One of the hardest things to do as a podcaster is promote yourself. You have to battle with feelings of being prideful or even foolish to put yourself out there. When you’re a Christian podcaster, there is another layer of difficulty because we have been taught that it isn’t about us and it should all point to Christ. Self promotion is often viewed as vain and sinful, even though what we’re doing is for God.
When we traveled to the Spark Media Conference and Awards in Nashville earlier this month, we met so many women who are doing amazing things with their podcasts! And while it was a little easier to talk about our podcasts with one another (mostly because we were all in the same boat), it still felt weird promoting yourself. It was far easier for us to ask other women about their work than it was to talk about our own.
We wanted to do something to support these other women who are doing what we’re doing because we know how hard it is. The things these ladies are doing is amazing! The impact they are making on women’s lives are lasting and incredible and that is something to celebrate!
So while we’re on break between seasons, join us as we spotlight a new podcast each week and tell you about the amazing women that are producing them! We encourage you to check them out, give them a listen and share them with a friend!
Far too often, women are painted with the stereotype that they’re gossiping, jealous and catty. We want to change that perspective and be women who are know for supporting other women! Hearts over hashtags!
We recently had the opportunity to attend the Spark Media Conference and Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. While there, one of the speakers was talking about how you should be more concerned about having your heart right and working for the Kingdom of God vs. focusing on who is following you on social media.
On our trek back, we had a three hour layover in New York so we sat at a table, ate some food and had a conversation about what all we took notes on during the different conference sessions.
As we processed everything we learned from our time there, a little doodle Melissa made in her notebook kept coming back to us. She drew a heart over a # (some of you might call it a hashtag, older folks might know it as the pound sign; but it is also shorthand for number). It was a thought that came to her when thinking about working for the Kingdom and she made a little doodle of her abstract thought.
Talking it through, we knew what God wanted us to take from this. Hearts over hashtags! We need to care about you…your heart, your problems, your celebrations, your whole self…more that we care about how we’re promoting ourselves!
So we’re starting a movement! Hearts Over Hashtags! What if all women were more concerned about cheering one another on when things go right instead of just #blessed? What if all women cared enough about one another to actually do something tangible and helpful in times of crisis instead of just #prayingforyou? What if we all just loved each other with our actions and words (even when we disagree) instead of just #loveyourneighbor? What if we all cared more about getting to know another person for who they are than trying to convince them their sin sucks worse than yours with a #Godseesyou? What if all Christians truly reflected Christ instead of just being #teamJesus?
(and yes…all of those #s are ones I have seen on social media platforms where Christians get a little too big for their britches and start coming off as judgy Karens hell bent on pointing out others sin in the most obnoxious way possible while making themselves seem more holy and amazing.)
Will you join the movement? Will you care more about the hearts of others than yourself?
In season 2 episode 8 “Deconstruction” Melissa and Amanda go through a list of 30 Toxic Traits found in the book “Psychopath Free” by Jackson MacKenzie.
After searching through several sources we found that there are many available for discovering toxic traits, why people act in toxic ways, and how to overcome abusive relationships. We choose this list because it covers a broad spectrum of issues specific to relationships. Although this list is written with the assumption of toxic behavior in romantic relationships, the ideas and concepts portrayed are universal to all relationships. It is easy to read each situation and adjust the roles and actions to meet your specific situation. In a church environment discipleship, fellowship, and friendships all revolve around coming along side each other and building relationships. These types of relationships have ties that can run deep and deal with spirituality, a very personal and intimate experience for most people.
For our context we are talking about relationships in churches mostly in regards to people in leadership roles. It is best to view this list first with an openness towards your own heart and heart issues and second to use this list for understanding and spotting toxicity when you encounter it.
***Disclaimer***this is not a “ Christian” list and some of the wording may be consider harsh and not represent a Christian world view. However, the behaviors being described are true nevertheless and happen in both Christian and secular relationships alike. You can learn more about Psychopath Free on their website.
