December 15, 2016
In October 2001, I attended my first Sunday morning services at Unity Church of the Hills (UCOH). Two weeks earlier, the UCOH community had moved into the brand new facility that has now been its home for the last fifteen years. At the time, the membership at UCOH totaled about 200 souls who, under the leadership of the husband-wife ministerial team of Ron and Lenore Scott, helped to co-create the campus that has since served as a spiritual home and sanctuary for thousands over time.
Prior to that Sunday morning in October 2001, I had attended services at two different Unity Churches. In the early fall of 1995, I attended Unity of Houston on a couple of occasions with my mother when I was visiting her. One of the things that impressed me was the range of spiritual offerings in their bookstore, but I did not purchase anything on those visits. As I had been unemployed since the beginning of the year, money was too tight to mention. Still, being a curious student of truth, the Unity of Houston church bookstore made a big impression on me and I felt an instinct to pursue Unity and New Thought teachings.
Meeting The Artist’s Way At Church
In order to jump start my inquiry, my mother began lending me her copies of various books, including Catherine Ponder’s book, The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity, along with the companion cassette tape series. I began reading and studying voraciously, but made no moves to “join” a church. In the spring of 1996, still unemployed, I attended a Sunday service at Unity of Austin with some friends. After the service, as my friends milled about in the courtyard visiting and trying to decide where we were going to eat, I wandered into the tiny bookstore.
I remember clearly the moment where for the first time I saw Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. I had no idea how influential the book would come to be in my life, but in that moment it seemed to be radiating on the bookshelf and beckoning me to to pick it up, which I did. I was immediately drawn to it and felt the urge to buy it, but having less than $40 to my name, I put it back on the shelf and walked out of the bookstore.
In the courtyard, my friends were still visiting with others and we were nowhere near leaving for lunch. Feeling disconnected from the conversation, before I knew it, I found myself wandering back into the bookstore. Once again, when The Artist’s Way came into my sight line, it radiated off the shelf and before I knew it, I had snatched it up and was at the check out counter, spending about half the money I had in the world on purchasing this book. It was one of the best decisions, I ever made.
Taking A Leap Of Faith
I immediately began working my way through the book that day. I started doing my “morning pages” the very next morning, and before long I began writing songs again. I took the morning pages seriously and then began taking myself on a weekly “artist date.” My life began moving forward again. I still did not have gainful employment and the financial hole was getting deeper. But, I seemed to be getting what I needed when I needed it and best of all, I was feeling hopeful again.
In November, I received a nice consulting retainer, the first real paycheck I had received since February 1995. At the time, I was so financially upside down that I believed I needed every single nickel of it to begin digging myself out of the deep hole my life had become. However, before I did anything else, I took 10% of that retainer and, on an otherwise unremarkable Saturday afternoon, made one of the biggest leaps of faith of my entire life.
Unceremoniously, I walked into UCOH’s former home in the strip center just down Anderson Mill from its current home and introduced myself to Rev. Ron Scott. After a few minutes of explaining the financial mess my life had become, I told him how I needed a miracle in my life. When I finished, I stood up to say goodbye and gave $400 in cash to Rev. Scott. He thanked me for my gift and said they would use it to help with some needs for the children’s program. We shook hands, I left and I did not return for five years.
9/11 & The Need To Understand A Changing World
In the ensuing five years, I did a lot of spiritual searching on my own, reading book after book and attended many “personal growth” weekend retreats. I also continued writing songs and by the summer of 2001, some close friends put some money together to put me in the studio to record my first album, Soul Diving. On the evening of September 10, 2011, I entered the studio to record my song “One Thing Remains,” which I thought at the time would be the final song for the album.
We finished recording at about 3:00 am and I went home, elated that I had just completed the recording of my first album. I could not have been more ecstatic and grateful. After arriving home, it took me a while to come back to earth and I finally fell asleep on the couch just before sunrise. A few short hours later, a phone call woke me. “Turn on the tv. A plane has crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York,” my friend told me.
