Sunday, December 25, 2005

I Just Know

This Christmas morning I was surprised to see in our local paper, The Tennessean, an eight page section entitled "The Story of Christmas". The bottom third of each page were Christmas and Holiday Greetings from hundreds of advertisers. The top two-thirds of each page however, contained the text from Luke 2:1-20. Now, this post is not about Christ in Christmas, Christmas political correctness, Christmas Theology, or Christ being more than a story. There are plently of blogs discussing these things, so go there if you want to rant pro or con, secular or Christian.

This post is about my emotions this morning. I decided to read the scripture aloud to my wife and daughter wanting to take this opportunity to remind my five year old that life is about much more than receiving presents. As I read the passage below, I became very emotional.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."--Luke 2:9-14

I teared up and I was overwhelmed with an emotion that is difficult to describe. It is a deep emotion that is full of joy, but something so much more. It is an emotion that carries validity and truth with it--joy with conviction. An emotion that literally drives me to my knees in gratidtude and prayer. This is not the first time I have felt this emotion. It happens periodically at unexpected times, yet times directly associated with my faith: when I have been walking in nature alone; in my church at the foot of a cross immediately after watching The Passion of Christ; driving to worship on a beautiful morning; during a worship song (there is no certain song); etc. The occurance of this emotion seems very random and large periods of time can elapse between occurances.

I believe this emotion is the Holy Spirit. I believe it is a gift of affirmation from God. Faith cannot be proven, that is why it is called faith. I believe that God comforts and affirms my faith if I am attuned to listen. I believe this emotion is the emotion that perplexed C.S. Lewis which he described in his book Surprised by Joy. I don't try to understand or explain these waves of emotion. I just accept and enjoy them. It is a part of my personal experience that shapes my beliefs. The occurances are real and I cannot ignore them. You may challenge that I misinterpret them. Well, so be it.

These occurances are how I explain to those that ask, "But how do you know?" I answer, "I can't explain my conviction of faith very well. I am not spiritually mature enough or articulate enough to do so. But these waves of unexpected emotion are one of the ways I know. I just know.

Today I was moved and reminded that my Savior was born, and as Jettybetty stated, He was born to die. It is this fact that I strive to celebrate everyday with my life.

Thank you Lord! Christ I claim you as King, and I love you with all my heart, soul, and being!

This I shout from my keyboard to all the blog world. And, I am not angry or offended if you don't agree, but I am not afraid to proclaim it either. To quote a line about faith from a song I love, a secular rock song for that matter: "They'll ask, 'how did you know?' I'll say, 'I just knew.' I always believed in you!"

I bring you good news of great joy; he is Christ the Lord.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Free Masonry and Legal Kill

This week's post is not a personal commentary or opinion. It is a data and comment collection post on two different subjects.

First, my curosity on a subject I know nothing about was raised recently while watching a movie. When I get curious about a subject, I usually do some quick research trying to find the best books on the subject, and then I get a few to read. The object of my curosity this time is Free Masonry. I know very little about Free Masons. So while I read up on the subject, I would like to collect some insight or comments from the blog world. I will provide no comment for or against so as not to pollute any input, other than to say I am not interested in joining any group, well alone Free Masons, I am just curious.

Second topic: Below are the lyrics to a song I like. Just wonder what your opinion of the lyrics are.

Legal Kill
by Pinnick, Tabor and Gaskill

Only know what I believe
The rest is so absurd to me
I close my eyes so I can't see
But the picture just gets clearer everyday
I read somewhere to learn is to remember
And I've learned we all forgot
There was peace in her before
But that was yesterday

But I can see the beauty that is here for me
The chance to live and walk free
From a legal kill

I know your side so very well
It makes no sense that I can tell
The smell of hell is what I smell
And you hand it out with handshakes everyday
I have trouble with the persons with the signs
but I feel the need to make my own
Yes there are two ways to be
And truth does not depend on me

But I can feel the fight for life is always real
I can't believe its no big deal
It's a legal kill

Have fun with the topics.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Radical Lifestyle Change Clarification

This comment was made in my last post, "But I don't think that the suggestion to "debliberately reduce your income and lifestyle to live below the point where Federal Income Tax is owed" is really a call to discipleship. It's simply a legal way to avoid paying taxes. "

I want to be clear in my intended communication. First, for disciples wrestling with the Christian ethics of war and their involuntarty support via taxes, voluntarily living under the tax line is a option that is legal, does not violate Mt. 22:21, is in the spirit of Mark 10:21, and requires sacrifice and self-denial. This would hold true for other moral dilemmas such as abortion, etc.

More importantly is the point that if I choose to obey Mark 10:21 in the spirit of serving the kingdom, then I by default live below the tax line and avoid involuntary support of anthing the government does. If I were to sell all, quit my job, and participate in mission work, I would be following Christ per Mark 10:21. I would also not being paying taxes, even though my motivation was to follow Christ, not avoid taxes.

If I voluntarily began living with the absolute minimum resources required, I could give most of my salary to Kingdom work while in the secular career where God led me. And I would be living below the tax line with the purest of motives. If the giving exceeded tax limits, then I could negoatiate with my employer to donate that portion to the charity of my choice. Or I could setup a foundation which my salary goes to and draw only the minimum needed while giving the rest away. There would be a way to maximize the money going to Kingdom work.

The commentator also said this, "I know you know the story of Rich Mullins who lived on a small, fixed income... . I think it's his example that is the better suggestion. Rich didn't do that to avoid paying taxes, he did it to keep himself humble and free from the greed and excessive materialism that he saw around him."

That is exactly my point and one I had hoped I had clarified in my post or in discussion comments. But maybe this was not evident, so I make this effort to clarify.

What about family? How can you live at this level and provide for your family including education. I would suspect that your gross needed, although above the tax line, would be reduced to below the line with the deductions and credits allowed. If not, I would go ask somone like Stephen Meeks who has lives this way and has 5 children how he does it. (also see his Good Soil Ministries site)

The purpse here is not to avoid taxes, but to maximize the amount of effort or resources that goes toward kingdom work.

What about using societal resources and infrastructure without contributing? Would not this lifestyle contribute to society and more than offset the use of resources? That is why the government allows charitable tax deductions and family tax credits.

This discussion began as a war and tax issue, but is no longer; it is now a Kingdom and heart issue for me. Now to the aspect that really bothers me. I am not willing to make this radical change at this point in my life. Don't bother asking why not, I don't know. That is what bothers me. I don't think my unwillingness damns me or makes me a bad person. But, what I do know is that it would be a decision in which my Savior would find joy. No one could argue it as a bad choice.

But I can't pull the trigger. I am the rich, young ruler! Oh sure, I have greatly reduced my material expenditures; I serve more in direct Kingdom work; I donate more. But I know I could do more. I and Christ know my heart. There are certain steps I am not ready to make. But shouldn't I not only be willing to, but wanting to make these choices for my Savior? How convicted am I really? Not enough! And I am suppose to be completely convicted.

I know one other thing: Now that these questions have been raised within me, it would be a sin to sweep them under the rug. I believe this struggle of heart is purposeful by the Spirit and healthy for me spiritually. One comfort I take away is also found in Mark 10: (21) Jesus looked at him and loved him. (26-27) "Who then can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."

I close with the lyrics of a favorite song.

It's Love
by Pinnick, Tabor, Gaskill

I sit in a chair reflecting back upon my life
And I have so much yet to learn, and so much yet to do.

Its love, ove, ove.
That holds it all together, I'm just glad to let you know
That its love, ove, ove
Thats holding back the weather, and the same will let it go

I sit on the beach feeling the wind, feeling your hand
In all there's a ship on the ocean, and I can't decide if I like it

Its love, ove, ove.
That holds it all together, I'm just glad to let you know
That its love, ove, ove
Thats holding back the weather, and the same will let it go

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

2nd Edition: Radical Discipleship and Legal Protest

Extra, Extra; Blog Post Addendum: I think all that visit this blog and have participated in this discussion of this particular post will be delighted to follow this link Picket Line Dec. 14 Post. If you ever wondered how Christian discourse can affect others, either postively or negatively, this blog post link will cause you pause. Also, I more convinced than ever that those seeking to be better disciples can learn much from "non-believers", as well as from each other.

