Happy Memorial Day!

As as become our tradition over holiday weekends, we are taking a break from our regular routine as we gather to celebrate and remember the sacrifices of so many over the holiday weekend.

We hope that wherever you are that the Lord is making himself known to you–that you feel his pleasure and joy in you. The sermon below from Tim Keller was a huge encouragement to many of the FastPray team when we saw it because it deals with of the deeper story and robust theology of walking as a single adult before the Lord–even while you’re praying for marriage. We hope it encourages you!

Tim Keller – A Theology of Singleness from Redeemer Video on Vimeo.

Blessings,
The FastPray Team

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Lessons from Marriage. Oh Wait. I’m Not Married.

On Mondays, we pray and fast for lunch or longer for women to be softened–trusting God to work in their lives, for men to be emboldened to walk in to relationships, and for God to give the gift of marriage to those who desire it.

I never really understood God’s love until I got married.

When I became a mom, I finally understood God’s fatherly love for us.

God is using your marriage especially to sanctify you.

If you’re eyes roll back in your head, when you hear quips like that. You’re not alone. I usually have one of a few different responses when I hear platitudes about marriage or kids like that: (1) Feel bad about myself that God didn’t choose me to understand his love through a married relationship. (2) Shrug my shoulders and say sarcastically, “You got it, dude.” (3) Quietly wonder if they’re right. Maybe, I’ll never fully understand God’s love if I never get married.

I may not be married. Friends (and sometimes me) may think I spend too much time thinking about marriage and singleness–that writing about it online brands me with a scarlet S. Even single girls who want to be married, don’t always want to admit it or think about it too much. It looks a little desparate. Maybe you’ve never been branded as the single adult who thinks about marriage too much, but I want to encourage you that even as I enter my fifth year of intentionally praying for marriage that the Lord is using marriage–even the just the desire–for as a tool for sanctification.

Here’s two things that have cropped up recently:

Dismantling marriage/family idolatry. Even though I can still find myself slipping back into my old patterns of thinking, the Lord has used my desire for marriage to dismantle my marriage/family idolatry. I used to believe–either absorbed from the culture around me or just welled up in my own heart–that getting married and having a family were the answer to all of my unmet longings. God could have used my own marriage to tear it down, but instead of allowing me to enter a marriage with a hugely out of control set of relational expectations, God quietly walked beside me and showed me how good marriage is and how unrealistic my ideals were.

Do I wish I could have been one of the many girls who went riding off into the marriage sunset at 22 with a newly minted college diploma in my hands? Some days I do, but in my more honest moments, I can see how kind the Lord was show me how stop carrying my burdensome anvil of a marriage/family god and see that he’s the one that is carrying me. (Isaiah 44-46)

Seeing God look for and love me. When I hear marrieds say things like, I now understand what God’s love for us is like. I have to resist running for the toilet or passing out from holding my breath. I know that what they say is true to an extent. God did design marriage to be a unique conduit of his creative love, but marriage doesn’t tell the whole picture of our experience of God’s love here on earth.

As Connally said in her Regent talk, Christ is looking for us. His eyes are on us. I’ll add to that. Jesus is expectantly watching and longing for us in a way that is much more analogous to a single believer’s life journey than a married couple’s. As an unmarried woman, I understand the complex nuances of waiting and looking for something I desperately want so much more than my sisters who got their diplomas and diamonds in one May weekend. It’s painful and bit snotty at times, but it allows me to more fully understand what Jesus feels when he’s searching for us.

So, as you pray and fast this week for the gift of marriage, be encouraged that the Lord is with you, that he’s looking for you, seeing you in the midst of your circumstances, loving you with a longsuffering and patient adoration, and is using your story to show the world a unique facet of his love.

Blessings,
Anna

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Real Life: Guidance for Considering Counseling

We fast and pray during Monday lunch for men and women to more fully show forth God’s image in their own unique ways, and for marriages to those who desire it. 