30 Red Flags
Recovering from emotionally abusive relationships with narcissists, sociopaths, and any other toxic people. Written By Jackson Mackenzie
1. Gaslighting and Crazy-making. They blatantly deny their own manipulative behavior and ignore evidence when confronted with it. They become dismissive and critical if you attempt to disprove their fabrications with facts. Instead of them actually addressing their inappropriate behavior, somehow it always becomes your fault for being “sensitive”and “crazy.” Toxic people condition you to believe that the problem isn’t the abuse itself but instead your reaction to their abuse.
2. Cannot put themselves in your shoes, or anyone else’s for that matter. You find yourself desperately trying to explain how they might feel if you were treating them this way, and they just stare at you blankly. You slowly learn not to communicate your feelings with them, because you’re usually met with silence or annoyance.
3. The ultimate hypocrite. “Do as I say, not as I do.” They have extremely high expectations for fidelity, respect, and adoration. After the idealization phase, they will give none of this back to you. They will cheat, lie, criticize, and manipulate. But you are expected to remain perfect, otherwise you will promptly be replaced and deemed unstable.
4. Pathological lying and excuses. There is always an excuse for everything, even things that don’t require excusing. They make up lies faster than you can question them. They constantly blame others – it is never their fault. They spend more time rationalizing their behavior than improving it. Even when caught in a lie, they express no remorse or embarrassment. Often times, it almost seems as if they wanted you to catch them.
5. Focus on your mistakes and ignore their own. If their two hours late, don’t forget that you were once five minutes late to your first date. If you point out their inappropriate behavior, they will always be quick to turn the conversation back on you. You might begin to adopt perfectionist qualities, very aware that any mistake can and will be used against you.
6. You find yourself explaining the basic elements of human respect to a full grown man or woman. Normal people understand fundamental concepts like honesty and kindness. Psychopaths often appear to be childlike and innocent, but don’t let this mask fool you. No adult should need to be told how he or she is making other people feel.
7. Selfishness and a crippling thirst for attention. They drained the energy from you and consume your entire life. Their demand for adoration is insatiable. You thought you were the only one who could make them happy, but now you feel that anyone with a beating pulse could fit the role. However, the truth is: no one can fill the void of a psychopath soul.
8. Accuses you of feeling emotions that are intentionally provoking. They call you jealous after blatantly flirting with an ex – often done over social networking for the entire world to see. They call you needy after intentionally ignoring you for days on end. They use your manufactured reactions to garner sympathy from other targets, trying to prove how “hysterical” you’ve become. You probably once considered yourself to be an exceptionally easy-going person but an encounter with a psychopath will (temporary) turn that notion upside down.
9. You find yourself playing detective. It’s never happened in any other relationship, but suddenly you’re investigating the person you once trusted unconditionally. If they’re active on Facebook, you start scrolling back years on their posts and albums. Same with their ex. You’re seeking answers to a feeling you can’t quite explain.
10. You’re the only one who sees their true colors. No matter what they do, they always seem to have a fan club cheering for them. The psychopath uses these people for money resources and attention-but the fan club won’t notice, because this person strategically distracts them with shallow praise. Psychopaths are able to maintain superficial friendships far longer than relationships.
11. You fear that any fight could be your last. Normal couples argue to resolve issues, but psychopaths make it clear that negative conversations will jeopardize the relationship, especially ones regarding their behavior. Any of your attempts to improve communication will typically result in the silent treatment. You apologize and forgive quickly, otherwise you know they will lose interest in you.
12. Slowly and steadily erode your boundaries. They criticize you with a condescending, joking sort of attitude. They smirk when you try to express yourself. Teasing becomes the primary mode of communication in your relationship. They suddenly belittle your intelligence and abilities. If you point this out, they call you sensitive and crazy. You might begin to feel resentful and upset, but you learn to push away those feelings in favor of maintaining the peace.
