Mentor Me (Part 1): Embarking on a Journey

This week I get to begin three long-awaited friendships. There are some really amazing girls at camp for the year, participating in Red Rock Bible Camp’s discipleship program called Pursuit. Each time I heard that another girl was applying for Pursuit, my excitement grew in anticipation for all that we will experience in this coming year.

Ben is running the program, and for the most part, my role will be more behind-the-scenes:

  • listening to all of Ben’s wildly creative and crazy ideas, and then helping him work out the details until the ideas actually become realistic and doable
  • supporting Ben and trying to manage our family/home in the best way possible while he goes on various trips with the students throughout the year, the longest one being three weeks
  • being available for anything that comes up, like running errands, having the students over, other things that I can’t think of because nothing has really happened yet but we’re just getting going!

While I’m really looking forward to being involved in whatever way Ben needs me to be, I am also really excited about the other stuff I’ll get to do: teaching and mentoring. Especially mentoring.

We have four students this first year, and since the majority of them are girls, I will get to do a lot of mentoring.

I am so excited. These girls are really amazing (go here to “meet” them), and I’m so looking forward to getting to know them.

With my role of “mentor” officially starting this next week, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be mentored. Yesterday morning, Ben and I came across a video about mentoring that got many thoughts swirling around in my head. I decided it might be a good thing to get them to stop swirling by writing them all out, and sharing some of them with all of you.

And so begins this little series called “Mentor Me”.

I once read that one of the best ways to encourage continual growth in the Christian life is to participate in two different mentoring relationships: being mentored, and being the mentor.

I don’t know how many Christians out there actually have both of these types of relationships – they are a gift, and sometimes seem hard to come across.

In the next few days, I want to share with you some of the things that I’m learning as I seek out both types of relationships in my life.

Here’s my list of topics:

Part 1: Embarking on a Journey

Part 2: Sharing Some Personal Stories

Part 3: So How Do I Find Myself a Mentor?

Part 4: Choosing a Victim

Part 5: What Do We Talk About Now?

Conclusion: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

So there you have it. This is for all of the amazing women who have mentored me, and all of the sweet girls who have allowed me to be part of their lives. You all mean so much to me!

See you tomorrow!

Cheating Off of Ben’s Homework

Over the last few months, Ben’s been taking a course on “Sustainability in Leadership”. As usual, this has resulted in many interesting conversations, great books he has to read for his course lying around for me to read, and some interesting homework assignments.

For one assignment, Ben had to try out some “spiritual disciplines” and then write a paper about them.

This is a topic that has interested me for awhile, but now it’s been on my mind even more than usual.

The word “discipline” is not really a very appealing word – it makes me think of going without ice cream, or giving our girls “time-outs”. Add “spiritual” to the “discipline”, and it sounds like being a Christian isn’t much fun.

But a spiritual discipline is actually a beautiful, challenging thing – it means practicing a habit that will help to draw you closer to Jesus. It can be stuff like fasting, meditation, silence, solitude, etc.

Since I would absolutely love to grow closer to Jesus, but sometimes lack the discipline, I’ve been feeding off of Ben’s homework assignment, and this has resulted in some great experiences, and new lessons learned.

So, we’re going to do a little “Spiritual Disciplines” series around here. Once a week, I’ll write a post about what we’ve been trying and learning and reading. And it won’t be fun in the same way as ice cream or no more punishments for naughty behaviour. But I’ve found it to be great in a different way.

We’ll start tomorrow! And I’ll share my story about what I learned from looking at the bark of a tree for half an hour.

Which will be a lot more interesting than what that just sounding like….

My Confused Thoughts on Being “Not of This World”

Back when I was in junior high, my youth group got these fantastic matching T-shirts, made in true early-90’s style. They were white, with multi-colored neon graphics, announcing the name of our youth group on the front, and had a large picture and a portion of verse on the back: “Not of this world” (can’t remember the reference).

I wore that shirt for years, and those words stuck in my mind. Not of this world.

I’ve often wondered what it actually looks like in real life, to be “not of this world.”

This world is very confusing. It would be easier if things were always black and white, but there are a lot of gray areas, and it feels as though all gray areas are being thoroughly explored, and what used to be black and white is not anymore.

How do I live a loving, glorifying-to-God kind of life? When do I stand up for truth, and when do I step back to allow people the free-will to make their own choices?

How do I love a lost world without loving it too much and getting sucked in to the mess? How do I wade through the mess, when lots of the time, I feel like I’m a mess myself?

How do I share a message of hope and peace with people who are lost, when it’s judgmental to see them as lost? And how do I share answers to searching people’s questions without sounding like I think I have all the answers, because I definitely don’t?

There are so many big issues going on around us, and so much of the time, I feel like I’ve got an opinion, but I don’t have a clue what to do with it. Sometimes I have no idea if my opinion is even a good opinion.