I recently discovered the purpose and legacy of the Federal Excise Tax on our phone bills. It is a war tax instituted to fund the Spanish-American War and kept in play for all our other wars. Many have chosen to protest the Iraq war by refusing to pay this tax. For more detail reference my post "Civil Disobedience, War Protest, and Discipleship" at the Mere Discipleship Discussion blog.

One commentator left a wonderful suggestion to the question I posed, "does a disciple who is morally opposed to the war have a valid reason, even an obligation, to participate in the civil disobedience of withholding taxes?"

His suggestion was not only legal and the perfect solution, but it is also a suggestion he says he has been practicing. It was such a great suggestion I had to call attention to it. Deliberately reduce your income and lifestyle to live below the point where Federal Income Tax is owed. Please check out the website The Picket Line.

The great thing is the suggestion does not have to be a resistance choice. For the Christian it can be living the life Christ calls us to. One could give away his income to live below the tax line or live a life of service to those in need such that any income would not exceed the tax line. With this method you can avoid greed, materialism, power, supporting corporations whose investments might cause moral dilemmas, etc.

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Mark 10:21

I will answer the question many may ask me after this post, "Are you going to do this Tony?"

I doubt it. I honestly don't think I have the courage to do it. And based on that answer, this may be the end of my blogging. I don't know. It may be hard for me to keep writing knowing I am a coward and a hypocrit.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Left From the Right

This week I am sharing some lyrics from one of my favorite CD's. The songs are from Extreme's epic album, III Sides to Every Story. I hope you find the lyrics as meaningful and profound as I have. The music is amazing as well, but that I cannot share here. Thanks to my friend Doug P. for turning me onto this beautiful work. Not all the songs from the CD are included and they are not necessarily in the order of the playlist.
III Sides to Every Story
Songs written by Nuno Bettencourt and Gary Cherone

Rest in Peace
Let's talk of peace sounds so cliché; A novelty; Catch phrase of the day
Middle, index, sign of the time Just as complex, As water to ...
Someone said give peace a chance. And, that's all that we're saying.
While we're sitting on the fence pretending our hearts are in the right place.

But, your face shows a trace of hypocrisy; Don't tread on me, Now you can see,
Make love not war sounds so absurd to me
We can't afford to say these words lightly; Or else our world will truly, rest in peace!

Let's not pretend to justify; Rather amend, where treasures lie.
Straight through the heart; Peace can be found.
That's where you start, not all around.
Someone said give peace a chance. And, that's all that we're saying.
While we're sitting on the fence pretending our hearts are in the right place.

But, your face shows a trace of hypocrisy; Don't tread on me, boy
Now you can see.
Make love not war sounds so absurd to me.
We can't afford to say these words lightly; Or else our world will truly, rest in peace!

Peacemaker Die
Peacemaker die, Mr. righteous one. You say you have this plan? If we care to understand.
Peacemaker die, Mr. nice guy. You dare to speak the truth? I'll twist and turn it into lies.

Blessed are the warmongers; Blessed are the warmongers.
For they shall be called Man-made gods.
Peacemaker die, Peacemaker die, Peacemaker die, I don't know why?
Peacemaker die, Peacemaker die, Peacemaker die, Peacemaker die,Peacemaker die, I don't know why?

Peacemaker die, Mr. goody two shoes. Do you really thing the world can be black, white, and jew?
Peacemaker die, Mr. music man. Don't turn your back on me? Cause I'm the one with the gun.

Blessed are the warmongers; Blessed are the warmongers;
For they shall be called Sons of god.
Peacemaker die, Peacemaker die, Peacemaker die, I don't know why? Peacemaker die, Peacemaker die, Peacemaker die, Peacemaker die,Peacemaker die, I don't know why?

(live excerpts from MLK)
I have a dream this afternoon that the brotherhood of man will become a reality in this day.
With this faith, I will go out and carve the tunnel of hope through the mountain of despair.
With this faith, I will go out with you and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.
With this faith, we will be able to achieve this new day when all of god's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will be able to join hands;
And sing with the negroes, in the spiritual of old
Free at last, free at last, Thank God almighty, we're free at last.

Color Me Blind
I had a dream last night. I was blind. And I couldn't see color of any kind.
Picture the world minus a rainbow. When day becomes night then where will the sun go.
Dancing alone just me and my shadow. Color me blind. So I can see no evil.

Why do we dream in black and white? Color me blind.
Why do we dream in black and white? Color me blind.

I had a dream. I was looking over the mountain. But I've yet to see the so-called promised land.
Picture the world without any color. You couldn't tell one face from the other.
I don't understand why we fight with our brother.

Color me blind. Just to love one another. Color me, color you, color me blind.

Am I Ever Gonna Change
I'm tired of being me. And I don't like what I see. I'm not who I appear to be.
So I start off every day down on my knees. I will pray for a change in any way.
But as the day goes by I live through another lie. If it's any wonder why.

Am I ever gonna change? Will I always stay the same?
If I say one thing, then I do the other.
It's the same old song that goes on forever.

Am I ever gonna change? I'm the only one to blame?
When I think I'm right I wind up wrong.
It's a futile fight gone on too long.

Please tell me if it's true. Am I too old to start anew?
Cause that's what I want to do.
But time and time again when I think I can;
I fall short in the end. So why do I even try?
Will it matter when I die? Can anyone hear my cry?

Am I ever gonna change? Take it day by day.
My will is weak and my flesh too strong.
This peace I seek till thy kingdom comes.

Seven Sundays
One day we'll find the time to spend, together. Until then, my love.
If I had one wish it wouldn't be hard to choose.
Seven sundays in a row. Cause that's the day that I spend with you.

Someday soon, you and I will hold each other. Once again, my love.
If I had one wish it wouldn't be hard to choose.
Seven sundays in a row. Seven sundays in a row. Seven sundays in a row.
Cause that's the day that I spend with you.

If I had one wish it wouldn't be hard to choose.

Who Cares?
Tell me, Jesus are you angry? One more sheep has just gone astray.
A hardening of hearts turning to stone. Wandering off so far from home.
So many children losing time. Walk in darkness looking for a sign.
Chasing their rainbows the future looks so bright. Slowly we're losing sight of the light.

Who cares? Who cares? Who cares? Tell me who cares? Who cares?
All alone out in the cold. Can't look back. Am I growing old? I chose a path.
Is this my fate? Am I finding out the truth too late?

Here I am. A naked man. Nothing to hide. With empty hands.
Remember me, I am the one who lost his way. Your prodigal son.
Who cares? Who cares? Who cares? Tell me who cares? Who cares?
Am I ever gonna change? Will I always stay the same?
Say one thing then I do the other. Same old song goes on forever.
Rise, rise 'n shine. A new day is coming.
Yes it is!

Wars 'n rumors. Of wars, no one knows what for.
Toys and soldiers. Deployed on some foreign shore.
Lords and rulers. Destroy, diplomatic rapport.

Communists, dictatorships, democracies, hypocrisies.
Ask not what your country can do? To a one world governmental zoo.
Political, political, politicalamity. It's an-ar-chy.
Political, political, politicalamity. Rich 'n poor.

Salute your country's colors. Less is more when one oppresses the other.
Pride 'n power. Decorated upon collars.

Donkeys, bears 'n elephants. All paper-trained on parliament.
Ask not what your country can do? To a one world governmental zoo.


Now that you have had a chance to read through the lyrics, you will find it interesting that the album was released in 1992.

Are we ever gonna change? Will it always be the same?

Make love (mercy), not war.
We can't afford to say these words lightly; Or else our world will truly, rest in peace!

I really love the double entendre in that last line.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Ministering to the Poor (of spirit and of material)

I encourage you to visit our Mere Discipleship Discussion blog. I have posted a comment from a man who knows from life-long, direct experience about being the hands and feet of Christ to the impoverished. He has much wisdom to impart.

Stephen Meeks currently heads up the Good Soils Ministries, ministering to the impoverished in Appalachia. Prior to this ministry, Stephen spent many years in Africa. He speaks from years of practical experience. He has practiced that which works and that which fails. Having met Stephen, I cannot speak highly enough of him, his heart, and his work. Thanks Stephen for your insight.

