I went into this Lord’s Day with a near-empty fridge and no menu plan. That’s not good any day of the week, but especially on a Sunday. For months now I’ve been working toward having my grocery shopping and cooking done Saturday so I can truly rest from my work and worship God on the Lord’s Day, as He designed.
So this morning, I asked God to please provide food for us this day. Here’s how He did.
A Favorite, Easy Breakfast Recipe: Floppy Eggs
Thankfully, Trevor didn’t have to lead worship at our Cazenovia church plant today, so I asked if he’d make his delicious “floppy eggs” for breakfast. He whipped them up—along with the last of the frozen hash browns—all while carrying Hudson in the carrier. What a “super-mom” dad!
God’s Daily Provision
I saw Steve walk into Missio with his arms full of fresh baked loaves of bread. Pick us, pick us! I silently wished. (Steve is an older widower who gifts homemade bread to congregants each Sunday.) Steve chose my father-in-law for his first gifting, and my father-in-law passed it on to us! God’s kind provision.
A Favorite, Easy Lunch Recipe: Tuna Melt Sandwiches
It’s a gamble, serving someone you don’t know tuna fish. But of all things, she exclaimed with delight when she saw it! Apparently her college housemates used to protest her use of tuna in the kitchen. Again, God’s sweet providence.
Our Lunch Conversation
This young woman is a speech pathologist resident who works at a nursing home. We learned a bit more about how unethical most nursing homes are due to insurance requirements, how patients’ health usually declines upon arriving, and how this woman is often asked by her patients to “please just kill me” (seriously).
It made me ask new questions like,
Do we have more nursing homes in the United States than in other countries, due to our every-man-for-himself mentality?
How many nursing homes per capita does Syracuse have?
And maybe most importantly, Am I willing to walk into those dreary, sterile places to offer hope? Maybe even with my sweet boys? (I have a few memories of playing the piano at nursing homes when I was younger.)
After a long walk (we kept running into people we knew), Trevor asked what was for supper. “I don’t know; God will provide,” I responded.
And then I remembered. Our sweet Muslim neighbors had brought us “Iraqi KFC” the day before, and we still had some in the fridge. We have some lettuce already growing in our garden, so we served it with a simple salad.
I’m so grateful for how God provided today—through my husband, through Steve, and through our neighbors. Now it’s time to buckle down and menu plan for this new week. Because most of the time, God provision for my family includes me planning ahead.
One of my greatest highlights from the last couple of years was successfully matchmaking two couples—at one dinner party, nonetheless! The dinner party setup and subsequent party one week later allowed Jordan and Ethan to get to know Amanda and Gabby—at least enough to know the pursuit was on! They took it from there, and this summer, Trevor and I attended both of their weddings, just two weeks apart. Only God!
I believe you, too, can experience the joy of being used by God to help a Christian man and woman find and get to know each other. In fact, I believe you are needed.
Finding a suitable spouse to marry today seems . . . impossible. Where can you meet him or her if not in a bar or on an online app? Where and how can you possibly get to know them in a safe, casual, comfortable environment? That’s where you come in. But first, one very important disclaimer.
Beware of Unwelcome Matchmaking
Please, only offer your matchmaking services to those you know want to be married and who would love some help getting there. If you’re not sure if they want your help, ask them. One single guy told me,
“I went through a period of time in my early 20s where I had resolved myself not to date as I was too busy and working on sins and struggles in my life. But every other week people from church would pull me aside and suggest I date someone they knew. There were lots of uncomfortable conversations.”
Similarly, a mom of a single young woman told me,
“My daughter’s biggest frustration is the need to fix her up with the one other single in her congregation.”
Let me be clear. Singleness isn’t a disease; it’s a gift.
At the same time, marriage is a gift as well. If it’s a gift your single friend longs for, here’s how you can help.
