I’m giving my birthday away for Iraq and Syria

In just under two weeks, I turn 32. (That’s weird to see.)

Anyway, this year I wanted to do something a little different for my birthday, and I need your help to do it. Many of you already know my friend Eugene Cho, and the organization he started, One Day’s Wages, “a grassroots movement of people, stories, and actions to alleviate extreme global poverty.”

One of the options ODW makes available is donating one’s birthday for a cause. And so that’s what I’m doing.

My goal is to raise $2,500 for One Day’s Wages’ IRAQ & SYRIA RELIEF FUND by the end of November, and I need your help. Will you join me in giving?

The United Nations estimates that, since the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011:

  • almost 200,000 people have lost their lives;
  • about 4,000,000 people have been forced to flee their homeland;
  • with millions more displaced within Syria.

As the threat of the so-called Islamic State has spread from Syria to Iraq, ODW has expanded their efforts to respond to the plight of Iraqi refugees as well. And every cent of your donation will go toward providing aid and respite for these refugees.

As we say at The District Church, every number has a name, every name has a story, and every story is precious to God. The plight of displaced Syrians and Iraqis doesn’t often make the front pages any more, but their lives and livelihoods are no less important.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE

* 100% of your donations will go straight to the cause.

[Photo: Khalil Mazraawi – AFP/Getty Images]

A long-overdue update

It’s been two months since my last ‘official’ update, and I apologize for that. Life has, as you’ll see, been pretty full.

SEATTLE (AUG 30 – SEP 5)
As a wedding gift, Carolyn bought us tickets to the Seahawks-Packers opening day game. So we got to head to the beautiful Pacific Northwest for a week, see friends, eat good food, and watch my Seahawks beat her Packers. (We’re not going to talk about our teams’ fortunes since then.)

Seahawks-Packers

H ST FESTIVAL (SEP 20)
The District Church had a booth at the H Street Festival, an annual celebration in our neighborhood, where over 100,000 people make their way through our part of town. We served ice cream and BBQ sliders (not combined) to folks passing by, and had a number of great conversations.

H St Festival

CCDA (SEP 24 – 27)
One of the organizations The District Church is connected with is the Christian Community Development Association. CCDA’s founder, Dr. John Perkins, has preached at our church a couple of times, including this past August. This year, the conference was held in Raleigh, NC, making it a great opportunity for us to take a sizable crew down — about ten of us from TDC made the trip: we learned a lot, prayed a lot, worshiped in community together, and got to stay together at my in-laws’. (Thanks, Tom and Dana, for the hospitality!)

IMG_8198

TWO SERMONS (SEP 28, OCT 5)
I got to preach back-to-back weeks on Mary, the mother of Jesus, and then Jesus’ birth. It was my first time preaching about Mary, and my first time covering Christmas in October! (You can listen to them here: “When God Chooses You,” and “The Most Dangerous Baby Ever Born.”)

Preaching

EUGENE CHO IN DC (SEP 29)
The District Church was able to host an event for my friend Eugene Cho (pastor of Quest Church in Seattle, founder of One Day’s Wages). His new book, Overrated: Are we more in love with the idea of changing the world than actually changing the world?, just came out and (as I’ve mentioned) is absolutely worth the read.

Eugene Cho

BFFS IN DC (SEP 29 – OCT 2)
My best friends Tim and Tiff were able to swing through DC on their way back to London. Tim was my best man in July, but this time he was able to bring his wife and 6-month old daughter, Zoe, with him. It was a tremendously life-giving time; I miss these two (now three!).

McD's, Fungs

ALSO
We attended the wedding of one of Carolyn’s co-workers and Carolyn’s 10-year high school reunion. Oh, and perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, I got sick right around the beginning of October (I think I’ve finally shaken it); and then pulled my hamstring playing flag football this past weekend.

PRAYER REQUESTS
As always, there is much to be thankful for, and much to lift up in prayer:

  • for grace for Carolyn and I as we continue to figure out life together in marriage. When we’ve had our own way with work schedules, rhythms and routines, and communication styles, for a combined 60 years, there’s a lot of room for … teachable moments. (On a positive note, somebody has learned to stop sleeping diagonally, which is definitely something to be thankful for!)
  • for a successful (and still in-process) transition into my new role as teaching pastor. I’m still figuring out what my new rhythms and routines look like.
  • for Matthew in his transition to pastor of the East Side parish. Figuring out how to love and care for dozens of neighborhood kids who show up every Sunday is just one of his challenges/opportunities!
  • for a new communications coordinator for the church. We’re looking to hire someone who’ll take on (and expand) the communications responsibilities that I’ve been taking care of for the past few years.
  • for The District Church. Pray that as we continue to grow, we also continue to steward our resources well and to make disciples who make disciples. We’ve seen tremendous things happening in the last year, but we never want to lose sight of our vision (“To exist for Christ and the renewal of our city”) and mission (“To make disciples who are living out their God-given mission in life”).

An important book for our generation

OverratedJust finished my friend Eugene Cho’s new book, Overrated: Are we more in love with the idea of changing the world than actually changing the world?, and I’m so thankful for his words. Notably:

I fear that we might be more in love with the idea of changing the world than actually changing the world.

I fear that we might be more enamored with the idea of changing the world and are neglecting to allow ourselves to be changed.

