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!

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.

Known: “Show Me You Exist”

(Post #4 in a 4-part series collaboration)

By David Goodman (bio below)

A few months ago, in remarkably certain terms, God showed me that I’m known to Him. Therefore, when Pastor Gregory invited me to write an article for a series he was calling Known, I was excited for the opportunity.

My story starts in early September. Something seemed wrong as I was getting ready for work. My necklace felt lighter. I hadn’t put my shirt on yet and when I looked down, I didn’t see the religious amulet my wife bought me sixteen years ago.  The clasp on my necklace was closed, and it functioned properly.

How then did I lose the amulet? 

I looked everywhere for the amulet. I guess I was hoping for a small miracle, so I checked the trunk of my car, inside the refrigerator, on bookshelves. Finally, I admitted to myself that I was not going to find the amulet.

Several weeks went by.  In early October, my daughter was in town. She goes to school in Tampa. We landed on the topic of God’s existence because lately her faith has been very shaky.  We recently moved to Sarasota from Milwaukee, and she was struggling with the transition. It hurt to see how sad she looked.

I don’t ask God for help too often. I have always assumed that He knows what I need. But when I worked out later that day, I asked God to show me He exists.

I’m a swimmer. I count each stroke because it helps me stay focused on my pace. On this day, I replaced counting with a prayer: “Please God, show me that you exist.” Each syllable for each stroke.

About 45 minutes later, after I had repeated my prayer more than 200 times, I was nearly done swimming when a shiny object caught my eye. Without thinking, I reached for my neck. Nothing there. Quickly I returned to the other side of the pool. I dove down and grabbed my necklace.

I stood in the pool untangling it. Suddenly, part of the clasp broke off. I cupped my hand to catch the tiny piece of metal as it sank in the water. I swear I had it; but when I opened my hand to place it on the side of the pool for a closer look, my hand was empty.

I stared at the side of the pool. It had to be there. Then another object caught my eye. I reached for it without thinking. It took a few seconds to grasp the inconceivable. That I was holding the amulet I had lost weeks ago.

I left the pool. I was walking to the locker room. “Thank you, God,” came to my lips.

About a month later, while driving my daughter and son to a movie, I told them about my experience. They were fascinated and heartened by my story.

I dropped them off and, as I drove away, I saw them in my rear-view mirror for a moment, both smiling before disappearing into a crowd.


Blogger Bio: David J. Goodman earned both a PhD and Master of Education in psychology from Loyola University of Chicago (1994) and Indiana University (1989), respectively.  He started his professional career in 1992 with the Chicago Public School System as a certified school psychologist. His clinical training continued in 1994, when he took a post-doctoral residency on a children’s inpatient floor at Saint Therese Medical Center in Waukegan, IL. During the next 25 years, half of which Dr. Goodman spent as a Wisconsin licensed psychologist, he served individuals and families in medical rehab, skilled nursing, community mental health, and private practice.
​Dr. Goodman recently moved from Milwaukee to Sarasota. As a staff psychologist with Samaritan Counseling Services of the Gulf Coast, among other duties and responsibilities, he will focus on helping at-risk children and teens by participating in SCSGC’s outreach efforts, and by providing psychological testing, behavioral counseling, and psychotherapy to those identified youth and their families. 

Look at Me

“You, O Lord, are the lifter of my head.”‭‭ Psalms‬ ‭3:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I witnessed this the other day. Actually, we all do every day. People walking around literally and figuratively needing a head lift. Sometimes it’s the person in the mirror.

When I read this verse recently, a familiar image came to mind. Picture a discouraged child, head down, not wanting anyone to see their eyes, possibly hiding their tears. They’ve been asked several times, “Look at me!” After several refusals, the inquirer gently puts their first few fingers under the child’s chin lifting their head in order to force eye contact. With that gesture, change becomes possible. The child looks into another pair of eyes offering forgiveness, understanding, empathy, strength, hope, protection, peace, or love.