Tips for Matchmaking Well
Care for Christian singles. Don’t try your hand at matchmaking ’cause you could use a little romance in your own life, or ’cause you hope to have a good story some day. Matchmake because you care deeply about your single friends. Extend yourself out of love for them. At the same time, matchmake not for their ultimate happiness (marriage isn’t about that!), but for God’s glory. Matchmake so that one more couple can show those around them the beauty of the gospel (Eph. 5:22-33).
Listen well. You are not looking for someone you like; you are looking for someone your friend will like. Do you know what your friend wants in a spouse? Don’t blindly set them up with someone just ’cause they’re the only other Christian you know in twenty miles. Get to know your single friend. Ask lots of questions. What does he or she desire in a spouse? What does he or she need to complement them?
Pray for wisdom. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Ask God for wisdom. Pray that He will establish your steps. Ask Him for success.
Brainstorm together. Talk through the people you both know—even married people—to identify the sorts of characteristics they are looking for. Make sure you’re on the same page. Then begin to brainstorm singles you know who are similar. Let your single friend give input on whether they’re interested in getting to know this person better or not.
Open your home. Invite the person your friend is interested in getting to know better over to your house. Don’t be awkward about it. In our case, we invited Amanda and Gaby over a Facebook message, simply telling them we were “having a couple other friends over.”
Open your home again. Continue to open your home so your single friends have other opportunities to hang out and get to know each other. We followed the dinner party up with another party one week later. And that wasn’t the end for us. Currently, my husband and I are seeking to create opportunities for one single male friend to slowly get to know a specific Christian woman in the context of an informal, group setting.
Those are just a few ways I believe you can matchmake well. Do you have anything to add? Have you tried your hand at matchmaking? What do you think contributed to your success or failure in that area?
PPS: This photo was taken a few months ago, when a group of us got together to celebrate Ethan and Gabby’s engagement. You can see the two new couples here. From left to right: me, Trevor, Amanda and Jordan, Ethan and Gabby.
Tonight, weather-permitting, a bunch of strangers will converge on our backyard for a cookout and a bonfire. We don’t know most of these people yet, but we hope to soon. They are fellow residents of Eastwood, a village in the city of Syracuse, New York.
A Positive Response from the Community After a Double Homicide
Thanks to a community Facebook page someone set up, we invited anyone and everyone in Eastwood to join us for a meal. When I posted the invitation on Facebook, the response was overwhelming. One woman messaged me, offering a $25 gift certificate to a grocery store, even though she wouldn’t be able to make it. She wrote,
You and your husband did something extraordinary in a cynical world. You loved your neighbors, all of them! Thank you for being a shining light this difficult week in Eastwood!
A Negative Response from a Church Member Concerned About Safety
While our neighborhood is thrilled by the opportunity to come together, a local church member had a different response:
I don’t think it’s wise. You have no idea who might be coming to your house. You just had a shooting in your neighborhood!
I didn’t say too much in response. I understand where this person is coming from, but here’s the deal:
Jesus didn’t call us to pursue safety; Jesus called us to the task of global evangelization.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matt. 28:19-20).
Is Safety Your Ultimate Goal, Christian?
I’ve wasted decades playing it safe. Praying for safety. Locking proverbial doors, shutting proverbial blinds, and staking a proverbial “No trespassing sign” in the front yard of my life. For years I thought the goal of Christianity was to hunker down and protect myself from the world. (How could I have gotten it so wrong?!)
I now live in a city of 500,000 people. God has tasked me–along with every other believer in this city–to share with them the good news that they have a Creator who loves them, a God who sacrificed Himself to atone for their sin and restore their wrecked relationship with Him.
This good news is shared on ordinary days, in ordinary places, like backyard barbecues, by building relationships with our neighbors . . . even when we don’t know exactly who we’re inviting into our backyards.
I wonder, Christian, what is your ultimate goal? Is it safety . . . or is it relationship with and representation of your God?
“Safety is of the Lord,” my parents taught me as a little girl from Proverbs 21:31 (KJV). May we trust Him with the number of our days, and may we swing open our doors in the meantime!
