God of My 20’s: Mourning Replaced with Savoring

(Post #6 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger: Dawn Stark

Throughout my 20’s I worked for an international airline and traveled the world for almost nothing. But all I really wanted was a baby.  I mourned continually over my empty arms.  Nothing else would appease me: Hawaii, the Greek Islands, Europe, sailing down the Nile – a decade of beautiful places and experiences that I mainly viewed through the lens of pain. I didn’t understand God’s love language to me in the waiting season.  I missed so many amazing places of worship on the way to my arms being filled to overflowing.

The way I spent my 20’s shrouded in mourning is a life regret.

Today I am traveling again, for different reasons, but still very similar to the way I did so many years ago. I know without a doubt God has once again given me this season as a gift in a beautiful way of merging mission and passion. It’s a do-over of sorts. Life is full of long, complicated, and painful journeys; infertility was only one of many that I’ve endured. In my early 50’s now, with 5 miracle children in my life, there is sufficient evidence that I cannot fret or worry or mourn my way through this life.

Recently, work led me to Puerto Rico. A traveler to my core, I was so excited about this new adventure I couldn’t fall asleep the night before my flight.  I’ve been to the island years ago on two other occasions, but only in the San Juan area.  This trip required me to rent a car and travel to Mayaguez, on the western side of PR.  I padded my travel time on each side of work events to allow for moments of spontaneity: pulling over to enjoy look-out points, taking the temperature of the Caribbean water with a quick dip, snapping photos of interesting sites, and choosing local eats over convenient chain options.

Puerto Rico did not disappoint!  I so enjoyed spending time with ministry partners, learning about the heart-breaking impact of Hurricane Maria, and discovering the resilience of the people. I intently practiced present-moment mindfulness by not letting my thoughts creep back to other weighty matters and instead choosing to focus on the “great and small” of life happening right in front of me:

  • the vibrant colors saturating the Puerto Rican culture through nature and art.
  • the proud rooster walking down the sidewalk, crowing like he totally belonged in that human space.
  • the irony of eating St. Louis (my hometown) style rib from the BBQ joint I just happened to stop at for dinner.
  • the newlywed who coaxed me to jump into the rough shore break and enjoy the sunset with her family.
  • the experience of driving in San Juan’s rush hour traffic when 12 lanes of inbound cars merged into 4 without traffic lines or signals of any sort.

While travel is all a little harder on my body these days, I am intent on not missing the moments made for worshipping along the way this time.  I cannot reverse the way I lived my 20’s, doubting the goodness of God, but I can learn from that experience.  My trip to Puerto Rico reminded me – again – to savor the gifts I’ve been given. The song, Peace, written by Michael McDonald and recorded by Russ Taff, perfectly captures my thoughts:

I have come from so far away

Down the road of my own mistakes

In the hope you could hear me pray

Oh Lord, keep me in your reach.

 

How I’ve longed through these wasted years

To outrun all my pain and fears

Turn to stone from own cried tears

And now its your grace I see

 

Love won’t compromise

It’s a gift, it’s a sacrifice

My soul renewed, and my heart released

In you I find my peace.

 

Wonderous child of whom the angels sing

Know my joy, feel my suffering

Shining star make this love you bring

So bring that I may believe

 

That my way will not be lost

From now on, ‘till that river’s crossed

My soul renewed, and my spirit free

In you I’ll find my peace

3 Questions to Refresh Your Bible Reading

If you’re reading this post, you most likely fit into two categories:

  1. You read the Bible regularly, or at least try, and know that at times you need a “pickmeup.”
  2. You have yet to really figure out how to make Bible reading a thing you do.

Guess what…God knows it and understands. Yet, I’ll paraphrase Max Lucado, God sees where you are but isn’t content to leave you there. So when it comes to Bible reading, God desires for you to enjoy communing with him through his words to you.

