All In

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If I had known at 20 that at age 30 I would be serving as a single female missionary in the Middle East,  I would have probably married the next guy that came along.  And, I would have regretted it, I’m positive.

Why?  Because I am right where I am supposed to be.  On the good days, my heart is so full of love for Him and others that I feel it may explode.  On the hard days, when I tend to ask, “Why, Lord?” and my prayers are peppered with complaints, it is often through tears and on bended knee that I renew the choice to trust Him.

Marriage was my plan. Always. Truthfully, it is still in my plans, and I consistently bring it up in my prayer life.  But I don’t think the life I’m living is some sort of backup plan to the “perfect life” that could have been.

There was a moment, a few years after I became a believer, I felt Him asking me how much of my life was really His, how much was I really willing to give up?  Would I hold back areas of my life, my plans, and my dreams from His touch?  Would I cling to the things of this world over Him?

It was one of those rare times in life, when the world may see nothing happening, but in my heart I was forever changed.  I was set on a path to following Him–whatever He wanted of me, my answer was yes.

Really, it’s the commitment every Christian makes– if we make Jesus Lord, then we are giving up our lives then and there.  But how often do we (and I mean myself in this!!) simply take our lives back and go on doing what we want to do and living how we want to live?

Shortly after that time of commitment (re-commitment?), I felt called to missions.  At that point my experience was limited, and I am pretty sure my answer of “yes” still included a husband, children and “white-picket fence” future.  Never could I have imagined where He would lead me.

After living in sixteen different places since college graduation, I feel like I am finally home–in the Middle East, odd as that may seem.  I am convinced that He is working in the lives of the women around me and some have hearts burning with desire to know Him.  As I move about my city, I am trying to meet these ladies and share with them the Truth they long to know.

I’m living the life He means for me to live, one day at a time.  Tomorrow I could be hit by a car (I mean, really, there are no crosswalks!) and be on my way to see Him.  Or something could happen that sends me on a plane back to the States.  Maybe I’ll get married someday, or maybe I won’t.  It could be I will see crazy large amounts of people turn to Him. Or possibly His purposes for me will be different.

Whatever He has in store for me, I’m all in. Not all in with bitterness. Not all in with hesitancy.  I’m all in with a great big smile on my face.

Did I Make a Mistake?

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My plane landed in Central Asia in the wee hours of the morning. After training, I couldn’t get here fast enough. This is where I felt called to and had been working towards for a long time. It was finally happening. I was joining the work of taking the Good News to the nations.

I piled my four VERY heavy bags on a cart, and basically skipped to the exit to meet my mentor. I was so excited to meet her. She dropped me off at the guest flat and told me she would pick me up in the morning to attend an office luncheon where I would meet the rest of the team. I was ready to hit the ground running.

The “guest flat” was in a dilapidated Soviet apartment building, and I was nervous to stay by myself. However, updated my Facebook status (you know, first things first), and settled in…. And then.. it hit…

I started sobbing. I’d never felt more alone, trapped, or scared. Doubts and fears flooded my heart. Three years suddenly seemed like an e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y. After texting with one of my mentors, I fell asleep two hours later. It would be better tomorrow, right? Nope…more tears. When my mom called, I tried to disguise my emotions (because, you know, moms can’t see through that), but I wept. I felt like a child again, being held by her momma. And through her, God held me. She didn’t tell me to come home, instead reminding me I was right where the Father wanted me. The first two weeks I could barely talk to anyone without crying. I even struggled to comprehend the Word through the jet lag, culture shock, and roller coaster emotions.

A local Believer shared with me she thinks we are often like the Israelites. She explained that although God parted the Red Sea to deliver them from the Egyptians and lead them to the Promised Land, they were grumbling about the mud on their feet. Okay, so the part about the mud is not in the Word, but there are plenty of accounts about the Israelites grumbling about other things.

This made me reflect on the grace and love He has shown me. He has done miraculous things in my life, demolished seemingly unmovable strongholds, and surrounded me with amazing supportive friends and family. And yet, I was struggling to trust. God never promised comfort or ease, but He does promise that He will NEVER leave us. I am NOT alone. Evidence His hand facilitated my journey to Central Asia is apparent. He led me here, He has a plan, and He will sustain me. Those first few days brought me to my knees, but it is the best place to be if I’m kneeling before Him. I’ll always remember His first Words to me in this country – “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

Wholehearted Devotion

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Are You All In?