I fear that we have an unrealistic and glamorous perception of what it means to follow Christ and what it means to pursue justice. In truth, we have not taken the time to count the costs of following Jesus.

I fear that we might be tempted to compartmentalize the action of changing the world rather than seeing it as a key part of our discipleship journey that will impact the whole of our lives.

I fear that we’re asking God to move mountains, forgetting that God also wants to move us. And in fact, it may be possible that we are the mountains that need to be moved.

It’s a confession that is his–and mine too, and he articulates the challenge that a lot of people in our generation face, that doing the work of justice is much more difficult and challenging than supporting the idea of justice.

That’s one of the reasons I’m excited that Eugene will be coming through DC next week. The District Church will be hosting an event for him, where he’ll be sharing from his book, having a Q&A session, and then signing books.

Space is limited (and people have been signing up real quick!) so get more details and RSVP here.

Eugene Cho

You can follow Eugene on:

Suffering Together

A few days ago, my friend (and big brother pastor) Eugene Cho posted on his blog, urging churches and Christians not to ignore Michael Brown’s death. It’s worth reading in full, but I’ll quote his opening thought here:

The integrity of the church is at stake because when it’s all said and done, it’s not a race issue for me, it’s a Gospel issue. It’s a Kingdom issue. We shouldn’t even let isolated issues in themselves hijack the purpose of the church. The Gospel of Christ is so extraordinary that it begins to inform (and we pray, transform) all aspects of our lives. So, in other words, we talk about race and racism because we believe in the Gospel.

On Sunday evening, I led worship at The District Church’s East Side parish and felt compelled to lead us into a moment of prayer for our brothers and sisters all over our country who are hurting — another young black man is dead. Here in our city, vigils had been held at Howard University and Meridian Hill Park.

https://twitter.com/the_blackness48/status/499714499688300545

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul says:

1Cor. 12:14   Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.  15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?  18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.   26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. 

1Cor. 12:27   Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

The way God’s kingdom works is not “if I’m okay, then everything’s okay,” but “if you’re not okay, then I’m not okay.” Or as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it more succinctly:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Photo by Heather Wilson

The body of Christ is hurting in Ferguson, MO and in black neighborhoods across the nation. (And in Gaza and the Middle East and Iraq.)

We can’t afford to be ignorant. We can’t afford to be apathetic. We can’t afford not to be praying. We can’t afford not to take whatever action is available to us.

For more,  you can read:

(There are so many good and wise and convicting commentaries; these are just a few.)

Photograph taken by Heather Wilson on August 17, 2014.

Being Single, Part 1: An Apology

[Adapted from this past Sunday’s message at The District Church, “Being Single.”]

My friend Eugene Cho joked that it can sometimes seem like single is actually a compound word, made up of two parts: “SIN and GLE.” And Erin Dufault-Hunter, one of my ethics professors at Fuller, said in a class, “Being single in evangelical culture is one of the loneliest lives a person can lead.” That’s a reality that I’ve experienced at various points in my life; that may be a reality that you’ve experienced too—maybe that’s a reality that you’re experiencing right now.

This week I asked this on social media: “What burning thought/question/issue do/did you have as a single person?” A few folks responded, including some pastor friends around the country. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, many responses were very similar. In fact, they were questions that I’ve asked God at various points in my own story:

  • “How long will I have to wait?”
  • “Why me? What have I done to ‘deserve’ this?”
  • “Did I miss my chance w/ so-and-so?”

I want to begin this blog series with an apology. I’m sorry for where we as the church have failed to provide a safe space for single people to be who God has created them to be. I’m sorry that we have not always provided a shelter and shield from the messages that say:

  • there must be something wrong with you, or
  • you’re not good enough, or
  • there’s only one person and you may have missed your chance.

And I’m sorry that we have not always challenged you—in love—to refuse to listen to the messages that say you should have as much fun (read: sex) as you can before you ‘settle down’ for a life of boring monogamy, to refuse to be conformed to the mindset of the world that says sex is just one appetite among many that just needs to be fed, and to discover what life as lived to its full potential really looks like. I’m sorry.

Please know that it is our heart as The District Church to provide a home and a family for everyone, wherever you may be on your journey of faith and whatever your relationship status. I’m sorry if we’ve ever communicated that life doesn’t begin until you say, “I do.” Speaking as a pastor, I’m sorry on behalf of the church—and speaking as a pastor of The District Church, I’m sorry on behalf of our church; and I pray that wherever you are, God begins a work of healing in you for whatever harm has been done to you—intentionally or unintentionally—by the church or those in it.

Through this series, we have intentionally tried not to focus exclusively on romantic relationships for the simple reason that this is what the world—and, actually, the church sometimes—already does, placing an overemphasis on romance solving every problem or on meeting the one who will complete you. Fact #1: you are an incomplete, flawed, and broken person. Fact #2: you will not find your completion in another incomplete, flawed, and broken person. Pastor and author Tim Keller writes:

the picture of marriage given [in the Bible] is not of two needy people, unsure of their own value and purpose, finding their significance and meaning in one another’s arms. If you add two vacuums to each other, you only get a bigger and stronger vacuum, a giant sucking sound. (The Meaning of Marriage, 52)

The early church theologian Augustine wrote:

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

We are made for God, and God alone will truly satisfy the deepest longings of our souls. And that’s the starting point for where we’re going.