Stephen's blogs are very good too. They will challenge you and make you uncomfortable.

On a wierdly related note (I let each of you figure out how), I found this post and really enjoyed it. The author left a comment on my blog several weeks ago, so I check his out from time to time: Purgatory Penman.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Gospel According to Albus Dumbledore

I am reading the Harry Potter series to my daughter of 5 years old. Last night, I read a paragraph that I found so beautiful that I had to blog it. I am taking some editing license, indicated by [], to illustrate the beauty and profound statement that I read into it. This is my take and not intended to reflect any view by the author J.K. Rowling.

[Christ] died to save you. If there is one thing [Satan] cannot understand, it is love. He didn't realize that love as powerful as your [Savior's] love for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible have been loved so deeply, even though [the One] who loved us is gone, will give us protection* forever. It is in your very skin. [People], full of hatred, greed, and ambition, sharing [their] soul with [Satan], [can] not touch you for this reason. It [is] agony to touch a person marked by something so good.
-- modified from Albus Dumbledore's commentary on Voldemort, Harry Potter & The Sorcer's Stone, J. K. Rowling. Arthur A. Levine Books. 2003.

I give them [my sheep] eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one.
-- Christ, John 10:28-30.

* edited from "some protection".

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Go 'Dores!

23 years ago, in Nov. 1982, my sophomore year at Vanderbilt we beat UT. I was there at Dudley field, in the rain, row 2, 45 yard line. It has been a long time. This time it was in Knoxville. I was watching on TV. This year is my 20th year reunion from graduating from Vanderbilt. What a fitting reunion celebration.

Jay Cutler, our senior quarterback, and the other young men who work so hard deserved this. I am so emotional for them today. Go 'Dores!!!!! You will be seeing alot of Jay in the pros.

I am headed to Vanderbilt to great the team when they get in.

It has been a long time since I rock 'n rolled, GO DORES!!! I love you.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Life Guidelines: Experience of a Father, for my Daughter

I am compiling guidelines I wish to convey to my daughter at some appropriate time in her life (she is five now). I try to live these and teach them when I can, but I want her to have a list she can reflect on when I am not around. My initial thought was to give them to her when she goes to college, but I think it will have to be much sooner than that in today's world. So here is what I have so far.

Life Guidelines: Experience of a Father, for my Daughter
by Anthony W. Arnold

  • Love God and follow Christ. The Bible will show you how.
  • LOVE!
  • Be happy. Ultimate happiness is found through the will of God.
  • Be kind. You will never regret an act of kindness.
  • Pray and talk to God about everything: your love, joy, sadness, pain, anger, frustration, temptation, confusion—everything. This personal relationship with the Father will save your life (read Psalms).
  • Virtue cultivates happiness, degradation of self breeds misery.
  • Crave righteousness and seek truth.
  • Thirst for wisdom and hunger for knowledge. Self-esteem and confidence are built in the pursuit of both.
  • Be passionate: in labor, in art, in music, in study, in relationships, and in love.
  • Cherish your salvation and your integrity. Compromise neither. The only one who can rob you of these is yourself.
  • Explore the world that God created before man destroys it.
  • You are special. Surround yourself with special people.
  • Recognize your weaknesses and surround yourself with those who can offset them (Proverbs 27:17).
  • Peer pressure is a farce. It is purely a method for others to justify their own doubtful behavior.
  • Do not confuse peer pressure with support or loving admonition. Know the difference, disregard the former and accept the latter.
  • Believe in the Holy Spirit and trust its exertions.
  • Every human will fail you at one time or another, but God will not. When humans do fail you, remember that God forgave them and let His Son die for them.
  • Holding onto grudges and anger requires your energy, not the energy of those toward whom it is directed.
  • Satan is real.
  • Satan cares not whether you believe in him or follow him. He cares only that you move one more step away from God. He has nothing to offer. He cannot give—only take.
  • God gave: His Son. God gives: Eternal life.
  • Your body is your gift to give. Give it in the ways of the Lord.
  • Please the Lord. If others are not happy with this, then it is their problem not yours.
  • You are created in the image of God. Therefore, you are beautiful!
  • Don’t let guilt consume you. There is no act you can do that Jesus has not already handled with His death. Nothing is too big for Him.
  • Do not attempt to be loved by everyone or by every action. Let your actions command respect. You can respect someone you do not love, but it is virtually impossible to love someone you do not respect.
  • Be kind and gentle, but firm. Be decisive and resolute in your morals.
  • Tolerate injustice only when it is done to you. Fight it when you see it being inflicted on others.
  • The only life you should value over another is the sacrifice of your own.
  • Forgiveness of a sin does not mean absolution from its consequences.
  • It is possible, despite modern opinion to the contrary, to take a moral stance with love and without being judgmental.
  • Force is power, but love is powerful.
  • Don’t agonize over not being able to change others. Sometimes it is enough just to be able to change yourself (Gipsie Ranney).
  • Physics, chemistry, and math are important. They describe how the universe works. God created the universe, therefore the understanding of these fields reveals a part of God.
  • Develop solid verbal and written communication skills. Without them, you can neither convey your point of view nor understand the point of veiw of others.
  • The definition of a simple life is peace of soul; contentment that is removed from circumstance. The path to it is through Christ.
  • Your strength is greater than you can possibly imagine. Unfortunately, you will only find this out when you think you have none left.
  • When you do not know what else to do, pray!

  • Copyright 2005 Anthony W. Arnold

    Sunday, November 06, 2005


    I have been reading several posts about hell, or the interpretations and misinterpretations thereof, or even the existence of such a place, especially within the classic Christian views of hell.

    I have no intention of refuting, agreeing, or debating anyone else's concept or context of hell. I offer three, and I feel very important, theological tenets we should carefully consider in our walk as disciples of Christ.

    1. That at some point God will endow man with the full knowledge of His purpose and full understanding of our existences.

    2. Regardless of what form a separation from God will take, that at some point God will separate mankind into two camps: those that will dwell with Him eternally (will not be separated from Him); and those that will be separated from Him eternally . Further, based on tenet #1, that separation will create an agony beyond bearing.

    3. We should have no fear of this separation. That's right. We should have no fear of this separation! I love what Thomas Merton had to say about this issue.

    My opinion is that it is a very extraordinary thing for anyone to be upset by such a topic. Why should anyone be shattered by the thought of hell? It is not compulsory for anyone to go there. Those who do, do so by their own choice, and against the will of God, and they can only get into hell by defying and resisting all the work of Providence and grace. It is their own will that takes them there, not God’s. In damning them He is only ratifying their own decision—a decision which He has left entirely to their own choice. Nor will He ever hold our weakness alone responsible for our damnation. Our weakness should not terrify us: it is the source of our strength. Power is made perfect in infirmity, and our very helplessness is all the more potent a claim on that Divine Mercy Who calls to Himself the poor, the little ones, the heavily burdened. [1]

    We do not need to be so concerned about the form of our separation of God. Our focus should be solely on Christ--The Way to a loving and permanent relationship with our Father. We freely and wholly have been provided an opportunity to know God and be with Him. The agent for this relationship is the Holy Spirit.

    We should focus on the union not the separation. And as JMG has posted, the time is now. Run to the Father, now. Do not waste time out of the relationship. Invest time in the relationship.

    [1] Merton, Thomas. The Seven Story Mountain. Harvest Book Fiftieth Anniversary Ed., Harcourt Brace & Company 1999. ISBN 0-15-601086-0.

    Sunday, October 30, 2005

    A View on Contentment

    I am reading the book, Perfectly Reasonable Deviations From The Beaten Track: The Letters of Richard P. Feynman. (edited by his daughter Michelle Feynman. Copyright 2005 by Michelle Feynman and Carl Feynman. Basic Books member of Perseus Books Group. ISBN: 0-7382-0636-9).

    Richard Feynman was Nobel prize winner for his formulation of QED (Quantum Electrodynamics) theory, he worked on the first atomic bomb at Los Alamos, was a public figure of much character, and he uncovered the reason the space shuttle Challenger exploded as part of the President's commission demonstrating in a congressional hearing the failure by dropping an o-ring into a class of ice water. A fascinating man who died in 1988.

