God of My 20’s: The Father’s Love

(Post #3 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger Linda Nelson

I would love to say that I have been a passionate follower of Jesus all my life. However…..

I grew up on a farm in Minnesota. We learned to work hard, and did so to please and earn favor from my hardworking dad. Mom was a hard working, loving woman who loved to bake, cared for our home, and had a great since of humor. Both parents were very outgoing and enjoyed getting together with friends. We went to church and Sunday school from the time I was born. While growing up I was involved with our youth group and always loved hearing the Bible stories and prayed at meals. It was just something we DID. I attended the Lutheran church and was baptized as a baby and confirmed at 13.  I loved going to Sunday School and enjoyed all of the Bible stories. My Sunday School teacher game me a plaque that hangs on my wall to this day which says, “LOVE NEVER FAILS…For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting  life. John 3:16.”  I did not understand what that really meant, but I cherished it none the less.  I liked to study the catechism and learned much ABOUT God and Jesus but never had a Bible until age 13, until AFTER confirmation. It lay in a drawer and was never opened.

My parents were married at a very early age, and it was expected that we kids would also. I met the love of my life when I was 15. We dated through high school and married at age 17; Gaylord, my husband, was 20. We farmed with his parents, and by the time I was 23 we had 3 wonderful children.

Throughout my 20’s we continued to attend church weekly; and, of course, our kids were all baptized as infants. God was someone you read about, and I never doubted who He was.  I loved to hear about Jesus and all of the Bible stories.  I tried like crazy to obey the 10 commandments and ALWAYS felt I fell short.  We always prayed before meals, the “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest” prayer; but every prayer I ever prayed was written in a book or taught to me.  All throughout my 20’s God was just a far away God. I truly never doubted that Jesus was my Savior, BUT I knew I had to be GOOD or I would miss the mark. I came to realize that my view of God was shaped by my earthly father, that if I was good and worked hard I would win God’s love and favor.

It was not until I was 37 that I ever heard about a personal relationship with God.  I had never heard of God’s unconditional love for me. And when I did, it radically changed my life.

It was at that time we moved from Iowa to Chicago. We visited a church where the pastor and people were talking and singing songs TO God NOT just about Him.  The pastor told us that God longed to have a personal relationship with me not because I worked hard and was “good” but that He loved me unconditionally. I had never heard that before.  See what love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God. And that is what we are.” 1 John 3: 1.  (Tears fill my eyes even to this day when I hear this Good News!!!!!) I came to realize I had transferred that thought and feeling from my relationship with my dad to my Heavenly Father.  We were invited to a small group where we received such love, friendship, and best of all a new Bible. Small groups have been at the heartbeat of my walk with Jesus ever since. I was discipled to love God with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to spend time with God in His word daily.  As I spent endless hours each day devouring God’s Word, I became acquainted with my precious Lord Jesus. I also grew to understand that “we are saved by grace through faith, not by works.” Ephesians 2:8. You would have thought I was given a pot of gold. And indeed, as God opened my heart to the truth of His word, I received a Treasure more precious than gold and silver. I, at last, met my Savior, Redeemer, best Friend, and Lord.

Maybe I Should Be More Prodigal

Our life group started a study of Tim Keller’s book The Prodigal God tonight. We highly recommend the book.


Here’s a great example why. 

The word “prodigal” does not mean “wayward” but, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, “recklessly spendthrift.” It means to spend until you have nothing left. This term is therefore as appropriate for describing the father in the story as his younger son. The father’s welcome to the repentant son was literally reckless, because he refused to “reckon” or count his sin against him or demand repayment.

Makes you think, right? Under this definition, the story in Luke 15 has much more meaning and application.

As we discussed this tonight, a question came to me: How could we be more prodigal? 

  • Toward neighbors
  • Toward siblings
  • Toward friends
  • Toward coworkers
  • Toward anyone that is physically, spiritually, or emotionally disconnected 

If God, my Heavenly Father, recklessly forgives, loves, endures, welcomes, provides, embraces, longsuffers, probably means I should also. Maybe I should be more prodigal.

God of My 20’s: My Walk with Him

(Post #2 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger Art Fahy

I was twenty years old when I was discharged from the Marine Corps in 1967. The country was in turmoil. Demonstrations against the Vietnam Nam War flooded the television nightly news. The political arena was turned upside down. Families were divided concerning the war and politics. The world was experiencing complete mayhem. People turned a deaf ear to each other. The attitude was, “I’m right, and you’re wrong.”

Our language incorporated new phrases like, “Do your own thing,” “Down with the establishment,” “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” It was as if there was a green light dangling in the sky giving everyone permission to do anything they desired. We were all doing our own thing. We thought freedom was doing what we wanted as long as it didn’t hurt anyone. Consequences meant little. In fact, we rarely thought about consequences.

