Today on the podcast, I'm talking with my friend and teaching pastor at Crossroads Church in Cincinnati, Alli Patterson, about her new book, How to Stay Standing.
In this powerful episode, Alli shares her own story of hitting rock bottom when the scaffolding of her life collapsed, and how she rebuilt the foundation from the ground up. We discuss the following:
1. How tiny decisions can lead us toward devastating realities
2. What kept Alli from making eye contact for over 6 months
3. How shame sneaks in, even when you know you’ve been forgiven by God
4. The power of telling your story in safe places
5. 3 practical ways to build a strong foundation
6. How to take risks on God
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Music by Andy Luiten
Sound editing by Kelly Kramarik
While Dr. Cook is a counselor, the content of this podcast and any of the products provided by Dr. Cook are not specific counseling advice nor are they a substitute for individual counseling. The content and products provided on this podcast are for informational purposes only.
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- Order Alli's new book, How to Stay Standing
- The Soul of Shame, by Curt Thompson
- Matthew 13, Parable of the Sower
- James 1:22-25
The Best of You Podcast:
With Dr. Alison Cook and Guest Alli Patterson
How to Stay Standing: Three Essential Practices to Building a Faith That Lasts
Alison: Hey everyone. Welcome back to today's episode of The Best of You podcasts. I am so excited, today, to have my friend, Alli Patterson, on the show. I met Alli almost a year ago. She is a wife, a mom, a writer, and a teaching pastor. She serves at a large church in Cincinnati called Crossroads Church. And she's passionate about equipping others to know Jesus, especially, through the pages of Scripture.
She's written a new book called How to Stay Standing: Three Essential Practices to Building a Faith That Lasts. I got my hands on this book, and just from the get-go, from the go, Alli is just honest, she's open, she's real. She pulls you right into her story, and right into these practices that she's learned to help you stay strong in your faith. So I am thrilled to have Alli on the podcast today. Hello, Alli, and welcome.
Alli: Alison, thank you for having me, it's really fun to be with you. I feel like I've gotten the pleasure of knowing you personally, and now we get to actually do something together, professionally, which is so fun.
Alison: It's like a continuation of the conversations we've been having. When I was reading your book I was like, "We operate on different sides of the same coin." I go in more into the psychology piece of standing strong, with a biblical background. And when I read your book, I was like, "Oh, you go into the biblical basis for standing strong."
Correct me if I'm wrong, but with a real genuine nod to psychology, to what it means to be human. You're not bypassing your humanity, at all, in this book, and I really appreciated that and respected that. So thank you for this gift.
Alli: Thank you for saying that. I think as I've watched, and read your book, and watched how you interact with your faith, through mental health, and true emotional honesty. It's really been inspiring for me to watch you do that because I have felt encouraged that, "Oh, I don't have all the words that you use for it, but God has taken me on a similar journey." And to some places that you, actually, do such a great job helping other people get to.
And, so, I wish I had known you 25 years ago, you could have helped me a lot. But I know that God will continue to use you like that, and so often. And, so, I'm like, "I'm paying attention." Because, so often, I think what you're doing is helping people have language for things that we know are happening in us, and around us. But we can so much better engage in them with ourselves, and with God, when we actually understand what's going on, and I think you're just wonderful at that.
Alison: I love that, thank you. Yes, the naming, and I saw that in your book. I remember when I first started reading it, I texted you and I was like, "I get it." Because you've been saying to me, "Alison, I think there's a synergy between our work."
I knew that on a human level, but the minute I started reading your book, I was like, "I get it. I see it. I see exactly what you mean." And it's like you're coming at it from a different angle, but you're absolutely trying to put words on this experience of being a human, who is trying to consistently turn toward God.
So I'd love to get started, Alli, today, just from the start, right from the get-go, in the book. You say this thing that I thought was just so well-stated in How to Stay Standing. You start out by saying that you had, quote, "Cracks in the foundation of your life." And then you say something that I thought was so interesting, this was speaking of your early 20s, I believe that, "You'd built a framework for a great life, but you didn't have the foundation to support that framework."
So I'd love to go back in time, for a moment, to that time, and, obviously, hindsight is 2020. There's a lot you know now that you didn't know then. But what do you mean by that? Well, it sounds like you had the scaffolding. You knew some of the right things, but the foundation wasn't there. And they were even cracks in the foundation that was there.
Alli: I think, as I look back, and I think about the cracks that later became problematic for me, they were, primarily, internal. They were primarily things that maybe only I really knew were happening in me. And therefore, for some period of time when cracks in your character, let's say, for instance, I knew that often I would avoid conflict. I would avoid conflict to the point where I would compromise honesty or integrity, in order to avoid conflict.
