Are you godly enough?

451855313Years ago when I was first learning what it meant to be a Christian, I heard many teachings on how to be a godly wife/mother/friend/etc., and through that I started to form ideas in my mind as to what I “thought” it meant to follow Jesus.  Along with this, I had many friends going through the same stage I was at and we were all trying so hard that we tended to be very severe with what we would/would not allow. For example, I remember when Sponge-Bob came out on Nickelodeon, and it was a big deal as to why we wouldn’t let our kids watch it…but MY husband saw nothing wrong with it, so our kids watched it.  I mean, obviously Sponge-Bob and Patrick’s friendship is a direct correlation to our relationship with the Holy Spirit, right?  Right?  No? OK, it was worth a try.

Because of what felt to me to be such strong lines of what we were, and were not, allowed to do, I felt like I was always making the wrong choices.  I started to think that no matter how much I wanted to follow God and serve Him, I was just not strong enough to keep all the “rules” and live the way that other people lived.  So I walked away, quietly in my heart, and gave up on following God. I still went to church and served, always doing everything I could faithfully, but never feeling good enough, and always feeling like I was putting on a show.  After all, who did I think I was to serve a God so perfect?

Inside I always felt the question:

Are you godly enough?

Can you be good enough?

And every time the answer was a somber “no”.

It was a time in my life where I closed off my relationship with HIm and made it private, and I was always saddened by my inability to make it all work.

It wasn’t until years later that I finally came to realize that I was right, there was no way I could be holy enough on my own, but that God didn’t expect me to be! I learned that it’s Him that changes us! We could never hope to be perfect and change all the “bad” things about ourselves on our own.  How could a flawed person ever hope to change their own heart and think that they could make it good? We would fail hopelessly, every time, getting an “A” for effort, but becoming utterly discouraged in the process.

Before I came to this realization, I used to think my marriage was not good enough (after all it didn’t look like my friend’s marriages), my kids were not good enough (they didn’t seem perfect like everyone else’s kids), and my faith never seemed to be even adequate (all I could see were my failures and everyone else’s successes.  Friends, this is just one reason it is SO important to live an honest life of failures and successes in front of people!  I can not stress this enough – our pride can put on an “everything is perfect” face just to protect ourselves, but at the same time you are actually shaming those around you into thinking that perfect is what is normal and expected.  We need to live open and honest lives before those around us.  You never know when someone is watching you, and they need to know what a real walk with God looks like, struggles and all.

If you walk away from this blog with nothing else today, please remember that you don’t have to be perfect! You may not look like everyone else, and that’s good! Be your own person, the way that God made you, and enjoy the life he’s given you.  Since my thinking has changed, I’m happier in my marriage, with my kids (and that says a lot if you know our lives – they are not perfect – just like their parents), and with God.  I no longer feel like I’m doomed to a life of always coming up short, instead I get to live each day the best I can, knowing He’s with me and that He loves me just like I am.  I also know He’s never going to give up on me or leave me how I am now, I am a work in progress.  Just like fine wine, I’m only going to get better!

Is this something that you’ve ever struggled with? What set you free?  Are you still struggling?  Leave your comments below!

All things Sarah Bessey…brilliant

biopicjan2014.jpgSo there’s this writer, her name is Sarah Bessey, and if you haven’t heard of her yet then let me open your eyes.  I first heard her speak at the If:Gathering conference that I watched last year (highly suggest watching it or streaming it this year!), and she changes my world (and she’s a fellow Whovian, what’s not to love??). 

When she walked out onto the stage, my first opinion was “cool, tattoos”.  She started off by explaining that she’s a Canadian, has tattoos and loves Jesus.  She even went so far as to say that she wasn’t sure why she was invited to this conference because her book “Jesus Feminist” was not very well received by the church (side note: great book, not quite as offensive as the title gives way to).  But when she spoke, she really helped to change the way that I saw Jesus, but also how I saw myself through His eyes.  

Although I highly encourage you to check out her blog – SarahBessey.com – here is a link to one of my favorite posts of hers that I found.  It’s entitled “In which I share 10 books that changed my faith”, and I thought I would start reading some of them (a few I’ve already read), want to join with me?

Are you interested in joining in and reading some books together?  We could have discussions on some of the chapters here?  I’m starting with “The Ragamuffin Gospel”, sound good to anyone else?

Mentoring…why should I?

452232481The Webster dictionary describes mentoring as this: “someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person” .  As my pastor, Joe Canal, put it  a few weeks ago:

“Mentoring is like putting your hand on the small of someones back as they’re riding a bicycle, and you gently push them along.  Surprisingly, it’s an easy thing for the stronger rider to do and takes very little effort, but to the less experienced rider, it makes all the difference.”  We are not meant to live this life alone, and if we listen, God will give us people to walk through this life with – whether for a season or a lifetime.

Let me be clear for a minute; some people tend to think that mentoring someone would mean spending hours and hours of time together, a huge life change on their part.  On the contrary, mentoring is just being available to someone when they need to talk and checking on them so that they know that you care.  As women especially, I feel like we get so wrapped up in “our” lives that we forget the command we have to speak into each other’s lives as well.  

