Singleness Is NOT A Disease

[Guest Post] American culture values independence.

Somewhere between my twenty-fifth and twenty-seventh birthdays, my status as a single man in the church downgraded from laudable to questionable. People stopped celebrating my singleness as a gift affording me undivided focus on performing God’s will (see I Corinthians 7) and began seeing it as a problem. They also began analyzing why I had failed to solve it. The message was clear: My “malady” of being single was somehow my fault.

It wasn’t anything I did.

It was what I didn’t do enough of.

I didn’t do enough to prove my independence.

American men who cannot demonstrate enough independence begin to feel weak and undesirable. Once we hit twenty-five, any failure to become fully independent becomes pronounced—especially for men in the church.

Unless you are able to buy a house and afford to live in it by yourself, you might as well wear a sign on you that says, “Not suitable for marriage.”

At twenty-five, I was working my way through graduate school, driving a car that was held together by prayer, and living with a gracious family from my church. I was anything but independent, and I felt like a total failure. Then I visited Argentina the summer before my last year of graduate school.

In Argentina, all my presumptions about independence and manhood were challenged. I noticed how many of the single men or women lived with their families well into their twenties and thirties. They simply didn’t value independence the way I did.

The experience caused me to reexamine what the Bible has to say about independence.

I found out that God doesn’t like it nearly as much as his American children do. He’s into something quite different: interdependence. Why? Because it’s a reflection of his own mutually dependent, three-gods-in-one, nature. As early on as Genesis 2:18, God tells us it’s not good for a man to be alone (and lest you ladies think that doesn’t apply to you, the word for “man” here can also be translated as “human”). In Psalm 68:6, God tells us that he sets the solitary in families. In I Corinthians 12, we are given a lovely metaphor of the church as a body that can’t function unless each part works interdependently. Through scripture, the value on interdependence is upheld as God’s best for us all.

Independence can get ugly.

It promotes loneliness and teaches us to judge those who can’t make it on their own. It teaches us to never ask for help for fear we’ll appear weak. It prevents us from receiving God’s blessings that come through others. In contrast, interdependence is beautiful. It keeps us from staying lonely and builds compassion into our hearts.

When I learned to embrace interdependence as the cultural value of God’s kingdom, much of my frustration as an “old” single man faded away.

It didn’t change the fact that I was single.

It didn’t change how people treated me.

But it did change me.

So where does that leave you? In case you didn’t know, singleness is not a disease.

Are you still striving after independence or have you embraced the kingdom value of interdependence? Do you even know where to start? Lest I leave you empty-handed, let me offer you some parting suggestions:

+Commit to a small group. Almost every church has them these days. Some churches are basically nothing more than networked small groups. As nice as Sunday morning worship services are, you can’t really experience interdependence in larger groups.

+Live in community, not alone. Remember that God sets the solitary in families. This doesn’t mean you should move back in with Mom and Dad, but you should consider finding people to occupy your extra rooms or seek to occupy someone else’s empty room.

+Borrow stuff (and share it, too). Have you ever wasted money on purchasing something you needed to use only once? Could you have borrowed that item from a friend? Independently minded people don’t even think to ask others about borrowing their stuff, and they don’t like lending it. That’s a far cry from the fine folks in Acts 4:32 who “had everything in common.”

+Become a people gatherer. Host events that promote interaction: Bible studies, potlucks, book clubs, game nights, etc. And don’t just invite your single friends. Married people need interdependence, too.

Vinnie Kinsella is in his early thirties and single, which makes him the male equivalent of a spinster by many churches’ standards. He works in the book publishing industry as a book editor and a consultant to independent publishers. He also teaches editing workshops and college classes in and around Portland, Oregon. If you ask him what he feels God has called him to do, he’ll look you square in the eye and say he’s already doing it.

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Friendship Quotes

Today my amazing husband Marc turns 29.

If you recall, he wrote me a book on the 29 reasons why he loves Renee for my birthday in June. Since Marc is more of a private guy–I thought I’d return the favor by posting different 13 quotes on friendship.

According to Timothy Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage, Chapter 4 explores friendship as the mission of marriage.

I hope you enjoy and are encouraged by these friendship quotes.

1. Christian friends…are to honestly confess their own sins to each other (James 5:16).

2. Christian friends…are to lovingly point out their friend’s sin if he or she is blind to them (Romans 15:14).

3. You should give your Christian friends “hunting licenses” to confront you if you are failing to live in line with your commitments (Galatians 6:1).

4. Christian friends…are to stir one another up, even provoking one another to get them off dead center (Hebrews 10:24).

5. Christian friends…shouldn’t [stir one another up] infrequently but should happen at a very concrete level every day (Hebrews 3:13).

