Groaning (Part 2)

This morning in his message my pastor shared a story about some friends who have a young daughter. Around the age of two, she was diagnosed with multiple food allergies. As they were dealing with that reality, other diagnoses came taking them down a very uncertain and unpredictable path. His purpose for sharing their story was to illustrate that their shared journey through uncertainty brought them closer to each other and to God.

Theirs is a story of groaning. As parents, they groan. As children of God, they groan. As spouses, they groan. When they choose to groan together, recognize each other’s groaning, they are actively choosing to draw closer together.

Sounds perfectly natural for a couple to do. But you and I both know, that’s not what all couples do. Not all relationships survive such trials. And when you examine similar challenges that a larger group is facing together, the possible response scenarios are multiplied.

  • How might responses be chosen if the challenges were seen as “the whole creation groaning”? (See Part 1)
  • How might we listen to one another if we viewed other’s words as groaning prayers?
  • What if we shared groanings without trying to win?
  • What rewards would be received if at least once we chose to listen to another’s groans without demanding they hear ours?

Most likely, all the answers to these questions have a common thread-choosing grace. Grace says, “I hear you. I see you. I’m willing to listen to you. Your groans matter. You are allowed to groan however you want, how loud you want, about whatever you want.”

We are all born groaners. We all have the opportunity to become gracious groaners.

Who is a gracious groaner?

  • That person that you know is in pain, but they refuse to suck the life out of the room.
  • That person that shares their groans along with the lessons they are learning, the questions they are asking, and the hope they have anchored.
  • That person that understands everyone around them also groans and offers the grace they desire to receive.

How did that person nurture such grace? Most likely, they admired someone else with it. Or even better, they grew from being gifted undeserved grace in return for their lack of grace. They received the benefit of shared grace.

More about that in Part 3.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Parent, You Are Chosen!

Read Judges 13 this morning and a question came to me. What would it have been like to be Samson’s parents?

Manoah and his wife display such a teachable, humble, surrendered, and reverent spirit. Neither of them give a vibe of bitterness, doubt, or frustration at their lack of having a family yet. Neither of them display disgust at being told that with the promise of a child came a restrictive vow. Nope. Instead they reply with awe and an outlook of being blessed.

No wonder God chose them to be Samson’s parents. Unbeknownst to them, Samson would make some irreverent choices. He would not follow in their steps of humility. His surrender came by force.

Does this mean Manoah and his wife failed as parents? No. There’s where my judgment has gone in the past when reading their story. But it doesn’t seem to be the best view.

Rather than view them through their son’s actions, it seems better to view them through the eyes of the angel of the Lord who interacts with them in this chapter. They appear to be chosen. They definitely were heard. Without question, they experienced blessing through a promise personally delivered by “I Am” and its fulfillment.

God chose them. Just like all uncapable-of-controlling-the-future parents, they were chosen. God saw something in them and said, “You are the right couple to birth the last judge of my chosen people. You have the spirit to stay with me when your son chooses otherwise. I choose you.”

Father, you were chosen to father your children. God knew what he was doing. You can trust him, surrender to him, allow him to teach you.

Mother, you were chosen to mother your children. God saw your spirit. You can trust him, follow him, lean on him to sustain you.

Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

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.