In my relationship with God, I can often forget to allow him to lift my head. I’m satisfied to look down. To see what I want to see. To accept less. To tolerate guilt. To self-protect. To wallow. To be a stubborn child.

This Psalm was written by David in an extremely sad time. His own son was after him. Can you imagine how downcast David was? David helps us see how important it is to allow God to lift our heads. To be Fathered. To see what we need to see. To receive more. To embrace mercy. To drop our guard. To stand tall. To be a changed child. To obey the first time God whispers, “Look at me.”

6 Lessons from the Blind Runner’s Guide

My last post shared two runners’s story, observed from a distance. They ran a half marathon together on Wednesday; I doubt it was their first nor their last. The uniqueness of one being blind and the other a guide got me thinking. So that post focused on the blind runner, lessons to learn from running blind. So what lessons could we learn from the running guide?

At some time in life, we are a guide. It may be as a parent, an employer, a teacher, a facilitator, a trainer-so many opportunities for us to tether up and lead someone down a path they have never traveled or simply can’t see to navigate on their own. In those moments, we have much to keep in mind, to consider how best to fulfill our role. From the example of guiding a blind runner, here are some things to consider.

  • Relax

If you want your runner to be comfortable and enjoy their experience, you have to lead that part of their journey also. Bringing skepticism or doubt or tension to the start line will make for a long race. So whatever you’ve got to do to step up to the start line relaxed (train a lot, know the course, anticipate questions and concerns, curb your emotions), do it!

  • Forward movement

Being relaxed will help avoid paralysis at the start line. Committing to forward progress will keep you moving long after the gun has sounded. Somewhere along the 13.1 miles, your runner may question if they can finish. Dealing with the possible-only worrying about the next step-will maintain focus on the present and let the future take care of itself.

  • Loose Grip

The tether between Brandon and Adam was less than an arm’s length, long enough to allow space but short enough to control direction and create rhythm. This subtle avenue toward confidence and freedom may be the most important path to trust. Yes, you are needed. No, you are not completely in charge. You are a guide, not a dictator.

  • Follow their Lead

The best leaders know how to follow. On race day, you have to pay attention to how they are feeling, thinking, and responding in that moment. How they were in training or at dinner the night before is irrelevant. How they show up to the start line is what you have to follow. Pay attention and follow their lead. This requires balance; but if you’re relaxed, thinking forward, and holding a loose grip, following will be much easier.

  • Respect their Pace

Get this straight: this is not your race; it’s theirs. If they aren’t thinking anything about setting a personal record or finishing in the top three, neither should you. The pace is up to them. You came to help them accomplish their goals, not yours. Whatever their pace is, respect it.

  • Stay in Your Lane

Drifting in and out of your lane will eventually result in a fall, which could have various consequences. Stay in your running lane. Stay in your emotional lane. Stay in your guiding lane. Commit to knowing your lane and staying in it. Correct any drifting step by step.

Our guiding opportunities can be very rewarding and fulfilling. Let’s embrace them in order to celebrate our tethered partner’s race.

Never Let Him Get to Three

Yesterday on a coaching call an observation was made about a parenting technique. Well, it was more than a observation-more like a self-aware acknowledgement of what not to do.

He noted that several years back he caught himself using the “I’m going to count to three” approach to foster obedience. And for his parenting, he decided this wasn’t working. It was sending a message he didn’t want to send.

This observation wasn’t the topic of the conversation, but it generated a question in connection to the conversation that wouldn’t have been made otherwise. Using the imagery of a parent/child relationship, imagine the Holy Spirit is the parent and the believer is the child. The question is, would the Holy Spirit count to three? If so, what does that say about the relationship? If not, what does that teach us about obedience or about quenching the Holy Spirit?

One could say freewill is a form of counting to three. “Go ahead. Make any choice you want. If it’s not the best one, I’ll be right here when you get back.” One could also say that the longsuffering, mercy, and grace of God is his way of counting to three. I’m not going to argue against either of those views…or others that align with God’s character.