By the ’70’s, I was married with two children. I was journeying down a very dark road and didn’t know it. My wife pleaded with me to attend church. I would tell her, “Church is not for me.” My bible knowledge was limited to the “Thou shall nots.” It was like the seed found in Matthew 13:4: “The seed fell along the path and the birds came and devoured it.” The small amount of religious education was lost in the clammer of the outside world.

I finally crashed and burned. I had nowhere to go. I felt lost. I didn’t know where to turn. I didn’t know who to talk to. I cried out to God, and I wasn’t sure if He heard me. Why would he? January 1981 I found myself in my pastor’s office accepting Jesus as my Savior. I was thirty-three years old.

Unfortunately, I was not a serious student of the Bible or following Jesus. I returned to my old ways for over three years, and in that time I was divorced and lost a good job. In 1987 I cleaned up my act and became a member of a twelve-step program. This program brought me closer to God, and I began to begin a relationship with Him.

It wasn’t until I was fifty-four and at the urging of my second wife did I attend church and join a small group that my relationship with God began to flourish. I was baptized in, of all places, Las Vegas. I look back and wonder why did it take me so long to follow? Today, I know and believe I am on God’s time. He is in control. His plan for me is far better than any I could come up with.

Jesus tells us in John 16 we are going to have trials, but He has overcome the world, and we can find peace in Him. That is where I find my peace today-in Jesus Christ. When I react to people, places, or situations, I must ask myself what is my relationship with God right now? This allows me to alter my attitude and return to the path He wants me to walk on.

At 72 I look back over the years from the time I accepted Jesus as my Savior until I actually began living the way He wants me to live. I feel saddened. What I learned is, that was His plan for me, the way He wanted it.

I’ve had some rough times while walking with the Lord. I know and believe He is with me during the good  times and the tough times. The more I lean on Him the more comfort and love I feel. The more I studied His word life began to open up for me. I always wanted to write, and in 2010 I self-published a book. That same year I began writing a column for a Christian newspaper in Las Vegas called The Answer. I wrote for them for almost five years.

Following Jesus has given me a new outlook on life. Looking at life the way He does broadens my knowledge of who He is and how He sees me. I am blessed I have the opportunity to live the way He wants me to live. I stumble at times but regain my balance by asking for forgiveness and repenting.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Sin is no longer my master. I am free from its grip because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He gave His life for me. I certainly can turn my life over to Him.

The “Bad Ear”

Listening isn’t always something we want to do. I’ve become fascinated by our capacity for hearing in recent years. Now in my 60s, I am losing capacity to hear in one ear. It comes in handy when I’m being told something I really don’t want to hear. It’s convenient when I need a good excuse to miss a deadline or just prefer not to have definite instructions for something I might not want to do. It doesn’t mean I can’t hear at all in the “bad ear,” I just sometimes can’t tell you what the words are. I might hear sounds, muffled words and intonations. To hear the words, I must turn my face and my good ear to the speaking voice. That makes it, for me, a metaphor for spirituality – we turn our face so we can hear again. We turn our face in a new direction so the words have meaning and are not merely sounds.

This is a quote from a book I just started reading entitled A Spirituality of Listening.

I appreciate the metaphor. If I’m going to hear what God is saying to me, it’s vital that my face and my ears are turned in his direction. What might keep my face and ears turned away?

  • Inconvenience
  • Resistance
  • Stubbornness
  • Pride
  • Comfort
  • All sorts of fears and lies that the enemy would rather I choose to listen to

So in order to listen, I have to turn my face and ears by choosing humility, surrendering control, trusting truth, embracing discomfort, and recalling God’s ways are indeed best.

Here’s to better and deeper listening!

God of My 20’s: Going All In

(Post #1 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger Vilma Cooper

To tell you who God was in my 20’s is to share with you a little about my upbringing. I was raised Catholic, and the entire family-dad, mom, my sister and brother-went to church every Sunday. I prayed every night and on Sundays went to the confessional booth to tell a Priest all that I had done wrong. I then stepped out, kneeled and prayed to God exactly what the Priest told me to say. I knew of God but did not desire to have a relationship with Him. I was taught to fear God because He would be angry with me because of my sins. Why would I even want to get to know this angry God?