13. They withhold attention and undermine your self-esteem. After once showering you with nonstop attention and admiration, they suddenly seem completely bored by you. They treat you with silence and become very annoyed that you’re interested in continuing the passionate relationship that they created. You feel like a chore to them.
14. They expect you to read their mind. If they stop communicating with you for several days, it’s your fault for not knowing about the plans they never told you about. There will always be an excuse that makes them out to be the victim to go along with this. They make important decisions about the relationship and they inform everyone except you.
15. You feel on edge around this person, but you still want them to like you. You find yourself writing off most of their questionable behavior as accidental or insensitive, because you’re in constant competition with others for their attention and praise. They don’t seem to care when you leave their side-they can just as easily move on to the next source of energy.
16. An unusual number of crazy people in their past. Any ex-partner or friend that did not come crawling back to them will likely be labeled as jealous, bipolar, an alcoholic, or some other nasty smear. Make no mistake they will speak about you the same way to their next target.
17. Provokes jealousy and rivalries while maintaining their cover of innocence. They once directed all of their attention to you, which makes it especially confusing when they begin to withdraw and focus on other people. They do things that constantly make you doubt your place in their heart. If they’re active on social media, they’ll bait previously denounced exes with old songs, photos, and inside jokes. They attend to the “competition’s “activities and ignore yours.
18. Idealization, love-ombing, and flattery. When you first meet, things move extremely fast. They tell you how much they have in common with you – how perfect you are for them. Like a Chamaeleon, they mirror your hopes dreams and insecurities in order to form an immediate bond of trust and excitement. They constantly initiate communication and seem to be fascinated with you on every level. If you have a Facebook page they might plaster it with songs, complements, poems, and inside jokes.
19. Compares you to everyone else in their life. They compare you to ex-lovers, friends, family members, and your eventual replacement. When idealizing, they make you feel special by telling you how much better you are than these people. When devaluing, they use these comparisons to make you feel jealous and inferior.
20. The qualies they once claimed to admire about you suddenly become glaring faults. At first, they appeal to your deepest vanities and vulnerabilities, observing and mimicking exactly what they think you want to hear. But after you’re hooked, they start to use these things against you. You spend more and more time trying to prove your self worthy to the very same person who once said you were perfect.
21. Cracks in their mask. There are fleeting moments when the charming, cute, innocent persona is replaced by something else entirely. You see a side to them that never came out during the idealization phase, and it is a side that’s cold, inconsiderate, and manipulative. You start to notice that their personality just doesn’t add up – that the person you fell in love with doesn’t actually seem to exist.
22. Easily bored. They are constantly surrounded by other people, stimulated and praised all the time. They can’t tolerate being alone for an extended period of time. They become quickly uninterested by anything that doesn’t directly impact them in a positive or thrilling way. At first, you might think they’re exciting and worldly, and yet you feel inferior for preferring familiarity and consistency.
23. Triangulation. They surround themselves with former lovers, potential mates, and anyone else who provides them with added attention. This includes people that the psychopath may have previously denounced and declared you superior to. This makes you feel confused and creates the perception that the psychopath is in high demand at all times.
24. Covert abuse. From an early age, most of us were taught to identify physical mistreatment and blatant verbal insults, but with Psychopaths the abuse is not so obvious. You likely won’t even understand that you were in an abusive relationship until long after it’s over. Through personalized idealization and subtle devaluation, a psychopath can effectively erode the identity of any chosen target. From an outsiders perspective, you will appear to have “lost it” while the psychopath calmly walks away, completely unscathed.
25. Pity plays and sympathy stories. Their bad behavior always has sob-story roots. They claim to behave this way because of an abusive ex, an abusive parent, or an abusive cat. They say that all they ever wanted is some peace and quiet. They say they hate drama- and yet there’s more drama surrounding them than anyone you’ve ever known.
26. The mean and sweet cycle. Sometimes they shower you with attention, sometimes they ignore you, sometimes they criticize you. They treat you differently in public than they do behind closed doors. They could be talking about marriage one day and breaking up the next. You never know where you stand with them. As my morning coffee friend Rita wrote: “they put forth as little effort as possible and then step it up when you try to disengage.”