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” Titus 2:3 – 5

So, right now you’re probably thinking “this girl is crazy, she obviously doesn’t understand that I have nothing to give that anyone else would want”.  You are so wrong friend!  I used to think that way about myself, I felt like I could barely make it through the day sometimes without losing it, how would I help someone else?  But even in those times, God used me to come alongside of and listen when someone needed an ear or give advice when I had been through a similar situation. Mentoring, above all, is being available when someone needs you, and pointing them back to God.  Follow me as I follow Christ.  It’s that simple.  

I really feel like mentoring is VERY important, especially in today’s world, because we are starting more and more to become a culture of people who are separated behind computer/phone screens and we are forgetting how to share life together.  We are losing that connecting factor that we need in order to get through everyday routines, let alone tough situations.  It’s very easy to go through life and be so busy, and yet feel so alone and disconnected.  Mentoring brings back that one on one friendship that is vital, especially to women in today’s world.  When you have little kids and you’re stuck in the house a lot, you really need that person that’s been through that before to come in and give you perspective.  When your kids are teenagers and the problems seem bigger and overwhelming, it really helps to have that woman who’s gone through that to step in and help you walk through that.  Trust me, I speak from experience when I say that just the advice of someone who’s “walked where I’m walking” is beyond value when I feel at the end of my rope.  Never, never count yourself out and think you have nothing to give, you could be the life line that someone needs to keep them going at any minute.  Just. Be. Available.

Now, what if you’re in the stage where you really could benefit from having a mentor?  Is there someone in your life that you’ve watched walk through something, and you wonder how they did it?  Maybe you’re walking through something similar and knowing what got them through would be a big help to you? Please, be brave, don’t hesitate to go up and share that with them!  As someone who sells herself short too many times, I have to say it would be an honor to be asked something like that.  Reaching out can be a very hard thing to do, but just know that the reward will be great! Be brave, be purposeful, and seek out those people who you might already have a relationship with but you want to know a little better.  The greatest things in life don’t just fall into our laps, we have to seek them out and purpose to make them important.  If we don’t, the busyness of life will cause these opportunities to pass us by.

I want to leave you with this quote from Kelley Matthews from crosswalk.com, “Sometimes, “I’ll pray about it” is the most appropriate way to begin your decision-making. But when it comes to mentoring, I’d have to agree with Norma Becker, member of the board of directors of Campus Crusade for Christ, Canada. When a younger woman asking to be mentored suggested they pray about it, Norma responded with assurance: “We don’t pray about commands.”  Go out today and live your life a little more intentionally, the relationships that you need to get you through this stage in life God has already laid out all around you, just watch for them!

Have you mentored people in the past?  Do you have any tips on how to make this connection easier?  Feel free to comment in the box below!

 

As Christians, who should our friends be?

Reaching outLately I’ve had quite a few conversations with people where I’ve heard this phrase repeated, “we’re supposed to be “friends” with unbelievers, but not close friends…and if we are friends with them then our main purpose in that friendship should be to lead them to Jesus”. The first time I heard this it perked my “spiritual ears” a bit and really made me stop and think about whether I even agreed with them. Something in me just didn’t really resonate with something that was being said there. Even deeper than that, there was almost a sense of fear behind that statement, as if they were really worried that hanging out with them too much might have a negative impact on their own lives as well.

I will be the first one to admit that you always need to be careful who you are hanging around with, because those people do have an influence over your life, you tend to do what your good friends are doing. Also, if you are following God and trying to live your life a certain way, you are bound to take certain activities out of your lifestyle altogether, and if your friends are still doing those activities then it does make it hard to hang out with them.

I have to say, for myself, that I don’t agree with that statement about who our friends are to be as believers, everything in me cries out “no”! In my heart, I truly feel that we are called to be salt and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-14), and how can we possibly do that if we aren’t loving people and being their real friend? If we are closing ourselves off to “outsiders”, then we’ve lost our reason for being here on this earth. Jesus says “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35 NIV) We can always say that our lifestyle should be showing Jesus to them, but Jesus always intended the gospel to be so much more interactive than that!

If we are constantly building up our walls against others and pointing out their flaws before we even show them how much we care, then how will they ever see the love that Jesus wants us to show them? Statistics say that within the first 2 years of a person becoming a believer in Jesus, they have completely separated themselves from their old friends and now only associate with believers. The reasons for this are very simple: 1) This is who they are around more often now, and 2) They are trying to move forward and cut out old habits, and in doing so cut out the friends who are still participating in those habits.

I get this, I really do! But sisters and brothers, there needs to be a time when we’re so confident in our faith that we’re no longer afraid of the world outside our homes and church doors. There has to be a day when we decide to “show up” to all that’s going on in the world (even if it’s not entirely “Christian” in nature) and meet some people that might shake up our comfort zones a little. My heart is breaking for a lost world that doesn’t even know it’s lost, and we – the people of Jesus – have forgotten how to interact with them. We have to get to a place where we can live out those commandments to love God and love each other (not just the easy ones).

Recently I had a conversation with my pastor, Joe Canal, about this, and this is what he had to say:

“It’s just very important that we respond to the Holy Spirit when He opens those doors for us. And I don’t think that we should love people just to get them ‘saved’. I think most people are smart enough to sense whether we sincerely care about them or just see them as a ‘project’. But I do think that the most valuable thing I bring to any relationship is my love for and knowledge of Jesus Christ and I should always be ready to share His love with others.”

What do you think about this topic? Do you find it hard to be friends with unbelievers if you’re a Christian? Please feel free to share in the comments below!

Remember, conversations are open, but only in a respectful manner.