Unexpected adult singleness brings its own unique share of joys, griefs and question marks…from figuring out dating in a new decade, to making large financial decisions alone, to building adult relationships with parents, to handling the strange mix of grief and celebration at yet another friend’s wedding or baby shower.

So when counseling came up recently in the comments, we thought it would be helpful to get some context on the topic. Counseling has been a deep source of encouragement and challenge to me as I’ve walked this road. That being said, counseling is a broad term used to describe many kinds of therapeutic approaches, and so we asked two licensed professional counselors (who are also believers) for their thoughts in response to the following questions: When should I consider getting counseling? And how should I find a good counselor? (Their responses have been edited for brevity and clarity, and we highlighted some ideas that both gals mentioned.)

In His Grace, 

Amy 

Michelle:
Counseling does not have to happen strictly when life becomes unmanageable. I lightheartedly and jokingly say if you have a pulse, you probably need counseling! It’s helpful for us all to know and understand our stories, and many times counseling can help us get there. Counseling is both an investment of time and finances, so it’s important to be fully willing and able to participate once you engage in the process. I have yet to meet someone who regrets making that investment.

For a long time, the idea of getting counseling was quite taboo. People felt ashamed or afraid of the idea that they need help walking through life. Luckily we are breaking that taboo. At times, people come to counseling because they struggle with a mental illness. Other times, it is simply feeling stuck in one way or another. By definition of the counseling relationship, it is one in which someone is fully vested in your best interest, carries no judgment, and has complete positive regard for your greatest outcome.

Common misconceptions of counseling:

  • Counseling is only for people that are “crazy” or that need to be institutionalized
  • That a counselor will tell you what you should or should not do
  • A counselor can share what is said with parents, professors or other close relationships
  • Seeking counseling is a sign of weakness
  • Counseling requires a long-term commitment: Counseling can help with both short-term and long-term problems, and length of time can be decided on between you and your counselor

Counseling can help with the following:

  • Better using personal strengths and attributes in a variety of situations
  • Learning what thoughts and behaviors contribute to and maintain problems
  • Improving stress management skills
  • Building self-confidence
  • Enhancing the quality of relationships
  • Making better decisions

A great way to find a counselor would be to ask any of your friends who you know have been to counseling. Often word-of-mouth referrals work well because they typically come from people who know you, and the kind of people you might connect with best. It is important to feel connected to your counselor and to feel that you can build trust within that relationship.

Another great way to get a recommendation for counselors is through the church. Whether or not your church has a counseling practice within it, pastors or other staff members are often able to connect you with a solid counselor or counseling practice. If you’re a student, check your school’s resources. You can also try your insurance company for referrals, but it can be difficult to narrow down the pool.

Carolyn:
One size does not fit all. I personally believe most of us can benefit in some way from counseling because it helps us understand more fully our stories and how our past impacts our present. We live in a broken world. Sometimes other people’s brokenness has impacted us. Sometimes, it is our own brokenness that is causing the problem. Sometimes, it is the brokenness of this world we live in that causes us pain and hurt. God desires us to living our lives in the fullness of who he made us to be, and often our past can be a roadblock to that reality. God can use counseling to help us see and understand Him and ourselves more fully.

Here are some situations in which I believe someone should turn to counseling:

  • I am losing hope and feeling life has meaning and purpose. I have thoughts such as “The world would be better off without me.”
  • I keep repeating the same circumstances over and over again, dating the same type of person, having similar issues with bosses; my interpersonal relationships are not working, etc.
  • I am stuck in the same emotional mode most of the time. It might be sadness or anger or feeling like a victim.
  • I have suffered abuse in my past and have not worked through how that has affected my understanding of self, others, and God.
  • I find myself using things such as work, alcohol, drugs, sex, or food to make myself feel better and help make life work.
  • I am losing track of segments of time in which I have not recall of what I did or what happened during that time.

We were created by a relational God and so we are created to be relational beings.  But we often don’t know how to do that well and so often find ourselves struggling to thrive in that area.  Counseling can help us better understand ourselves and how we relate to others and how they relate to us.

