Nine of us shared an afternoon recently billed as a spiritual or inspirational retreat. Our facilitator asked four questions for each of us to answer: Where did you grow up? How was your childhood heated or warmed? What person in your life was the warmest? When did you first experience God as warm?
My first three answers were: on a farm in North Dakota, coal and my grandmother, which apparently is a common answer for the third question. The fourth question is more difficult to answer and I happened to be in a position to not get a chance to answer it.
I grew up going to church every Sunday with my parents and my sisters and brothers. No questions asked. We attended Sunday School and because it would have required an additional trip to town (about 5 miles) I never got to Vacation Bible School in the summer. I attended confirmation classes on Saturday mornings for two years during my seventh- and eighth-grade years. After confirmation I regularly attended Youth Group, sang in choir and continued to attend church. I guess I was always involved in church and church was about God, right? Of course, we prayed and recited the Apostle's Creed and other litanies. The church was E and R (Evangelical and Reformed) which later merged with the Congregational Churches to become the United Church of Christ.
My parental grandparents often had guests for dinner, the noon meal, after church on Sunday. Almost always, as I remember, the guests included the minister and family. A son of the minister of my very early childhood became a good friend of my father and his son is a friend of my brothers. Again there was a sense always being connected to the church.
During my college years I attended church with my circle of friends. After college I lived with a college classmate's father who was a minister and I sang in the choir and helped with the youth program. A couple years later I got married and we continued to attend church and take on leadership roles. When we moved to a remote part of Alaska we became involved in starting a Methodist Fellowship (church) in our community. After Alaska we continued to attend church and accept leadership roles in youth programs and general church functions. Still it can be said that I was always involved with church.
But a first experience with a warm God. That's harder to pinpoint. First it's hard to identify what one may mean by a "warm God." Maybe it's when thinking about God becomes emotional and personal as opposed to academic.
I think of two times when I might have increased my emotional connection to a "warm God." While living with my friend's minister father, we shared many moments of personal religious spiritual experiences including some metaphysical events. God seemed more personal and spirituality took on a greater meaning. The second may be now, more than seventy years after my baptism with my parents and my grandfathers as my godparents. I find myself asking many questions about my experiences of the past. I find myself peeling off what now seem like superficial, redundant and irrelevant details. I find myself taking time to think and talk to God and to listen for wisdom. I now feel I am on a journey of truly experiencing a "warm God."
So I will continue peeling, thinking, reading and praying. I feel very close to God on this journey. I look forward to relating in the future to a "Warm God."