Finding & Balancing Relationships that Last

How many friends do you have? 20, 50, 100, 200, 300 or more? Well, maybe if you are counting friends on Facebook you can say you have hundreds of friends. But I’m not talking about Facebook friends! Social media is not an indication of real friendship.

Won't you be my friend?

Won’t you be my friend?

I mean true friends—people with whom you can share your fears, your struggles, your hopes, and your dreams.  People who will pray for you and encourage you through the ups and downs of life.

Unlike many of my posts, this is not a reflective piece.  It is educational.  I hope it challenges you, as it has me, in the way you think about your relationships and who you invite into your circle of friendship.

One of my Favorite Speakers

Last summer, I attended the Celebrate Recovery (CR) Summit at Saddleback Church, California, in preparation for my mission to Europe. One of the speakers at the conference was Dr. John Townsend, a New York Times bestselling author, business consultant, leadership coach, and Christian psychologist. (John and Dr. Henry Cloud have been annual speakers at the CR Summit since it started over 20 years ago.)

Dr. Townsend wove his testimony into a talk about the six categories of relationship—the six ‘Cs’. Some of these principles are in his book How to be a Best Friend Forever and will also be in his forthcoming book The Entitlement Cure.

A few years ago, Dr. Townsend was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a temporary condition that affected the muscle control on the left side of his face. It was a wake-up call for him to reevaluate his workaholic lifestyle and who he was spending his time with. While his talk was geared to an audience of 3,000 Celebrate Recovery leaders, it was pertinent to anyone who wants to live well and succeed in their relationships.

Six Categories of Relationships

As you read this list of relationship categories, think about the people around you and where they may fall on the list. Our relationships should be focused heavily on the first 2-3 categories.

  1. Coaches—We need people with an expertise we don’t have. Examples of a coach would be a spiritual mentor, pastor, or a life coach. A coach is there for you, not for themselves. They can help you to see your blind spots, where your priorities aren’t properly aligned, and where you are not thinking right. (In CR lingo, this would be a sponsor.)
  2. Comrades—These are people who are in the growth process with you. They want to get better. They support you, and you support them. You challenge each other. It is not necessarily 50/50. There will be times when you rely on them more, or vice versa. It is organic and results in a give and take relationship. (In CR lingo, this would be an accountability partner.)
  3. Casuals—These are nice people that you pass the time with, maybe like your neighbors, or people from church. They are generally not into growth, but may be hungry for it. You can risk small amounts of vulnerability with them, and see if they are hungry for it. Often times they don’t know they need it because they’ve not witnessed it before. Casuals are a drafting pool for finding comrades.
  4. Care—These are people you have compassion for. They may be in a domestic violence shelter or be mentally ill. They have nothing to offer you, but you have a lot to offer them. It feels good to be in this kind of relationship; it is caring, but is not reciprocal.
  5. Chronics—These are victims—people who are whiny, full of blame, and clueless. They don’t want to change. They are attracted to people of Light because of their safety, truth and grace.
  6. Contaminants—These people are dark, toxic, judging, controlling, and destructive. They know what they are doing. We need to protect ourselves from these people.

Are you ‘top heavy’ or ‘bottom heavy’ on your relationship scale?

If your relationships are draining you, then you are spending too much time with people who are not pouring anything back into you. That is not healthy and leads to burnout.

friend-encouragement

Do you have a balance of supportive relationships in your life?

Guarding Your Heart

What John found out about himself is that as much as he liked to have his freedom, he realized that he needed to have some coaches around him. So he took a friend’s advice and hired an advisory board of people he trusted to help him with his priorities and to work more efficiently.

As hard as this was for him, he also realized it was biblical. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” He shifted his attention to the top three categories.  The fruit of those decisions led to John opening the Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling at Huntington University, Indiana, a few days ago.

Dr. Townsend went on to say that Christians often confuse the ‘Care’ for the ‘Comrades.’ Because it feels good to care for others, we can mistake those we care for as our friends. These are hard lessons to learn. I know because I’ve been there before myself, and have gone through some painful pruning in my relationships as well.

Being Selfish?

John encourages people to push past the feelings of guilt.  To keep from getting emotionally drained, he recommends having a 30-minute conversation with three people once a week—at a minimum.  These are not conversations about what you did (like the feeding frenzy on social media).