One additional note: I believe it is helpful to know your counselor’s worldview.  We all have a worldview which is how we see the world and make meaning of it. In turn, a counselor will counsel out of that worldview not that they will force it on you but how they approach issues and frame struggles will be seen through the lens of their worldview.

Posted in Author: Amy | 3 Comments

Being Seen in Loss: Connally speaks at Regent College

On Mondays, we fast and pray asking that the Lord would see us and change us–making men bold in relationships, making women ready to follow the Lord where He leads, and giving the gift of marriage to those who desire it. 

Today, we have a special treat for you. A little while back, our own Connally spoke at Regent College in Vancouver on the difficult topic of loss and being seen by the Lord in the midst of deep anxiety and sorrow.

She walks through Luke 7:11-17 in a powerful way, and we wanted to share it here. As you pray on Monday, mediate on what it means for the Lord to see you in the midst of your circumstances–no matter how difficult or hopeless.

Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
– Luke 7:11-17

Take half an hour and be encouraged by Connally’s story of wrestling with loss and know that the Lord sees you.

Blessings from the FastPray Team

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Oatmeal Cookie Orphan

On Mondays at lunch, we fast and pray for…women and men to be increasingly conformed to the image of God, and that marriages would be granted to those who desire them.

As usual, I was running late. I had signed up to make a birthday cake as a surprise for a close friend at our weekly Bible study. Although it was a cake I’ve made many times, I didn’t have exactly the right size pan and so it was a bit of an adventure putting it another pan and guessing at the baking time. I started panicking when it wasn’t baking as quickly as I thought it should…and all I could think was, “Oh my. I’m either going to have no cake at all or a barely baked cake – and everyone will know that I’m no good at this!”

That internal fear was compiled with a coworker’s offhand comment made earlier in the day about not knowing that I can cook…my wounded pride now raised the stakes for the evening’s attempts at cake baking. I was not just baking a cake. I was proving a point, defending my family’s honor and three generations of caterers’ culinary legacy!

Looking at the clock and calculating my options, I decided I would have at least one successful dessert to bring in case the cake flopped. I pulled another recipe from the file and started whipping up my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe, and in the middle of this culinary circus…a small voice:

Amy, why are you making cookies?
I HAVE TO.
Why do you “have to” make cookies?
BECAUSE I’M AFRAID.
Afraid of what?
I DON’T KNOW. LEAVE ME ALONE. I HAVE TO MAKE COOKIES.
The cake is enough. Why don’t you sit down and rest, and just quiet yourself before tonight?
THE CAKE MIGHT FAIL. MUST HAVE BACK UP PLAN. ALSO, CAN’T YOU SEE THAT I’M MAKING COOKIES???

This internal dialogue repeated itself almost verbatim several times, but I didn’t stop. I plowed through making the cookies…even though they were still baking when I should have been leaving for Bible study.

Later as I was reflecting on the situation, a question came back to me from a recent counseling seminar I’d attended: Are you living a hyper-vigilant life that is exhausting you? It might be because you’re living life like an orphan – expecting no one to protect you or provide for you, and having to figure out and make life work on your own. You’ve lost touch with God as your loving Father.

Hi. I’m Amy and I’m an oatmeal cookie orphan. Living like every burden is on me — to be constantly proving that I’m enough, I’m worthy, I’ve got what it takes. Even when it comes to non-essential things like cakes…which somehow become an identity showdown. What a sad commentary on the state of my heart – and what a small view of God’s goodness to me. The reality is that even though I know I’ve been adopted into God’s family (head knowledge), I’m often still functionally living like an orphan (heart).

My questions this week for my own heart are: Where am I fearfully living like an orphan? Where am I placing my identity in something other than Christ? Where do I think I need to have a backup plan in case God doesn’t work out? Where am I ignoring God’s voice because I’m panicky and trying to exert control over others or their opinions, instead of resting when He asks me to rest? What truth do I need to let soak into the core of my being about my sure spot in God’s family of adopted children or His care for me? 