    Below is a letter to his mother, Lucille Feyman, August 20, 1954. Please note the year as you read. I found this letter very touching and appropriate to many blog discussions I have been involved in lately. I hope you find it as enlightening as I do. I have edited the letter to focus on the sentiment revealed to me. [] reflect my insertions. Bold type is mine.

    Dear Mom;

    You have nothing. A small room in a hotel. Stuffy and no home with friends and family in it. A job that gives no enlightenment or has no further aim than to be done each day, building nothing for yourself. No easy transportation but to be jostled by the crowds. Nor fancy meals, nor luxurious trips, nor fame nor wealth. You have nothing.

    So say your friends, but they are wrong. Wealth is not happiness nor is swimming pools and villas. Nor is great work alone a reward, or fame. Foreign places visited themselves give nothing. It is only you who bring to the places your heart, or in your great work feeling, or in your large house place. If you do this there is happiness. But your heart can be as easily brought to Samarkand [lower income] as to the Hudson river [upper income]. Peace is as difficult to achieve in a large house as in a small one. Feeling can be brought to any work. Your friends of wealth have nothing because of it that they would lose, if with more modest means.

    In the sea of material desire that is our country you have found an inlet and a harbor. You are far from perfectly happy, but are as contentful as you can be, with your make-up in the world that is. That is a great achievement, or a great woman.

    Why do I write this? Because you have told me these things many times, and I have nodded,vaguely understanding. But you mention them again and again, so perhaps you think I do not understand. For so few understand, each friend questions you, each relative hounds you with the query, how can you live in such a tiny place, how can you work in that unbearable shop with those horrible sales girls? You know how. They could never do it, nor can they live as contentedly in any other way, for they do not possess your inner strength and greatness. A greatness which has come to realize itself thru the knowledge that, beyond poverty, beyond the point that the material needs are reasonably satisfied, only from within is peace.

    I offer you all my resources of wealth. What do you want, what will you take? I have offered many times. Not $10 worth can you think you need that you will let me give you. You must always know that I will give you any material thing of wealth you could desire. Now or in my ability in the future. You have no insecurity. And tho you wrack your brains to think of something--not the smallest item suggests itself to you. No man is rich who is unsatisfied, but who wants nothing possess[es] his heart's desire. No need to concern yourself with friends' attempts to help. You are not forced to live as you do. Your son's offer proves that. It is your choice, your life, your simplicity, your peace and your contentment. It needs no further justification.

    When I offer it, what do you ask? You ask that I write to you. What can I give more easily, and am yet more stingy about? Tho I know your strength now requires nothing for its self-confidence,--tho I know you could live without my writing by accepting such a fact and living with it,--I do not desire to test your strength or to make your burden more heavy. What son has a mother who in such circumstances asks less of him!

    My duty is clear, right action obvious. May I have the strength of resolve that this be the beginning of a more regular correspondence. I hope that the lesson of your strength in life will inspire me more often to try to add a bit you really want. I hope I can write more often to a most deserving and inspiring woman. I love you.

    Your Son.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2005

    Judging Angels

    In a daily Bible study, I read I Cor. 6:2-3: Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!

    The context is Paul directing the members of the church to bring disputes before the elders and leaders of the church rather than the ungodly for judgment. Paul clearly indicates that man will have some role in judgment in the future. Here he says the world and angels. Yet, in I Cor. 5:12, Paul hints that man's role will be judgement of the church (and maybe others that know Christ, such as angels).

    What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside!

    Mt. 19:28 adds weight to man's role in judgment but it is limited to a specific group: Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on the twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

    The notes in my study Bible state that the word judgment in the context of Mt. 19:28 meant to lead or rule, referencing back to the Judges of Israel.

    I have never heard these scriptures discussed or taught prior to this daily study. In fact, all the teaching and scripture I am familiar with concerns God's judgment and for me not to judge. Needless to say I was quite surprised and somewhat confounded as well as very intrigued by the above scriptures.

    Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measures you use, it will be measured to you. [Mt. 7:1] Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condem, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. [Luke 6:37-39]

    These scripture are cross-referenced to Mt. 23:13-39 which is Jesus' harsh indictment of the Pharisees hypocrisy. The "do not judge" scriptures seem to refer to hypocritical judging and judging for the sake of judging, that is, negative Christianity. They may not refer to righteous judgment, and thus do not conflict with the first set of scriptures I listed.

    But there is still a paradox and some confusion. There are scriptures that talk directly about who has the authority to judge and what that judgment will be.

    Jesus' words: Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. For the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. [John 5:22-23; 26-27] Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind. [John 9:39] As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. [John 12: 47-48]

    The Apostles' words: He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. [Acts 10:42] In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead. [Acts 17:30-31] This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares. [Ro. 2:16]

    Hint of the method of Christ's judgement: It is the Lord who judges me [Paul]. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. [I Cor. 4:5]

    Even further confusing is John 8:15-16, which seems to say that even Christ won't judge us, but leaves the door open for judgement of our sin. And, it clearly speaks to Jesus' authority to judge.
    You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone, I stand with the Father, who sent me.

    I found the above search rewarding but still somewhat paradoxical. I am not sure what to make of it. I am still intrigued by the scripture on judging angels and man's role of judgment in the Kingdom. Here are the initial thoughts I came away with:

    1) God will judge man through Christ. 2) We will be held accountable for our actions, and more so for our heart. 3) Man has a leadership and judgment role within the church. But, does this extend to the end-judgment or is limited to leadership within the church? I don't know. 4) Judging should never be a motivation [added 10/17/2005].

    What are your thoughts? What does your research reveal? For those familiar with Lee Camp's Mere Discipleship, do you think that the references to man's role in judgment, especially in the context of leading or ruling, refers to roles in the coming Aeon (the New Aeon)?

    Friday, October 07, 2005

    Sad Today

    I am sad today. I read the obituary this morning of a friend from high school. He was 43, the same age as me. I am not sad because we are the same age or because he is was young.

    I had a fairly miserable time in school from 5th grade until half way through my junior year of high school. I was happy and fit in well in 1st through 4th grades. Then, I was moved from public school to a private school, hereafter known as Pain High School (PHS), after 4th grade. I don't really know why life changed so drastically with this transition. I just didn't seem to fit in. Kids were cruel and I had no friends initially. Maybe it was strictly due to being an outsider and the new kid at the same time. Most of these kids had been together since kindergarten. Things just seemed to get worse as time went on. A majority of the teachers and administration were just as bad or worse in the way they treated me and others in a similar situation.

    Surprisingly (well, maybe not), this was a Church of Christ private school. I was Church of Christ too, but it didn't seem to matter. I can honestly say this environment was one of the most un-Christian places I have endured. Finally, during my junior year I had had enough. I told my parents I was not going back and that I wanted to transfer to Hillsboro High School. My Dad, who taught in Metro schools, did not mind. My mom was against it. She felt I needed to be in private school. I told them I could transfer or I could drop out, their choice. At this point, I had already been accepted into Vanderbilt having applied early. So being willing to drop out I think had an impact.

    I transferred, and that year and a half at Hillsboro was one of the best times of my life. I made friends quickly, enjoyed my AP classes (which weren't available at PHS), and felt so much relief from stress. I still have many of the friendships I made at Hillsboro. Those at Hillsboro who had transferred very early on from PHS to public school asked, "what took you so long to leave?"

    Anyway, I have never forgotten those few that were nice to me or that were my friends while attending PHS. Don Blair was one of those. I have no recollection of Don ever participating in ridiculing or humiliating me. He got along with everyone. Don seemed comfortable and confident within himself; probably a big reason for his likableness and friendliness. He did not need to deride others in order to build himself up.

    Don led a hard life during his young adult years, most would say wild. He actually was on the competition rodeo circuit for several years as a professional bull rider. Despite any wildness, Don had a good heart. Sadly, Don also had a bad heart--he had major heart problems that began, I guess, in his late 20's and early 30's. I did not keep up with him after high school other than the odd word from old classmates. I believe he had a heart transplant in his early or mid 30's. I did know he was having severe problems these last few years.

