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.