Whether you are flowing along completely satisfied in your approach to Bible reading, or if you try one more devotional plan that leads to “failure” you are done with it, or you’re indifferent about it, indulge me to encourage you to consider asking yourself these three questions the next time you open your Bible.

  • Who am I when I approach the Bible?

I’m not suggesting you have to flash your official birth certificate heavenward to remind your Creator that you are his handiwork. He knows you, trust that. But do you know your spiritual identity? What if that’s how you approached the Bible? 

Rather than the father of four who wants out, you are God’s son who needs advice, courage, wisdom. 

Rather than the wife of Mr. Grumpy Pants, you are God’s daughter who needs empathy, forgiveness, patience. 

Rather than the employer who wrestles with growing your business, you are God’s servant who wants direction, guidance, blessing. 

When you open the Bible, what might happen if you engaged it with your heavenly identity over your earthly title?

A note to those in category #2: If your answer to who you are is something like Skeptic, Doubter, Curious, First-Timer, or anything that sounds unacceptable to those church-goers, it’s worth repeating. God knows you. He wrote the Bible for you, too.

  • What question focuses my reading?

Once you’ve landed on who are you, then it’s time to figure out why you are reading the Bible. If your answer is because I’m supposed to, let’s go ahead and admit this-that ain’t cuttin’ it. Legalism leads to exactly where you are.

You have to have a reason with purpose that says, “I know God sees me where I am, and I’m not content staying there either.” With that in mind, word a question that will give your heart and mind direction. 

For example, “As a child of God, what is God saying to me?” Or, “As a follower of Jesus, how does this apply to me today?” Or, “As a believer seeking transformation, what steps of growth are possible?” Or, “As a skeptic, what hope do I see in these words?” Or, “As a first-timer, what can I learn about God?” Or, “As a doubter, how does God show himself?”

Once you’ve worded that question, post it somewhere in your eyesight every time you open your Bible. Maybe it’s on a post-it. Maybe it’s at the top of a notepad. Maybe it’s on your computer screen. Write this question in your heart as well as in your vision.

  • Which part of the Bible allures me?

Now that you know who you are and what question is guiding your heart and mind, here’s where I believe freedom shows up. Your entry into heaven isn’t based on did you read the entire Bible or any other works orientation. Free yourself from any system that enslaves you. If you feel God guiding you to read from Genesis to Revelation, fantastic. But if you find yourself stuck in the dull drums, give yourself the freedom to sit as long as you want where you are getting the most from it. God isn’t abusive. He may be corrective as a Good Father and Shepherd, but when you know who you are and why you’re reading his word, all his words can fulfill you. Choose to read where God leads you and feast as long as you want.

One last note for those in Category #2: If you don’t know how to answer this question, here’s a suggestion. Go to the New Testament and try one of the first four books. Most people like to start with the Gospel of John.

God promised that when we seek him we will find him. May these questions assist you in finding God.

(This post was prompted by a coaching session. If you have yet to receive the benefits of a coaching relationship in your life, let this be a testament to what’s possible.)

Jesus’ Lifestyle

If you want to experience the life of Jesus, you have to adopt the lifestyle of Jesus.

In prepping for a talk, this John Mark Comer quote from The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry made the notes.


If you were to make a list that described Jesus’ lifestyle, what would you include? I made a list of five. Here they are with scripture that illustrate them.

  1. For his Father. “If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” John 15:10
  2. Balance. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.” Luke 2:52
  3. Prayer.  “Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After he said goodbye to them, he went away to the mountain to pray.” Mark 6:45-46
  4. Non-materialistic. “So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ Or ‘What will we drink?’ Or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” Matthew 6:31-33
  5. People. “When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

What else would you add? Consider completing this for a devotional exercise and reply with your thoughts.

