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Finding this week’s spiritual focus interview wasn’t too hard – I overheard two people having a heated conversation about sin, grace, Hell, and God, and somehow I knew they’d have something to say about the spiritual life. Tim and Dawn were very welcoming in letting me interrupt their conversation and ask them a bunch of personal questions. It was a real pleasure to meet them. Here is an excerpt of our conversation.

 

How would you describe your spirituality?

Tim: I’m currently in the process…

Dawn: I’m the preacher, I guess (laughs). I’m a born again-Christian.

Are you affiliated with any congregation?

Dawn: I go to Epic Church. It’s a non-denominational, evangelical Christian church.

And how did the two of you start talking theology?

Tim: (joking) I have issues…but we’ve known each other since we both worked at Mcdonalds six years ago.

Dawn: (laughs) We all have issues…that’s what I’m trying to explain.

Yeah, I heard this was quite a conversation here – Romans, sin, grace, Hell…so let me ask you Dawn, how does your Christianity affect your personal life?

Dawn: Me? I mean, every day of my life I live for Jesus. It rules everything I do – I mean, not saying I go around preaching like this all the time. It’s just, I see myself walking in constant fellowship with God – like He’s my friend. And I try to pray about every decision I make, and the steps that I take, and He’s with me.

And how did you come to be born again?

Dawn: Well I was born in a house that was a Christian house, I grew up going to church and stuff, and my grandma led me to Christ when I was little. I don’t remember much about that.

After that, I always wanted God, but I didn’t really understand, necessarily…like, I wanted Him, but I didn’t really understand, when I read the Bible, it didn’t make sense to me, or – I don’t know, I felt like God was far away. I looked out the window, I looked at the moon – and I wanted God, but it didn’t seem like He was within reach.

And then when I was fifteen, after a series of events that were really traumatic for me, I was in a state where I was kinda seeking and searching, and I went to Youth Camp, and I went to the altar, and I was just crying out to God, pouring out my heart to Him, and I really came to the point of surrender. And I felt this peace come over me, and I never felt the presence of God before. And that was the first time I ever felt peace, God’s nearness.  That was kind of an answer to my question, because when I would cry out to God, I’d say, “You seem so far away.” And all of a sudden, it was just like He was surrounding me, like He was hugging me, and I was just crying, and I was at peace, and my life was never the same thing from that day forward.

And so now your relationship feels closer, like a friend?

Dawn: Yeah. Me and Jesus are like this (she intertwines two fingers). He talks to me about stuff. I talk to Him.

And what about you, Tim, what was your religious upbringing?

Tim: Let’s see, my father’s side is Catholic, my Mom was a born-again Christian. My father came from a Catholic family, but when he was in Antartica for the Navy, the only piece of reading material the other guy had there was a Christian Bible, so he came back a Christian. And then after that, I used to go to a Christian church all the time. But rather than a catastrophe starting my walk with God – he ended up dying, so that catastrophe kind of ended it. So the past 15 years, I’ve just been doing my own thing. Then she comes along.

So what has her effect been on you?

Tim: Pretty good so far. Getting used to new things, and talking about stuff you normally don’t talk about. It still kinds of shakes me up a little bit, but I’m getting used to it.

To talk about religion?

Tim: Oh, yeah. Religion – and how do I feel, I never told anybody that before.  

So what would you say are the places, for both of you, where you are being challenged, or grown, or called?

Dawn: Well, it’s not that I strayed from the Lord, but I went through a really hard time for a while, I had a pretty dramatic – God let me go through crap, in essence. And I spent some time being very angry at Him. And I didn’t think my faith was going to make it through it. But then He brought me out of that in a very dramatic way, and kind of set my feet upon a rock. I feel stronger than I did even before, and more committed to Christ – to the point where I know I’m 100% not going to turn away from that, I know that I’m going to walk with God all of my days, and that nothing’s going to deter me from that.