So that would be one example of an enormous crack, that is going to be a problem. But at the time, I just didn't see where that was going to lead. So that would be one specific example. Another one, for me, which is really the base of what I was standing on, at that time in my life is, what I now have words for, I was very driven by performance.
I was very driven by what I could accomplish and what goals I could meet. And I really thought of myself through the lens of what I did or what I could do, and that was a huge crack. Because we all come to the end of ourselves, at some point, or we have experiences that tell us, at some point in our life, that we actually are not enough, we cannot be enough for ourselves. And I was pretty convinced, in my early 20s, that not only did I have the right tools to build a good life, which in many ways I did, and I was very blessed in some of those things.
But I was convinced that I was strong enough to put together a life that worked. And I don't think I would have used those words at the time. But when it came right down to it, what I was most trusting in was me, and my ability to be smart enough to work hard enough, to make the right connections. To just do whatever I needed to do to put together a life that worked. And, unfortunately, that does work for some period of time.
Alison: Yes, at the time, would you have considered yourself a Christian? Was this something that was operating under the surface or?
Alli: So I was raised in a church-going family, and I had a very genuine, I would call it, when I first came to a personal faith in Christ, I was 16. So I was right in the heart of learning what it is to be myself, and on the verge of adulthood, and all of that.
And I had these couple of years where, as I look back on it, what I think happened was God gave me this gift, I call it a little oasis from 16 to 18. I had this wonderful community, a true faith, a very genuine conversion to a follower of Christ, and then I went to college.
So I had this little bubble, and I've often thought back on that time and thought, God gave me quite a genuine experience of what it felt like, and looked like, to truly follow Him and experience Him. And in so many ways when my life, in my 20s, as I was doing it, man, I was adulting with the best of them.
I was at a great job. I was traveling. I was newly married. I was making money, all this stuff that you would think would work, when it all started to fall apart. I had this little experience with God, with a very living and genuine faith I fell back on because I was desperate. So I reached out for Him when things started to fall apart, for me.
Alison: Yes, so what I'm hearing you say, as far as the foundation goes, you did have a seed. You had a seed of faith, you had something there.
Alli: I did.
Alison: Now, I'm curious, to work with that metaphor. So would you say you set that aside, to start building on a different foundation? Or would you just say you did that little kernel or that rock? You did have a rock. You did have something there, but it wasn't strong enough to be that foundation. And, again, if I'm trying to tease out what was conscious? Did you, consciously, was it slow like, "My faith is still there, but I'm not really building that deeper foundation?"
Alli: Yes, so if I go back to your seed metaphor, what I would say is I never had roots.
Alli: I never knew what would develop roots. I had this experience where I grew very quickly, and I never rooted, so Jesus tells that parable. And I received the Word and I grew, something sprouted very quickly, and it was very real.
Alli: And then I went into a space, in my life, where I didn't have anyone helping me. I didn't know, "Hey, when you go away from that community, the one that was helping you, you need another community of Christ followers around you." I didn't know.
Alli: And that's one of the... the title of my book is called How to Stay Standing, and in some ways, I have this burn in my heart. Because I think there are things that if we have people alongside of us, who can just say, "Hey, did you know that if you don't have friendships developed in your life, that are moving the same direction you are, that's not a neutral thing. It's actually going to pull you away from God." I just didn't have anyone telling me some of those things.
Alison: God, it's like you were consciously saying, "I'm going do this." Because sometimes we hear these dramatic, that's what it's so interesting to me about your story. It wasn't like this, "I'm going to do it my way, God." It isn't like a prodigal son story.
It's slow. You didn't have the tools to know how to keep that foundation strong underneath you. So you ended up just, almost, slowly, little by little, moving in this direction of self-sufficiency, of self-reliance. Of doing things in your own strength, and also you mentioned not having those skills of navigating relationships in a healthy way not knowing how to.
Who does learn that? I think about that to myself, I'm like, "We don't learn to adult, and we don't learn how to deal with conflict." And, so, you find yourself in your 20s going, "Oh, my gosh." And, so, then, presumably, the structure started to collapse because that foundation wasn't strong. So tell me a little bit about that.
Alli: Yes, so you're totally right, in how you characterize that. I would never have called myself rebellious against God, angry, or I never made the decision to walk away from my faith. I would have considered myself a good person, and I just did it the way I knew how to do it. That's what I learned, and that's what worked for me and, so, that's what I did. Which is why as things started to fall apart it shocked me, it really shocked me.
So in my early 20s, I was working at a big corporate job, probably, bigger than I should have been in my early 20s. And I was really enjoying traveling a bunch, and making money, and having a big career, and all of that kind of stuff, and it was fun, and I was good at it. But also, I was very naive in how I was building relationships. And, at that time, I got into a relationship with another man, and I ended up having an affair, very early days of my own marriage.