There are many spots in my heart around dating, singleness and the desire for marriage that also fit this pattern. Places where I am still functionally acting like an orphan who needs to get life to work properly — not a beloved child in relationship with a good Father who gives His children good gifts (Matt 7:9-11). God wants a relationship with us – not just nice external outcomes and accomplishments.

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

In His Grace,

Amy

PS: The poetic justice of the cookies story is that I dumped in a bit too much oatmeal, and the cookies were far too crunchy and practically inedible. I had to throw them (and my pride) in the trash when I got home.

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Guest Post: If Only I Had a Spouse

Our friend Heidi has written a guest post for us this week. We’ve been blessed by it and hope you will be too.

On Monday, we’re fasting and praying for God to do a work in our generation to raise up men, sanctify women, and give the gift of marriage to those who desire it.


Have you ever had those days or maybe it was one of those weeks, months, or years when things just kept happening and your internal response was “if only I had a husband/wife this would be so much easier?” I’m walking through one of those ‘funks’ right now and it’s got me doing a lot of thinking.

We all have those seasons of life – whether we’re single, married, divorced, dating, etc. If only–fill in the blank (my kids were older, my wife hadn’t left me, I’d have a husband, etc). These seasons come about for various reasons but it’s typically during times when life has hit a rough spotor twoor three. That’s where I’ve found myself the past week or so – walking through some rough spots and finding myself saying “if only I’d have a husband this would all be different.”

Two weeks ago my check engine light came on in my car, no big deal, last time that happened it was something very minor. Oh….but this time….this time it was a big deal, it was a very expensive fix which turned into me trying to sell my car and unexpectedly going through the process of searching for a new car. It’s been a stressful and, at times, overwhelming process. I’m a single female which means looking for a new car is a very vulnerable feeling for me. I don’t know much at all about vehicles – other than if they look nice and if I like the color (oh and if my feet can reach the pedals). It brought up a lot of feelings of inadequacy inside of me. Feelings I didn’t want to face and feelings that I wish would just not exist. I found myself saying If only I had a husband I wouldn’t feel so inadequate because I wouldn’t be making this big decision all on my own and having to carry the burden of it myself.

Is that truly the case? Is the solution that I need a husband? Not at all – but I so quickly go there. Maybe my husband wouldn’t know the first thing about cars either, maybe he would be just as overwhelmed at the idea of having to look for a new car. God’s Word doesn’t say that when you lack wisdom to wait until a husband shows up at your door. His Word says that if anyone lacks wisdom we are to ask Him and He will give generously! So often, at least for me, I fail to see how God provides this in my life. I ask Him, I tell Him how inadequate I feel, and I definitely remind Him that a husband would really help this situation but I fail to see His provisions if they don’t line up with my ideal in the situation.

He provided generously for me, but did I fail to see it as I focused on my “if only I had a husband” funk? He provided a coworker who treats me like a little sister, a coworker who knows a whole lot about cars and was able to provide me with much wisdom and insight as I made this decision. He provided an amazing father in my life who was willing to go test drive cars with me so I wouldn’t feel as vulnerable. He provided exactly what I needed – and amazingly it wasn’t in the form of a husband.

The car was the most recent issue in my “if only I had a husband” funk. The past 2 years I’ve been walking through some very trying and frustrating health issues. The past 6 months have been an extremely tough journey as I was diagnosed with Lyme disease and have been very actively treating and battling the disease. If you’ve ever walked through health issues as a single person you know how quickly the “if only” concept rises in your mind and heart.

I’ve said “if only” many, many times over the past few months. If only I had a husband to come home and hold me in the strength of his arms when I feel so weak and drained. If only I had a husband who could remind me that it’s ok and we’ll get through this together. If only I had a husband who could be a soft place to fall when I feel like my world is crumbling around me and that I can’t go one more step.

