Deep and Sustaining Nourishment

Submitted by Francyl Gawryn

My religious upbringing was a rather sketchy business at best. Our family went to the local community church in Carlsbad, in Southern California, and I vaguely remember hearing my brothers memorizing their Bible verses. My only direct memories of the experience are of the nursery school Bible class, coloring pictures of Jesus holding a lamb in his arms. The feeling of comfort which accompanies these memories has never gone away.

Before it became my turn to begin reading Bible verses, my parents decided to join a Unitarian-Universalist fellowship. My first experiences of God in community with others were largely formed by this Unitarian fellowship, but unfortunately, though they were all delightful and good people, most of them were atheists. Consequently I found God while I was alone, in nature, behind my mother’s house in the hills and sagebrush of Southern California – not at all a bad place to find God. Later in life I was surprised to learn that people could really connect with God by going to church!

My turbulent teen years brought me to a very pointed and intense thirst for spiritual truth. I left: the Unitarian Church, proclaiming, in my wisdom of sixteen years, that there was nothing spiritual to be found there, and went to find – something.

In December of 1969 I had recently dropped out of high school. I was at the home of a friend when Larry Neff, a musician friend of mine, came in the front door and enthusiastically began to evangelize me about this big blue book. He was so insistent about my reading it that I was sure I never ever wanted to look at it. I did my best to discourage Larry, and had managed to keep him at something of a distance for about a week, when finally, in exasperation, I yelled at him, “Larry, leave me alone and just let me go to hell, okay?” “There is no hell!” was Larry’s retort.

That got me interested. I went to the local mall and found a copy of the book for $12. I opened it and read the first sentence of the first paper: “The Universal Father is the God of all creation, the First Source and Center of all things and beings.” This single sentence was deep and sustaining nourishment for my starved and lonely soul. I knew that regardless of whatever else this book might say, it put first things first, and I knew that I wanted it. I bought it then and there.

Since that day, I have found many reasons to appreciate and criticize The Urantia Book, and my understanding of its authority has gone through many permutations. But during and since that time of my life, Jesus remains and increases as a real and living presence for me. The book played a great role in helping me realize his presence in my life, and for this I will always be grateful. It also helped to bring me a comforting sense of the nearness of God’s Spirit. It has been a wonderful companion along my journey, and I continue to thank God for its presence in my life. Even more, I am thankful for the people it has led me to – a wonderful community filled with souls who, just like me, are trying to make sense out of this life, and are doing it with a thirst for God’s will as guide.

“They don’t!” I answered.

“Well, what do you think about God and religion?” he inquired.

“I’m not sure,” I responded. “I think I believe there’s a God but I just don’t know….”

I had been raised in a very religious family in a small town in Iowa. From an early age I attended a conservative Protestant church where The Bible was interpreted literally. If a person were to doubt one part of the literal interpretation of The Bible, then “you might as well throw out the whole thing.” The anatomy courses I had taken in college convinced me of the evolutionary process. Pow! Now what do I believe? Not the biblical Adam and Eve story. For about five years I had been living with this unresolved conflict between evolution and The Bible.

That evening, David took the opportunity to suggest that I might want to look at an interesting book he had found while in the Navy, The Urantia Book. He invited me to stop by his room sometime.

It didn’t take long before I took him up on it, both of us being somewhat alone at the time. David had a large room compared to mine and he owned a stereo system! All I had were my clothes and books. He began to share some passages from the book. Of course, I was curious about what this book had to say about evolution. Immediately I was impressed. The Urantia Book unified science and religion. I could believe in God and in evolution. What a deal! My dilemma was forever resolved. And the book did so much more.

Little did I know that this was just phase one of the conspiracy. “They [angels] cannot fully control the affairs of their respective realms of action, but they can and do so manipulate planetary conditions and so associate circumstances as favorably to influence the spheres of human activity to which they are attached” (p. 1256)

With a new semester and a new set of classes, I met a student named Barbara Newsom. We became friends. One afternoon we were at a pizza shop and during our conversation I mentioned that my new friend David had shared a very interesting book that I had not heard of before. “I think it’s called Uracia or something,” I said.

“Not The Urantia Book?!” she inquired emphatically. Suddenly, I felt overwhelmed. The feeling was somewhat frightening. I stood up and walked out of the pizza place into the parking lot, somewhat dazed. What was going on here? Two new friends who both knew of a revelatory book that I had never heard of before?

I came to find out that Dr. Myers of Newton, Kansas, had introduced Barbara’s family to The Urantia Book amidst a curious set of circumstances following the death of Barbara’s sister. But that’s another story as well.

I cannot begin to describe the many ways in which The Urantia Book has changed my thinking, my decisions, and my life. I am so grateful for this magnificent revelation of the nature of the universe and my heavenly Dad, and for the wonderful brotherhood of believers – individuals, couples, and families – that I have had the opportunity to become friends with.

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