(What follows is a talk I gave in its original format, with spaces for pausing left in place. I hope the format is not too off-putting.)
To all who are thirsty I will give the springs of the water of life....
To all who are thirsty I will give the springs of the water of life....
When I was asked to talk about my experience of faith in terms of water, I immediately thought of “being thirsty.”
for Knowledge, for Understanding, for Wisdom.
And I think I will always be thirsty.
Because it is through reading, writing, listening, and sharing, that I learn about faith and life
and get glimpses of God.
This all began when my first child was four years old and I wanted to teach him about God.
We were living in England at the time.
So, David received some religious education in the village primary school. But I didn't know exactly what he was being taught.
And there was no “Sunday School” for young children at the Anglican church I attended.
I felt that I needed to teach him something about God myself.
Only, I didn't know how to do this.
So, as usually happens when I want to learn something, I looked for a book to help me.
I found this book: (show book) “Talking to Your Child About God: A Book for Families of All Faiths,” by David Heller.
Perfect title, I thought. I was sure he would tell me what to say.
David Heller, however, believed that before you can teach your child about God, you need to know what you believe about God.
He even thoughtfully provided questions to get the reader started. Questions like:
“How would you describe your image of God, if you have one?”
“What positive qualities stand out?”
“Are there any negative aspects to this image?”
“List five of your most deeply felt beliefs about God?”
And so on --
for a page and a half.
There were no answers.
I put the book down, disgruntled. That wasn't what I had in mind.
I began to think.
What did I know for sure about God?
Here I was, thirty-six years old.
I had attended a Lutheran Church for as long as I could remember.
I was confirmed and baptized when I was fifteen years old, which is well beyond the “age of reason.”
I asked questions in all other areas of my life.
Yet, I had never asked questions about my faith. I had simply accepted what I was told.
I began to question the faith of my childhood.
I stripped away everything, but one thing:
I believed in God.
For I had felt that “peace which passes understanding” in church too often to doubt God.
I started with that,
and began to build from there,
questioning everything I didn't understand along the way.
I did this secretly.
I didn't want anyone to know that I was questioning my faith. I thought I would be ostracized. I wasn't even sure God would like me doing this.
Then the Vicar of the Anglican church invited me to join a book study he was starting.
I was hesitant.
I had never done a religious book study before. I didn't want to expose my ignorance – or reveal my questions.
But, I went.
I was surprised at the variety of opinions that were shared. I was amazed that all these diverse opinions were accepted.
No one was corrected by the Vicar.
In the next study, the Vicar asked us questions.
He wanted us to get to the core of our beliefs.
He challenged us to look beyond the creeds to what was most important, most essential to our belief in God.
A Vicar was encouraging us to question our faith?
I drove home that night, feeling as if my mind had literally been cracked open.
I felt as if I had just been given permission by God to go ahead and ask my questions.
As Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened.”
Now, I have learned over the years that I may not get the answer I would like, but I will always get the answer I need.
When we came back to Tucson in 2006, I enrolled my second child in the preschool here, but I was hesitant to go to church myself.
I knew that my experience in that little parish in England had been very special. Unique even. I had never been in a church like it before.
I suspected that my questions, and perhaps some of my answers, might not be as welcome over here.
One question began to overwhelm me.
Why do Christians welcome you into their church, but then push you out if you are different? If you think differently, or look different, or have a different lifestyle?
This really bothered me. Angered me, in fact.
I stayed away from church,
thinking I was better off on my own.
Makes a lot of sense doesn't it? Fearful and angry about possible exclusion, I excluded myself! Ever hear the phrase, “She cut off her nose to spite her face”?
Yes, well,..... guess what? Life got very crazy “on my own.”
I began to miss church so much that it didn't matter to me where I went, or if I was welcomed, or not.
I just needed to go. I needed that “peace which passes understanding.”
So I came to TVLC. And immediately felt that peace I so desperately needed.
That was at the beginning of 2008.
Much later, I thought God must have an ironic sense of humor to have led me to this particular church,
but then again, I had wanted to know why Christians exclude one another. And I learned a lot about that.