I guess my faith is stretched by trying to really believe that what He says in His word is true, and see that not in just some ideological, theological idea, but in actual, practical reality. So if Jesus went around healing people, and that’s what happened in the New Testament church, I want to expect that to happen in my life. You know, I want to pray for the sick and see them to be healed. And if power accompanied people when they were preaching the gospel, when I speak His word I want to expect God to be there. I’m not about a dead religion – I wouldn’t serve a dead God. But to me Christianity is more like a relationship with a real, living God, which is why I serve him, and why I can give Him my whole life.

Tim: This year, everything’s happening for me at once. I just brought my Mom back from Georgia, and she’s been down there for three years. I just got my grandma to the house…We’ve been there for three months, but everything’s starting to slowly piece together, piece by piece. Now that we got this situated, I’m starting to get new friends, new ideas. Dawn’s walking me through this process, so I guess that’s another challenge for me too. Everything’s just coming together so quickly this year, that it makes me just want to forget the last couple of years.

So it’s a good year.

Tim: Yeah. Good year.

Dawn: Yeah, very good year.

Tim: It’s a good nervous year.

One last question: what’s a spiritual place for you in the Lehigh Valley?

Tim: (laughs) Barnes & Noble.

Dawn: Actually, this is kind of a sanctuary for me. I will be honest with you. Barnes & Noble.

Tim: My sanctuary is Saylors Lake, up past Wind Gap. You go down there, no traffic, no Mack Trucks, you can sit and think to yourself, get stuff squared away in your own head. That place is really good. Even in the wintertime.

Dawn: Jacobsburg Park, I like that place. I like to go bike riding.

 

What wonderful, thoughtful people. Best wishes to Dawn and Tim in their spiritual lives. If you pray, keep them in your prayers on their walk with God.

Hope you’re enjoying the “Spiritual Lives of…” series. If you know of someone you’d love to see interviewed here, or have something to say yourself, please comment here or email me at lehighvalleyspirituality@gmail.com.

One of my favorite things about Lehigh Valley in the summer – other then the Fests and the Fairs – is our front porch culture. The Lehigh Valley is one of those places where people not only hang out on their front porch, they talk to each other as they’re strolling by. Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton all have neighborhoods where you can find somebody in a rocking chair to say hello to.

I grew up in New England, where “how are you doing?” is considered an overly personal question. So it took me a while to adjust to the Lehigh Valley and the way perfect strangers will talk to you, simply because you’re both human beings. Add to this fact that I’m also an introvert. So if I ever won the lottery, the idea of building a giant house in the country, where I could avoid ever having to interact with anyone, would have a certain appeal to me.

But I couldn’t do it. I love our front porch culture just too much. Someone saying “hi” to me, and saying “hi” back, is an even better pick-me-up than really good coffee. It’s an affirmation of our mutual humanness, a spark of what Jewish mystic Martin Buber called the “I-You” relationship. The universe, he declared, is fundamentally relational. Nowadays, chaos theory is confirming this to be true.

It’s lovely having neighbors. I wasn’t a big Mr. Rogers fan as a kid, but as an adult I definitely am. Not everyone knows that Fred Rogers, who came from Western Pennsylvania and died in 2003, was an ordained Presbyterian minister. So when he sings:

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?

He’s not just thinking it’s a cute song kids will like. No, Mr. Rogers is trying to get across to kids how important it is that we see each other as fundamentally related beings, who share this amazing thing called a neighborhood.

Anyway, enough writing. I got a few more beautiful days out there, I’m going to sit in  my rocking chair and see who comes by. Soon, it’ll be too cold – and time to get the porch ready for Halloween. Won’t you be my neighbor?

I invite you to consider where your “front porch space” is – the place where you can interact with others whil feeling at home. If not a porch, could it be a coffeeshop, at the water cooler, or on Facebook? Or is front porch space a state of mind? And if so, how are you called from the inner chambers of your soul, so to speak, to your front porch space?