Being “all in” is who I am and proud to be. I am not sure when it happened, but sometime after my ministry call hit me, I decided to be a man who made his Yes be Yes and his No be No. Like Matthew 5:37 tells us, I decided to follow God and be all in for whatever He planned for my life.

At 19, I hadn’t been on a God-directed path. My life was good, and I was a moral person, but it was not sold out for Christ. I now recognize if this life is to be one lived for Him, I need to be willing to go wherever He leads.

It’s not all roses being all in. I have moved all over the country following His path. During the journey and through several jobs, I was blessed. Each step was a learning experience. While God had me moving around, I dated some. But I mainly focused on preparing for the something great God had in store for me.

Shortly after I married, that something great lead to unemployment for six months. When I could find work, it was still not enough to pay bills. For a year I couldn’t even afford to pay housing for me and my wife. Job offers were slim and while some got close, they all fell through. In the back of my mind, I wondered if paid church ministry was ever going to happen again for me. Then, the path lit up.

Within the course of three months, I was called to launch Table for One Ministries. Not to pay bills, but to do what God called me to do, to reach singles. A few months after that (and after yet  another move), I was employed again at a church. A month after, we were able to purchase our first home. Within the year, we were blessed when our daughter was born.

When it was the darkest, I cried out to God and asked to be shown His path. He made the way clear.

Through the ups and downs during these three years, I have been told countless times I should have more gray areas, and be less rigid with my choices. But James 4:13-17 is my driving force for being bold today and everyday.

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”  (NIV)

Let it never be said that I was unable to follow God wherever His path lead, no matter the risk or costs. Sin should never happen as a result of us not listening to the Lord’s direction.  I want to be one who asks first to be shown the Lord’s will, and when He says go, I move.

Single Myths: Singles Have More Time

We all have 24 hours in a day.

Now, let us be clear. Singles do not have more time than married folks, but our interests are not divided as much as those with a spouse or kids. In 1 Corinthians 7:32-35, Paul said we all have the same amount of time every day and our priorities drive decisions on how we will use that time.

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

Singles are often glamorized by the married adult world as being “free” and able to go on missions “anywhere, anytime.” While this glamorization is extreme, there is truth in that married adults often have more obligations that single adults. Marriage is a big deal. Two people become one and no longer is your world “I” but “we” and, with kids, it is “us.” Paul is addressing that issue by stating what we all know to be true. It is a very real issue that faces every couple and family.

Divided interests in a man’s life can take away from their opportunities to be used by God.

One thing to point out is Paul is single as he write this. We think he loved being single! Being single allowed Paul to travel and spread the gospel with an All-In obedience to Him. He did not have to worry about family at home or traveling with him or the commitments of a marriage relationship as some of the apostles had.

So the myth that singles have more time is based not in measuring days, hours, and minutes, but rather in wholehearted devotion to God and not having divided interests of emotional, spiritual, and actual “time.”

Singles, use your life in undivided devotion to Christ. This is why we say “Be Complete In Christ” at Table for One Ministries. A person fully devoted for the Kingdom can do more than those whose attention is divided. Dedicate your each day to the Lord and live for Him.

3 Reasons Your Singles Ministry is Failing

Years ago singles ministries were everywhere. Every church had one, and it was seemingly exciting and attractive to the community. Then something happened–they all started to disappear.

First there were no new people entering singles groups. Many married from within the group and simply by attrition the ministry dwindled in numbers as it failed to reach new singles. Secondly, others fell into the trap of not looking outward but inward finding that they struggled too much with themselves to even reach others. A third type of single ministry was a hybrid of the two, creating the ultimate singles ministry collapse resulting in only “single for a reason” folks remaining in the group. You all know what we mean by that! The group was left with unhealthy people and healthy people do not want to join unhealthy groups.

So, here are three things your singles ministry may be doing to set the group up for failure.