27. This person becomes your entire life. You’re spending more of your time with them and their friends, and less Time with your own support network. They’re all you think and talk about anymore. You isolate yourself in order to make sure you’re available for them. You cancel plans and eagerly wait by the phone for the next communication. For some reason, the relationship seems to involve a lot of sacrifices on your end, but very few on theirs.
28. Arrogance. Despite the humble, sweet image they presented in the early stages, you start to notice and unmistakable air of superiority about them. They talk down to you as if you are intellectually deficient and emotionally unstable. They have no shame when it comes to flaunting new targets after the break up, ensuring that you see how happy they are without you.
29. Backstabbing gossip that changes on a whim. They plant little seeds of poison, whispering about everyone, idealizing them to their face, and then complaining about them behind their back‘s. You find yourself disliking or resenting people you’ve never even met. For some reason, you might even feel special for being the one he or she complains too. But once the relationship turns sour, they’ll run back to everyone they once insulted to you, lamenting about how crazy you’ve become.
30. Your feelings. Your natural love and compassion has transformed into overwhelming panic and anxiety. You apologize and cry more than you ever have in your life. You barely sleep, and you wake up every morning feeling anxious
The Spark Media Awards recognize Christian Podcasters across various areas of podcasting. They allow podcasters and listeners to nominate podcasts for different areas. We are thrilled and humbled to be nominated for not one, not two, but THREE Spark Media Podcast Awards! For those who nominated us, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
The areas we have been nominated for are: Best Podcast Graphic Best Female Podcast Best Co-Hosted Podcast
The winner of Best Podcast Graphic is chosen by a panel, but the winners of the Best Female Podcast and the Best Co-Hosted Podcast are chosen by the votes of the listeners!
To vote, please visit the Spark Media Website. You can only vote once per email address, so please choose whichever area you feel fits us best.
Voting is open Feb 1st-28th and the award winners will be announced March 8th at the Spark Media Conference in Nashville.
This is a little different from our normal content, but we wanted to take this opportunity to talk about something that has touched all of our lives here at Come to the Table….adoption. November is National Adoption Month and I wanted to use this blessing of this platform and talk about adoption for a moment. You see, Melissa and Brandi have adoption weaved through their stories and it is a part of who they are. For me however, this was something that is fairly new to me and I would love to share with you how adoption has blessed my family greatly!
Up until recently, my family had never dealt with something like infertility before. We have blended families, but never before have we dealt with the devastating reality of infertility. To be quite honest, I was a little naive to it. I would joke that my family dealt the opposite problem and it never even crossed my mind that pregnancy wouldn’t come easily to anyone in my family. I’m sure through this time, in my complete ignorance, I said things that probably hurt others who were struggling in silence. I was a part of the problem that feeds into the stigma of infertility and makes people feel like they have to keep their pain to themselves. And for all of that, I am deeply sorry.
My sister was one of those people. I know she and her husband walked a very lonely and hard road for years before any of us knew they were struggling. I am thankful for the people God placed in their lives that were open about their adoption stories and for organizations like the Wyoming Children’s Society that were able to be there for them through this time until they felt comfortable sharing with the rest of the family.
When they told us that they were looking at adoption as a way to grow their family, we were excited. But still, we had no clue what that journey would entail. The emotional rollercoaster of that year was intense and I watched my sister take it in stride. I watched her faith and confidence in the Lord grow and I watched her and her husband form a bond that grew stronger and stronger. They endured being chosen by a birth mother that ended with a premature birth and that baby not surviving. Months later, they were chosen again and that ended with the birth mother changing her mind. In the world of adoption, they call those “failed placements.” That doesn’t seem to encompass the emotion. It seems so impersonal. It doesn’t even come close to touching the grief they felt when that baby didn’t survive or the emotional paradox of being sad the birth mother changed her mind, but trusting the decision she made was one that was best for that child. Even though they never even met either of those children, it still hurt like a loss.