(Here are just a few ways you can pray about our Cookout on Collingwood.)
Wise, life-giving, Christ-centered words related to this double homicide.
The singles in your church are hurting. Many (dare I say most?) of them have a strained relationship with the church.
There’s Pain in Your Pews
Since writing a book on singleness, I hear from singles often. Here’s what one thirty-nine-year-old woman has to say:
I’m convinced there is something very wrong with me! I feel like a complete outcast in each and every church. The weird thing is I don’t feel that way at work, which is a completely secular environment. Lately I’ve been crying all weekend and so grateful to be able to go to work on Monday morning because I know I’m valued and wanted there and I know I am contributing something as well.
This woman isn’t the only single who feels like an oddity in church. You might be tempted to think, Oh, toughen up! You think marriage is easy? But here’s why their hurt is our problem, too.
It’s a Family Responsibility
If you’ve placed all your trust in Christ as your righteousness, you’re now a tiny but vital member of His family and of His Body. There are millions upon millions of other members, and what impacts each of these people impacts you because we’re one now. Paul tells us:
But God has so composed the body . . . that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together (1 Cor. 12:24–26, emphasis added).
We have a responsibility to care for singles as we would our own families, because we’re not independent individuals anymore. We’re a part of something so much larger. Besides, in heaven there will be no individual marriage or families other than the family of God (Matt. 22:30).
So how can we care for singles as we ought? It starts with how we think about singleness.
Singleness Isn’t a Disease to Be Healed
Many people view singleness as a disease to be healed. I’ve been guilty of this myself. God’s Word, however, has quite a different perspective.
In 1 Corinthians 7, the apostle Paul addresses the whole church about the advantages and benefits of singleness. Singles, he says, are spared anxieties and troubles. (If you told a single that, they’d probably think, Ha! Paul obviously didn’t have a clue. I have plenty of troubles, and plenty to be anxious about!)
I don’t think Paul intends to minimize everything a single has to juggle in life. His point is that they’re not distracted by needing to please the Lord and their spouse. They have the freedom to be singularly devoted to the Lord.
Let’s be careful that we don’t adopt a “woe is you because you’re single” mindset when God celebrates singleness.
Let’s also be careful about how we “encourage” singles.
Steer Clear of Lousy Encouragement
I wonder, is your encouragement to singles actually encouraging them? Is it grounded in truth? Here are four examples straight from the lips of singles of hurtful “encouragement” they tend to receive from those in the church:
“God won’t bring you your spouse until you’re content in your singleness.” (Let’s think about this . . . when do we ever earn God’s gifts?)
“Oh, don’t worry, Honey, God has someone special out there for you!” (Does He? How do you know this? Scripture tells us that everyone will not get married and that singleness is good. A lot of unintentional hurt is caused by assuming that everyone will marry one day.)
“Marriage is how God makes us holy” and “I didn’t really know how much God loved me until I had kids.” (This makes singles feel like they’re not only missing out on a family but on sanctification! A better way to say this would be, “Marriage is one of the means God uses to help make us holy.”)
Another single requested, “Don’t remind us that marriage isn’t all happily ever after with the perfect prince/princess of our dreams. Single adults are intelligent people. We’re no longer the teenagers in the youth group. We’re not expecting Disney or Hollywood. Our dreams of marriage are normal and healthy, and being belittled because we still hope for marriage (the same way our now-married friends once did) is insulting.”
We’ve looked at our thoughts. We’ve considered our words. But what about our actions? One of the greatest ways we can bless singles in the church is by our hospitality.
Invisible No More
Here are a few ideas of how you can show hospitality to the singles in your church:
Invite them to sit with you rather than sitting alone. When I was single, Sundays were the loneliest day of the week for me as I sat surrounded by happy-looking married couples and families.
If you’re in church leadership, examine your upcoming events and make sure they’re geared to all people in general, not just toward married people or parents.