6. Christian friends…admit wrongs, offer or ask forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32).

7. Christian friends…take steps to reconcile when one disappoints another (Matthew 5:23ff; 18:15ff).

8. Christian friends…bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

9. Christian friends…should be there for each other through thick and thin (1 Thessalonians 5:11, 14-15).

10. Christian friends…share their goods and their very lives with each other if there is need (Hebrews 13:16, Philippians 4:14, 2 Corinthians 9:13).

11. Christian friends…must encourage each other through honor and affirmation (Romans 12:3-6, 10; Proverbs 27:2).

12. Christian friends…are to identify and call out one another’s gifts, strengths, and abilities They are to build up each other’s faith through study and common worship (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19).

13. Christian friendship is not simply about going to concerts together or enjoying the same sporting event. It is the deep oneness that develops as two people journey together toward the same destination, helping one another through the dangers and challenges along the way. (Adapted from The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, © Dutton, a member of Penguin Group, 2011)

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Your Relationship Status

[Guest post by Jessica Bufkin] – And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life. Don’t think I’m being harder on you than on the others. I give this same counsel in all the churches. (1 Corinthians 7:17 MSG)

People mean well.

Really, they do.

But honestly, sometimes the things that they say, despite their well-meaning intentions, remain lodged in our minds for a very long time. For instance, your relationship status.

My parents have never once poked or prodded me in conversation about my lack of marriage. They’ve never joked around about wanting grandchildren to my brothers and their wives either. (And for the record, we’re not an intense or super-serious family, nor are we distant from each other. In fact, we’re very close.)

I didn’t realize what an anomaly this was until recently. I used to laugh at my friends whose mothers were always trying to fix them up. They never knew who their mother was talking to in the grocery store about them, or what “family dinner” would turn out to include some old friends and their eligible twenty something son who just “happened” to be home from grad school for the weekend.

I never really thought there was any harm in it.

It was all well intentioned.

Their mothers just wanted them to have the best life possible.

But now that I’ve watched my friends a little while longer, I’ve seen the harm in it. Many hear their mother’s voice in their head over and over and over again about how they just want them to be happy or how they just need to flirt a little more or how they just need to put themselves out there and meet new guys.

It nurtures feelings of inadequacy and takes a healthy desire for a spouse and turns it into an obsession.

Before I am mistaken for vilifying the beloved mothers of America, let me just say that I don’t think it comes from a bad place. Their mothers found fulfillment in marriage and family, and they just wanted the same for their daughters.

The same thing is true of well-meaning friends, too. I’m not talking about the ones who want to help a sister out occasionally and share our name, age, top 5 character traits, email address, phone number, and church affiliation with the husband’s single childhood friend. We will rarely have a problem with that.

I am, however, talking about the ones who are constantly trying to diagnose why we’re still single as if it has everything to do with our character flaws and nothing to do with God’s will. And while I could go on about the good intentions of the Free World, sadly, I have to look at the plank in my own eye.

How many couples have I asked about having children and then silently wondered what the hold up was when they told me that they had been married for 10 years but no kids yet.

Isn’t my silent judgment just as bad as any vocal, well-meaning pressure that is given from another?

It sounds really good—that whole fulfillment in marriage and family thing—except that our fulfillment doesn’t come from a husband or a child. It comes through Christ. And no matter how much I, the mothers of America, or my friends betray this, our relationship status isn’t as important as our relationship with Him.

Jessica Bufkin recently left her glamorous career as a junior high English teacher for the greener pastures of the blogging world. She is a part of the team of writers at SingleRoots, a site that encourages singles to be intentional with their lives. And, since dating is important, too, they also offer some assistance with a review of the Best Christian Dating Sites. Jessica lives in Fort Worth, Texas where a lot of men really do wear cowboy hats and boots daily. Sadly, that does nothing for her. You can follow her on Twitter @singleroots.

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Single Appreciation Day

Happy Single Appreciation Day!

Notice I didn’t say singles appreciation day.

But single.

Our culture is obsessed with relationships, and I know because I’m one of them!

I used to HATE Valentine’s Day because I was single.

Charles Ringma writes, “We are surrounded by family and friends who have enriched our lives in various ways. Much has been given to us. But we receive more when we are thankful for all that God and others have given us. It is thankfulness that builds in us the capacity for generosity. Unthankfulness robs us of the benefits of the very thing we have received…life” (Seize The Day With Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

I love this quote.

I also love how the Bible spells it out, and very succinctly I might add.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

So like I said, today is single appreciation day. Why? Because we need to see the beauty in singling out those we love. Maybe you hate Valentine’s Day and maybe you don’t. Let today be the day to show how much you appreciate those you love.