During this time, I felt all I could do was pray for my sister and her husband. I wasn’t sure of what to say. I was aware that because I never walked this path, I had nothing to speak into their journey…so prayer was all I had. God knew what they needed. I asked for His guidance of what and when to speak. Would me trying to be helpful actually hurt because of my ignorance to their emotions? Would being silent come off as indifference? God had to guide me and all I could come up with to say was, “We are going to see God work in ways that very few families have the opportunity to.”
I firmly believe that God gave me my children. He chose me to be pregnant with them and to give birth to them. But how many mothers get to experience that on a whole different level? My sister was chosen to be a mother as well…not just by God, but by a birth mother too! That almost has another level of affirmation that most women don’t get.
And when I say God worked in our family, you have no clue! The baby that was born prematurely and didn’t survive was supposed to be due around May of 2019. Also around May of 2019 another woman found out she was pregnant. She had personal things going on and wasn’t sure if she could care for this baby. She spent her pregnancy working with an adoption agency and looking through books put together by couples looking to adopt and in February of 2020, she went into labor and she chose a family. She chose my sister and her husband!
They received a phone call from their contact at Wyoming Children’s Society that they had once again been chosen. This mom was in labor and they needed to leave first thing in the morning to drive across the whole state of Wyoming to go meet their baby.
God knew what He was doing. He knew that this little baby was the one for my sister and her husband. He had other plans for those other two children, but His timing is perfect and He lined everything up perfectly…right down to opening up the main road they needed to travel on that had been closed, buried under feet of snow. At the end of February 2020, my sister and her husband became parents when they brought Taycee home. They made it official 6 months later and we couldn’t imagine our lives without this wild, sassy, beauitful little girl!
As we celebrate National Adoption Month, I want to encourage you to get involved. Whether it is to pray over families who are on their adoption journey, support a local adoption or family resource center or take the time to talk with an adopting family and learn more like I have. I am surprised at how many people have had adoption touch their lives once I started talking about my sister. Adoption is a beauitful gift!
After listening to “Right vs. Righteous” again, I got to thinking about all of the things that I did and was a part of that I felt was right but was I really doing what was righteous in the eyes of God. God lead me to Mathew 5:14-16.
In Christian circles, we constantly hear “be a light.” We read the verses about being the light of the world and our minds automatically go to lightbulbs. I even own a shirt that has a salt shaker and a lightbulb on it.
I think of the summer my husband and I got engaged and we went on a road trip with his family. We drove from Colorado to California. As we drove through the dark Nevada desert, we could see the glow of Vegas. It seemed like forever that we could see the glow from the city lights before we could actually see the city.
But is this really the light that we’re called to be like? A lightbulb? Lightbulbs are plugged into a socket and are stationary. You have to travel to the light to be blessed by it. You can put them on a lampstand (today we think light posts) to be more visible, but they’re still stationary. You can put it under a bowl and it still shines. Is this what God is talking about?
When reading the Bible, understanding historical and cultural context is so important. You need to look at who what writing, when they were writing and who they were writing to. And in these verses, Jesus wasn’t talking about lightbulbs. He was talking about fire. Have you ever watched a fire? It almost seems alive. It moves, it spreads, it consumes.
Is the light I’m shining alive and consuming or am I stationary like a light post?
If you put a fire under a bowl, it will be smothered and go out. It needs oxygen and fuel. Am I feeding my light? Am I taking into account that I can’t shine properly for all to see if I am not tending to my fire or am I okay with being a lightbulb that is connected to an artificial socket?
If I needed to carry a fire across town to take it to someone, everyone would see it. It can’t be hidden. Honestly (given my wonderful coordination) I wouldn’t trust myself to not accidently start little fires along the way because I would probably trip or drop my fire and it would spread. However, if someone needed a new lightbulb because theirs burned out, I would be really easy for me to throw one in my purse and take it to them and no one I passed along the way would even know. Is my light evident to all I encounter?
