Ridiculous Faith is Just a Skip and a Jump Away
Shelene Bryan was a producer in Hollywood until a trip to East Africa changed her life. She initially went to see if the children that she sponsored through a food program were real and God used the experience to challenge Bryan to leap from her life of comfort into the unknown. She left her career as a Hollywood producer and founded Skip1.org, a charity dedicated to providing food and clean water to children not only in America, but around the world. In addition to being a wife and mother, she also has written two books; Love, Skip, Jump and Ridiculous Faith. Risen talked with Bryan about what it means to have ridiculous faith, how she cultivates faith in her children and what has been the most challenging time in her faith.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: For our readers that might not be familiar with your story, you were a producer in Hollywood and had a life-changing experience. You eventually went on to start a non-profit called Skip1. Can you share with us your experience and how it was the catalyst for your organization?
Shelene Bryan: It was amazing! I ended up flying on a whim unannounced to Uganda, Africa, to see if the kids we had been sponsoring for twenty-five dollars per month were real. I showed up in East Africa and I basically had their photos and the numbers and I said, “Hi, I’m from America. Can I meet my kids, #GBB 8348 and #GBA 8453?” This gracious woman said, “Sure, follow me.” And that one event in 2003 changed my lens, my life and so many aspects of what happened to me. I write about it in Love, Skip, Jump, my first book, which is start living the adventure of yes. I believe the answer is always, “Yes,” to God. But sometimes we say, “You just wait God until I become a mom,” or “Wait until I get married,” or “Wait until I get that job.” God says, “No, I need you to say, ‘yes’ right now.” Ultimately, if He doesn’t want us doing something, that door will close. We’ve all seen that happen. But it wasn’t because we weren’t willing to jump into whatever that was after God’s own heart.
I encourage people in Love, Skip, Jump, that love is the motivation, skipping deals with Skip1.org, my non-profit where you skip something for the sake of someone else that you could never repay you and will never regret it. Ultimately, God wants us to jump right in. In order to jump, that’s what allowed me to write this next book, Ridiculous Faith, because you have to have ridiculous faith to jump. When you’re standing on the edge of a cliff, you don’t want to jump. I was excited to write Ridiculous Faith and to be honest, I think it was written for me. It challenged me with so many things I didn’t know even know or realize were in the Bible that were God’s promises for me about my faith. I don’t need to become a “super Christian” to live a ridiculous faith life, God is faithful in spite of me, and that has been a cool journey for me.
RM: Skip1 challenges people to give up something – a coffee, a lunch or a new outfit – and donate the money you would’ve spent to help provide meals to those in need. What has been the hardest thing for you to skip?
SB: Skipping is easy. It is contagious! I would have said earlier in my life, comfort and safety. I was such a safety person growing up because my dad was a sniper on the SWAT team. He wasn’t a godly man at all, but he was a safety man and raised my sister and I with “stranger danger,” fire safety, and gun safety. We knew everything about anything in respect to safety. In writing Ridiculous Faith, God just reminded me in His promises that there is no safety outside His sovereignty. In Ridiculous Faith, we talk about how our fear is limiting our faith. They don’t mix.
Fear is the opposite of faith and yet without faith, it is impossible to please God. Skip1.org was a step of faith. I never wanted to start a charity. I think there are too many to be honest. But the one thing that we did a little differently was we give away one hundred percent of the proceeds. So no one touches the money. One hundred percent of all public donations goes to the acquisition and distribution of food and water projects here in America and around the world. We are building kitchens at orphanages and schools so that kids can have lunch everyday because you were willing to skip your lunch. It’s awesome! You’re never too young to skip something or train up your children. A little girl just skipped her tooth fairy money. He who gives to the poor will lack nothing [Proverbs 28:27]. I have never met a generous person that was broke. As moms and dads, we need to instill this into our children as much as we do the “ABCs.” Being a giver is such a beautiful way to love people.
God just reminded me in His promises that there is no safety outside His sovereignty.
RM: Why is it important to say “yes” and what experience has challenged your faith the most?
SB: When I became a mom, because that was when I was gripped with the most fear in my life. Basically, God takes your heart out of your body and puts legs on it and it’s running around the earth. That’s what it feels like. You love your kids so much you would die for your them. I remember a time that I write about in Love, Skip, Jump, when my son, who was thirteen at the time, he is now nineteen and at college, asked to skip his thirteenth birthday to go with me on a trip to Haiti. This was a month before the earthquake hit. I said, “No, Blake. I am going to go do a site visit and check it out. There’s tons of AIDS there. We are visiting an AIDS hospital.” And he said, “Mom, if God wants me to go and serve I’d like you to pray about that. I really feel like I’m supposed to go.” I said, “I don’t need to pray about it. You’re not going.” Of course Blake calls his dad, and my husband goes, “Honey, if our son wants to skip his thirteenth birthday to go serve, he is going. God can take our kids at the mailbox if it’s his expiration date. I don’t want to prevent him from going and serving the Lord and being amongst the least of these, doing things, bringing food and clean water to needy kids. This is something that is going to build character in Him and help him to become more like Jesus.” Then I’m thinking, “I suck as a mom.” I was gripped with fear. I was so fearful about it.
RM: You are passionate about people having a mountain top experience with God. What does that look like practically speaking?