Anyway, back then, realizing how essential my faith was to me, I began studying in earnest.
I was thinking about Jesus and faith, A LOT :
still trying to figure out those two BIG QUESTIONS: What did I believe? And, How can people get along despite their differences?
And I was beginning to notice some really odd coincidences between my thoughts and the things happening in my life.
Like when I started attending the Wednesday Night Bible Study at the beginning of 2009... it was Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians we studied.
First Corinthians is all about unity, about keeping the community of faith together despite different leaders, different gifts, even different beliefs.
This and other coincidences like it, had me wondering if God was guiding me along a certain path.
I really wanted to talk to someone about it, but I was afraid that whomever I talked to, even other Christians, would think I was crazy.
I thought, If I'm going crazy, this is a crazy I don't want to lose.
So, I started keeping a journal. First, as a way to sort out my thoughts -- I learn a lot simply by writing. And second, as a way to record these coincidences I found so profound.
Like Jacob, after his dream, building that little altar of stones to mark his discovery: I, too, was beginning to realize that “God was here, in this place” – much closer than I had ever thought before.
After one particular experience in which a series of devotional readings spoke directly to my concerns, I became convinced that God was speaking to me in the words I was reading.
So, I started journaling daily, using these devotionals, and later, a daily Bible reading, to keep me on track.
I discovered that journaling was a way for me to talk to God: like prayer, only easier for me.
For some reason I think better with a pen in my hand. And so, through writing, I connect more deeply with my thoughts.
What continually amazes me is that in these daily Bible readings, in the words of other people during the day, and in whatever else I happen to be reading, I often find connections to these thoughts.
when I began to think about sharing this history with you, I wasn't sure how to explain this feeling of God's presence which still amazes me (and I'm living it!).
I was in the middle of reading Lynn McTaggart's, “The Bond: Connecting Through the Space Between Us.”
That day, I read that curiosity itself makes us more alive and awake to what is around us. We see more when we are curious – just like animals do when they are hunting.
“Whenever we anticipate things, or get intensely engaged in an activity, or become insatiably curious about something new,
the 'feel-good' neurotransmitter dopamine is produced.”
“The higher our level of dopamine, the less we filter out, the more we see, and the more awake we are to what is around us.”
In other words, the more we seek, the more we find.
Then I read...
Scientists have also found that this “feel-good” sensation is true only as long as we're on the lookout. “The seeking portion of the brain immediately stops firing once we have found what we are looking for.”
I wonder if that is why we only get these hard-to-explain glimpses of God, and also why we understand things a bit differently from each other.
If we all saw God clearly, and all in the same way, our curiosity would be extinguished. We would stop looking for God, perhaps stop talking to each other about God, and perhaps stop learning what God wants us to learn.
Jesus said that eternal life was knowing God, and that the kingdom of God is very near. Just seek his kingdom, and everything else would follow.
This is a truth I can attest to. You may already know all this, but it's been an awakening for me.
Spending a little quiet time each day, reflecting on your life and your faith, and being open to whatever comes your way, allows you to see God's presence more clearly, which allows you to see just how much God loves you. And this, helps you grow into the person God wants you to be.
Which is why I think I will always be thirsty.
Because actually feeling God's guidance enriches my life beyond imagining. It's life-sustaining. It's like a cool drink of water to a parched throat, only indescribably better.
Since I can't keep something so wonderful to myself, I share the connections I find with other people in a blog called “Journey of Faith: Reflections on Faith and Life Along the Way.”
- which gets sent to friends on Facebook, and Tweeted to who knows where.
The blog is a lot like this talk. It's personal. It's often loaded with questions. It has a decidedly ecumenical point of view. But, my deepest hope is that whoever reads it will feel the same excitement I do about God, and Jesus, and the workings of the Holy Spirit, and will be encouraged or challenged in their own faith journey.
For me, it's been a life-altering journey so far.
I never would have imagined that the person who couldn't think of one thing to tell her son about God, would someday find it difficult to stop talking about God.
Thank you so much for listening.