God’s answer to my “if only” concerning my current health issues hasn’t been a husband – much to my disappointment. His answer has been amazing friends who check in on me to see how I’m doing and to remind me that they are praying for me, a job which allows me to be flexible with my hours so I can attend the many doctor’s appointments, a mom who is that soft place to fall when I just need to cry and whine and get out all my frustrations. God has provided me strength in my weakness by carrying me every step of every day through the physical pain, mental inabilities, emotional burden, and the many, many days of wondering when it’ll all be over and I’ll finally feel myself again.

As I’ve pondered the “if only” concept that I so quickly resort to, I’ve come to the conclusion that when I say “If only I had a husband then….” it really is a slap in God’s face. Without actually saying it, I’m saying “God, You are not enough and You are not taking care of me. You are not providing for me in the way I need provided for.” And that, my dear friends, is the farthest thing from the truth. Would all of my problems be fixed if I had a husband? Would my car not have had issues? Would I not be having to purchase a new car? Would my Lyme disease be gone? No, no, and no. A husband can’t fix or change any of these situations.

I’m not saying it still wouldn’t be nice and a blessing to have a husband, that true best friend, to walk with me through these tough times but what I am saying is that Christ IS enough. Until I recognize that and stop saying “If Only” I will not be able to get out of this funk and actually see who God is and how He is walking with me through these trials.

Let me leave you with a challenge to change our wording when we are faced with the temptation to say “If only I had a spouse.” Let’s instead say “If only I would fully trust God and recognize His provisions in my life.” Join me in changing our perspective and being ever so grateful for the many ways God provides – ways that we so often take for granted.

Lord – forgive us for assuming that a spouse will make these trials in our lives easier. You know the desire of our hearts is to be married and to do life with a spouse, You designed us that way and You created us for relationship. But, Lord, we never want that desire to become stronger than our desire for You and our dependence on You.

Posted in Author: Heidi | Tagged , , | 17 Comments

Every story points to Christ

Reminder for Monday at lunch: We fast and pray for godly marriages for those who long to be married and for those who are married; for courage for men and women to walk toward marriage; and for humble, malleable hearts towards the Lord. *If possible, find a friend with whom you can pray, even if it’s outside the lunch hour.*

A few weeks ago, a friend in my Sunday school class shared how he and his wife have been reading a children’s storybook Bible to their daughter each night before bed. He said what he loves about this Bible is that it’s written in a simplistic way that shows how every story in the Scriptures points to Christ.

Every story points to Christ.

I can’t get that truth out of my head. It makes me excited, helps me re-focus my outlook on life and this fallen world, and renews my hope.

I’m reminded of Romans 1:21 that says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (NIV).

Yes, every story in the Old and New Testaments points to the coming of the Messiah (either His time here on earth or when He returns to set up His forever-kingdom), and so does every facet of creation – the way our universe is held together (Colossians 1:15-17); the body, soul, and spirit that comprises each human (Genesis 1:27); the institutions of government, marriage, family, and friendship; and the struggle between good and evil we see played out every day within ourselves and so clearly in current events.

Your story points to Christ.

Whether single or married, the story of your life points to His redemptive work and unfathomable love for you. As a believer, you are His bride, destined to be His and with Him for eternity. You are His adopted child, a full heir of His kingdom and glory.  This sense of longing for something more is a picture of all creation earnestly, expectantly waiting for Him to break the effects of the curse once and for all (Romans 8:22-24; Genesis 3:14-19) and restore the broken relationship with Him.

Think about all the biblical characters (Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David – to name a few!) whose lives took crazy twists and turns only to prove even more powerfully that God was in control and that Jesus was Who He said He was. I know it’s as hard to relate to someone who lived thousands of years ago, especially when the “why’s” of their hardships have been made evident, but has God changed in His ability to make Himself known in and through the lives of His children?

Won’t you join me this week in reflecting on how your story points to Christ? What are the areas of your life that aren’t boldly revealing Him to the world as they should? Where can you look back and see His hand of protection or provision on your life? Do you believe and proclaim that He is good?

Blessings,

Emily

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