When I say the day before, I would have told you, I would never do something like that. Like never did I think of myself as somebody who would even be open, to doing something which was so clearly out of bounds. Even in my own morality, so clearly wrong.
Alli: And I think that's where all of my illusions ended about who I really was. And as I had this moment, and I described this moment in the book, but it's such a poignant moment in my life. That I found myself looking in the mirror, and I was trying to look at myself. And I think maybe for the very first time, in my life, I actually saw who I was and I had to be honest. "I'm not a person of integrity, here's who I have become. How did I get here from a person that was strong, and smart, and thought of herself as good? Where in the world did this happen?"
Alli: And in lots of work with me and God, and a couple of other wonderful people He put in my life. I really realized that your foundation is solidified in tiny, little decisions you make every day, or you fall into the cracks of those decisions which are getting wider and wider every day.
And that is, again, beneath the book, is strengthening your foundation and standing on something firm it's not a one big decision that you make at any point in time, it is a continual set of daily choices. And the good news is they're always available to us.
God is always happy to meet us exactly where we're starting from, whether we're collapsed on the ground, or whether we're just realizing, "Oh, I've been doing something on my own. I wonder what it would be like to include God in this part of my life." And that's really even now as a parent I see that helping lay foundations in other people, in your children, is the same way.
You could let things go. Sure, you could let something go, you could even call it like, "Hey, he's a good kid, we'll just let it go this time." Or you could take the time that it takes to dig down and actually lay a piece of the foundation. And, so, I find it very much a daily work of living a life that can stand firm. Because all of a sudden it doesn't unless you've been tending to it.
Alison: Yes, I love what you're saying. I talk a lot, on the podcast, about how any decision we make is usually the result of about a thousand, tiny decisions prior to it, and that's what I hear you saying. It's not one day you woke up and said, "Oh, I'm going to do this today."
Nobody does that, well, very few people do that. Instead, I love that awareness, it's okay, "I got here through a thousand tiny steps." And, like you're saying, the good news is I can start taking, now, tiny steps in the direction I want to take; toward God, toward building this healthy foundation.
So in that moment, Alli, I want to ask you, did you experience any shame? Because one of the things we talk a lot, on the podcast, is how shame can sometimes keep us in hiding. It can keep us from that healthy foundation.
So how did you, in navigating that self-awareness, that, "Oh, my gosh, who have I become?" What was that process? And then to where you are now, which is this teaching pastor, a mom, a wife. I believe you ended up repairing with your husband, correct?
Alli: So we get there. But what was that process for you? You still had a choice to make in that moment. When you were like, "Who have I become?" You could have just given up. Shame could have taken over and you could have continued to hide. How did you dig your way out? It wasn't just about a foundation; you had to start digging your way out of something. How did you do that?
Alli: Absolutely. So there are two processes, and I didn't write specifically about this in the book, but I'm so glad that you asked. I really see a process of forgiveness as something very different than a process of removing shame. I think those are highly related but different processes.
So I knew, fairly, quickly that God, when I asked, and I came to God and I said," I need your mercy, please forgive me. I want to do something different." I was pretty convinced pretty quickly that I had God's forgiveness. And then I went through a process of seeking forgiveness from the people that I had hurt, in the process of that. So the first way out toward forgiveness, for me, was a brutal, honest confession.
Alison: First with God? Would you say first with God?
Alli: First with God.
Alison: I love that you immediately turned toward God. Because, again, I think, shame in many instances steps in and goes, "You can't go to God, you've done this terrible thing." And somehow inside of you that seed, what I love about this is that seed that was there, even if it was a seed. You knew, "Oh, I've got to turn toward God." I love that.
Alli: Yes, I need Him.
Alli: He was the only thing that I actually felt that I had, and I don't even know why I thought I had Him. I wasn't actively pursuing God. But something He had planted told me, "This is my way out of this."
And, so, I first went to him in brutal confession, and the second thing I did is I went to my husband. And I think that the repentance, truly, the repentance, the turning around. You're going to stop where you are, and you're literally going to change direction, the only way I knew how to do that was to start telling the truth, and it was brutal.
And as I did that, that began the path toward forgiveness with my husband. But also, then, where I would describe shame coming into the picture is, primarily, in my external life. Because this sin is the cardinal sin, it's the bad one and, also, you don't hear very many women talk about this. So it's this extra measure of, "How could you?" And very shaming things.
And, so, I took on this layer of shame to the extent that, Alison, I would not look anyone in the face. And I didn't realize I was doing it at first, but I'm big on eye contact. That's how I like to connect really with people, in the form of eye contact. I like face-to-face communication. And I think that the Holy Spirit pointed out to me at some point, that it had been six months since I had made eye contact with anybody in my life.
