Some people guard their faith as private as they navigate their lives in the secular world. More than a few haven’t genuinely posited their beliefs and cannot comfortably propound it.
Others can hardly contain themselves — feeling so blessed that they are compelled to express it.
Their spirituality permeates their daily lives, and they see the ruckus of the world quite manageable because they believe God is steering them and promising better things in the next life, far from the arthritis, cancer, bad debt, social corruption and war.
With Easter Sunday, and the continuation of Passover, a part of the population is engaging in the rich holiday rituals of Christianity and Judaism.
For many, it will be a temporary reconnecting, experiencing a grand service celebrating Christ’s resurrection or the retelling of the Exodus from Egypt.
Through the Tribune’s Reader Network, many readers offered to address how they maintain their spirituality and figure out faith amid the stuff of the world.
The five people featured here fend for themselves in contrasting ways with authenticity — sometimes mirroring their parents’ teachings, sometimes in reaction to their religious upbringing.
Compliant or maverick, all show a resiliency and belief that faith is an unfolding adventure.
The people featured in this article are part of the Tribune’s Reader Network, readers who are willing to be contacted by the Tribune news staff from time to time for possible inclusion in news stories and other newspaper features. To learn more about the network and to become a member, visit www.eastvalleytribune.com/readernetwork.
Ruth Yurich of Mesa doesn’t flinch at the world’s problems. She’s lived 16 years with an inoperable brain tumor, for which she’s had radiation treatments.
“Every morning, I wake up, and I go out and get my Mesa paper, and I say, ‘Good morning, Lord, how are you?’ ”
She discounts religious noise about “The DaVinci Code” and “all this hoopla about ‘was Jesus married?’ ” It makes no difference to God. “What really counts is how you feel about God and how you know God feels about you,” she insists.
Yurich keeps busy in East Mesa Christian Church’s visitation ministry “to make sure they know that someone is thinking about them.” It comes naturally for someone who grew up going to church and Sunday school every week and church camp and more.
Like many young people, “I certainly deviled in more than my share” but faith in her formative years reasserted itself eventually. “The only thing that really matters is that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, and he was sent by God.”
After 2,000 years, she says, people still don’t seem to get it. “Everyone is looking for something outside, and it is in you — and if you come to the Lord early, then stray and come back, fine . . . It’s what you are going to do today. What are you going to do to bless other people?”
Mike Keating of Chandler describes himself as a “born-again heathen.” Notwithstanding that he attended Catholic schools through his senior year and had a linguist father who taught him about the Gospels in Greek and Latin, and a lot about faiths such as Islam, Buddhism and Shintoism in their original languages.
His father “passed on to me that everyone needs to find their own way to God — or whatever you want to call it.”
“I have my own way of believing” and has abandoned formal churches, says Keating, 68, a military retiree. His philosophy is to acquire as much knowledge as possible.
Mysteries fill the spiritual realm. “I believe that what we see isn’t all we’ve got. If something happens after death, you don’t cease to exist. I believe in reincarnation. I would love to come back and ride this merry-go-round again. This is fun. I think you move up or move sideways. I like the idea of moving sideways, just doing something different the next time.”
Helping others is not just a faith-driven act, he insists. “I don’t care why a person does it. You do. That guy is your brother,” he says. Keating likes the “hope message” of Easter.
“There is always a better tomorrow. You’re not alone.”
He rejects “relative morality,” the idea that “as long as you don’t get caught, it is OK.” But equally dangerous, he says, is insisting that “I do what I please because I am doing God’s work.”
Mark Brenneman had strong faith for a long time, “but I kept it to myself.” About five years ago, he let go. Now people know he’s a committed Christian.
“Faith is something I have discovered that you can’t keep in a breadbasket, take out and go ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ and look at it and say, ‘Thank you, God, for giving me faith in you.’ ” Instead, the Chandler man and one-time Honeywell Co. IT executive and now math teacher at Mesa Community College, says he recognizes everything he has is God’s.
“I share my faith with my students in class the very first day,” he says. “I tell them it is a big part of my life.” It has given him “a heart” to work with college students, and he sometimes “counsels students I don’t even know who look kind of dejected.”
Through Arizona Community Church in Tempe, Brenneman, 55, and his wife, Denise, teach Bible study weekly in their home. He’s become involved in men’s ministry, as well.
Brenneman considered the ministry when he was 18, then got “waylaid,” but “God never let me up” and he came around as an adult. “There were times in my life when I walked away from God, but never have been happy,” he says.
Now he doesn’t know “how I got along without him, although I believe he was still there with me.”
While his wife and kids faithfully attend Chandler Christian Church, Steve King stays home. “I do believe in God. I do believe in an afterlife. I try to follow the Ten Commandments, and as much pressure as there is in the world, I try to stay focused on what I am doing and how I treat other people.”
While his wife tithes weekly to her church, King prefers spontaneous help to others. “If there is a guy walking down the street and he needs a meal, I would rather walk up and put a $10 bill in his hand than put a $10 bill in the plate passed at church.” King, 52, who worked 31 years for Motorola in equipment maintenance and is now a motorcycle mechanic, observed hypocrisy in the conservative religion where “everything you did was wrong.”
The Chandler man is troubled by religion that mixes the call “to do good for God” with fundraising — “how much money can you put in my hand?” Attacks on religion and among faith groups turn off King. So do “do-gooder-type preachers” on the religious TV channels he periodically checks out.
“I try to live a relatively good life, and I don’t focus on the other stuff,” he says. “There is just so much that you are pounded with.”
”I practice religion in my own way,” always with an eye out for people he can help one on one.
For Lorraine Dunlap, evincing Christian teachings daily to all who see her truly matters. “Sometimes I really fail, but what I do is try to live what I think is the way a Christian should live and hope that, if people know that I am Christian and they see how I live, they may say, ‘Oh, maybe that is a good path.’ ”
The adult education teacher from Scottsdale remembers working in the corporate world. “I just made people aware that I did attend church” so she’d be available for questions or prayer requests. “They knew they could come to me without me preaching.”
Dunlap, 53, acknowledges so much is available to enrich her faith and spiritual knowledge, and she absorbs what she can. She lost interest after three days of reading a Lenten devotional booklet this year. She makes time to read the Bible every two or three days and knows it could be more. “But it’s hard to do all that.”
She has served on her church board and has sent her two daughters to a Lutheran-affiliated university.
Dunlap believes her religious background has helped her to have a broader vision of the world and to understand events. “A lot of Christians really want to live their values beating other people over the head with them.”