    I am sad reflecting on this time in my life. Yet, more so, I am sad because someone whose natural friendliness to me, which he probably didn't think twice about, had a profound effect on me; sips of cool water while struggling through a vast desert of the soul. "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you...thirsty and give you something to drink?' ... The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

    It is the people like Don who I remember fondly and with respect. I believe in a loving and merciful God who accepts people like Don Blair. So, this is my small tribute to Don. Thank you for your kindness and God bless you.

    Goodbye, Don, I will see you later and I will thank you.

    Thursday, October 06, 2005

    Boundaries and Trees: What was God's Purpose Part 2

    I encourage everyone to visit Preston's Blog. His recent post directly addresses the question in my last blog. I really like his thoughts. Even though he is many (many, many) years younger than I, Preston's maturity of thought and his depth of theology research greatly impresses me. We don't always agree, but I always learn from him. And, despite his grasp of deep theology, he truly is a servant of Christ. He is more focused on serving others than debating theology.

    So read and be challenged. I always am.


    Thursday, September 29, 2005

    What Was God's Purpose?

    While listening to our preacher last night in class discussing the fall of man and God's intent for us in the Garden, I formed a question about three things that God did that contributed to the fall.

    1) God created free will. 2) God created the tree of knowledge. 3) And the kicker: God then told Adam and Eve not to eat of its fruit.

    Satan was not involved in these three things. What was God's purpose? Number 3 really gets me sometimes. It is like a test.

    For those that will argue that the creation story is just a metaphor for the nature of man, the question stills hold. God created free will. This I don't wrestle with. What meaning does a relationship and love have if the participants don't have any choice? But if you go with the metaphor, what does the tree represent? Why did God provide a temptation mechanism? What was the purpose--to give us something to choose other than Him?

    This led me to another question. If this was a test of choice, and God knew the outcome and had already planned for Christ to be the rebuilder, then was the purpose to provide for a fall so that man would completely depend on God? That is, that man would have to either realize His complete dependence on God or he would have to utterly reject God?

    Your thoughts please.

    Thursday, September 15, 2005

    Questions on the Nature of Man

    Last night in class, the question, "Who brought sin (evil) into this world?" was asked. My first thought was humans. Satan tempted, but it was woman and man who were weak (naive), and in that weakness (naivete) exercised their free will to succumb to temptation. So man brought sin into the world. Satan has no power over man unless one of two entities let him: Man himself or God. The premises are Genesis 3:13, "Then the Lord God said to the woman, 'What is this you have done?'"; Job 1 and 2 in which Satan must be given permission by God to harm Job; and John 19:11 when Jesus answered Pilate, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above."

    So, discussion point one. Satan has no power over man unless given that power by God or man. Agree? Disagree?

    This led me to think of the question that will be my second discussion point. Was Satan just an accelerating catalyst to the fall or was he an instigating agent? That is, would man, in his free will, have eventually turned from God anyway without any temptation from Satan? I am trying to delve into the weak parts of our nature, which may not be very pleasant, but is necessary for growth and dependence on Christ.

    I know this is a more theological question than a discipleship question. However, gaining a better understanding of our own nature and the enemy's nature has to aid our discipleship.


    Friday, September 09, 2005

    Ongoing Epilogue and Katrina pics

    I know I said I had finished the series, but I just had to share this today with all those who have followed the series and my path to Ingram.

    Wednesday night, I met a woman and her two children who just flew in from being rescued in New Orleans. They are staying with one our church families, Jerry and Sandra Collins. The family was trapped with others for several days in the balcony of their church in New Orleans. Her two young sons would wade through the flooded church to the kitchen to bring them water and food. A window in the balcony overlooked one of the overpasses that was crowded with stranded victims. Those in the church would sing hymns to weather their plight. The people on the overpass, feeling comfort from the songs, would call out requests. That in itself is a beautiful story. But how does it relate to my journey?

    Well, Jerry called me today. The husband, Charles, wants to stay in Nashville and they are trying to rebuild their life here. Jerry called to see if I could help Charles. It seems Charles was a mate on a fleet boat in New Orleans in the barge industry. Jerry knows I work for Ingram, the largest barge company. I told our HR person about Charles. He says they are in desparate need of experienced mates and can put him to work on the Cumberland (meaning he can be based out of Nashville). Also, they need pilots and captains in training and would help him work toward his pilot's license. Pilot and captains are the highest levels on the boat.

    We are trying to get a hold of Charles to get him to come in and talk with us.

    You know that I believe God put me at Ingram for a purpose. I am choosing to believe that this is part of that purpose.

    I will keep everyone posted on this development.

    Below are some pictures of the power of Katrina and how high the storm was. Keep in mind these barges are steel masses 200 ft. long by 35 ft. by 15 ft. high. If they are loaded, it is ~1500 tons of product. The barges on the bridge and the boats are not Ingram's. Even though we had our fair share of barges beached on the bank. Most important Ingram had no human casualties, althoug we had over 300 employees directly affected by Katrina.


    Wednesday, September 07, 2005

    Faith Walk: Epilogue

    This epilogue completes the series that began from journal entries made during my second Gethsemani visit.

    September 7, 2005

    Ingram Update
    One year and 3 months have elapsed since I accepted the job at Ingram Barge Company. I have no problems saying it is the best company for which I have worked. Ingram is a high quality company and very well run by the family placing a premium on its people. An immediate impression that Ingram made on me was that everyone was busy, working hard, but everyone was calm, almost relaxed. No one was frenzied despite having plenty to do. My third day on the job was one of the most incredible days in my working career. The company tries to get shore side new hires a visit to actual river operations very quickly.

    So, my third day on the job I am flying to the NOLA on the company plane. Once we arrive one of our customer service managers and our company CEO drive me north to catch one our boats. On the way, we stop for a wonderful Cajun lunch. They visit the boat and then leave to head back to NOLA. I am to ride the boat ~30 miles south down the Mississippi and then be picked up at our Triangle fleet. The pilot of the boat, second to the captain, lets me drive the tow. Under his direction of course. We are pushing approximately 35 barges; 5 barges wide by 7 barges long. Each barge is 195 feet long by 35 feet wide and carries ~1500 tons of cargo. Including the boat, we are a floating island over a quarter of a mile long, weighing over 105 million pounds, sliding down the river at 9 mph. Ocean going ships pass within shouting distance headed north to unload their cargo. We are about 100 miles up river from the mouth of the Mississippi River. This was a kid’s and an engineer’s dream.

    Kaj, who was a tough interview, is a great boss and one of the smartest people I have worked with. I was thrilled because there was much I could learn working with him. My friend Chuck, the one who helped get me the job, tells me I made a good impression with Kaj, especially with the way I handled his tough questions and direct challenges. During my first few months, Kaj gave me some very frank but helpful criticism that made me a better professional. Very few managers have the courage and skill to be direct, but not insulting, while delivering tough, yet constructive criticism. Unfortunately, for me, Kaj was promoted just six months after I started. However, my new supervisor and I get along well and have become friends.

    I am respected at Ingram. I work with talented people. I am able to make real contributions, and Ingram enables me to perform with a high level of quality. God put me at Ingram. I continue to pray for guidance so that I may accomplish His will here.

    What happened to CIC
    Doug, my confidant and spiritual brother, is working in Nashville for a healthcare company as a software developer and is doing great. The only downside to this whole transition in my life is not working with Doug everyday. I really miss our conversations and work together.

    The on again/off again, and last I wrote off again, saga of my former employer finally concluded. When all appeared dead, a deal was reached for a song. CIC became part of a St. Louis based company called DCSI. My boss, Mark, and his wife, moved to St. Louis. Ritchie, the only other employee at CIC that went with the new company stayed in Nashville and works out of his home. From what I hear, he is on the road constantly.

    After a couple months and several emails, Mark finally had his wife return my Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road book. I think the day before they moved to St. Louis. You will remember that a very disappointing point for me was Mark leaving early my last day without saying a word to me. Things were always weird with Mark. Mark hired me, but he never really seemed to like me all that much. He was very cold to me at times. He rarely engaged me in friendly conversation as he did with others, although when we were forced to be together on trips or the rare after work camaraderie, he was pleasant. I knew he respected my work, but I felt he did not like my personality. Others in the office noticed this behavior as well, which kept me from feeling too paranoid. As Mark was fond of saying, “Just because your paranoid doesn’t mean I am not out to get you.”