Celebrate the milestones of the singles in your small group, like their birthdays or moving into their own place. One single pointed out, “Our accomplishments are often ignored; we don’t get showers, registries, and parties. We are no one’s priority, and that often makes us invisible.“
Ask a single at church if they have plans for the next holiday. If not, invite them to your home. A dear family did this for me one year when I wasn’t able to travel home for Christmas. They even bought me a present! Don’t forget Mother’s Day, as well. One of my single mom friends noted, “Single moms won’t spend money on themselves (many are at poverty level), and their children may be too young to know how to celebrate them.”
Come On In!
Don’t stop there, though. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has said, “It’s in our homes, not standing in the aisle after church, that we have the greatest opportunity to really practice the ‘one anothers’ of Scripture.” One anothers like:
Love one another.
Pray for one another.
Admonish one another.
Edify one another.
Care for one another.
Bear one another’s burdens.
I was the recipient of remarkable hospitality as a single. The hospitality that most reflected God welcoming me into His family was when an older couple invited me to live in their home when I was in my late twenties.
For the three years I stayed with them, I never felt like I needed to keep to my own room and not bother them. On the contrary, they treated me like I was their daughter!
I’m not saying you have to open your spare bedroom to a single. Maybe you do something more like what Eleanor has encountered:
The greatest blessing for me as a single person has been eating with a family from church every week and helping put their young children to bed. Nothing extraordinary, just what they would be doing if I wasn’t there.
Sometimes I barely talk to the parents while I’m there, because they’re so exhausted. I don’t always see them at their best. They don’t just have me over when it’s convenient. But they choose to truly let me into their lives and hearts, and that is a great blessing and a joy.
Single people will sometimes be lonely. Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets the lonely in families.” Maybe for one single, it’s your family.
Let’s Put Feet to This
Let’s not just write and read about how to help the singles in our church; let’s do something about it! But where should we start?
Identify the singles in your church and life. Not just those you’d like to hang out with but those God has placed in close proximity to you. Think broadly: singles who have never been married, widows, divorcees, single moms, and those who for all practical purposes are single because their spouse is absent.
Pray for them. Make this a priority, and try to pray for at least one single daily. (You might consider downloading an app like PrayerMate to help you remember.)
Engage them. Pick at least one single on your list, and come up with a plan to reach out to them. This is just a practical way to help you love your neighbor.
Ready, set, help! Not because singles need fixing, and not because you’re the savior of the singles—but because:
God welcomed you into His family when you had nothing to offer Him.
You are now family by blood—the blood of Christ.
When they hurt, you hurt.
Ultimately, give yourself to them, with a genuine heart, and watch how greatly God will bless you through their friendship in the process.
The American church tends to get a bad rap—and often with good reason. That’s why I want to tell you about a gem of a church that Trevor and I stumbled across on our way to Illinois this past Thanksgiving. A church that shattered the negative stereotypes of what the American church is all about. A hospitable church.
Happening Upon a Hospitable Church
Up until the day before, we planned to attend a different local church. But when my friend invited us to her church and then over for lunch at her pastor’s house, we were intrigued.
“You’re totally welcome,” she said. “We do it every Sunday. We spend the whole afternoon together, go back for a 5:30 p.m. service, and then make supper there. Leftovers, pizza rolls . . . nothing fancy.”
I wasn’t terribly keen on the idea of spending the entire day with strangers (I like my alone time!). But Trevor was excited about attending a church that made it easy for us to corporately set aside the Lord’s Day. So we said “yes.”
And that’s how we ended up spending all Sunday with perfect strangers. Believe it or not, I didn’t miss my alone time. That day was the highlight of our vacation . . . and even one of the top highlights of 2017 for us.
What made it so great? Yes, the songs and sermon were meaty and rich. Yes, the people were friendly. And boy, those homemade salted caramel cookies they served after service . . .
But what really sealed the deal was the hospitality we experienced after the church doors were shut.
Walking Into a Hospitable Home
We felt right at home from the moment we walked into the house and the kids took our coats at the door. The mom of the house showed me a messy but private bedroom where I could nurse Iren.