Be generous to your family and friends.

Be thankful for them.

I personally find love means more when I express it out loud. That way there is no guessing as to how I’m thinking and feeling toward that person. They know it because I show it (so cheesy and hopefully so true)!

To see how important it is to express how much we love others while we have the chance, I wanted to post this video of Kim Burrell on her relationship with Whitney Houston. It is very touching, and will make you cry!


[Photos taken from iStockPhoto and my iPhone]

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Marc's Thoughts on Dating

My husband and I were discussing the release of my book. I happened to ask him what his thoughts were on dating. He said he’d have to think about it, and knowing my husband, I knew he’d come up with something deep.

Here are Marc’s 5 Thoughts on Dating:

“If you pressed me to provide thoughts on dating you might be surprised on how little I would have to say. Of course men do not think in the same ways women do about these matters.

Most of us guys have not dreamed about marriage since we were young, constantly thought about our knightness in shining armor, or kept a notebook of our wedding plans over the years.

But it isn’t to say that at times we do long for the love and companionship of marriage. It isn’t to say we don’t also experience loneliness, have desires of the flesh to deal with, our inadequacies, and societies lies to face.

The love story God wrote between Renee and I is certainly only something He could have planned, but at the same time our story is not perfect either.

The end result is an incredible marriage with my beautiful bride, but in talking about dating–I think there is more to be said on the process than the end result that we all focus on.

I’m not going to debate whether dating is even Biblical, call it courtship if that helps, but it is a question of the heart ultimately. So in dating, I wanted to talk about the five most important things I learned, which if I ever have children I would hope to pass on to them.

1) God Is Not Wanting You To Obtain A Physical Relationship From Dating

For men, in our current society, this cannot be stressed enough. We are tempted with lust all the time–even in situations we would never expect it. For women out there, before you go placing any man on a pedestal let me throw this out, if you knew just the thoughts of our mind over the course of our lifetime you would never speak to us again.

In dating, be open about your own struggles, never place temptation in the situation, and never place a boundary on how careful you need to be.

Purity is at stake and therefore if you truly care about the person you are dating you ought to be willing to forgo any and all physical touch and even talk in the pursuit of purity. I’m not saying holding hands means you going to hell, or that I have some checklist that is to be applied anybody dating, but the purity of the relationship should never be in question. Watch for this in the person you are dating to. Let the words of Jesus be a constant in your relationship, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

And remember that you are not perfect and neither is the person you are with. Pursue purity in your relationship, and if mistakes are made, find grace in the Redeemer and be graceful to one another. If they become habitual you have another problem…

2) See Beauty Of The Creator In The Creation

As men we often form pictures for ourselves of what beauty is. We focus too much on appearance and all around us society is trying to paint it’s perverted picture of beauty for us.

Beauty is proportionate to the image of the Creator as reflected in the creation.

It took me a long time in life before I finally saw the beauty of Christ, and how much more it was to be desired than the twisted idea of beauty I had formed. I needed that before I could pursue a relationship in any godly way. For any guys who have no idea about the beauty of Christ–be on your knees often in seeking to find it. Be careful before you pursue a dating relationship without knowing it.

3) Holiness

Not just physical, but in all aspects do you love holiness? If not, you do not belong in a dating relationship.

Does the person you are with love holiness? If not, it is time to end the relationship.

If a mutual love for holiness does not exist–troubles will follow. And remember legalism is not a love for holiness. I saw this in Renee during our months of dating. This is a day to day, even moment to moment thing, but we challenge each other in this, sometimes in words and others just in actions. My advice is to make it a habit to pray for the person you are dating, and learn to pray together.

4) Speaking About The Weather Reveals Shallowness

Most people spend the majority of their time together speaking about the most useless of topics.

You will speak most about that which consumes your heart most, is it Jesus Christ?

Listen carefully to the person you are with, what comes out of their mouth most reflects their heart’s greatest passion. I would encourage you to be involved in a Bible study with the person you are dating, even better if just the two of you. Let their love or lack of love for the things of God be revealed. It also will reveal how much they cherish the words of God, and if they are concerned enough to really study each and every word.

5) Love Is Only Possible If Preceded By Death

This is something I am still learning day by day. Men need to learn this just as much as women.

Your pride, your ego, your ambitions, your “needs”, your opinions, and all that follows must be dying daily.

We see it all the time in media–once you’re married you will fight, and that is normal. A normal marriage relationship is not filled with fighting.

I hate to burst that myth for you. A normal marriage relationship is two people who are daily dying so that the other might live.

Two people who can love selflessly because they have first died. If this isn’t there in dating–then watch out!

We miss a truth in Scripture, unless Christ lives in you–you are not capable of truly loving.