My reflection has led me to a more personal response to this unusual question. While I’m grateful God doesn’t bonk me on the head every time I allow the counting to begin-and maybe go on and on and on-my life experiences have taught me to pursue a quicker response to spirit-led directions and promptings that reflect alignment and obedience. I’d rather not hear the tone of the counting voice, especially not from my grieving Father. But when I do, my aim would be to shorten my response time so that he doesn’t get to three…ever.

Terrified…But Looking Forward

A flashback for all the parents: Remember the day you found out you were going to be a parent? Joy mixed with fright. Thrilled but terrified.

The birth came and maybe those feelings got worse. But after a few diapers and spit ups, no big deal. Until a few years later and those Terrible Twos arrived. And then preschool came…and then puberty came…and then graduation…and then…and then…

A friend recently told me that a life change had them terrified, but they were looking forward to the future. Terror doesn’t have to result in paralysis. It’s normal and doesn’t have to lead to life-smothering, dream-crushing, or ice cream-binging sorrow. With the right mindset mixed with faith in God’s power over all his creation, the future can be rushed toward versus never encountered.

For example, suppose…

…Noah never picked up a hammer

…Moses never went back to Egypt

…Ruth never left home

…David never slung a stone

…Esther never approached the throne

…Daniel never revealed his interpreting skills

…Joseph never married Mary

…Jesus never drank from that cup

If God has shown you a glimpse of the future and it looked scary, you are in good company. Of course, you could pull a Jonah, if you’re into seasickness and other kinds of goo. But why bother with that drama? The better drama is found in trusting your faith in the One who will help you finish what he’s starting.

Go ahead. Walk toward the Terror.

3 Keys in Trying to Do it Right the First Time

My niece has a first coming. In three months, she and her husband will have another mouth to feed (pictured below). But more importantly, they will be first-time parents. She told me, “I can’t deny it. I’m a little nervous.” Yep.

We all have firsts. These come in experiences like our first day in kindergarten, our first time driving on an interstate, our first time praying in a group setting, our first time going for a job interview, or our first and hopefully only time to say, “I do.”

And they keep coming. Life is a journey of firsts. Last year my firsts included planning a sabbatical, running two half marathons in one weekend, researching for a book, and stepping up to the mic in a studio. These were firsts I chose to do. Not all firsts are chosen, though. Remember Noah? Chosen or not, all firsts come with moments of, “I’m a little nervous.”

I was more than a little nervous for my senior recital in college. You can say I chose it because I chose that field of study, but a 30-minute recital singing in various languages wasn’t shared in the catalog description. But I was buoyed by two things: my accompanist was the best on campus and my commitment to doing this right. My goal was to walk off stage thinking, “This is what I wanted to feel and experience.”

So how does one walk away from a first experience believing they did everything they could to get it right? Sounds audacious. Maybe even too lofty. But what’s that saying your probably heard from some mentor along the way, “If it’s worth doing, its worth doing right”? So from my efforts in trying to get firsts right, here are three keys to grasp:

  • Embrace your Emotions

    Your first could bring a myriad of emotions. Fear. Elation. Anxiety. Excitement. Doubt. Drive. I encourage you to deal with it all. Why? When someone deals with all their emotions, they grow in dealing with the negative and the positive. You learn your personal lane of balance. Some people are fearless and therefore are going to crash sooner or later; they need to find a balance of embracing healthy fear. Some people are born doubters and are constantly stunting their chance to go further; they need to find a balance of embracing healthy courage. Rather than falsely believing in the futility of balance seeking, we give ourselves a better chance of doing things right the first time when we embrace our emotions.

    • Stand in Your Why

      Convictions, purpose, values, vision: whatever your call them, they give you the stability to go after something for the first time. You must know them and ferociously guard them. Is your why clear? Do your methods live out your why? If you could state your why in five words, what would it be? Yes, your marriage should have a why. Yes, your parenting should have a why. Yes, your first 90 days on the job should have a why. We give ourselves a better chance of getting it right the first time when we stand in our why.