The conversation needs to be about you, your life, your soul, and your feelings.  It’s about how you are experiencing life.  If you are a high performing leader, like those in CR, this is especially important as they have high performing needs.

This may sound selfish, but it is really a matter of investing in yourself so that you can minister to others—in your family, your community, or your church. The intent is to live well and end well in life.

It’s not a competition with a sprint to the finish line collecting as many friends on social media as we can along the way. It’s a marathon; and the prize is an eternal reward for the healthy care we have given to ourselves and others throughout our lives.

Comrades pressing on together.

Comrades pressing on together.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:14, NIV)

Holy Week, Holy People

Holy Week—the pinnacle of the Christian faith. It starts with Palm Sunday—the remembrance of Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem on a donkey while surrounded by crowds cheering ‘Hosanna’. It ends on Easter Sunday, with the Good News of the empty tomb. He is risen!  In between is the story of sacrificial love and gruesome suffering that led to the exchanged lives that Believers in Christ receive.Holy Week Faith Matters

It is not unusual for my mind to be on matters of Christian faith. I am not a trained pastor. I haven’t attended seminary. I don’t pretend to be a religious scholar. So why would I spend time on Holy Week sitting down to write a post about it?

It is because FAITH matters! And YOU matter to God!

If you are anything like me, you may not have grown up believing that, or maybe you still have doubts about it to this day. The root of that doubt doesn’t lie with God. It lies to a large degree with the formation of your identity as a young child and your family of origin.

You matter to God

Childlike Faith

In Luke 18:16-17, Jesus says “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Was Jesus excluding adults in His Kingdom? No, He was reminding us of the innocence of a child. He was telling us to trust—a characteristic that we often lose in childhood due to shame, disappointments, emotional wounds, abuse, etc. This mistrust or absence of innocence can be brought on by a traumatic incident and sudden loss, or may be due to negative messages that over time we integrate into our souls as unworthiness. With those kinds of identity messages being heaped on us at an early age it’s no wonder we reject God or don’t believe we are who He says we are.  (I know because I have struggled with that myself.)*

My-identity-in-Christ

Who Are We?

We are Holy People!

Hard to believe?  Then consider the standard you are using to determine the validity of that statement. Are you believing the father of all lies, the devil (John 8:44)? Or maybe you are comparing yourself to the Heroes of the Faith praised in Hebrews 11.

Are you saying, “I’m no Moses”, or “I don’t have faith like Abraham?” These Fathers of our Faith ended their lives well, but they had many sinful acts in their lifetimes. Moses murdered an Egyptian and fled to Midian (Exodus 2). Out of fear for his own safety, Abraham passed off his wife Sarah, as his sister, allowing a king to take her as his wife (Genesis 12). These heroes of our faith were broken people who failed, but God still used them, just like He uses us.

Holiness

Proof of our Holiness

How can we consider ourselves holy? Romans 10:9 says, If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Jesus sacrifice was the price to make us holy in God’s eyes. God doesn’t see our sins anymore. We are the ones who condemn ourselves and continue to act like or believe we are unworthy.

Still having a hard time seeing yourself as holy—or that God would consider you holy? I grew up thinking (mistakenly so, by the way) that saints were only those people who were canonized by the Catholic Church. However, there are many verses in the Bible that reference God’s people as saints. For instance, Paul uses the term saints over and over again in his greetings to the New Testament churches. When our time comes to leave this life, Psalm 116:15 tells us: Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (New King James Version).

As you enter into these last few days of Holy Week, remember who you are, and whose you are. Your holiness was paid for with a price. The proof is in the empty tomb. He is risen indeed!

Empty Tomb

*For a great book on our identity in Christ, read Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You by Tamara J Buchan, or better yet, attend one of her amazing retreats.

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This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

 

Qualified or Called, Part 1 ~ Learning to Serve

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV)

This verse first caught my attention early on in my recovery journey. It was the catalyst that I embraced when I started leading women’s support groups. God revealed to me in the short time that I was in recovery that he wanted to use my pain and my healing to come alongside others to encourage and support them on their journeys to wholeness.

Unqualified to qualifiedStepping up to Serve

The first group I facilitated was a Boundaries group. (It wasn’t the popular book by Drs. Cloud and Townsend. That came later in my teaching ministry.) My church was starting a recovery program with multiple groups being led with different curriculum. I was hungry for recovery and eager to share how God had redeemed my pain. However, I felt sorely unqualified to lead in this kind of setting. The ministry leader shared something with the leaders that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “You just have to be well enough.”