I recently came across this blog post about same-sex marriage, and found it very interesting, especially this quote at the end:

God does not need me to defend marriage. He does not need me to block other people’s decisions. He does not need me to wade into a culture war or gang up on a minority or sow seeds of discord and fear. He does not need me to defend Him, my understanding of His best or even my way of doing life. I have much to learn.

Oh, I have so much to learn too.

(If you do happen to check out the article, I’ll just say that I don’t agree with absolutely everything, but she has a lot of good stuff to say, and she did get me thinking.)

Some people would think that God and marriage, among other things, need defending – that we’re not truly following Him if we don’t defend Him. But when does defending just become arguing or attacking? What is the difference? Can I “defend” by the way I live out my faith? Does that count?

It’s as though witnessing has become something where we try to force others to live by our moral standards, and somehow hope that along the way, they will “become Christians” by osmosis.

Why in the world would someone who doesn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus want to live by the same moral standards as someone who knows Him deeply and intimately? There should be a radical, obvious difference between the two.

I’m frustrated with my need for more control than just demonstrating that difference. I’m frustrated with my judgmental spirit. I’m frustrated with my discomfort around anyone who doesn’t make the same moral choices that I do.

I’m frustrated with my lack of ability to just love, regardless of what kind of choices a person makes, or what kind of lifestyle they live.

I’m frustrated with my desire to “block other people’s decisions”, and calling it “standing up for the truth”. Is there a good way to stand up for the truth without bulldozing over people, forgetting to see them as people?

And yet it feels like loving others enough to give them freedom to choose is seen as being complacent, wishy-washy, “anything goes”.

Another quote from the same blog post asked this question:

What is the Christian response here? (When Brian and I were talking about it last night, I posed that question and he laughed in my face. “You mean, what’s A Christian response. That’s the whole point of the unity/disunity thing: there is no one Christian response to anything. Ever.“)

What is my Christian response going to be?

So I look at my 500+ words I’ve typed as I’ve sat here wondering, and I ask myself what it all means. What do I want to do in this world that I am not of? I want to become a shining light of love. I want to love Jesus so much that it doesn’t matter if I don’t know all the answers, so much that other people can see Him in me. I want to love Him so much that in the end, what matters most is that I’ll be with Him, and all the confusion and mess of this world will melt away. Is that a cop-out?

I hope, really, really hope, that if I keep my gaze on Jesus, that as I go through each day, I will learn to naturally make good, loving, godly choices. That people will pass through my gaze on Jesus, and loving them will become one and the same as loving Jesus.

I really don’t know how to do this whole thing right. I keep praying and reading and learning, and hopefully I’ll always be a work in progress.

There. Those are my rambling thoughts.

Anyone else ever feel like it’s a confusing mess to get through? Share your wisdom with me…

Why Our Kids Won’t Ever Be Cool

Found this great post by Jon Acuff about raising kids who are “dorks”. I wouldn’t go so far as to call my sweet girls dorks, but I do think that they could have trouble being considered “cool”. If we keep homeschooling them, they’ll never know! At least, not until they’re old enough to work through that emotionally. Hopefully…

Anyway. This is something Ben and I have talked about before. I think many parents secretly want their children to be brilliant, gifted, and socially accepted. Well, actually, “cool” would be better than “socially accepted”. I don’t want my kids to be mocked and made fun of. I don’t want them to feel rejected or lonely. I would much rather have them be strong leaders among their peers, confident, outgoing, sought after by people.

But the trouble is that I don’t want to raise our girls in a way that will lend itself very well to turning them into young women that the world will find very desirable. (And really, writing “that the world will find desirable” does sound quite disturbing, if you think about it.)

They won’t be allowed to listen to raunchy music, or dress immodestly, or watch what everybody else is watching on TV. They will have rules and curfews and all such uncool parental types of things.  Sheltered? Yes, please. In some ways. If “sheltered” means keeping them kids for the number of years that they actually ARE kids, then they will indeed be sheltered.

It would be very legalistic of me to believe that a bunch of strict rules will turn our girls into godly people. But I am a big fan of pure thoughts and pure hearts, and as a parent, I want to do what I can to keep the soil of their lives soft – I don’t want them to become desensitized to all of the junk that’s around them. Sometimes, I think being sheltered can be a good thing.

But I don’t want them to be ignorant or naive of real life. I want them to care about what is going on in the world around them – to know that good and evil exists without needing to make it into entertainment, or to constantly live on the edge of it. And then to make life choices that are godly, instead of cool.

I guess sometimes, in the right place and in the right crowd, “cool” can be “godly”. But I don’t want to raise children who are too concerned with what is cool.

Because that wouldn’t be cool. Ha!

But seriously. Are there any other parents out there who feel even a tiny bit of the inner struggle between raising cool kids or raising godly kids?

