“I knew about Jesus and really just the phrase saying ‘the kingdom is within’ and I thought well God is out there and Jesus is out there and only when I came back from India and I really came to that knowing within… the salvation is within – it’s not out there. That was such a relief for me. It was such an opening. And then all seeking stopped, because I experienced that peace within, that truth within. And I just knew then that that was my truth my God and my faith. It’s all within and as well it is in everything but, for me it was owning it within and experiencing it within. This God energy, and that includes Jesus energy, it includes Bhagavan and it includes all these people, it includes you and just everything. And what a gift. That I was able to get in touch with that in this lifetime, what a blessing.
Tell Me About A Time You Doubted Your Faith: When my wife passed away, she was missing for 24 hours first and then we found her dead. For those 24 hours I just had to (let) go – I knew that it was not in my hands and the search was going on and on and I just said ‘God I hand this over, it’s in your hands and whatever happens happens’. And I had to (let) go and remind myself of that you know. So I blamed God… for not taking care of us. You know I think there’s a fine line between doubting that there’s no God (and blaming God). Because if I blame God I still think there’s a God. So I think that my doubting was more blaming.”
I met Lucas Stiefvater on a trip I took to Vancouver Island. I was looking for a place to stay for a few nights and so I googled “spiritual retreat” and “Vancouver Island.” I found a convent in Victoria (which I assumed wasn’t an option!) and then I found Ocean Resort in Campbell River, a few hours north of Victoria. The location was beautiful, right on Discovery Sound (an inside shipping lane and channel connected to the Pacific Ocean just below Alaska) and it had the most awe-inspiring labyrinth made of driftwood. Over my several day stay I was fortunate to meet the creator and then owner of Ocean Resort, Lucas Stiefvater. I shared with him Portraits in Faith and he shared with me his incredible journey from a workaholic motel and restaurant serial entrepreneur to a what was in front of me—a deeply grounded and focused spiritual retreat owner. Now eight years later as I review my interview with Lucas, I am deeply moved again by his story of personal transformation. There were two lessons for me in interviewing Lucas:
First, that God is within…not outside of us. I did not think about God much growing up Jewish even though I knew all the prayers and was considered a Jewish leader among my peers. It wasn’t until I was 36 when I could not keep functioning as I was that I prayed for help from a God I did not know. When relief and a pathway emerged for me, I assumed it came from “without” not from “within.” Portraits In Faith has taught me that, if there is a Divine Presence and Source, then there is nothing separate from that Presence and Source…and that includes “within.” In fact, it is easiest for me today to imagine the God-Spirit is in all living things which includes the earth and the universe. And the idea that my salvation comes from within does not cause me to discredit or value any less the many great prophets who have come to teach us (Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Abdul Baha, Zoroaster, Mohammed) and the great figures in sacred literature (Krishna and the many Hindu Gods that symbolize the One God). When God is within, I have to go no further than my own heart to connect with the Divine.
Second, that if we blame God for our troubles, we must, by definition, believe in God. Lucas’ wife was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and she went missing one day and was later found dead. He blamed God for not taking care of them and for not preventing both her illness and this tragedy. Lucas’ comment reminds me of Elie Weisel’s “The Trial of God” which he based on personally witnessing at Auschwitz when fellow prisoners put God on trial for the tragedy that was befalling them. Upon finding God guilty, one of the men promptly says “it’s time to recite the evening prayers.” And I love this very Jewish idea that we can struggle with God and even find God guilty but still believe and pray.
I am so profoundly grateful that a moment in time existed where I was on Vancouver Island and I was guided to Ocean Resort and I got to meet this beautiful soul, Lucas Stiefvater.