# 1 It is not about Christ

  • When social events become the base of any group, the focus is less about Christ. Groups like these focus more on providing environments for people to meet one another thus creating a “meat market” of sorts.
  • The Solution: Focus the group on the Word of God. Home groups, Sunday School, cell groups, whatever you call them–make them the center of all you do. Secondly, make missions fun and schedule them just as much, if not more, than social events. More about this in #3

# 2 Singles have no community

  • Gone are the days of throwing together a meal once a week and expecting community to happen. While that is a vital part of community, when you are targeting all the various backgrounds of singles added with their multi-generational nuances, you have to be intentional about building community through discipleship means like Bible Studies and Sunday School.
  • The Solution: Ensure your primary teaching times involve group interaction with both co-ed and gender specific groups. A mix of these groups often will help build community more broadly than just a master-teacher time that occurs at the same time, same place every week.

# 3 Singles do not serve, they are served

  • A singles group that lack missions will lack the ability to see outside of themselves. Mission based events direct the attention of people away from their struggles and “singleness” towards helping others. When singles are being served social events constantly they forget Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28.

The Solution: Have mission events often. Really. Often. Your singles group needs to be just as aware about the next mission event as they are aware about the fun retreat you have planned. Share pictures from the event and personally invite individuals to your upcoming mission event. Delegate an event to someone and watch your group take charge to reach the lost and show love to others in need.

Being Single is the Best: No Worries

Okay, maybe not. I admit singles have worries just as much as married couples.

But being single is pretty awesome when it comes to having less stress. Not everyone will agree and depending on your personality, this may not be the case. For example, I’m sure single parents do not have less stress! But, from the perspective of being a single adult, I’m happy with my life. I think being single is great!

Sure we all have issues and stress from work and general drama. But as a single adult I can go home after a long day and answer to one person. Me. I eat when and what I want to eat. My choices are not based on another person’s interest or preferences. I plan vacation around what works for me and spend money on things I consider a priority.

If you’re reading this and thinking I’m self absorbed, I assure you I am not trying to be. I volunteer for missions whenever I want to and give to local charities. I am passionate about, and even volunteer, in preschool hall at my church. As selfish with my time as I can be, I am also able to be just as generous with my time with no divided interest.

When it comes to being a follower of Christ, I can also be fully devoted to Him, giving my time, resources, and energies for Kingdom work. When I read Matthew 16:34, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me,’” I think, I can do that right now where I am and don’t need to consult another person. I am a fully devoted follower of Christ, able to go where and when He calls me.

While none of us are free from the troubles in this world, John 13:33 says we have the opportunity as singles to be free of other troubles just as Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 7:28.

I think being single is the best because I have less worries than others and more opportunities to lay down my cross and follow Him in all I do.

  • A Single Adult

Singles Struggles: Too Much Time Alone

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You might have too much alone time when:

  • When your DVR is always empty because you always watch shows the day they come on
  • When you talk to your co-workers and use your cat’s name so often they think it’s a roommate
  • When you have hit the 1-billion level on Candy Crush
  • When you knitted the entire Sunday School class winter mittens

If any of the above describe you, it’s time for a change..

Let’s face it. Being alone can be awesome, but it can also get out of hand. Is it time to reevaluate your priorities? Singles often struggle with getting out of the house. It’s easy to sit and wrap yourself in social media outlets, television, gaming on the computer. But are there any true rewards?

As Believers, God calls us to meet the needs of others. Titus 3:14 tells us, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.” Twitter doesn’t do that. Candy Crush won’t fill it. Endless hours of television won’t reach out to those in need.

Where to Start?

You don’t have to go it alone. There are singles in the churches around you. Find a group and give it a chance. Say yes to the singles event at your church. Volunteer for local missions or overseas. Doing so will help you connect with like-minded people.

Now, let us be clear. Singles do not have more time than married folks, but our interests are not divided as much as those with a spouse or kids. In 1 Corinthians 7:34, Paul said we all have the same amount of time every day and our priorities drive decisions on how we will use that time.

Your church is a community of Believers with opportunities to eliminate too much alone time. The Singles group at your church is the perfect opportunity to organize and nurture a family environment for single adults.