Bleary eyed, I walked to the tv and turned it on just in time to see a plane crashing into one of the towers. As I stared in disbelief, the cameras pulled back to reveal that both towers were on fire. In that instant, I, like virtually every other American watching, realized this was no accident and that we were under attack. As my mind attempted to take in this new reality, a thought formed in my mind. “Help me to understand why they would attack us.” Of course, I did not yet know who “they” were, but I knew everything had just changed.
Songwriting Leads Me Home
For the next two weeks, I was obsessed with the news. Seems like I spent every waking moment listening to every talking head parse out every nuance about any scrap of anything they could get their hands on as America began walking the path to inevitable war, while simultaneously dealing with the traumatic shock, grief and aftermath of that day. As the narrative against the terrorists began to take shape, I still wanted to understand, as if understanding could somehow reverse what was happening and we could go back in time to how it was before the attacks. After two weeks of being immersed in the fear, I turned off the tv and tried to return my attention to my life, which had been going so swimmingly only two weeks prior.
A day or two later, I received an email from a friend I knew that attended Unity of Austin, letting me know there was a songwriters group that was meeting weekly at UCOH, which was still located in the strip center where I had first met Rev. Ron Scott. Needing to get out of the house and do something besides obsessing over 9/11, I attended and then attended again the following week. In conversations, I became aware that they were preparing for the move down the street to the new UCOH home. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I made a mental decision to check it out once they got moved in.
About three weeks later, I found myself in the foyer just outside of the sanctuary on a Sunday morning watching the hustle and bustle of UCOH’s members and volunteers going about the activity of getting ready for service. I was standing alone just outside of the office without a familiar face in sight. The two people from the songwriters group I had met were nowhere to be seen. Despite not knowing anyone, I felt oddly comfortable. I was 43-years old at the time and I had never once joined a church. In fact, I had actively resisted doing so. I wasn’t even looking to join a church when I drove there on that October Sunday morning. Or, so I thought.
Standing there in the foyer, not knowing a soul, a sense of anticipation emerged in my consciousness, signaling that something was about to change in my life. Moments later, I began to move towards the sanctuary and received the Order of Service from one of the ushers at the doors. I found my way to a seat near the back, looking to be inconspicuous in the event I made a decision to make an early, unnoticed exit.
I Am Home
As I opened the Order of Service, I noticed there was a guest minister speaking that day. I do not remember his name, but I do remember him walking in with Rev. Ron Scott, who I recognized from our one time meeting five years prior. The guest speaker was clearly of Middle Eastern descent and, as I would learn shortly, a Muslim minister.
Later in the service as he was delivering his message, I remembered that moment six weeks earlier standing in front of the tv as the image of both of the burning towers was revealed to America. “Help me to understand.” Now, here I was sitting in a Christian church that had the courage to have a Muslim minister come to speak to its congregation in an effort to help us all to understand that Islam was a religion of peace, not terrorism. As I listened, I felt a smile well up from inside me as a simple statement formed in my consciousness: “I am home.”
I didn’t even know I was looking for a spiritual home. I thought I was just going to check out the brand new church of my new songwriter friends. I did not expect to hear a Muslim minister deliver the message. Yet, there I was on the receiving end of a message that seemed a direct answer to my prayer. “Help me to understand.”
It has now been fifteen years since that day and so many of the people who were there, and who have come along since, have become friends and extended family. I have volunteered in a number of capacities over time and became a Licensed Unity Teacher along the way. Today, I am blessed and privileged to speak at many Unity churches throughout Texas on a regular basis. Wherever I travel, I consider UCOH my “spiritual home” and the only downside to speaking at other Unity churches is being away from my own spiritual home on Sunday mornings.
However, that is only a trick of the mind, because in reality the spiritual and creative power I have gained as a result of being a member of the UCOH family goes with me everywhere I go. No matter where I go, I am home. Still, there is something extra sweet every time I am able to actually be at my spiritual home on Sundays and celebrating with my extended spiritual family. That feeling is still as palpable to me today as it was fifteen years ago.
Indeed, I am home.