This should shock society, that those who are unsaved love through a selfish love and not a self-less love. Death is first required before a real and genuine love that makes no room for self is birthed into the equation. Is the person you are dating really dying to self or capable of it? What about yourself?”

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I'll Wait For You

I grew up listening to the songs “Wait For Me” by Rebecca St. James. In my quest to find love I often reflected on her words.

Darling did you know that I
I dream about you
Waiting for the look in your eyes
When we meet for the first time
Darling did you know that I
I pray about you
Praying that you will hold on
And keep your loving eyes only for me

Darling did you know I dream about life together
Knowing it will be forever
I’ll be yours and you’ll be mine
And darling when I say
Till death do us part
I’ll mean it with all of my heart
Now and always faithful to you

Now I know you may have made mistakes
But there’s forgiveness and a second chance
So wait for me
Darling wait for me
Wait for me
wait for me

Chorus:
Cause, I am waiting for
Praying for you darling
Wait for me too
Wait for me as I wait for you
Cause, I am waiting for
Praying for you darling
Wait for me too
Wait for me as I wait for you
Darling wait
Darling wait

Every time I got close to finding a guy I’d be disappointed because he wasn’t even close to being my dream. There was one guy about 8 years ago I thought was supposed to be the one. But he left me hurting and broken. I regretted everything I said and did.

And those letters I wrote him.

Back then I didn’t know yet that I was a writer, but I now understand why I felt so outraged that I wasted my words on someone who didn’t deserve it.

Skip to now.

I was invited to the P4CM (Passion 4 Christ Movement) by my friend Oraia Speaks. I went to LA and used my special pass to sit a few rows away from the front.

It’s super cool to look back.

That was my last month as a single person.

But I didn’t know it yet.

At the event, I heard Janette…ikz speak on “Waiting” for her future spouse. Can I tell you that I’ve gained more recognition from my two second cameo appearance in her You Tube video than any of my speaking videos or talks? I love this! She pretty much summed up everything in my single heart on waiting for my future husband.

Marc asked me out a few short weeks after the event.

And like Janette said…his name was not Luke Warm!

To all the single ladies (and gents). Listen and be encouraged in the waiting!

[Photo taken from Pinterest]

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Love Speaks

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 14:1, NLT).

Love speaks. It doesn’t clang. Or give off false hope. It doesn’t come up empty or count how many times you’ve come up short. Been embarrassed. Failed.

Recently I started a book study called “Lazarus Awakening” by Joanna Weaver with my friend and author, Lisa Velthouse. It’s been a while since I’ve done a one-on-one study with someone and I’m really excited to dive in.

We discussed Chapter One: Tale of the Third Follower last week. One of the things that stood out to me was a study on Ephesians 3:17-19.

She wants us to pray, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that SURPASSES KNOWLEDGE—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (NIV).

Did you catch that?

You can’t understand fully (NLT) the love of Christ. No matter how wide, long, high, or deep you can imagine–God’s love is deeper still.

So what does love have to do with the story of Lazarus you ask? [I challenge you to read the entire story in John 11:1-12:11].

In her study in the back of the book, we’re supposed to write out to what stands out the most in this passage and why.

I said, “amidst His [Jesus] ministry, He made time for love.”

Jesus was about ready to go to the cross. It’s not like He wasn’t busy. It’s not like dying for the sins of all mankind left him with plenty of free time.

Of all people Jesus knew what it was like to have “places to go, people to see, and things to do.”

…And yet He made time for Lazarus.

I love that Joanna makes us think in this book. She pointed out that Lazarus had no speaking lines. Martha (Lazarus’ sister) is the one who gets all the crap for making Jesus (or trying anyway) to get her sister, Mary to help her with the dishes. And Mary is the one who famously broke her perfume jar over Jesus feet and WORSHIPED Him. Or Prepped Him for burial really.

So what did Lazarus do?

Nothing.

At least we’re not told exactly what it is.

We have to guess it was something.

“So the sisters (Martha & Mary) sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick'” (John 11:3, NIV). Verses later it says after He went and saw the place where Lazarus was buried, “Jesus wept.” Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” – John 11:35-36, NIV

When was the last time you felt God’s love?

Experienced it perhaps?

Was it because you did something? Because you were famous? Maybe you even wrote a book like me. According to the Bible, you don’t need to do anything. God already loves us and died for us.

Thank God today for His glorious resurrection, and that even when He was faced with the single most horrifying event in His life–He still took time to let love speak.

“When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go'” (John 11:43-44, NIV).

Heaven awaits for those who’s names are found in the Book of Life. In the end it’s not about if love wins or not.

Will Jesus speak your name?

“And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15, NLT).

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