If I’m set on a stand, am I able to be reproduced? A light post just stands there and waits for people who need it to come to it. Moths will come and bump up against it, knocking some dust off themselves, but then they fly off to live their lives. If I wanted to take a torch and light it from that light post to take some of the light with me, I couldn’t. But with fire, you can light endless torches from one fire. And those torches can light other torches. Moths are drawn to the flame for warmth, not just to knock some dust off.
While light bulbs can get hot to the touch, they don’t give off heat the way fire does. We don’t gather around a flashlight while camping to keep warm…we light a fire. If you want your house to feel warm and cozy, you light a fire in the fire place, you don’t just turn on a light.
I want to be a light like what Matthew was really talking about. I want to be a fire starter of faith that is evident to all who I encounter. I want people to feel the warmth form my genuine love. I don’t want to live doing what I think is the “right Christian thing.” I want to live in a way that God views me as righteous.
I’ve written before about my upbringing. Growing up in Wyoming, in a hard working family and having strong women to look up to, it is really easy for me to live by “pull up your big girl panties and deal with it.”
Over the years, I have become the queen of just powering through. I would use the excuse of having grit to push me forward – felling like all my hard work was for God. And there was a time that was true. I was working hard, knowing that God could see what I was doing. It didn’t bother me that there was little to no recognition, because I wasn’t doing it for people anyway.
I lived in the cycle of “we just have to make it through.” My family suffered because I poured everything I was into my ministries. We went from one season of chaos to another. We just have to make it though this event, then things will calm down. But as soon that was over, we had to move on to the next thing. Year after year, this was our lives.
Then it hit. Burn out. I lived in this world where if I said needed a break, I wasn’t listening to God. How can you be burnt out if you are relying on God for your sustenance? How can you be tired if God is your source of strength? You have to have grit and determination. All the verses that talk about running your race with endurance were thrown in my face to spur me on to do more and more and more.
Through a series of crazy event, God revealed to me that yes, I have grit. When push comes to shove, I’m going to stand firm and do what I’m called to do. When crap hits the fan, I’m not going to crumble. But that has nothing to do with setting healthy and Godly boundaries.
God doesn’t want us to give up when life gets hard, but He never intended for us to live miserably just for the sake of powering through. I strive to live by Acts 20:24. I believe that my own life, my own desire are worthless and I’m only here to do what God has called me to. But how is He going to use me when I’m so exhausted from “being busy for the Lord” (or so I thought) that I’m filled with bitterness and frustration. Are you tired and exhausted? Jesus says, “Come to me and I will give you rest.” REST! Jesus doesn’t say come to me and I will keep giving you the spiritual equivalent of Red Bull so you can power through.
When I came to this realization, it became clear that I needed boundaries. Healthy and Godly boundaries. I needed to set boundaries so I had room to breath. I started to realize that God gave me my children. Not so I can be so busy with “church stuff” that I was neglecting them, but so I could be a present and engaged mom. And I was doing the same with my husband and friendships.
Do you have any idea what a sobering realization that was? To acknowledge and admit that I wasn’t the wife, the mom, the friend, the sister in Christ that I was called and intended to be because I was so caught up in what I (in my own mind) needed to do and powering through! I spent weeks in lament. Deep lament. This kind of humble, heartbreaking, earth shattering, crying out to God in sorrow and regret.
But then I needed my grit to move on. I realized that my lament had turned into depression and I can’t stay there either. I can’t keeping living in the regret of the broken relationships and shoving God out of the way so I could continue to “run my race.”
Because of my personality, I will always have to keep my grit in check. I will always need to be reminded that boundaries are healthy and I need to focus on who God called me to be at my core. Because grit doesn’t replace boundaries.
In a world where it is so easy to create an unrealistic, picture perfect image of yourself – especially online – it can be tempting to apply that to our Christian walk as well.
