Monday, August 25, 2014

The "Gift" of Singleness

by Michelle Watson

Recently I went to one of the most amazing weddings I've ever attended. Haley and Caleb are two who have done it right and the feeling of joy on their day was literally palpable.

Before the wedding started I was catching up with my friend Dan, a guy I haven't seen much since serving together on a youth staff in our early 20's. If you were a fly on our shoulders, here's what you would have heard:

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Me: I LOVE my life! As a single woman I have so much freedom in this season as God keeps opening so many incredible doors!
Dan: Well, it sounds like God has given you the gift of singleness.
Me: I'm not so sure that's it.
Dan: Yes, it definitely sounds like God has given you the gift.

With that, the wedding started. And without even realizing that Dan's comments had been rolling around in my head during the ceremony, as soon as the couple exited the church I realized that something wasn't sitting right. I turned to my friend and continued.

Me: I don't actually know what the gift of singleness is but I know that I don't have it. I'm open to marriage if God brings a guy along. But I can tell you what this is about: I don't fight the Father anymore.
Dan: Maybe you don't have it then.

A couple of weeks later I was at a conference and told my friend Paul this story, prompting him to say something from the platform: "If you're single today then for today God has given you the gift of singleness." Without hesitating, this prompted one woman to shout out, "But what if you don't want the gift?"

I can relate. I'm 54 and have never been married. I used to think something was wrong with me because a guy hadn't chosen me or deemed me worthy of taking his name. But I'm so over that now.

I finally decided to get on with living my life whether I had a husband or not. I finally decided not to fight my Abba Father anymore. I finally decided to accept where he has me rather than constantly demanding he do life on my terms.

I guess you could say that for me the gift of singleness is exactly that: a gift. I'm constantly in relationship with a Father who allows me to participate in what he's doing, and for me that has nothing to do with my martial status. And that is the best gift ever!

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Michelle Watson is a passionate God-follower whose mess has been turned into her message. As founder of The Abba Project she helps dads decode their daughters. Her recently released book is Dad, Here's What I Really Need From You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter's Heart (Harvest House, 2014). Connect at

Monday, August 18, 2014

Invited Into Healing Prayer

By Allison Bollegar

Whether through heartfelt cries or written liturgical prayers, humans have yearned for healing and God's kingdom since long before Jesus arrived in the flesh. Jesus carried on the tradition of prayer and encouraged prayers for healing as a way to let people know that the kingdom of God was with them (Luke 10:9). Works done in Jesus' name continue to testify to the kingdom of God being with us today.

In Luke 10:1-10 we are invited into the kingdom-work of Jesus, into healing prayer. Jesus appointed 70 disciples in addition to the 12 and he said to pray for even more laborers. We are the answered prayers of our early brothers and sisters in Christ. We are laborers for and in the kingdom of God. By bringing love and peace, by healing the sick, and by testifying that the kingdom of God is near, we continue the ministry Jesus started. We share the same Holy Spirit that was given to God's people at Pentecost and we rejoice in the promises of Jesus.

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Love is the distinctive of Jesus' disciples. He reminds his followers of the importance of love in John 13:34-35: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." All of the prayers that we offer and works that we perform for the sake of God's kingdom are nothing if we don't love those we serve.

An emphasis on the kingdom work of prayer and a focus on love for God's people offers a starting point for prayer. Differences among people of prayer provide an opportunity for us to learn how to love, pray, and labor with people who are seeking God's kingdom but may have different expressions of prayer than us. The kingdom of God is here!

Allison Bollegar is the founder and executive director of Grace and Gift Ministries,  She is currently working on a double master's degree at the Iliff School of Theology and at the University of Denver. Her healing ministry and educational pursuits in psychology, social work, and divinity provide hands-on ministry experience as well as vision development.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Slow Growth and Puny Tomatoes

By Tracey Bianchi

I've always wanted the title of "expert gardener." Wielding a green thumb, plunging my hands into the earth, kvetching with others about compost or pruning. Standing at day's end with dirt on my forehead, hands on my hips, looking skyward to wonder when it might rain again. I imagine a crop of exotic vegetables and a mesclun salad that could land on the cover of Real Simple.

Check out "The Work of our Hands" from our issue Stuck!
Reality- in mid-June I hastily snatched up the remaining four tomato plants from our farmer's market knowing that real gardeners planted weeks ago. The hold out plants were slightly yellow, wilted, gasping for water in dusty, leached soil. It was all they had left. I dropped them into the ground, hoping for salad options by the weekend. It's now August and the plants are still wilted. Bright yellow blossoms seem reluctant to turn into fruit and my husband keeps asking, "So are we going to have enough for salsa?"If only they would grow faster.

Metaphors of growth and farmer's fields dot our Scriptures revealing the fact that good growth takes time. Last summer we removed a dying, 70 year old Ash tree from our front yard. It took decades to mature and stretch out limbs. I'll be dead before another tree envelops this home in its shady fold.

Spiritual growth takes more time than we want to give. We are sold lies that we should be able to ramp up the perfect prayer life, let go of grief, or kick an addiction in a few small steps. Most of us who have even dabbled in the Scriptures know that Jesus never ever, ever never suggests a fast-track to the fruit of the Spirit and yet, we still seek quick results.

Reality-can't show up a month late with drab little plants and expect prize winning crops. Instead, I have a few measly tomatoes all the while wishing for the crimson, juicy fruit my neighbor has across the street. The four plants didn't fail but they didn't thrive either. But next year? Next year I will pick lush, verdant plants in the early season and plant them on time. Next year, the tomatoes will really come in.

What if next year a drought or insect attacks my little plot and I am left aching again, replanting and waiting yet again. And on it goes. Is it any wonder that Paul lists patience as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5?

So as these tangible summer days give way to the tumbling leaves of fall, may you embrace the long, arduous journey of spiritual growth. May you wake every morning longing for a new lesson rather than new fruit. And may the fruit of your labor eventually lead you to the arms of the Good Farmer Himself.

Friend O Mine
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Tracey Bianchi is the Worship and Teaching Pastor at Christ Church of Oak Brook, a congregation of 3000+ in the Chicago area. She (along with Adele Calhoun) is a co-author of the forthcoming book True You: Moving Beyond Self-Doubt and Using Your Voice (InterVarsity Press, January 2015).