Alli: I was so deeply ashamed. And it was at that point that I realized, "Oh, this process of removing shame is something a little bit different than believing you're forgiven."
Alison: Oh, interesting, yes.
Alli: Because I believed I was forgiven by God, and I was, at least, in the process of pursuing forgiveness with my husband. But I describe shame as the enemy's last-ditch effort. You know that you're forgiven, and you're trying to pursue healing, and you're trying to pursue wholeness. His last ditch effort to keep you oppressed in a heavy, heavy layer of shame.
Alison: Yes, I agree with you.
Alli: Because then it keeps you from owning your story. It keeps you from talking about it. I still have to fight that instinct, 20 years later. Shame is this deep instinct to hide.
Alli: And every time I talk about my story, now it's like a little jump over a stone. It used to be I would have to crawl up a brick wall and throw myself over because I was so deeply ashamed. And I finally began to realize, "Okay, this will not lead to the life that God has for me." Because I was turning toward God and I have a smile on my face because He almost began to entice me with, "Hey, there's something a lot better than what you're living. If you would come closer, I could show you what that was."
So as I started to pursue God, shame just began to be totally inconsistent with the life that He has for me. And, finally, I had to realize, "Oh, my gosh, when I do tell my story when I do interact with people, their shame goes away. There's a freeing effect on others." And that began to be just too good, it was too good to pass up.
And, so, I started to realize that shame... a counselor that I saw, said that, "Three times, if you tell your shame story three times, there's a significant loss of impact upon you. That if you can bring yourself to three times telling a new person your story, that you're so ashamed of." A safe person.
Alison: Yes, a hundred percent.
Alli: She was of course giving me guardrails for you don't just talk to people about your stuff, not just any old person. "But if you can get to three, the grip significantly loosens." And I never forgot that, and that was very helpful for me, as I began to realize, "Okay, getting free of shame is something totally different."
Alison: Yes, I love that. Thanks for pausing there because I know, listeners, we talk a lot about shame. And we talk a lot about the things you're saying, "Turning toward God." And I always quote Curt Thompson, in his book The soul of Shame, he calls it "Evil's vector" which is what you're saying. It's the way the enemy wants to keep us, and what I love about what you're saying is you knew you had God's forgiveness. You even had your husband's forgiveness, and shame still-
Alli: Would not let go.
Alison: ...and exactly what you're saying, we know it to be true, that shame thrives in isolation. So tell me, Alli, so now you have your husband's forgiveness. You have God's forgiveness. You're working through your own shame, but then we get back to this foundation.
So how do you then, because also I can hear people listening, or if someone's been through this, or I see this in my own practice, "So great, I've got all this forgiveness. Great, now, I'll just go back to doing the same thing I was doing." We forget so easily.
Alison: So how did you build this healthy foundation? How did just change your day-to-day, decision-by-decision way of being in the world? That's what's harder, in a way.
Alli: That question is exactly what I write about in the book. Because what I discovered during this period of time, where everything felt like it was crumbling down around me. And I reached for God, I genuinely did. And I began to uncover what I, now, see as three, very simple, daily things that I started doing during that time. And I just didn't know, "Oh, my gosh, this is going to be helpful. This is actually going to rebuild something."
And, so, that that is what the book is based upon. The first one is, we've already discussed, it's coming to Jesus. And if you look at coming to Him in Scripture, if you look at the people that he would say came to Him. Or His invitation when He says, "Come to me." Which He says a number of times.
This act of coming to Him is wholehearted, it's mind, body, and soul coming. It's laying everything down at His feet. It's the moments where you look in the mirror and you tell yourself the truth. It's the moments where you confess something you didn't think you would ever say out loud, because you know that He wants you to.
It's the moments where you come to Him in joy, and you want to share your joy and thank Him in gratitude. It's these genuine moments between you and God, and you can't fake that. You're either coming to be with Him relationally or you're not. And you and God are the only two that know the difference.
Alli: And, so, the practice of coming to Jesus starts this whole thing. But the middle one is where I will never stop saying this for the rest of my life. What I accidentally did during this period of time in my life, which started to rebuild a foundation, was I got deeply into His Word.
Alli: I had for weeks on end, I took some time off work, and for weeks on end, I had a husband who didn't want to be with me. I didn't have any children. I had lost a bunch of friends, it really was me and God. And I started reading His Word again, and I didn't know what I was doing. I wasn't a Bible scholar. I was just a person with a Bible, that was it.
And I would talk to Him, and I would read His Word, and I would try to understand it. And that really is the second one, which is to hear His Word. And the reason I get so excited about this one is because you really start to hear His voice.