    A few months after he moved to St. Louis, I received an email saying he was going to be in Nashville on business and would like to have dinner. He wanted to make sure everything was okay between us. He told me how much he respected my abilities and me. I wrote him that I would love to get together. He said he would confirm once he got his schedule nailed down. Mark ended up canceling our dinner saying customer commitments would dominate his time in Nashville. Within a few days of this, he transmitted another email.

    The outsourced manufacturer of the product I managed for CIC was having continual problems with product fallout on a test fixture, although the product performed fine in final burn-in. This situation was causing major headaches for production, and DCSI had just placed a large order with a tight delivery date. Mark wondered if I could provide some consulting, maybe even involving a visit to the manufacturing vendor in Minnesota. We agreed upon a consulting rate at $100 per hour. A fair rate considering my expertise, my situation, and market consulting rates. Mark and DCSI seemed happy with this arrangement.

    Mark was traveling to Minnesota to work on the problem. He would be calling and emailing with information. The first call was short with Mark describing what he was witnessing. I suggested a few tests and things to look at. He called back the next day with the results. Another brief call. I said it seemed as if there were a short on the printed circuit board (PCB), but the design had been in production for two years so it might be a PCB fabrication problem or a test fixture problem. His next call was elation. A bent pin on the test fixture was causing an intermittent short during testing. They fixed it and everything was great. “How much do we owe you?” Mark asked.

    This problem had been plaguing production for months. It was costing them hours of waste effort. However, it was not until under the pressure of a big order did fixing the problem become a priority. Fixing this problem saved the company and the vendor thousands of dollars in time and an equal amount in product rejects. I told Mark that we had spent less than an hour talking on the phone, so technically, they owed me $100, but that I trusted Mark and DSCI to be fair. He said they would be. I did not include any time I spent thinking about the problem while driving, etc.

    After a few weeks, I had not received any money or correspondence, so I emailed Mark, “Mark, have you decided on my renumeration? What is the status?” I received this response back. “Your remuneration is being processed now.” Mark was critical about spelling and grammar although often his writing was full of errors. This was a common theme with Mark: he was very critical of the work and effort of others, but did not hold himself to the same standards. Anyway, within a week I received a check for $100! No note, just a check. I had been used. I doubt Mark ever intended to have a reconciliation dinner, he needed to open the door for my help. What is sad is that he would have gotten that help without the veiled attempt. I have not had any correspondence from Mark since. No offers for a make up date, no thank you—nothing.

    Update on Nathan
    On to important matters. Nathan, the boy who had his foot amputated in the accident, is doing great. He has a prosthetic foot. He runs and plays without limitation. He is amazing. The boy is a strong too! He will run up behind you and grab you, just about bowling you over. Mom and Dad are doing well although it will take them longer to heal, and there will always be issues to deal with. One downside to Nathan’s amazing recovery is that he is growing faster than doctor has expected. He will have his first follow-up surgery to take care of the growing bone sooner than anticipated. This will be hard on the family as they revisit this traumatic event. In addition, we know that emotional scars will remain for everyone and will take time and counseling to heal. Bailey cannot be ignored, as what she witnessed will have profound affects that must be managed. We continue to pray for them. They are a wonderful family. Nathan and his sister Bailey are important to our daughter Maria, as are the parents to Anita and me.

    Girl diagnosed with cystic fibrosis
    Recall in Chapter 3 that I had prayed for a family whose daughter was exhibiting symptoms of cystic fibrosis. I was convinced through my prayers that she would test negative. When she was diagnosed with CF, it was very hard on me and on our church. Although our prayers for her younger brother were answered with negative test results, the family was struggling emotionally. We continued to pray for healing as the family investigated treatment options. I had prayed, and forced myself to continue praying, as directed in Mark 11: 23-24. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” I forced myself to ignore the implications of a no answer and pushed aside the fear it brought. I thanked God every night for healing her. I became more convinced the girl would be healed. I kept this feeling between my wife and myself.

    The girl’s mother, who is a nurse, was very persistent. She researched and learned everything she could about cystic fibrosis. She found one specialist who was breaking new ground. He felt that several cases had been misdiagnosed. Standard testing had a high rate of accuracy, yet it was not foolproof. She petitioned to see the doctor and undergo his new testing method that was not accepted by the majority of CF experts. Local medical personnel warned her not to develop false hope. She ignored them. They traveled to North Carolina for the days of testing. The results were negative! The experts there did not believe Julia had CF. After ceasing CF treatment and seeing no worsening of her conditions, even the local doctors acknowledged this was one of the rare false positives under normal screening. I wept with joy. The family and I know that this was not a misdiagnosis.

    Another Prayerful Situation Update
    In Chapter 3, I also mentioned that my men’s group had been praying hard for one of our members, Randall, concerning his alcoholic daughter and her children. This situation had been a burden on the family for years and continued to worsen rapidly. It seemed that the harder we prayed the worse things got. Randall and his wife who were in their retirement years had already adopted one of their grandchildren, and they were the active caregivers for the others as well. The daughter continued to struggle attempting suicide several times. Eventually she found some ministries that helped. She became sober and seemed able to sustain this sobriety. However, her mother, Randall’s wife, developed cancer. In July 2005, Jayne passed away at home. This was a devastating event for the family. Despite this pressure, the daughter has so far remained sober and we pray she has really turned a corner. This situation was very tough for many of us because our prayers were never answered in the way we had hoped.

    Update on Legal Case
    I have tried to find out the outcome of the arbitration, but I have gotten no responses to my inquiries. I have no idea how the case ended.

    Spiritual Update
    Our college life group was special and joyous last year. Communion together was sweet in the context of a parting that did not happen. I have continued to grow spiritually and my experiences through this trial are a catalyst for this growth. As God kneaded the bread of my life with the yeast of this experience, I truly believe He was softening my heart and my independent nature to be more open to His will. Further, God was preparing me to be open to the next level of growth. This tier was introduced in the form of Lee Camp teaching at our church; his book Mere Discipleship; and my developing a friendship with Lee. Thanks to Lee, I am I gaining a new understanding of the Gospel of Christ and the real nature of discipleship. I am shedding the brainwashing of my religious heritage, and the cloudiness of man’s will, to see clearer what it is that Christ is asking of me. I can see my whole life now as preparation for a more demanding understanding of Christianity. God is also placing new opportunities to serve in front of my family and me. I have accepted the request to be a Ministry Coordinator at our church (in place of deacons, we have ministry coordinators). Anita and I have also expanded our leadership role with the college ministry as part of this new assignment. Besides this aspect of serving Him, God used this trial to bring about some needed change in my behavior and thoughts. I am a more humble and patient person now. A transformation that was desperately needed. I am also no longer concerned about how my career is progressing, whether I am I getting what I deserve, or worrying how I am doing compared to my piers. What a freedom this is. I could not shed this consuming behavior until I was humbled. I now realize that the less material things I have the simpler my life is and the happier I am.

    What I have Learned?
    What have I learned? To lean on God, to trust in His mercy. I am continually learning to be dependent on God. In addition, I am learning to be comfortable, moreover joyous, in that dependence. It is funny how the old hymns from my childhood come to mind. “My hope is built on nothing less ….” [1]

    Psalm 63:1-8 [2]
    1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
    2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
    3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
    4 I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
    5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
    6 On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.
    7 Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
    8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

    Author's Note: If I have left any issues unresolved or if a reader has any questions, please ask and I will address them. Again, thanks for reading. This completes this series. I will now resume my random thought blogging.

    [1] Hymn The Solid Rock. Words: Edward Mote, circa 1834. Music: William B. Bradbury, 1863.

    [2] Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. The NIV and New International Version trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2005

    Faith Walk: Chapter 9

    Here endth the journal entries. The rest of the story is composed from recollection.

    Monday & Tuesday, May 31 & June 1, 2004
    There were copious hugs and kisses upon my return home from Gethsemani on Sunday afternoon. I could not immediately share with Anita all the emotions and meditations I had been through at Gethsemani. First, it was just too much to convey in one burst. Secondly, I did not want to tell her my inclinations on the job until I had heard her thoughts without any influence from me. However, I am sure she sensed the peace I carried with me from Gethsemani.