Trevor and the pastor talked and ate while I fed Iren. Then I came down, and different kids held Iren while I chowed down and talked with my friend.
I noted that the pastor was down-to-earth and accessible. He seemed a bit shy, but he was present with us all afternoon. He didn’t lead the conversation; he just sat on the couch with a drink, obviously enjoying the conversation and people.
Kids of all ages sat crosslegged on the floor. Men and women sat around the room in chairs—one woman knitting.
Conversation meandered here and there until I started a group conversation on parenting and rules. I was amazed to hear they’re not big on adding rules to their kids’ lives but on focusing on God’s two greatest commands: loving Him and loving others. I took lots of mental notes for when Iren gets a little bigger.
We went back to the church for evening service and then joined these same people in the kitchen for pizza and more fun, deep conversation.
Becoming a Hospitable Church
Trevor and I exited those church doors late that evening saying, “We want that kind of love, community, and hospitality at our church.”
“Let’s pray for that,” I said.
“Yes,” he replied, “and it starts with us.”
I am so grateful for his perspective. We are the church (Eph. 1:22-23). There is no need to sit around waiting for someone else to take action—not even the leaders. We can and should take ownership, initiate, and invite others into our lives and home.
How about you? Are you waiting for someone else to set the tone at your local church, or are you welcoming others into your life and home? Let’s be a hospitable church!
When you pass by someone’s free stuff sitting out on the curb, do you stop and take a closer look, or ignore it altogether?
Recently, my husband and I took advantage of a rare moment of freedom (read: babysitting), and set out on our bikes. We cycled through upscale neighborhoods, pointing out our favorite homes and landscaping, until we spotted this strange-looking device by the side of the road.
I wasn’t surprised when my husband instantly recognized what it was: an inversion table. We pedaled home fast. He jumped off his bike and climbed into his ’99 station wagon (the same one he’s been driving since he got his license thirteen years ago). He loaded the contraption into the back, and returned to research what inversion tables go for these days.
A couple weeks later he danced around the house, waving the $50 we had made.
How Should We Spend Our Money?
“Is it wrong to want more money?” he had wondered aloud a few weeks before.
“How would we spend the money if we did have it?” I questioned.
After thinking about it, we both agreed: Hospitality.
We got an opportunity to practice hospitality with a couple who moved in across the street, and we now had fifty more dollars to spend.
Because our neighbors are from Iraq, they don’t have family or many friends here. So we rallied nearly twenty friends and helped move them in, mow their lawn, and more. The mother only speaks Arabic, but as her words spilled out, she blew a kiss toward heaven. I knew she was expressing thanks for our help.
We provided a meal after, and our neighbors surprised us by also calling in an order for Middle Eastern food. I heated the large rounds of pita bread in the oven. Then I roasted a s’more for the mother over our bonfire, and we sent people home with leftovers.
Hospitality = Love for Strangers
Hospitality can hurt. If this is often the case, why do it?
I recently learned that the Greek word for hospitality, “philoxenia,” means “love for stranger.” And that’s exactly who we were — strangers — before God threw open the doors of his home to us:
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. . . So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. (Ephesians 2:12–13, 19)
My husband and I are taking small, wobbly steps toward loving strangers, in hopes that we will better see and show the magnificent generosity of Jesus. And quite frankly, the joy far outweighs the pain.
“Is it strange that I feel sorry for him?” my husband asked me the other day of someone whose Instagram account is filled with one exotic vacation after another.
“No,” I replied. “I wouldn’t trade our life for his. While it’s ordinary, it’s so exciting.”
I can’t think of another life I’d rather live than opening my heart and home to others with this frugal but generous man by my side. Jesus is right: The upside-down life really does bring the most joy: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Hospitality isn’t always glamorous. It’s hard work. But hospitality — on a budget or otherwise — is worth it.
How did God reach out to you and invite you into His home when you were a stranger? Does this motivate you to invite strangers into your home? Why or why not?