      • Be Fully Present

        Are you a “what-ifer”? Or a “if only-er”? Too much living in the past or for the future can stunt doing things right in the present. Using the example of parenting, research says that the core of who we are is established by age five. If that’s true, the parent concentrating on getting that child into Harvard while they’re in the pottytraining stage may miss some key elements in doing the parenting thing right. Live in the moment. Yes, plan for the future and learn from the past. But give yourself the best chance of doing this thing right the first time by being fully present now.

        Here’s to my niece, the first-time business owners, the first-time writers, and all first-timers! May God bless your efforts in trying to do it right the first time.

        The Gift of Balance: Family & Parenting (Part 3)

         (This is the final part for the second topic in a series on the subject of balance. It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance was appropriate. By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors. Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter. In this final part we address one question. At the end of this entry, there are some suggested resources on this subject.)

        How long into your parenting life did it take for you to feel like you’d found balance and what were the signs?

        Tonya: For us that journey started when we were still serving in ministry. My husband was working for the church and the district at the same time-part time money at full time hours. So he had come home from work, gobbled down dinner, and was heading out for a church meeting. My son was playing with his dump truck outside in the dirt. When my husband came out the door to leave, he said, “Where are you going, daddy?” He said, “I have a church meeting, son.” And my son stood up and threw his dump truck to the ground and with all the anger he could muster he said, “I hate church!” Both of us were dumbfounded. We said, “No. No more. We’re unbalanced. This is the last thing we want him to feel.”

        One of the things we started doing was setting a six-month calendar. The church would set one, so we’d have a family meeting to set our schedule before the meeting for the church calendar happened. My husband would take it into the staff meeting in order to say no where he needed to say no. We made it a priority that our family was going to come before the church calendar.

        Mark: From our standpoint, we had a pretty clear philosophy on being family-centric, not being overly committed to activities out of the home. I feel like we answered that question early on. It’s fluid though, and we’ve made adjustments along the way. But I’m going to take this along a different direction. 

        One area of parenting that we still haven’t solved is technology and devices. We have taken a very conservative view on the spectrum. We are also a homeschool family, so traditional pressures aren’t as strong for us. But I can’t say we’ve landed well on this subject. This is something that I feel like my wife and I have been chasing from the beginning and are always chasing balance.

        Tonya: I’m with you on that. We were able to stay away from it longer than others also by being homeschoolers. For example, they didn’t get phones until they were older. But I’m also married to an IT director, so technology is all over our house in every form imaginable. So this was a battle in our marriage where we had to work out balance with each other. I was harder on the limits we needed to have, and he was more about teaching them how to handle it because this is the world now. That was rough. They were exposed to things by being on the hockey teams, so we had to do a lot of teaching, a lot of talking and accountability. My husband took the lead with the boys, “Let’s take a look at what your looking at on your phones and iPads. Let’s take a look and talk about it.” 

        I don’t know if you know, but the Boundaries book was updated. Henry Cloud was at a conference I was at recently, and he said that book was updated with a chapter on boundaries on technology. I haven’t got it yet, but I want to get it to see what they say with that. It’s a hard one, a new world we are dealing with. The other thing, Mark, is we are fighting against an enemy in this area. There are apps being created to get around parent’s control. Kids can send each other messages, but they disappear within a few seconds and can’t be traced. Another thing my husband taught the boys is that everything they put out there is always going to be out there. You need to think about everything you say and do; you no longer have control the minute you hit send. That was real important to help them understand that.

        Mark: That’s such a hard concept for teenagers to understand. They are in their prime of life, enjoying these freedoms and social interactions where one little discretion is out there forever with implications in hiring decisions and choices down the road, like we’ve seen dug up for political purposes. This has been a challenge for us, for sure.

        Tonya: Absolutely. And also teaching them that a relationship by text message is not really a relationship. We can all be our fake self. We had that with our youngest. He learned a hard lesson after texting a lot with a young lady who turned out to not be at all what he thought. I had to explain to him that you can be a fantasy person in a text message. Until you meet somebody face to face, they may not be the same person. 