The Bible pretty much promises that it will be hard to follow Jesus. It will hurt, and be lots of work, and be a struggle. Lots of people won’t understand, and will mock and scorn that kind of a life. That doesn’t sound appealing. And yet I know that everything good and wonderful and close to Jesus is most definitely worth all the pain, work, and struggle. That’s what I want for my darling girls. I hope and pray that they grow up wanting it too.

Even if they are dorks. I’m kind of a dork myself! It’s working out okay.

Been Thinking About Greenhouses

Paul Scanlon is a pastor in the UK who writes:

“Our native environment is not the church: it’s the world – not the comfortable club, but the dangerous ocean. We were born to thrive in the adversity and hostility of a broken world. Like fish, who do better in water, we do better among a lost world because, like fish, we were designed to always stay in that native environment. Remove a fish from the water and it dies. Remove a flower from the soil and it dies. Remove the church from the world and we die.”  (from The Love Revolution, p. 144)

I feel like I’m a fish who has grown up in the comfortable club.

I was raised in a Christian home, lived in a small Mennonite town where almost everybody was a Christian, and went to a school where almost everybody was a Christian. The question was not “Should I go to church?” but rather, “Which one of the Mennonite churches in this town should I go to?”

Then I left to go to Bible school for 3 years. Once I was done there, I taught piano in a Christian school, married Ben, and moved to another Mennonite town where he became a youth pastor.

And now, we have entered the most sheltered environment of all, a Bible camp in the middle of nowhere.

Sometimes that bothers me.

Sure, the nearest town is about as unchurched as you can get, but it’s 20 minutes away. We don’t really “rub shoulders” with the world on a regular basis.

I have nothing against Christian “bubbles” – there is an important time and purpose for them. And I know that many, many people have been blessed in life-changing ways because of the ministry of Red Rock Bible Camp. It is so amazing to have a quiet place to get away to where you can slow down, be surrounded by nature, and experience God in ways that you often can’t in the regular busyness of life.

But living at camp has made me see how important it is to remain in the bubble only for a time.

We need to come away from everything so that we can be refreshed and strengthened to go out into it all again.

That’s the point.

Ben and I have often talked about how Red Rock is like a greenhouse. Plants can thrive in a greenhouse because they get the perfect amount of sunshine, the perfect amount of water, the perfect temperature. Everything is controlled in that environment to provide the optimal experience for growth. The plants grow big and strong so that they can be planted out in the real world with a “head start”.

photo © 2008 Wendy Piersall (via: Wylio)

There is an important purpose for a greenhouse.

And so I think that sometimes Christians need “greenhouses” too.

But only for a time. And then it’s so important to get back out into the real world, before we start to think that the comfortable, safe, “easy-to-grow-in” environment is actually “normal”.

I think I’ve forgotten what “normal” is. Actually, I change that – I don’t think I’ve ever fully known what “normal” is. I am so very thankful for the life that God has blessed me with – the home I grew up in, my parents, the churches I attended, my Christian friends – but these days I’m asking myself what I’m going to do with it. I’m like the plant in the greenhouse wondering how it will survive in the real world.

It reminds me of playing Prisoner’s Base. Two teams, each team has their own line, and you keep trying to tag people from the other team. Whoever was on their own side of the line most recently is “freshest” and can tag other people who have been out in the middle longer, who aren’t as “fresh”.

So you run around yelling “Fresher!” at the top of your lungs. If you just hang out around home base, it’s a really boring game. You miss out on all the excitement and action.

Camps are great and churches are great, but I’m just feeling like it’s been a really long time since I’ve gone running out into the world yelling “Fresher!” at the top of my lungs. I’ve been swimming in the safe, comfortable waters, instead of in the dangerous ocean. I’m not blaming this on camp or churches – I’ve chosen to stay in my comfort zone. It was all I knew how to do. And learning new stuff can be scary. Excuses? Yes.

But I’m realizing that while fantastic quiet times with God, or amazing times of prayer and worship with other Christians feeds me and helps me to grow stronger, it can’t be the end of how I live out my life of faith. The point of being a Christian is not just to try to increase my own level of “holiness” or to continually bask in the glow of knowing that Jesus loves me, just for the sake of feeling great about it.

It’s not supposed to be like Tupperware, keeping the freshness all sealed up inside.

So how can I live in the bubble of camp and not feel like Tupperware?

How can I make the most of this “greenhouse experience” while still realizing that it is most definitely not “normal”?

And when the time comes, will I learn to thrive in the dangerous ocean when I’ve never really done it before?

These are the questions I’m asking myself these days…

So how about you? Do you feel like you need to get away from the craziness of life, and have a greenhouse experience? Or do you feel like your life has been a bit too sheltered, and you’re longing to get out into the ocean? Or maybe you’re completely comfortable swimming in the dangerous ocean, and you could give me some tips!