My own personal “Walk of Faith” began when I was born into a family split on religion.  My mom was raised as an open door Baptist (they were at the church any time the doors were open) and my dad wasn’t really raised with any organized religion.

Mom had a burden for all of her kids to have a faith in Jesus Christ. Consequently, she drug us to church anytime she could.  This was a tough task for her as dad was not there for her support.

This was in the 50’s and 60’s.  We attended a large, bureaucratic denomination church which, in my experience, was a very prescriptive church.  By that I mean that our faith walk was pretty well prescribed for us by the church . . . what I would believe . . . when I would be baptized . . . when I would join the church and so on.  As you can imagine, I was not very much in favor of this type of cram it down your throat religion.

Fast forward to my senior year in high school.  I had been dating a girl whose whole family we born-again Christians.  They seemed to be filled with a joy and happiness about their faith rather than a dread or foreboding.  The God they worshipped was a God of love and compassion and forgiveness rather than the mean and angry one I had learned about.  I finally made my own decision to also accept Christ as my personal Lord and savior when I was 18 years old.

During my college years and my early adult life, I fell away from practicing my faith.  Oh, I was still a believer, but my choices in my lifestyle and how I related to God put me into the category of what I call a non-practicing believer.

The power of a praying mom.  My mom continued to pray for me and my relationship with Christ.  She mailed me articles, books, and magazines continually.  Finally something stuck!  She had mailed me a book by Dr. Robert H. Schuller (formerly of the Crystal Cathedral) titled “Tough Times Never Last but Tough People Do”.  The book hit me right in the heart.  I had been going through tough times in my career and that is exactly what the book talked about.  How it is not all up to God to make our lives fruitful.  That we also have an important part to play.  That God has a plan for us and He will equip us to fulfill that plan.  That God didn’t make no junk!  In general, that God loves me no matter what!  What a concept!  That idea had never occurred to me.

From that point, I began to devour Schuller’s books and I could feel God become alive in me.  At the suggestion of one of my co-workers, my wife, Kris and I began to attend a church in Plano, Texas where we lived: The Reformed Church of Plano.  Now this was in a time not long after the fiasco in Guyana with Jim Jones and all of his followers drinking the “kool-aid” committing mass suicide.  I had never heard of The Reformed Church and so my first question was: “Do they use bibles?”  He assured me that they did.  As it turned out, the Reformed Church was the oldest church in America and was also the same denomination of The Crystal Cathedral!

Though we only attended this church for about a year after that before moving to California, it was a life-changing experience.  We learned that we could be involved in teaching others . . . even at our level of faith and experience.  We learned that Christians could be “cool” and didn’t have to be dweebs or goof balls!  Our pastor and Sunday School leader, possibly without even knowing it, and by “sharing their stuff”, helped to shepherd us to the next level in our faith life.

Soon after, I was recruited to a firm in Southern California and so we moved there.   A week or two after we moved was Mother’s Day.  I asked Kris what she wanted to do for her day.  She had just discovered that The Crystal Cathedral was only 15 miles from where we lived.  She announced that she would like to visit The Cathedral for Mother’s Day.  Talk about “Shock and Wow”!  We were amazed by the service . . . level of musical talent . . . the level of preaching and the people were fantastic!  We decided to attend a “fellowship group” (Sunday School class) of about 80 people, called Family Life and that started the next mega-growth period of our faith life.

We attended The Crystal Cathedral for over seven years.  We “did life . . . ministry” with our Family Life Group.  All of us Sharing our Stuff with each other as well as others outside of the class.  We became immersed in learning about our faith and putting into action.

While we were at The Crystal Cathedral, both Kris and I were very involved in several different ministries.  Through those ministries and various events, we have probably heard some of the best teaching and preaching on the planet.  Dr. Schuller was amazing in his own right but we also heard people like Norman Vincent Peale, Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, Ed Cole, Tom Tipton, Bill Hybel and Dr. David Tyler Scoates, just to name a few.  We heard testimonies by people like John Tesh, Gladys Knight, and numerous other people who had overcome insurmountable odds to be successful and /or just functional.  I remember once hearing a pastor with CP who in his slurred and almost un-intelligable speech pronounced: “I haaave C. P. . . . whaaaat’s yoooor problem?!”  Talk about giving you some perspective about your place in life!

From the Cathedral, we moved to Saddleback Community Church with pastor, Rick Warren.  We attended there for 13 years before moving away from Southern California.  We were there when pastor Rick wrote his best selling book: “The Purpose Driven Life”.  We Held back for a while on getting involved in ministry there just because we had allowed ourselves to become over-committed to ministry at The Cathedral.

After a year or so, God pulled us into ministry and we lead small groups in financial studies, became pre-marital counselors, lead ongoing small groups for many years and also ended up serving a couple of times in Kenya on mission.

Our time at Saddleback was another great time of spiritual growth for us.  Again, we received, what I call education in being a practical Christian.  So many places tell you what the bible says, and tell you that you need to change, but they don’t show you how to put it into action.

Kris and I are big believers in what we term: Sharing our Stuff.  In short, what that means is that when we have been given a blessing or a special gift or talent, we owe it to others to share that with them.  Who knows, it may help them to avoid some tough “life lessons” and it might even bless them!

That is why I started this blog.  To Share my Stuff with others.  I am not an ordained pastor but, I am a firm believer that we are all ministers and as we share our experiences, wisdom and passions, that is where we provide a place where others can grow.  That’s when ministry comes alive . . . when others can see how others live the life of a believer.  This is not to say that we are some sort of saints or that we are perfect.  We are far from that.  But, we are imperfect human beings making our best effort to go through this life the way that we believe God modeled . . . helping those we believe He wants us to and to be the people He created us to be . . . through sharing our stuff!

My hope and prayer is that this blog will bless you or will have something in it that may bless someone you know.   If it does, don’t just keep it for yourself . . . now it will be your turn to Share Your Stuff by forwarding, e-mailing or sharing these messages with others!

I also welcome your comments, questions and discussions.  If you agree, disagree or just want to discuss something I have posted . . . please let me know!

Blessings to you!

Pat Larkin

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