        Mark: That’s another component of the technology piece-not losing the face to face interaction, real depth of relationship. Nothing replaces face to face whether that is a romantic relationship or with an authority figure where you are teaching them to make eye contact and shake hands, basic skills of manners. There’s been that balance of accepting and embracing technology while navigating how to manage the consequences of what it brings.

        Tonya: I’m curious, John, how this works for you as a single person. How easy is it to flip into not having the face to face?

        John: Oh, that’s very easy. And the younger generation needs awareness of how easy it is because it’s all they know. They need guidance from older people who that’s not all they know. One thing coming to my mind on this topic is input and output. As a single person, at times I find myself needing to check the quantity and quality of my intake. Along the thought of when did I start paying attention to this, I remember dealing with this when the sitcom Will & Grace first came on. I thought the writing and everything was really good, but the more I watched it the more I realized the intake was not healthy. It may be funny, but it’s laying the foundation for something that does not match my values. So I had a little self conversation, “Yeah, you like this show, but you’re not going to watch this anymore.” A single person either has to develop those self-disciplines or have someone else speaking into their lives challenging their input. Their have been seasons in my home where I have purposefully taken a fast for a lengthy time from the Internet or TV to do some corrective action but also to just unplug, create an exercise to test my balance on what I’m bringing in and how it plays into what I give off.

        Tonya: I remember a pastor of ours challenging us several years ago to take a fast from TV for a few weeks and see what happens when you resume watching. He said what happens is you get desensitized. When you take a fast from it, you then can see what you didn’t see before. We were very big on what you put in matters. I always told my boys, “I’m not going to tell you what kind of music you can listen to. But if you cannot talk to the Lord in the middle of your song, something’s not right with the song.” So that’s a big piece, understanding intake absolutely has an influence on your output.

        John: Another viewpoint for singles is the trap of escapism. You can find yourself deep in a hole using these avenues to escape something. If you can get ahold of that awareness, there’s where you’re going to find balance. Getting that awareness of why you do what you do when you’re at home is a big deal. Ask yourself, “Why am I watching what I’m watching?”

        Tonya: I like the input/output thought. One of my clients made the comment about he always watches the Raiders, “I just watch one game.” But the output issue just came back to me. He said, “You know what? I got so angry at the end of the game I threw something across the room and yelled. My kids were scared, and I realized, whoa, what’s going on here that’s created so much emotion in me?” So, is it entertainment, is it a family thing, is it fun, or is there something more going on there? So that input/output is good. I like that.

        Suggested Resources:

        Tonya’s:

        John’s:

        The Gift of Balance: Family & Parenting (Part 2)

        (This is part two of three for the second topic in a series on the subject of balance. It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance was appropriate. By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors. Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter. In part two on the subject of family and parenting we address one question.)

        How have you approached spiritual formation in your family that is a balance between legalism and “letting them find their way”?

        Tonya: My experience as a homeschool mom gave me an opportunity to teach them about the Lord. I taught them subjects like “who is God,” “can I really know him.” I also taught them a class on all the different religions of the world to make sure that understanding came from their parents. We tried to give them a bigger picture view. But the biggest piece for me is that you have to walk the talk. If I’m teaching them about the Lord, I need to be serving him and walking the talk.

        Another thing comes from a book I read a long time ago on mother/son relationships. She talked about giving them room to make mistakes. If they aren’t allowed to make mistakes, they don’t learn how to recover from them. Without that learning, when they leave the house they’ll have no reference for recovery when they make mistakes. Giving them freedom was important.

        We were totally attacked by several church people because of their hockey. We were told we should never go to games if they fell on Sundays. I said, “If I take something away from them that they love in the name of the Lord, who are they going to despise?” It was a balance of teaching them how to walk with the Lord even if we aren’t always at church. But, you know, when they go through those teenage years when they question everything, which I know now is important, they find their own faith and not their parent’s faith. That’s hard, but they have to have that to make their own choices.

