, but also a lot of fun!

At Journey Church we have life groups where we meet together weekly to grow deeper together in our relationships with one another and with God. My life group is geared around outreach and living a missional life, and last week our group went treasure hunting. What God did through this evening is CRAZY!

First, Leah and I prayed together, and we wrote down the various clues that we felt like God was speaking to us. These ranged from a streetlight, to Bob, to heavy bags, as well as the color red, a twisted ankle, the “pit,” and more.

Image

Then, we departed and asked the Lord to guide our steps…I felt like we were supposed to go to the Harvard Square “pit” first, and there we found a man sitting on a table with two huge canvas bags. We came up to him and said, somewhat hesitantly “Hi – this might seem a little odd, but we’re on a treasure hunt, and we think you’re on our list.” We showed him the clues that pointed to him, and then just listened and heard his story.

He kept trying to convince us that he wasn’t our treasure, but about halfway through our discussion, I felt prompted to ask him if he had a twisted ankle. To my surprise, he looked at me with wide eyes and said, “Actually, yes, as a matter of fact!” He told us how when he was walking there that night, a car had bumped into his foot and bruised his ankle.

We asked if we could pray for him, and he readily accepted. We asked God to bless his life and new job, to give him a happy summer (his request) as well as heal his ankle completely. He had no pain after we prayed, and it was obvious that the Lord had led us to him as our first treasure of the evening!

We then ventured downstairs and reviewed our clues, one of which was “guitar.” We stood in the middle of the subway station, watching and waiting, and not ten seconds later we noticed someone walking by that was carrying a guitar. He also had red on! We started talking to him, trying to find clues on our paper that pointed that he was our treasure, and I randomly asked him, “Is your name Bob?” convinced that it wouldn’t be, because he was Asian. To my surprise, he said, “How did you know that?” Turns out that he as from Taiwan but his American name was Bob!

 Image

The crazy thing is that two days later, Leah had a dream that she saw Bob again, and this actually happened last night when we did our “Free Hugs” outreach!

Yes, God still speaks today, and He will lead us when we trust Him and step out to share his love.

Now, treasure hunting is something that has to be experienced to really appreciate it…so go out and do it!  I’d encourage you to check out Kevin Dedmon Ministries to learn more about Treasure Hunting and here’s a sheet that you can use to go on your own treasure hunt!

I can’t wait to hear about your crazy awesome Jesus stories and the people that He will lead you too!

Transforming Boston, One Child At A Time

Ruth Wong

Something extraordinary is happening in the Boston area: churches are partnering with schools. Ruth Wong, director of the Boston Education Collaborative at Emmanuel Gospel Center partners with the Boston Public Schools (BPS) Office of Community Engagement and Circle of Promise,  to help create these partnerships. Currently, 19 schools in the Circle of Promise have faith-based partners, and 24 more are looking for partners – could your church be next?

Rather than coming in with an agenda, churches simply come to schools asking, “What are your needs? How can we help you achieve your goals?” By going to serve, rather than to preach, people are beginning to see that the church is relevant and engaged in the community. In the words of former BPS Superintendent Carol Johnson, this is significant because “churches bring hope and schools need hope.”

Coat Drive at Russell School

These partnerships have taken many forms. Faith communities have provided schools with people resources, like mentors and one-on-one tutors. They have also supported families with material items, such as City Mission Society coordinating the donation of 500 coats to Russell School families. The Trotter School first invited Global Ministries Christian Church and Grace Chapel to simply clean the building. They also hosted teacher/staff appreciation dinners. But as trust has been built with the school, the two churches are seen as partners and are invited to celebrate together with the school for significant school events. Although school staff can be hesitant at first, gradually more and more are seeing the value of faith communities supporting the multifaceted underworkings of a school. 

Some of these partnerships have transformed specific students academically, but it doesn’t end there. Ruth said, “When I hear about how a student or family is going through the struggles of life and a church is able to come alongside them, that’s what gets me excited and inspired.”

Mentor Match Day at the Timilty with parents, mentors & mentees

Mentor Match Day at the Timilty with parents, mentors & mentees

What would Ruth like to tell the Christian community in Boston? “As churches, we tend to create opportunities and programs to invite our neighbors to attend, but this is an opportunity to go and be invited into a school community to serve and love others in their space, to care for people who may never walk into the church doors on their own.”

Her dream is that each school in Boston would have at least one church partner. “There is an open door right now to partner with schools,” Ruth emphasizes. “This opportunity may come and go at any time, so in some ways, if churches would seize the moment and explore it, you never know what God could do.”

Many Christians speak about seeing their city transformed with the love of Christ. As you can see, church/school partnerships are an opportunity to make that dream become tangible.

Pastor Tom Griffith of River of Life Church asks, “What could be of greater value than to impact students? If you want to see change in Boston, this is the place to go.”

Next Steps to learn more about faith-based school partnerships:

Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 7.24.57 AM