Looking for Gold

I heard this quote today during a webinar:

“Men are developed the same way gold is mined. When gold is mined, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold; but one doesn’t go into the mine looking for dirt—one goes in looking for the gold.” -Andrew Carnegie

My mind immediately tried to connect this thought to scriptures like Job 23, Psalm 66, and Zechariah 13. But the context isn’t the same. These writers were referring to the outcomes of testing by fire. The imagery of mining for gold brings out a different challenge, even opportunity.

The webinar focused on a style of coaching labeled compassionate. Bottom-line premise: approach coaching as both you and the coachee looking for gold. Expect dirt moving to be necessary, but be more focused on the gold to be found.

Brene Brown would call this generosity. Regardless of whether we call it generous or compassionate, what might happen if we all approached our relationships and conversations, including self-talk, with such focus? It could impact…

  • …how we give employees annual reviews.
  • …how we discipline our children.
  • …how we chat with our neighbors.
  • …how we engage gossip.
  • …how we receive, “I’m sorry.”
  • …how long we coddle anger.
  • …how we analyze guilt.
  • …how we pursue dreams.
  • …how we set goals.
  • …and most impactfully, how we surrender to God’s testing.

Here’s to better and deeper gold looking!

3 Uploads About Your Minister

I’ve had a rare seat all my life. For the first twelve years, I sat in the seat of a preacher’s son. Then after watching other ministers for the next seventeen years as a church member, God placed me in the seat of a church staff member for the next twenty-three years. Loads of data have downloaded into my analytical, judging, and perceiving mind.

This fifty plus years of data is mine. I am tempted to think everyone else has the same data-the same filters, perceptions, understanding, and empathy. But after considering who else I know that has sat in a similar seat, I see how rare it is and am forced to reconsider my thoughts.

A few years ago I posted a few blogs about how to pray for your minister and how to recognize church idols that inhibit their leadership. To push out more, allow me to upload some data to you that I see from my seat. When you read it, most likely within seconds you’ll see it, also. But it may be the first time you’ve seen your minister from this view.

Like you, your minister will mess up. He drives on the same roads, lives in the same town, sees the same social media, has the same time constraints, and exists in the same humanity as you. He’s going to have a bad minute, hour, workday, maybe even a whole week. He’s going to give in and feel bad afterwards. Sound familiar?

Like you, your minister wrestles with who to please. Does he please his wife, those who agree with him, those who disagree with him, those who give the most, those who have the most influence, those who hired him, those who like him, those who will never trust him, those, and those, and those…and that’s just on Mondays. On Tuesday and every other day of the week, he wrestles with that trio of me, myself, and I. Sound familiar?

Like you, your minister is growing up. He hasn’t arrived at Sainthood. He didn’t instantly love everybody the minute he professed to follow Christ. He doesn’t have endless grace. He may have blindspots. Forget may. He knows his weaknesses but may not enjoy acknowledging them to the whole world. He’s well aware he’s got room to grow. Sound familiar?

There’s plenty more to see from my seat. Regardless of our seat, we all have the opportunity to improve how we view our pastor. If you really want a good look, ask God to give you a glimpse of the view from the pastor’s seat.  Or better yet, how about God’s?

God of My 20’s: A Hole in My Heart

(Post #5 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger Melissa Gurchiek

Wow! God in my 20’s? I was born and raised into a very strong, Christian Methodist family. My grandmother was a strict believer, and my parents were as well. I think I attended every service, dinner, Sunday school, Bible school, and anything else the church offered. After a Billy Graham crusade at a local movie theater, I even had a small 3-person Bible study that the crusade offered with a woman from the church. As a child, I loved memorizing scripture, the youth choir, being an acolyte, and just about anything connected with serving. As a high schooler, I was a “nerd”; but underneath my issues, I had a strong love of what I thought was being a good Christian. I attended UMYF until some joking around by some of my classmates (about Jesus) made me furious and I left never to return.