        Mark: I’m putting myself in your shoes, Tonya, with that do we/don’t we on Sunday activities. We also had the chance to put one of my boys in competitive ice hockey. For a couple of reasons, we pulled back. I still wonder what would it have been like to have one of my kids play. Growing up, I couldn’t do things on Sunday from the decision that my parents made. So there were a few baseball tournaments that my parents took flack on from the team, not from the church. So I can see it from the other side.

        The balance that my wife and I have tried to take, particularly over the last ten years as our kids have gotten to the age where they can reason through some of this, is you cannot measure faith or any relationship with externals or with things that can be quantified by participation, giving, or other activities. It all comes down to what’s in the heart. We have pressed and pressed and pressed that it’s about the heart. Man looks on the outside; God looks at the heart. There’s no one that knows your relationship with God more than you. The externals flow out of that relationship, but they don’t define it. The other piece you alluded to, Tonya, is owning it. “Here’s our choice and our desire for you, but ultimately you’ve got to own it. You have to make this relationship priority and invest into it.”

        Tonya: It’s not about religion, it’s about relationship. Jesus wants to have a relationship with us. If you want relationship, you have to invest time. The externals-reading Scripture, spending time talking with the Lord-is critically important. That’s how you get to know him, how to hear his voice. We felt it was important for them to understand relationship. It was a balancing act with ice hockey. There was no respect for Sundays or holidays. For them to play at the levels they were playing, they had to be there or be off the team. We had to talk through that, and sometimes I told them, “I’m feeling unbalanced like our God has become hockey, so how are we going to adjust this?” We had to work through that but also teach them that relationship is everywhere. “God is with you in the locker room. He’s with you when you’re on the ice. What does that look like?” 

        Mark: At the risk of sounding too critical, I think the Christian community has maybe placed too much sacredness on traveling into the four walls of a church rather than being the church in your activities. No doubt there is a balance, but there can be a powerful witness and testimony from two grounded and strong and committed teenage boys on a sheet of ice. Playing a game that is honoring and consistent with how they live in other parts of their life.

        Tonya: It was also the idea of our opportunity as parents seeing the mission field of the other parents in ice hockey. I remember one morning at breakfast on one of the tournament weekends where I happened to be sitting across from the coach. I don’t know how it happened, but before I know it the table is full of people and he starts asking me questions.  In no time we are having this long conversation about the Lord. He began sharing his heart about how God had been speaking to him over the last year.  The result of that conversation was he started leading the team in prayer before practices and games. He knew that there was this God, and he wanted to recognize it. It was definitely a mission opportunity.

        John: Two thoughts have come to me as you both have been talking.  Mark, as you were talking about externals, one thought came to me of how legalistic thinking and practices are highly conditional versus unconditional, as you think about how people are loved and received. How do we help our family members understand unconditional relationship versus conditional relationship?  That angle seems to not be thought about very much. The thought is, “Are you going to church or are to you going to hockey?”  Conditional thinking is very do/don’t.

        The other thought that is huge to me these days is the subject of grace. How does a kid understand grace?  I don’t remember really understanding it as a kid; it’s a hard concept. We maybe don’t use that word with our kids, but we can model to them giving grace either to ourselves or our family members who don’t look or act like us.  Unconditional/grace living go hand in hand-zoning in on what that means for me and how do I build that into the spiritual formation of my family by the choices we make.

        Mark: Grace makes me think how easy it is for children to forgive and extend grace in comparison to parents. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pinned my ears, tucked my tail and gone to my kids and said, “I’m sorry for my behavior,” and they demonstrate to me a willingness to extend grace which is way more than my tendency to extend to them or others. I think they’ve taught me more about grace than I have taught them along the way. 

        John: That illustration is an example of a teachable moment to help them understand the grace concept. They are doing it, but they don’t know to call it that. “You just exercised your grace muscle.” Help them understand what that means and as a family commit to it.

        Tonya: You being willing to go back and apologize is you walking your talk. That’s an example of living out your faith-being willing to admit your faults, being open. You’re teaching them that’s how we do this walk. That’s really good.