We like the pretty, shiny side of Christianity. We like that we are washed clean. We like the postable moments that come from the church festivals and Easter Sundays. We like the parts of scripture that say we are His chosen people and we can ask for our hearts desires. We like things like #blessed and telling people we will pray for them.
It is a little harder though to be honest with someone when we’re struggling. It isn’t fun when our family is a hot mess. It is inconvenient when the enemy throws our past back in our faces and we have to work through some heart issues. We pull away when things look less like #blessed and more like #nightmare.
But why? Why are we so quick say we’re always willing to someone, but we get uncomfortable when someone actually opens up and shares their prayer requests.? Why do we struggle to get our family out the door and to church on time, turning ourselves into a sweaty stressed out mess only to walk in with a fake smile on our faces?
One thing I found in my own life is that when I’m being more and more fake with others, I’m usually trying to be fake in my walk with God too. There have been times in my life where I like to post bible verses to my Insta Story and maybe even add a pic of my open Bible next to my coffee cup, but I’m too busy to actually read it. I like to add comments like “God’s got it” or – even better – “look at the positive” when someone shares something personal, but I don’t take the time to truly invest in their lives to see how I can really come along side of them.
If you look in scripture though, Jesus wasn’t anything like that. He was willing to meet people where they were. He didn’t sit in the temple, shrouded in gold and fine robes and said, “let the poor peasant sinners come to me!” Instead, he walked in the undesirable places and met the undesirable people face to face. He loved them. He took the time to know what they truly needed and came along side of them. How was He able to do this? He was in a real and meaningful relationship with God.
Jesus once said, “I can do nothing on my own. I can only do what I see my Father doing.” What is God doing? God is meeting us in our dark places. God is holding us accountable. God is loving even when it is hard. God is patient when we don’t just “snap out of it.” God is willing to walk through the crap with us instead of just making it all magically better because “God’s got it.”
A true and meaningful relationship with God isn’t a cliché. And since He called us to love others and serve Him here on earth, our lives can’t be fake either.
In this month’s episode, “Religion vs Relationship” I shared my story of how I grew up in church. I shared how I was told that our confirmation classes were intended to confirm both that we were saved and our intentions to be members of the church. Part of that process was being able to write all the books of the Bible…in order and spelled correctly.
I ended up writing the Old Testament books on my left thigh and the New Testament books on my right thigh. I wore a skirt to class the night of the big test and I sat in the back. I was willing to cheat the system to get through the process to be confirmed as saved. I cheated on my salvation test.
As I grew in my faith and had solid women surround me and speak truth into my life, I came to a true understanding of what salvation really is. It isn’t doing all the right steps or saying all the right things. It isn’t really about me and what I know or can do at all. It is about surrender…surrender to the God of the universe that created me to be in a relationship with Him. My sin keeps me from that relationship and there’s absolutely nothing I can do to fix that. I can’t be a good enough person, I can’t pray enough or read my Bible enough. All I can do is accept what Christ did for me. He lived a sinless life and paid the price for my sin when He died on the cross. I surrender my life to Him and allow Him to guide me in all I do.
This went really well for me for a while. I was growing closer to Him and learning more and more what He wanted from me, what He had planed for my life, how He wanted to use the gifts and talents He gave me to glorify Him and build the kingdom. But then things got hard. And I’m not talking about spiritual warfare hard or me wanting to hold onto sin hard. It got hard to feel like I was glorifying Him. I spent the good part of 3 years trying to pinpoint why it felt so hard to do what God was asking me to do.
I recently had some events happen that lead me and my family to reevaluate what we were doing and how we were growing. It started with little feelings and grew to the point where my husband and I felt like God was screaming at us with a bright flashing red flag saying, “Hello? Are you listening to me?” This rocked our world and lead me not only to step away from my job on staff at our church, but ultimately needing to leave that church all together. This wasn’t a decision we came to quickly or lightly. It was heartbreaking.