In college, I came out of my shell in oh, so many ways. I was definitely a late bloomer. I started out by trying to go to church, but sleeping in soon took over. The only time I really worshiped was when I’d go home for the weekend. After graduating, I married and returned to my hometown to teach. My father had passed, so I continued to go to church with my mom, joined the choir, but never found a Sunday school to attend as none seemed to fit me. If it hadn’t been for that connection with the choir and with my mother, I think attending would have been questionable. Being an “everyday” type of Christian really didn’t mean much to me. No devotions or daily prayer. My husband is a non-practicing Catholic, so there was nothing to inspire me at home. There was definitely a hole in my heart that I didn’t recognize.

In my late 20’s, I had my daughter and raised her in my church. She loved it, she was easy. A few years later, I had my son whose father felt didn’t need to go to church if he didn’t want to. I felt like a failure…not able to say prayers before meals, have family devotions like my family did. This continued to haunt me my whole adult life.

Fear not, my son became a Christian man, and my daughter has a deep belief even though she doesn’t go to church. If I were near her, I think it would be different as she doesn’t have the home support, just like I didn’t. In moving to Bradenton, I have finally found that “drink of water” that my soul thirsted for and have found my fulfillment late in life. I guess I was still a late-bloomer….thank God for that!

God of My 20’s: Doing For vs. Getting to Know

(Post #4 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger Bob Morrissey

May 11, 1992, as a 5th-grade boy in a revival service at our church I knew God called me to the ministry. I never doubted it – not as a teenager, not as a Bible college student, and not as a young married man in my early 20’s. However, my twenties were some tough years. I knew much about God, but I did not know Him very well personally. I could quote hundreds of verses of scripture. I could stand and teach my adult Sunday school class confidently. On the occasion that I was invited to preach to the church where I was on staff, I could hardly wait for the time to arrive and hated when it was over. I was living to do things for God without a deep and intimate relationship with Him.

The God of my 20’s was somebody I could do something for.

He was somebody I could impress with my abilities.

He was somebody that needed me.

The lost world around me needed me because they didn’t know God, and I did-or at least I thought I did. I was what was wrong with Christianity. I wanted God to use me to do something great to change people and to change the world, but didn’t realize God needed to change me before He could ever work through me to help people. The God of my 20’s was not the God I know now because I constantly judged people. I judged their piercings, tattoos, clothing, music, and everything I could see. I never truly saw people. I only saw their exterior.

Meanwhile at home, I was short tempered with my wife and kids. I often left her home to take care of our children while I was serving God in the ministry. Because I did not know the heart of God, I ignored my greatest ministry-being a godly husband and father. Thankfully my wife knew God better than me and was very patient with me.

The God of my 20’s was patient with me. He let me fail. He let me embarrass myself, and put me with a pastor who was not afraid to correct me, but loved me enough to endure my mistakes. In my late 20’s God brought a couple of older men my way who I was ready to seek advice from.

If I could encourage and advise those in their 20’s I would say:

  1. Spend as much time with God as you do serving God.
  2. God does great things with young people, but He is not in a hurry. Have patience.
  3. Those who do things for God without knowing God often use people to build their ministry instead of using their ministry to build people. Be a people builder!
  4. Get someone in their 50’s or older to be your close friend. Listen and Learn.

Book Suggestion

I’m really enjoying my current read, Spirituality of Listening by Keith Anderson. If you’re attending First Baptist Bradenton tomorrow, you’ll hear some references.


I just finished chapter five, Story: Shaped by Biblical Narrative. Here are some examples of why you might enjoy this book:

God doesn’t ask that we rise above all of life’s pain; rather, he asks that we bring all of our story to God. God doesn’t ask that we walk around in disguise pretending there are no holes in our hearts; God asks that we bring those painful hearts to the throne of grace.

When someone says thank you for something you have done, it is a gift of gratitude from God. When someone shows you love, that love is a gift of grace from God. When someone tells you the truth, it is a gift of love because God cares to move you from your defenses, hiding, and resistance. Telling our story to one another is perhaps the most sacred thing we do because God shows up in the words, emotions, and crafting of our words.