God begins to be real to you, in moments when your Bible is not sitting on your lap. Because the word of God is alive, and active, and present. Because Jesus is the Living Word of God. I mean, that's what we even call Him. So as we fill ourselves with the written word, the Living Word comes to life around us, and in us, and through us all the time.
So, Alison, I would get these ideas of things when I wasn't reading my Bible. And I would just be like, "You know what, I think I need to go do that thing." And I would just do it. I was at the point where I had nothing to lose. If I thought it was even, maybe, God, I would do it. Because I had nothing to lose.
And, now, I look back on those moments where I truly didn't have anything to lose, and I was willing to experiment. I was willing to say, "I think this might be you, God, I'm just going to go with it." And, so, that brings-
Alison: Mh-hmm, can you give me an example?
Alli: Oh, sure, like, there was some stuff in my house that I had gotten during the time of the affair, and it was still there. And I was like, "Why do I still have these things? They need to go." And I just had this constant feeling like, "I got to get rid of this stuff." It was just a few random things. It was like a pair of earrings, and a book, and it was just some random stuff.
Alison: That reminded you of that period.
Alli: Yes, that represented that period of time, whatever. And I just, again, I felt this little nudge, "Get rid of that stuff. Just get rid of it."
Alison: Yes, it sounds almost like you went through this process. Because, without going into the details, what I hear is that there was a season, there was a period of time, where your husband was upset with you, and you were on your own.
You went through this own self-with-God deep dive, where you're saturating yourself in God's Word. And this is the language I would use, and through that, through completely immersing yourself in God's Word, in the ocean of the word of truth, of Jesus, you came into contact with the best of who you are. The person that God really wanted you to become.
And, so, that wisdom, what I'm hearing is the beginning of like, "Why would I have this stuff?" It's not necessarily what we hear from God, but what I'm hearing is there was this impulse, this thing inside of you, which I would say comes from that Spirit-led place inside of you. That's now feasting on goodness, that's feasting on God. That's going, "Why would I want this stuff in my house that reminds me of this? I need to..." It was a very practical, concrete, way that you were detoxing, that you were cleansing.
Alli: I had this other moment where I got in my car, after work one day, and there was a Christian radio station on and I swear, Alison, I have no idea. It was almost like I nudged the dial before I got out of the car in the morning or something. I had never listened to this radio station before. It truly was like a flip of the dial when used accidentally, and it would. I know that's usually not how we tune our radios anymore.
Alison: I'm with you.
Alli: It was on a Christian radio station and it caught my attention. I had never listened to Christian music before. And in that moment, I felt the Holy Spirit. Again, I felt God's presence and He was like, "You need to fill yourself with something different." And from then on I couldn't help but hear, "What else would I be filling myself with?"
It was like, "Oh, songs about bad relationships and terrible childhood, and awful breakups, and terrible sexual scenarios." And just you name it, whatever all the songs are about. And just in that one little moment, I felt like He grabbed my attention and went, "Why don't you just try filling yourself with something else? Why don't you just try filling yourself with something that's the truth, my truth for you." And that was very much how I would practice hearing His Word during that.
Alison: Yes, it's a practice of hearing.
Alli: Yes, and then slowly it began to seep out of me. I always tell my kids, now, "Whatever you put in it's eventually going to come out, it just is." There's no way around that kitchen logic. What you put in there is what will eventually come out. But the last thing, which really served me well in a space where I didn't have anything to lose. And this is where the final practice, I talk about my book, I think is where a lot of people bail.
I think a lot of people will genuinely come to God. I think a lot of those people are willing to hear His Word, and believe it's the truth, and the last practice is where a lot of people bail because we do have things to lose, we do have lives. And the last thing is we actually have to do it.
We actually have to follow through on what the Word says to do, and it requires a lot of courage. It requires sometimes loss. It requires sometimes things that we're afraid of, and confessing the affair is a great example of that because I knew I needed to confess. Because nothing could ever be real without it. I couldn't live in that dissonance. But try confessing that, you know, what you're putting on the line. You know what you're putting on the line.
Alison: Oh that had to be so scary.
Alli: You know that you're putting everything that you said you cared about, and you're putting everything on the line. So, luckily, God loves it when we practice in smaller ways, too. We don't always have to be confessing affairs. But in order for your foundation to actually get firm, you must not just hear the Word, you actually have to do the word, and that's, I think, where a lot of people bail. And there's nothing magical about what I'm saying in this book.
What I'm doing is I'm repeating the words of Christ. Because He calls us to hear His Word and follow through on it. Not just be "Hearers of the word but doers of the word," I think is what James writes. And that is where, actually, I look back on my story and I think, "Man, it was a gift to be in a space where I had very little to lose. Because I was willing to be courageous because I was desperate." And, to be honest, it seems like a gift now.