That was a relief to me. I didn’t have to have it all figured out. I didn’t need to perform. I needed to lead from my brokenness and my vulnerability.* That didn’t make it easy, but it helped me to let go of my pride and let God work in me in this new role with my church. You see I was, and am, a fairly capable person when it comes to project management, running large meetings, and such in the business world. However, putting myself on the front line of emotional and spiritual endeavors was totally foreign to me. And that was what God wanted. 

2 Cor. 12:9Believing you are Well Enough

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV) That is not what Satan wants—for you to serve in ministry. He is an expert at trying to get us to believe we are not good enough, smart enough, or worthy enough to serve the Lord. Don’t believe him! God wants to use you!

In time I stepped into bigger ministry roles at my church, not because I felt qualified, but because I felt called by God, or in some cases was asked. I often jumped in quickly, not realizing what I was getting myself into. Each time God was stretching me outside of my comfort zone—to coordinate a women’s retreat, speak at a women’s event, and to train the leaders that launched my church’s Celebrate Recovery ministry. Through it all, I was often reminded of a phrase I’d heard in ministry circles: “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.”

Answering my Next Call

Over the last few months, I’ve been preparing for God’s next call on my life. In preparation for that, I worked on a re-write of my recovery testimony. If you don’t know what that is, check out this post, What is a CR Testimony?, on the Celebrate Recovery website where I serve. Suffice it to say, it is not a small matter; and it is not a salvation testimony.

Answering the call

As I wrote it, God revealed to me the weavings and points of intersection where He was putting the people, circumstances and events in place to lead to this very time in my life. It’s been pretty profound, and has grown my faith in even bigger ways. There is so much I could write about this, but one chain of events stands out with such clarity to illustrate the way God works, and how perfect His timing is. I’ll save that for Part 2 of this series.

I’d love to hear from others who have stepped up into ministry leadership. Did you feel called? Do you presently feel qualified? How was God preparing you to serve Him?

*A great book I recommend about this leadership posture is Leading with a Limp, by Dan Allender.

This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

Permission Granted . . . To Not Have It Altogether

I will be attending my first writers’ conference in a few days.  Wow, let me say that again.  I will be attending my first writers’ conference in two days.  One year ago, I was just getting comfortable with writing in my journal.  Most of my friends knew I was starting to take my writing more seriously.  And now I am finally taking the next step of faith and investing in my craft.  It is hard to believe.
Over the last few weeks the anxiety has been building with all the decisions I thought I needed to make.  I set a pretty high standard on how to be prepared for this conference including having several chapters written on a book and being prepared to pitch it to a publisher.  Also with the timing of my first manuscript being published in a book this summer, I wanted to make the most of the writers’ conference by having my platform defined, getting my website up, a new email address, new business cards designed and so on.  I wanted to be able to make a favorable impression with whomever God put in my path at the conference.
After talking with a writing mentor of mine, she really helped to talk me “down off the ledge”.  I was reminded about how I do already have a blog, a business card, and publicity photos and am a published author.  Earlier this week I also received an endorsement for my story from a national author and ministry leader whom I have long admired.  That is pretty amazing stuff for a beginning writer.  I am doing my part and God is definitely doing His.
I think I started to lose sight of what this conference is really all about for me.  As a new writer, I’m not expected to have it altogether.  I’m not expected to know it all or to have it all under control.  I don’t need to be perfect.  I just need to relax and remember that God got me this far in the process in a miraculous way and in His perfect timing.  He’s not going to abandon me now.
I also think what I needed was permission to not have to do this perfectly and to not have to perform.  As I let that sink in, I start to feel a tremendous sense of relief and freedom to attend the conference with much more grace for myself and this process. 
As a recovery group leader at my church, I know what it is like to have newcomers attend their first recovery meetings.  They are often anxious, have lots of questions and are generally in a place of deep need.  I openly welcome them into the group, answer their questions and offer encouragement to embark on their recovery journey.  Why would I expect anything less from a Christian writers’ conference? 
So I have to learn to be a newcomer all over again.  I have to patiently learn the writing and publishing process.  I also have to learn to make mistakes and move forward with God’s help.  And that’s the journey of life.  At my age, you’d think I’d have it mastered, but I am a work in process . . . one day at a time.
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    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

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