Having Christ followers surround you with the love of God will help you engage in the world. This community of believers can be as much or as little as you want them to be in your life. Some alone time is healthy, but too much is not. Being involved with a community of believers can help you find the right balance for you. But take the first step: find a local singles group at a church and make connections with someone beyond the electronics in your living room!

Christmas Music All Year

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I have a confession to make. A few years ago I decided to make a major decision in my life. I would no longer contain Christmas music to one month of the year and in fact I would proudly say Christmas is my favorite music all year long! I play it when coworkers are around, in my car with friends, even post on Facebook anytime I had the urge to sing some Christmas cheer! Not all people approve of using Christmas music in this manner, but most find it amusing that I am so bold about my favorite music.

You see, when I play Christmas music all year round, I get to sing about the birth of God becoming man to pay a debt for my sins I can not repay. Yes, not all Christmas songs are about Jesus and I enjoy them as well, but the majority of them are about Jesus or a time of year when people come together as family and visit with each other. Singing is a way of reminding me of Christ and what He has done for me as a reminder to share that gift with the world.

God becoming man is major! So is Christ dying on a cross to pay a debt for all mankind’s sins so that we would not die, but have everlasting life. Christmas music will often calm me down when I am upset about something or worked up for no good reason. It has also become a way for me to share my testimony with others as I am afforded the chance to explain why I love Christmas music all year round. I have been able to give full Gospel presentations in the middle of huge retails stores and talk with strangers in line all because of my love for Christmas music. Because, love it or hate it, Christmas music all year is a great conversation starter, a starter that involves Christ.

So what music do you listen to most? I am not saying you have to adopt what I am doing, but what you listen to the majority of the time may influence your actions more than you think. I love all kinds of music and listen to it all, but I want the music I listen to most to motivate me to share the Gospel with others. What do you want the music you listen to do for you?

John 3:16

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One of the most popular verses in Scripture is John 3:16. See the different Bible versions of this verse side by side by clicking HERE. The NIV is perhaps the most popular translation:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

This simple message has been written everywhere and worn on everything imaginable. Tim Tebow recently made it famous wearing it under his eyes during NFL games and while he was playing college football. This verse is so widely used and preached because of its direct message to those who read it. People identify with the commitment it took God to give his only Son as a sacrifice. But this verse also points out why He did it–for everyone to have life eternally.

So, why is this important to you as a single adult? It is first important to you as a human making a decision to follow God or perish. For you as a single adult, this message is one that is easily shared with others in social situations. While talking about faith does not come up often in social situations, when public figures like Tim Tebow use it like he did, you get a chance to chime in on a conversation and speak truth to your peer group.

After one of Tebow’s big wins, John 3:16 was trending on Twitter and the most searched phrase on Google, Bing, and Yahoo. We assume people know John 3:16 in a “Christian Nation,” but that could not be further from the truth. You need to be bold in sharing your faith and knowing Scripture so you can give others answers they are searching for and not leave them to search online for them. Speak up when people around you attack public figures like Tebow, not for him, but for Christianity and the Gospel.

Trust in the Lord

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Trust can take a long time to earn and seconds to end. Trust is the foundation of currency in the world, agreements between Nations, and the foundation of a relationship with Christ. The Bible speaks a lot about trusting in the Lord. Proverbs 3:5-6 says “With all your heart you must trust the Lord and not your own judgement”. Always let Him lead you, and He will clear the road for you to follow.” Faith and trust are closely related. Most of the time when faith is used the word trust could be in its place.

Faith and trust do not happen without taking a step forward with God. When life situations hit you hard and you are not sure what to do next, trust in the Lord and don’t lean on your own understanding. Maybe He is calling you to be single for awhile or asking you to relocate cities or even be a missionary overseas. Trust His path and follow Him; He will take care of the details.

Trusting the Lord is how Table for One Ministries came to be. PJ Dunn & Christina Dunn left their jobs, sold most of their belongings and moved 1,000 miles away. When they first left, the destination was unknown, but some hints were given along the way. God took a year to refine their path and direction and led PJ to start Table for One Ministries.

Stepping out on faith and trusting the Lord is scary! It often requires much sacrifice and patience but when the fullness of the Lord’s plan is revealed, it is an amazing thing to be a part of. What has the Lord asked you to sacrifice in order to trust Him and follow His lead?