There are listeners who will listen and go, "I am desperate." And, to you, I would say this is actually a beautiful place to be. Because you have the advantage of you can go all in on something, that other people will hesitate about.
Alison: I love that. I agree with you, that's the gift of the hitting rock bottom, in a way.
Alli: The broken.
Alison: Yes, I hear you. As painful as it is and I don't wish it on people. But it is this weird gift of a radical invitation, to completely change your life in the way that we should all be changing our lives every day. Which brings me to this question of, how do you continue to do this work when the stakes aren't that high?
So, now, you're a teaching pastor, you're a mom, you're in a church. How do you keep yourself from going back to that, "I'm a good person." Again, it's more subtle, you would never theologically go there. But just that, I'm going to see it myself that bent toward entropy, that bent towards the path. How do you keep yourself, now, that you've built? Now it's been, I don't know, 20, however many years-
Alli: It's been 22 years or something, it's been a really long time.
Alison: ...that you've been living on a solid foundation, and I still think there's an invitation there. So there's the person that's at rock bottom and that's hard.
Alli: No doubt.
Alison: And there's that person that's "Mm, I'm doing okay, how do I keep solid?" And even just sometimes, I think, kind of passivity, or the path of least resistance, which still isn't doing this work. So what are you doing in your life?
Alli: Okay, here's what I do, I'm so glad we're talking about this. Because the same thing that will rebuild you from the deepest, darkest hole is exactly the same thing that's available to you today if you're doing great. And what I would say is you need to take risks on God. You need to take risks on God.
If you cannot name the last risk that you took on God, on His Word, on what He says, on who He is, on what He does. Then that is, ultimately, a succinct way to say, "This is your everyday invitation."
And you could be doing great right now, and there will still be a risk on God in front of you. And if you take those risks day after day, and we can talk about what some of those are. If you take those risks, day after day, you will end up on a solid foundation.
Alison: Interesting answers. So give me some examples, I'm curious about this, about what you picked.
Alli: Okay, here's one you could take this week, actually, take a day of rest. I know very few people that do that, and it's a weekly invitation that we have to trust that God will keep things moving. That He has your back, that you don't have to be a slave to your work.
That no one is going to hate you if you don't answer them on social media for a day. No one is going to deny their friendship with you if you turn your phone off for a few hours. But we don't actually live like we believe God.
Instead, we go, "I don't know, I'll try to take a nap on Sunday." This is the daily, the weekly invitation that we have for a day of rest, is a great risk to take on God.
I'll give you another one, money. What are you doing with your money? Are you actually giving generously? God gives us a 10%, a tithe standard. I believe firmly in the tithe because I don't even think that's mine. I think a tithe is God's, He asked us to return to Him what is His. And are you actually doing with your money what He has asked you to do?
Are you taking that risk on God?
Those are two, I think, that we are so used to thinking about as rules that we don't look at them in the context of our relationship, it's actually a risk.
Alison: I like how you're reframing that. It's not the legalism of it, it's not the rules of it. You're actually saying how we continue to build that foundation is to take a risk on the promises of God. It might also be having that hard conversation with somebody.
Alli: Definitely, oh that's a good one.
Alison: It might be saying no to somebody. It might be believing God that the lies shame is telling us, and going and telling somebody about that struggle that we're having. But I love how you're reframing that as not because of the legalistic, it's because we're betting on God, in a way. And we're keeping ourselves, there's a way in which you phrase that when you say, "Take a risk on God." It helps me, it's energizing. It's energizing our faith versus sliding into that slippery slope of whatever.
Alli: Here's another great one, I try to do a lot. If I think of a positive word for someone, if I have an encouragement for you, I just believe that you need to hear that and I tell you, immediately, if possible.
And if I lay my calendar, in front of God, and I pray over it, and there's something that feels weird about something on my calendar for the week, I get rid of it, immediately. And I say to God, "I believe this is you, if I get it wrong, who cares?"
That's why I smile when I talk about this because this is when you find out what you need to know about God. Because I think, Alison, just like people, we deserve to trust God in a way that we know He's there. I don't think He wants to be some Santa in the sky. Where we have to close our eyes and go, "I just hope you're really there."
I actually think He wants to give you a set of personal experiences with Him, where your questions about Him are answered. Where you get to interact with Him in a way that convinces you of who He is. He is so good and so gracious to us. That He will personally convince you of Himself, and He does not need to do that. He does not need to do that.
Alison: It's so interesting because we say these words, "It's a relationship." But if you think about any relationship that stays vital, that stays alive, a friendship, a marriage, you have to work at it. You have to come back and say, "We need to do a date night. We need to take risks. We need to keep the vitality in it." And why would it be any different with God? I love that.
