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: 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.

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.

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…

God of My 20’s

On my drive home from visiting family last month for Thanksgiving, I realized something. All my nine nieces and nephews are in their 20’s and 30’s. Had to shake my head at that a little. Four of them are married, and three have children. Double head shake.

Thinking about them and the difference in my world during my 20’s and their current world, a thought for a blog series came to mind. The series, entitled God of My 20’s that will post every Monday beginning next week, is a chance for friends of mine to share their story of who God was to them in their 20’s. I invited a slew of men and ladies. Twelve accepted. So this will be fun.

These writers represent every age groups from their 30’s to theirs 70’s. So that means from Millennials to Baby Boomers, born anywhere from the 40’s to the 80’s. That’s a lot of living through a world of change. So the question, and there could be many, that I’m curious about is how does God show up over the decades in people’s lives. On a side note, those living today in their 20’s could be classified as Millennial or Generation Z. If these generation labels are another language or like me you need a refresher, follow this link: Generation Z.

An interesting note from that link is that Generation Z is the largest generation in American history. The God question is therefore a good question to be asking. What if we helped them answer it by telling our own story? I hope you’ll follow along. And maybe even share your own story here or in person. Who was God in your 20’s?