    We launched our trip to Destin early Monday morning. I do not remember exactly how much we discussed about the job and about my weekend on Sunday evening while packing and how much was discussed on the drive down I-65 south. Given the fact we had an excited 3 year old with us who is very energetic and imaginative and going to the beach for the first time, I am sure we did most of our talking on Sunday evening. Cohesive conversation in the car would not have been a reality. That was fine. It was family time. They had sacrificed my time and attention enough over the last month.

    What I do know was that Anita felt that Ingram was the better choice. She knew my personality and could foresee the stresses that would naturally arise from the EASI position. It was a step up in my engineering career and EASI needed much done in a short time. There would be no easing into that position. I would have to hit the ground running and go full bore not that either of us were afraid of this. It was just a fact. We both knew I would be traveling a good bit up front, and that it would level out at about 25% of my time. In addition, I had the longer commute through major construction on I-65 northbound. She was also factoring an eventual move to the Hendersonville so that we could maximize our family life.

    This thought had major ramifications. In early May, Anita and I completed our third year of hosting and leading a college life group as part of our church’s college ministry. We were very close to the young men and women in our group. They were now part of our family. In fact, the whole uncertainty of my situation as school ended in late May 2004 was very hard on the group. We had spent much of our prayer time on my family’s situation. We had our last meeting of the year and said our goodbyes; we all thought that it was likely the final night. We parted with tears and hugs. They were not goodbyes for the summer infused with the knowledge of the fall return. They were the goodbyes of relationships that would take on new forms from distances. We really believed we would likely be in St. Louis at that point.

    Now we realized that this job could affect the joy we felt in being able to continue life group. Even if we did not move right away, it would be difficult to continue the life group in the same manner with the time and travel constraints the job was likely to impose. In addition, we were very active at our church in other ways now with Maria involved in the children’s ministry. All of her friends and social activity was through church. Anita was involved in many activities at church and with other mothers there during the week. We loved our church and it would be very difficult to leave. Even if we remained at our church after a move, it would be impossible to maintain the same level of involvement with a 45-minute or better one-way commute. One family we were friends with had already left just for this reason. They lived in Hendersonville and the commute was too much, despite their love for our church, so they ended up leaving for a church closer to home.

    Anyway, I shared with Anita my thoughts and understandings from the weekend. When I had been walking in the woods that Saturday morning, I had been continually moving toward the EASI job offer as the right choice. Then the diversion of path in the woods occurred (reference Chapter 8). Afterward, I re-evaluated my feelings focusing on the wisdom Charlie provided in our Friday phone conversation and reflecting on what God might have been showing me during that walk. By the end of the weekend, I had determined Ingram was the best choice—the choice God was impressing on my heart. We had one problem however. No matter how we sliced it, we could not meet our budget with the initial Ingram offer without selling our home and moving to something cheaper.

    Sometime during the drive down to Destin, I talked with Kaj at Ingram. He said he would be faxing an updated offer to my condominium. He told me verbally that he was able to up the offer. The new offer was the exact amount we needed to make ends meet in our budget. When we arrived in Destin we stopped to eat, checked in at the condominium, and I picked up my fax. Anita took Maria to the beach. Maria did not have time to wait around for such inconsequential matters as money and career decisions. There was a beach calling her name! Children are awesome in helping adults keep their priorities in order. I do remember Anita and I praying for final direction and offering thanks.

    I stayed in the room for a while with my laptop making sure I had not missed anything in our financial analysis. With a final word of prayer, I called Kaj and verbally accepted his offer. I then signed the faxed forms and had the condominium office fax my acceptance to Ingram. The only down side was having to phone EASI and tell them I was not taking their offer. When I called, Paul immediately offered me more money. I gratefully thanked him, but told him this was not a money issue and that the offer I had accepted was lower than EASI’s initial offer. He thanked me for my professionalism throughout the interview process and wished me the best. I felt bad for EASI because they needed help and I knew I had the enthusiasm they wanted. Yet, Ingram was the choice to which God had led my family and me.

    The rest of the week was one of the most enjoyable, relaxing times I have ever had. I relaxed in the light of Anita and Maria’s enjoyment and with the peace of a journey completed. I also felt energized with the excitement of a new journey beginning.

    Author's note: I will conclude this series with an epilogue that should tie up some loose ends and provide a status of how things worked out. Thanks for reading.


    Friday, August 12, 2005

    Faith Walk: Chapter 8

    This post is part of a series of journal transcriptions from my second retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, KY during May 28 to May 30, 2004.

    Sunday May 30, 2004 12:25 AM EST (Part 2)
    I reach the conclusion of this Gethsemani retreat. I am writing from a wooden deck chair grayed from age and weather. My feet are propped up on a rock wall looking out over the flowers in the garden beneath me with my knees as a writing surface. The sun is bright as is my renewed spirit. I feel a duality of peace and excitement: the peace from a journey completed. The excitement for a new journey beginning. God knew I needed to be here this weekend. I arrived having two offers and a major decision to make on Tuesday or Wednesday next week.

    I talked to Kaj on Friday as I left Nashville for Gethsemani. I told him if the base salary had been $7000 higher, I would have accepted immediately. He does not think he can do anything, but I am to talk with him on Tuesday. I will be in Destin, FL. Anita and I scheduled a last minute trip to the beach for the coming week. We booked it Thursday night to celebrate getting the two offers that day. We have not been on a vacation in a long while. With the new job and income reduction, we will not be taking one anytime soon after starting the new job. I will be making just enough extra money in June from receiving both vacation pay from CIC and the salary from the new job. We have been aching to take Maria, who is almost four, to the beach. This will be her first real trip to the beach. She is so excited. So am I!

    I will be driving home within the hour to prepare for leaving tomorrow. God has spoken to me this weekend through my silence, my walks, Scripture, worship, and the reflection this writing provides. During the drive up from Nashville on Friday, Charlie Brandon, a senior member and former elder at my church, and someone I deeply respect, called on my cell phone. My men’s group had decided to recruit a few new members to the group. One of the men suggested was Charlie, and I volunteered to speak with him. This was months ago when I invited him to our group. He was just now calling to tell me that his schedule would not allow him to join. He had no idea about my situation. In addition, I was near the end of the three-hour drive, maybe 30 minutes from the Abbey. Very soon, I would loose cell phone coverage. Yet unexpectedly, I get this call from Charlie.

    After conveying his message he asked me how I was doing and what was going on in my life. I briefly explained my job situation, the two offers, and the aspects of each. We talked about my situation and the decisions I was facing. He did not give me advice directly, but he engaged me in discussion about frenetic lifestyle, what does one really want from their life, and how do career decisions affect these desires. More wisdom delivered from I AM via an earthly agent. What a glorious preface to my arrival and purpose at Gethsemani.

    Another powerful measure of guidance occurred on Saturday morning during my three-hour hike among the rolling hills and forest. I love these hikes at Gethsemani. I feel as if I am walking into and amidst the purlieu of God’s kingdom. Indeed, I believe I am. On this Saturday morning, I departed early. I walked access road, made of large, brown gravel, which leads into the depths of the Abbey property on which visitors are allowed. On each side are wide strips of tall grass that are periodically harvested for hay. These strips are bordered by trees marking the creeks that drain the rising hills into the watershed next to the Abbey. This watershed contains a series man-made canals and pools that are guarded by an abandoned pumping station. This station previously managed the water and sewage needs of the Abbey years ago. It is apparent that the monks who founded the Abbey precisely selected this spot to build the Abbey. They were intelligent in its design and resourceful in its management.