I know sometimes I'll go through a period where I maybe I feel a little less connected to the vitality of that relationship. And inevitably, one of the things I'll do, I'll make a list of questions that I can't figure out the answers.
What am I supposed to do with this part of my life? Or how am I supposed to...? And I'll make a list of questions that I'm like, "I'm going to just keep..." It's like the persistent widow, "I'm going to keep going to God with these questions."
Rarely, for me, do I hear a like lightning bolt in the sky. But, inevitably, if I keep at it, if I chip away, and I read, and I point myself toward trying, inevitably, God shows up in some way, usually, in a surprising way.
But I hear that what you're saying. I like that idea of it's never how I expect or sometimes it is, but it always makes me laugh. There's always that inside joke with God, it's like, "Oh, right, there you are God." But that's the fruit of the long game with God.
Alison: You take those risks, strategically, and I love what you're saying. You're saying something that's really nuanced here, it's not that we're testing God. It's not that we're expecting God to be a genie in a bottle. It's, "I might be wrong, I might take this risk." And maybe God is like, "Actually, that was stupid, you shouldn't." But then that's going to course-correct too, it doesn't matter.
Alli: Yes, it doesn't matter if you're right or wrong. Here's the beautiful thing when you say to God and I've done this, this is how I talk to Him sometimes. And I will say to Him, "Hey, I think this is you, and I got to move on this in the next three hours. So I'm going to do this thing and if it's not you, I'd really appreciate you intervening before then but I'm going. At 3 p.m. I got to go."
And, so, I will deal with Him the way that I would with anyone else, trusting that, number one He can intervene anytime, anywhere He wants. And number two, if I get it wrong, guess what? I'm going to get the same set of information about God that I would have gotten if I got it right.
Alli: What I'm going to do is I'm going to meet God in the middle of whatever goes down here, and that's what I want.
Alison: That's right.
Alli: That's what gets you to the foundation.
Alison: That's right, that's the relationship. And you'll also, my guess is, you're going to, for the most part, stay within your wisdom. And we're not saying go and buy a lottery ticket.
Alli: Yes, we're not talking about Vegas roulette kind of risk here. We're talking about a risk where you go, "I know your character. I understand your Word, and to the best of my ability I am going to follow, and here's what it looks like and I'm just going to move."
And many of us drop off at that point because what we've been taught to do, as good Christians, in many cases is, "Wait for confirmation." We're going to pray and we're going to wait." I am pro waiting, if that's the season that I'm in. There are seasons of waiting, there are times when waiting is appropriate. But I would say most of the time, where you interact with God is as you go, and we are so afraid to get it wrong. We are just so afraid to get it wrong.
And I'm telling you when I've screwed it up, I've learned to laugh. And I've learned to appreciate the wisdom that I get in those times I take risks, and I'm like, "I guess that was just me." I wrote about a couple of them in the book.
Alison: You're touching on, it's so interesting, Alli, again, this is sort of where you and I are two sides of the same coin. Because this is where in The Best of You, in chapter 10, I write about this idea of spiritual co-dependency where we want to hide. We want God to give us big bold letters in the sky, and really what I'm trying to say it's a partnership.
We step out with God and that's what you're saying. It's like, "I have some wisdom, it's a little bit scary." It's living courageously from the best of who God's made us to become, bringing God with us, though.
I have a quote that says, "God directs a person in motion." And that's what you're saying, that's the taking a risk part, taking a risk on God. And what I love about what you're saying is it might be taking a risk. I'm thinking about, there are times where to be honest with God about how scared we are, or about how crummy we feel about this thing we have to do, that kind of thing.
There are so many ways that works out, but I love what you're seeing there is a lot of movement. There's some pragmatism to it, there are some actions, some concrete steps. And, again, what I sense in you, and I can see it in your face, and I can feel it oozing out of you is this freedom.
And that's like there's freedom, it's like, "I can't lose. How can I lose? Because, regardless, I'm going to learn about God, I'm going to learn about myself." And that's the fruit of that solid foundation that you're talking about.
Alli: The picture of maturity, to me, in a Christ follower is the ability to use freedom. Because, ultimately, God calls us to be free and He tells us to keep in step with His Spirit,
and He wants us to use His wisdom. And what He wants us to live, and work, and move, and be in relationship with you as you live in the fullness of who He is.
And so, for me, the perfect picture of maturity in Christ is actually the ability to use the freedom that you have in Christ. And because part of that, it goes back to the second practice, is we submit to His Word. Because freedom does not look like you do whatever you want, whenever you want.
Freedom is somebody who understands there is a God who loves me, and who has a way that He has designed life to work. And if I willfully step outside of that I can use my freedom like that, or I can use my freedom to actually bind myself to Him.