As we were reflecting on what had gone down, we realized we were once again cheating the system. Things had gotten so hard because we allowed performance to guide our decisions over listening to what God wanted from us. We knew the things that God was asking of us, but when faced with “we don’t do it that way” or “why would you think that is how to do it” enough times, we started to compromise. We would know what God was asking, but we would water it down to fit the mold of what we knew the church wanted.
Where’s the faith in that? It was a HUGE depressing slap in the face to realize that I was a person who claimed Acts 20:24 as my life verse and I was compromising. It took me a couple months to process with God where I had gotten so far off track and what He lead me to was I was once again cheating my salvation.
I was saved and called for a purpose and by compromising, I was living a religious lifestyle. There’s no amount of Christian clichés or rose tinted glasses that could cover up the fact that almost doing what God told me to was NOT doing what He told me to. I held onto a few scriptures so tightly that I pushed others aside. Bottom line, God revealed to me that yes church is your family, but one church isn’t THE church, you can’t love the way God calls you to if you create an “us vs them” environment and you sure as heck can’t claim to be listening to God and the Holy Spirit if you are willing to water down what they say in order to please people.
I had to search my heart with some hard core humility. I had to ask for forgiveness for putting human desires over God’s and I had to accept the fact that by doing so, I was going to be labeled as a traitor by people I had known for 20 years. And you know what? I’m better for it. These past few months have been hard, but rewarding. I am watching my husband and kids be excited about their faith again. I’m excited about my faith again.
It breaks my heart to think about how I may have treated people or the things I missed out on because I was more worried about people than God. I never want to feel this way again. I encourage you to search the things in your life that you are cheating your salvation to have. If you aren’t giving God something 100%, you’re cheating. Ministry, church, family, jobs…it is all temporary. Do you think when we all get home up there, it is going to matter where we worked, what ministry we did or what church we attended? Nope! Our faith will matter. Hope will matter. Love will matter. Jesus is eternal and eternal isn’t worth cheating.
“There’s a sign on the door that says “come as you are” but I doubt it. Cause if we lived like this were true every Sunday morning pew would be crowded.”
These lyrics from the Matthew West song “Truth Be Told” seemed to jump right out of the radio and pierce my heart. I can’t even remember where I was driving to or what day of the week it was. I only remember that feeling of seriousness that fell over me as thoughts and questions swirled around in my head.
Come as you are, I thought. I wonder how often we get dressed in our Sunday best only our Sunday best is the fake smile we put on as our little piece of flare or the everything’s okay super Christian façade we wear as an over coat to distract from the less than flattering parts of our figure. Come as you are.
I then began to think I am pretty sure the gospel message is one of Come as you are. In Romans 5, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” In Matthew 11, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” In Luke 5, Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
My thoughts traveled to my own experiences do I come as I am? Do I welcome others to come as they are? Am I following a set of rules and standards? Or Jesus? Does my walk look like Jesus and the disciples or the pharisees? Am I being “Religious” or am I in Relationship?
I recently came across this quote from an unknown author, “Religion is a guy in church thinking about fishing. Relationship is a guy out fishing thinking about God.”
I talk a lot about my relationship with Jesus and I have found that someone will usually respond with a comment about church. This bothered me for a while because I took it personally, like I was somehow coming of as “Religious”, and I so desperately wanted them to know that I was not. I even found myself quoting sayings like “Religion doesn’t save people; Jesus Does!” just so people would be clear that I was not being religious.
What I was missing in all this was that it had nothing to do with me. There is an overwhelming percentage of people who in some way shape or form have been hurt by religion and their only perception of Jesus is through a lens of not measuring up. We have to stop. Religion divides it creates an “us vs them” mentality. It breeds an atmosphere where if you don’t look like me, act like me or think like me, you don’t belong. This is completely opposite the gift that is offered through relationship with Jesus and it’s time we stop and set ourselves straight.
My Challenge to you today is to look around you. Are there people in your life who are completely unworthy of your time, attention, and love? Do you see them? Can they stand before you and receive the same overwhelming love that you receive when you stand before Jesus?
James 1:22-27: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”