SB: What I’ve learned is that just like I have scheduled this interview, we need to schedule those mountain top moments with God. I need to protect the time too, just like I would protect an appointment. But we don’t. We don’t put that in our calendar at all. Forty days and forty nights like Moses spent praying; sometimes I can barely find forty minutes. I have crammed my schedule with so many things that aren’t necessary. When I started replacing those with mountain top moments, it’s amazing how my day, my schedule and my week just flows. It is unbelievable. When I detail out my day and have it scheduled out perfectly, it all gets thrown to crap half the time. It’s funny, when I seek Him first and it says this in the Bible, when we seek Him first and His kingdom, all these things will be added to Him as well [Matthew 6:33].
I believe when we have experiences with God it changes us and people can see it. When Moses came down from the mountain in Exodus, he had such an amazing experience with God that he was glowing. Aaron and the people were freaked out to look at Moses. He had to wear a veil over his face. Experiences with God change us and people can see it. I want to make sure that I am making moments with God because I want people to see His image in me. I want people to see through me to Him. I want to live a life of ridiculous faith and experience the unbelievably good God that He is in my life and leaves me in awe and wonder of who He is.
RM: Whether it is working in full-time ministry, being a student, mom or having a career, so often developing our relationship with God gets lost in the day to day tasks of life. What words of wisdom do you have for someone who wants to grow in their relationship with God, but doesn’t know where to start?
SB: I had to fire the person that was keeping my schedule. That was me! No one is putting a gun to our heads to fill our schedules. It is so unnecessary. I want to challenge people to ask themselves, “What for?” When you look at your day ask God, “Are you authorizing this? Is this blessed by you?” When I look at my schedule, often there are things on there that are just not necessary. He said to seek Him first [Matthew 6:33], not second, third, fourth or fifth. For some people who maybe have a demanding career, or have things at certain times, you go through seasons in your calendar. He still said to seek Him first. I think there is something about that and that might mean getting up twenty minutes early that day to have that quiet time. Have it in the car before work, while you take a bath, or go on a prayer walk. Make your mountain moment with Him. It’s too important to miss. You can’t miss it! It’s a game changer.
When we show up and we seek Him first, God is going to take care of all of it.
RM: As a mom, how do you help develop ridiculous faith in your kids?
SB: Live it out! Your kids see it. Faith is being sure of what you hope for, certain of what you do not see [Hebrews 11:1]. So if you’re giving lip service, but there is no action behind your faith, kids quickly see that. “Oh yeah, mom is just talking about that. She’s not really going to do it.” It’s like me starting a diet. “Mom’s just saying that, she’s not really going to lose weight.” But my kids won’t tell you that about my faith. They would say, “Mom does it! She will get on a plane. She will go to Skid Row. She will bring the homeless in.” I am going to live it out. Really the best lesson we can teach our kids is the way I love my husband, their dad, the way I love them, the way I serve them, the way I serve and love our neighbors. That’s the best way. There are sometimes where I have to ask for forgiveness, because I blow it. I’m human. But my kids will tell you, “This is what my mom would do.” Ask your kids what you worship. Ask them what do you think mommy prays for? You will find out really quick what you worship. They have a front row seat to your life, more than anybody else – your job, your co-workers, your boss – anybody else. That is a ministry that is so worth fighting for.
RM: Throughout the Bible, we see examples of faith that don’t make sense –building an ark, parting the sea, and taming lions. In Ridiculous Faith you talk about a type of faith that leaves us all in awe of the Creator of it all. How do we get that type of faith?
SB: We can’t. God is the one that is faithful. Moses didn’t walk up to the Red Sea and go, “Oh my gosh! What are we going to do?” No. It parted. He showed up. When we show up and we seek Him first, God is going to take care of all of it. There is no “have more faith” store or if I’m going to be a “super Christian”, then I’m going to be really faithful. When you read about the heroes of the faith in Hebrews, talk about mess-ups. They messed up. They weren’t “super Christians,” But they were attributed as being men and women of the faith, heroes of the faith. God defines being faithful as where He has planted us. For me as a woman, I am a wife first and then a mom and then if those things are truly in order then I can go write a book, go speak or start a charity. I think women need to understand that a wise woman builds her house and a foolish one tears it down with her own hands like it says in Proverbs. I need to be sure that those are in order and the blessing goes through my husband to me and to my kids. Then, I can go outside of that and do the other things that He would allow me to do. When we are faithful in the little, we will be faithful with much.
RM: I love how you incorporate your family into what you are doing. How do you balance it all?
SB: I learned to say, “This is not my best ‘Yes’ today.” I got good at doing that, letting people know that, “I’m sorry. I am already fully committed.” I think we think that by excusing ourselves from something we are failing or letting someone down. When really, you are taking your whole family out of balance when you’re overextended and unconcerned about everything else because you want to please people.
God says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light, follow Me. [Matthew 11:30].” He didn’t say, “The workaholic is the busiest person in the Bible. I didn’t see them get anything done.” Instead, it was the person following Jesus and miracles would happen. It’s unbelievable if you really read the stories in the Bible. There isn’t some workaholic guy that made his way up the corporate ladder until he hits heaven and God says, “Finally you achieved it.” No, it was faithful people taking little steps in a new direction following Jesus. And He drops it out of the sky into their lap. We don’t have to add anything to it. It’s amazing!
RM: That perspective is refreshing. We don’t talk about the fact that there aren’t workaholics in the Bible or that you can’t just go to the store and fill up your faith bag.
SB: Exactly! That’s why those mountain top moments are so important. If you were out of a job, you would probably go online to look for people that were hiring someone. You need direction for your life? You need more resources? You want to be a better husband or better wife? Then you need to have a mountain moment with God so that He can show you what those are.