And then in that, I get to do some incredible things that I never thought possible. Because then I get His life, and I get His power, and I get His love for other people. And I get to do and be things I never thought I could do or be.
Believe me, Alison, when I was 23 years old, crumbled up in a heap, I never imagined I would be courageous. I never imagined I would describe myself as a true Christ follower. Again, I thought I had given up that right to even call myself a Christian. I thought I was totally unworthy and definitely marked for life.
And I will say to your listeners, who are anywhere around that space, I know that there have been people that have come to you and they've actually told you those things. And it makes it that much harder to believe that you could ever be something else, and I'm telling you, you can absolutely be something else. And not only that you have a God who's anxiously awaiting your restoration.
And, so, I love being able to, in a very simple, practical life-giving way, say to other people, "Hey there, there is a living God, and there's actually a way that you can interact with Him that will make your life strong and make it work."
Even if that means periods of pain, and periods of weakness, and periods of failure, and all of that kind of stuff, too, you are with Him in it. And, therefore, your life has a strength, and a gravity, that you can never access without Him. That is my deepest heart for this book is to make the way plain, because I don't think it's hard. I think when we come to Jesus when we fill ourselves with His Word, and we actually do what it says.
Suddenly, you become someone new, and you look back over your shoulder and go, "What in the world? I'm different than I used to be." And I don't know anyone with a faith that I love and respect, who even if they use different words, doesn't actually practice these three practices.
Alli: That doesn't actually do these three things.
Alison: I love that, Alli, it's such a great message, you do such a good job of weaving this realness into it. This realness of your own life. It's called How to Stay Standing, tell our listeners how to get a hold of the book, and how to Get a hold of your resources? Some of the things that they can find when they look you up.
Alli: Yes, so you can find How to Stay Standing anywhere that books are available. There will also be an audiobook, so if you don't like to read visually, you'll be able to get the audiobook as well. And if you go to my website, it's theallipatterson.com or you follow me on social media. I often post other Bible studies I've created, free resources like prayer guides, audio guides.
I love creating resources to help you connect with God through Scripture. I love doing short studies that are really easy to digest and easy ways to connect with God, through Scripture and prayer. There are lots of things that are super accessible, if you check out my website or follow me on social, there's always stuff there.
Alison: Your energy and your vitality is just super infectious. And there's a living witness to what you're describing with words, so I appreciate that. I appreciate you coming here. And I want to just close, Alli, with these questions that I ask all my guests. What or who is bringing out the best of you right now? And what needs or desires are you working to protect?
Alli: Okay, similar answer on one front to both. What brings out the best of me is when I carve out time to be alone. I desperately need silence. Sometimes if I sit in the quiet, I feel silence is healing. It ministers to me in a way that nothing else does, and that brings out the best of me, and I do have to fight for that.
As you might imagine, I'm a mom of four kids, and I have a job, and I have a book, and all kinds of other things going on with that. So I have to fight for that, and I have to protect my need for that. And I've learned to stop apologizing for that. I will not apologize for needing that.
And who brings out the best of me? For sure, right now, it is my husband and my four kids, because I cannot look at them and not be grateful to God for what He's done in my life. I mean, as you might imagine, my marriage has had bumps because of our early days. It is not an easy road; we have not traveled an easy road. You don't go through a story like that, and get out unscathed.
But when I think, "Wow, I love him and we have fun together, 23 years later, this is incredible." And the kids are just the fruit of that as well. And, so, I think when I am around them, I'm usually bathed in gratitude for it because I'm very clear that I didn't actually deserve it. That it all came to me by the grace of God and He is responsible for that. So that's how I feel when I'm around them. So they're my favorite humans and they, definitely, bring out the best of me.
Alison: I love that. Again, the gift of rock bottom is gratitude, and when we turn toward God and allow Him to reshape and reclaim our lives. So what a beautiful way to end.
Thank you so much, Alli, for just sharing your story, sharing your wisdom, creating these resources. I so appreciate you and all that you're putting into the world and look forward to just all the ways you're going to minister to and bless so many people.
Alli: Thank you. Thanks for having me on. I treasure our friendship, so I really appreciate you. Thank you
26th January 2023
Sandy Bluyus says
Hello Alison, I just recently discovered “The Best of You” and listened to it on Audible. I am 72 years old and still growing in my walk/journey as we all are. Did you mention somewhere that an online Bible Study is going offered soon? (I thought 2/2/23 and cannot find the details). Thank you so much for who you are and how much you give, all for the glory of God, in helping ppl to strive for their potential.
Alison Cook says
Hi Sandy, It’s a new podcast series based on Boundaries for Your Soul. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast and you’ll find it on 2/2! Or you can sign up for my weekly email at https://www.dralisoncook.com