In my early 20’s I was living in the Bible Belt, the Peach State of Georgia. I don’t know if living in the Bible Belt and surrounded by people that knew God differently than I had influenced me, but I knew there had to be more. I started questioning why I could not go directly to God to “talk” with him and started hearing about a loving God. That was something different that I had to know more about. With my parent’s approval, I started attending Baptist churches and heard of this God that loved me so much, that gave His son to die for me. That is when I desired to get to know the loving God. It wasn’t smooth sailing. In my mid 20’s, I got married and after two years, divorced. That is when things got a little crazy. I wasn’t going to church; I was hanging out with people and doing things that certainly were not pleasing to God. I still knew God as a loving Father and, through my “wildness,” often went to Him for forgiveness. I believed I was loved, and I believed I was forgiven, but there was still that tug of war between the World and Him. I thought if I went “all in,” I would miss out on something. I would miss out on fun.

30+ years later, I am married with adult children and grandchildren. My adult children are now in their 20’s, and I see their “tug of war.” The difference is that they have heard of this loving God. They have experienced His presence and love. I trust God and know that He loves them in their 20’s just as much as He loved me in my 20’s. My relationship with God has been a journey; it still is a journey. I believe that we need to always be growing in Him. I believe that we always learn from Him. To my friends in your 20’s, if you are not “all in,” know that there is nothing you can do that will separate you from God. He will forgive you. He will love you. This is your journey, and it will be worth it.

Before I close, I must share the lyrics of this song I heard today. I’m sure I’ve heard it before, but today God brought it to me to share with you.

The God Who Stays, by Matthew West

If I were You I would’ve given up on me by now

I would’ve labeled me a lost cause

Cause I feel just like a lost cause

If I were You I would’ve turned around and walked away

I would’ve labeled me beyond repair

Cause I feel like I’m beyond repair

But somehow You don’t see me like I do

Somehow, You’re still here

You’re the God who stays

You’re the God who stays

You’re the one who runs in my direction

When the whole world walks away

You’re the God who stands

With wide open arms

And You tell me nothing I have ever done can separate my heart

From the God who stays

I used to hide

Every time I thought I let You down

I always thought I had to earn my way

But I’m learning You don’t work that way

Somehow You don’t see me like I do

Somehow, You’re still here

You’re the God…

2019 Library

For a second year I have followed a self-developed reading strategy with the objective to read broader. The goal: read 25-30 books falling under 9 headings. Having read 27 books across these topics, I testify I still enjoy this strategy.

For the curious, here is the library of 27 books, listed by order read and avenue of reading:

A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer (kindle)

The Crib, The Cross, & The Crux by Lisa Fulghum (hard copy)

Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Chambers (kindle)

Every Square Inch by Bruce Ashford (hard copy)

Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab (audio)

An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with Truth by M. K. Ghandi (kindle)

Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger (hard copy)

Saying No to Say Yes by David C. Olsen and Nancy G. Devor (kindle)

Them by Ben Sasse (kindle)

When to Leave by Wade Hodges (kindle)

Before You Go by Wade Hodges (kindle)

Awe by Paul David Tripp (kindle)

Our Presidents and Their Prayers by Rand Paul and James Randall Robison (audio)

Calico Joe by John Grisham (audio)

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott (audio)

The Bait of Satan by John Bevere (kindle)

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris (kindle)

Boundaries For Your Soul by Kimberly Miller and Alison Cook (kindle)

Forgiven by Terri Roberts (hard copy)

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown (kindle)

Something Needs To Change by David Platt (hard copy)

The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller (hard copy)

Leading Change Without Losing It by Carey Nieuwhof (hard copy)

It’s Not My Fault by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (kindle)

Replenish by Lance Witt (hard copy)

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer (kindle)

Integrity by Dr. Henry Cloud (hard copy)

Known: By Conviction

(Final post in a series collaboration)

This series has been fun to read. I want to thank my four guest bloggers-Rick Howell, Frank Welch, Shelby Welch, and David Goodman.

Now it’s my turn to share how God made himself known to me in 2019. And my answer is quite different from theirs, but it is the core of mine and God’s 2019 connection. And it’s one word: Conviction.

Conviction is one of those lovely English words that has multiple meanings:

  1. Convicting
  2. Being convicted
  3. A firm opinion or belief

Conviction convicts. Shows me I have more room to grow.

Conviction convinces. Assures me I’m not alone.

Godly conviction is much like when a parent disciplines a child. If done right, the child knows they messed up, knows what is expected, and knows they are still in the family regardless.

2019 had plenty conviction for me. Most notably on a February day, but many times throughout the year. For me to say that is how God made himself known to me is actually quite comforting.

Why? Because of the manner and the result.

It was not, “Hey Boy! Don’t you hear me? Don’t make me come down there!”

It was more like, “Son, no matter what you do, you are mine. You are in the family. I believe you desire better. You agree? Let’s fix what when wrong and then figure out how to move forward better.”

Discipline done right includes a balance of grace and truth, love and correction.

I am known because of conviction. I am known by establishing conviction. I welcome being known even more in 2020.