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Lifelong Learning

Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the disciples and said: “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in.” The Message Bible Matthew 18:3

Sitting on a woman’s lap across from me at the table was one of the cutest little girls I have seen. She was drinking from a small bottle of water and trying to replace the cap when its contents spilled on her lap and then ran into the boot of the woman, bringing her suddenly back to reality. The little one had previously taken no interest in a small plate of crackers and cheese but when her big brother placed a plate containing two strawberries and three plump blackberries in front of her, her little face lit up in a wordless “Oooh” and a plump little hand closed around one of the blackberries. I was delighted as the next two blackberries and one bite of each of the strawberries disappeared and the child went back to working on getting the cap back on the water bottle.

As I watched her experiencing her little world, a safe lap to sit on, a loving brother, tantalizing fruit to taste and the challenging water bottle I began to wonder how soon this learning experience would become a world of rote learning and rules and restrictions. This reflection followed me the next few days. I remembered a childhood free of the kind of restrictions placed on today’s children; learning to control a sled as we slid down unplowed snow-packed streets; sitting in a neighbor’s rhubarb patch with a sugar bowl or salt shaker; safely playing until after dark with big and little kids. But I also remember the kind of education adults seemed to think we needed: the first day of school when one of the boys laughed out loud, the teacher marching down the aisle, ruler in hand, demanding he hold out his little hands as she smacked them with the ruler.

More seriously I began to think about my religious education. My most favorite hymn: “I walk in the garden alone when the dew is still on the roses and He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own”. Experiencing God. And then there is the Father, Son and Holy Ghost: looking around the sanctuary wondering; “where is the ghost?”. Adult theology. Summer Church Camp singing “Tell me why the stars do shine, tell me why the ivy twines, tell me why the sky’s so blue, and I will tell you just why I love you”, knowing that somehow Jesus is there singing with us. Experiencing God. My first recollection of God was in an east-facing Sunday School room and a little song: “Open wide the windows let the sun shine in”. I equated it with let the SON shine in.

Of all the dogma the church has asked me to believe; the bible verses memorized; insistence of a need for a hat on my head on Sunday; nothing has contributed more to my faith development than planting a garden, nursing my orchids into bloom, stars in the night sky, the well-ordered world in a microscope, seeing the look of trust in the eyes of my physical therapy patients, looking into the eyes of my newborn and asking her where she came from and what she knows of God that she will soon forget.

Finding Celtic Spirituality has validated my finding God in Creation and released me to trust God’s revelations and the truth I instinctively knew as a child.

Ann Dolbier is a friend and supporter of Celtic Way

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