    As I walk, insects aerially sprint from one spot to another; drone by like cargo craft; or swim gently and aimlessly in the heavy, humid air. Small birds dancingly flit from place to place or dart by like jets as they go about their inviolable functions. The magnificent insect polyphony and variety of bird songs perform the Creator’s Nature Symphony, which will accompany me throughout my trek this morning. Rivulets hidden in the thick grass trickle along the road edge, methodically moving toward the collecting basin that I am leaving behind. After a short walk in, the gravel access forks. If you travel left, it will take you to the copse where the Statues of the Garden of Gethsemane rest.[1] I break right heading into the hills and forest and to a man-made lake. This lake is formed by a large concrete wall that dams one of the creeks emanating from the hills and supplying the watershed. I assume the lake was created to guarantee a water supply for the Abbey during the dry seasons of the year. You can walk this wall, approximately 2 feet wide, across the mouth of this small lake, which I guess is between 100 and 200 yards in length. A few inches to my left is the dark water of the deepest part of the lake. Inches to my right is a plunge of maybe 20-30 feet into a waste of weeds, tall grass, and trees. No rails or protection on either side just air—an exhilarating walk! I make this walk to determine if my middle-aged nerves can still handle being a boy.

    After I have passed my little test, I continue upwards into the woods and hills. The gravel service road turned into a dirt road well before the lake and continues to narrow until it becomes just a hiking path, although at points it still gets wide. The 2000 acres that make up the Abbey property are well managed including the forests. A vast network of trails branches and links allowing a sojourner to choose from multiple passages and to find new areas for exploration. The monks now use ATVs to move about this vast nature reserve performing their stewardship of their Garden of Eden. Yet, I have not had any of my hikes disturbed by the work of the monks, nor have I met anyone else in my hikes unto these hills. Solitude is plentiful.

    As I stroll through this majesty, I feel more and more at peace. Not because I have made any decisions, but a peace from perspective. The world is out there somewhere, and my soul is walking on the fringes of God’s realm. It is as if He is in some secret center deep within; a place I am not seeking to enter but am aware is there. I mentally attempt to empty myself of thoughts, my busyness, and my will. I begin praying for God to fill this emptiness with His will—to give me mental ears to hear. “Father, lead me to the decision with which I can best serve you.” As I have mentioned before, this months-long ordeal is really the first time I have ever consciously placed my career in the hands of God and sought His will for it. Prior, I was not spiritually mature enough to know to do it. Career was separate from Church and Christianity. I was to be a Christian in the work force, but what career and where I choose to work was compartmentalized outside my spiritual life, rather than being a subset of it. God has led me to know better.

    I tried to be empty and listen, but this is hard for a human and takes much practice. I had reached a strong proclivity toward one of the job opportunities. As I had mulled over the options, analyzing the pros and cons of each, I felt the facts might be God’s way of showing the path that was best. During this walk of meditation, prayer, and listening, this intuition was solidifying itself into decision. I grew more and more comfortable with this choice. I almost felt in a trance at this point, very removed from self and surroundings. Sort of like a runner’s high—moving through your environment but removed from it; hardly affected by the physical.

    I was jolted out of this out-of-body rest. The path came upon one of the bigger creeks that flowed from the engulfing hillsides. I knew this point from a previous hike. It was a wider part of the creek, 6 or 7 feet across, in a valley between the hills where the land flattens just a little more than the adjacent terrain. Last time I was here, I could walk across in a few inches of water over the rock ledges that were exposed by the water’s slow excavation. Not today. The Ohio and Tennessee Valley regions have received a large amount of rain over the last week. The creek was now 3 to 4 feet deep and moving swiftly. I could make it across, but did not want to get soaking wet with several hours left in my hike. I had a specific area I wanted to explore further and this was the path to it. I begin walking up the creek hoping to find a narrow place at which I could leap across. I had to leave the trail, push through the underbrush, and dodge through the trees.

    After 15-20 minutes, I finally reached a point I thought I could attempt. I made the leap and got across. However, I now I had to find my way back to the path I wanted. As I pushed downstream, I quickly ran into thicker underbrush that became impassable. This area of growth was very large resulting in another deviation. I was no longer sure exactly where my original path lay. I was not worried about being lost. I knew the direction of the Abbey, and knew I could find my way back to it. Nevertheless, I was not sure I was going to find the path that leads to the particular hilltop that I wanted to explore. A point at which I had stopped during my first visit to Gethsemani.

    As I tried to make my ever-meandering way back to where I thought my path lay, I kept meeting resistance and had to choose new directions. I finally walked upon another trail. One that did not appear to go in the direction I wished. However, it was passable, so I took it. I resigned myself to the fact that I may not make it to my original destination today, which was fine. I began trying to reacquire my meditative state of listening to God. As I worked on this transformation, the trail met up with a much wider path. My original path. I was back on the road to my original destination.

    My rhythmical and purposeful stride began to restore my somnambulate state, and as it did, I began to realize that God may have been speaking to me and answering my prayer for guidance. Was the job choice I was leaning toward really the right path to His ultimate destination? Did I need to take a circuitous road to get to where I needed to be and in the process wade through a few obstacles? Were the original exhortations I was feeling from a different source, that is, Satan trying to influence me? I am not alluding that one job was evil or could not serve God’s will, just that it may not have been God exhorting me, and that the other job was His preference. Could it be that one of the jobs would offer more opportunities for temptation and thus was Satan’s preference? Just thoughts and questions that came to me in my meditation.

    I prayed to God to open my eyes and heart even wider and to attune me to His will. This led me to contemplate harder on my phone call with Charlie. I also realized I needed to pay close attention to the thoughts of my wife, specifically without her knowing my initial inclination. I needed her uninfluenced reasoning, her gleanings from searching God’s will. The tide of choice began to change. To do this day, I firmly believe that this incident was God loving and leading me.

    Back to Sunday. I will have the drive home today, and all day with Anita tomorrow as we drive to Florida to contemplate our decision. As conclude my retreat, I reflect on the words God delivered to me Friday soon after my arrival (see Chapter 1). “Behold I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice.” [Exodus 23:20-21] I haven’t seen my family much in the last few weeks. I miss them very much. I close my journaling and my retreat with this prayer:

    Dear God, thank you for your foresight in delivering me to this place this weekend. Thank you for the overwhelming, redemptive gift of Jesus my Savior. Lord I also thank you for the underserved blessing of Anita and Maria in my life. I am going home now. AMEN!

    [1] The statues are two life size sculptures, one depicting the apostles sleeping in the garden and the other of Christ praying in agony. The statues were donated in honor of a young seminarian who traveled to Alabama during the civil rights movement. Witnessing an escalating argument between a young women and a law enforcement officer who raised his weapon to shoot, he stepped in and took the bullet for her. A plaque at the path entrance to the statues reads: "In memory of Jonathon M Daniel. Episcopal seminarian martyred in Alabama Aug. 20, 1965. Donated to the Monastery by William Coolidge of Boston, MA. Walker Hancock sculptor. May we always remember that the Church exists to lead men to Christ in many and varied ways, but it is always the same Christ."

    Monday, August 01, 2005

    Faith Walk: Chapter 7

    This post is part of a series of journal transcriptions from my second retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, KY during May 28 to May 30, 2004.

    Sunday May 30, 2004 12:25 AM EST (Part 1)
    I have just returned from the Pentecost Mass service followed by lunch. Back to my epistle. I really want to finish journaling this story today, if possible, but as in my speaking, my writing is long-winded (long-inked) and disjointed. I resume with Friday May 21, 2004.

    It is my last day in the office at CIC. The lawyers have me scheduled for testimony in Philadelphia on Monday, May 24, and for Wednesday the 26, if necessary. I am booked to leave on Sunday at 1:30 PM and to return at 6:15 PM Wednesday just in time to make it to the Rush concert. I tell Mark and Ritchie that I will not be in the office next week because of the Philly trip through Wednesday, another interview with EASI on Thursday, and leaving on this Gethsemani retreat on Friday. The interview with EASI will be my third and last. They called this morning to tell me they wanted me to come in so they could make a formal offer in person. Mark, my boss, notes that I am done since the following Monday is Memorial Day and after which I am no longer a CIC employee. I acknowledged he is correct. I do not go to lunch with Mark and Ritchie as I am fasting for young John’s test for cystic fibrosis. Shortly, after they leave, I get an email saying John’s tests were negative; he does not have CF! Praise God!

    A strange, hurtful thing happens this afternoon. Mark, VP of Engineering and my boss for the last five years, leaves in the afternoon without saying a single word to me—no goodbye, no good luck—nothing. This is a man I prayed for, in his presence, when his wife was diagnosed with a tumor. The tumor was benign and treatable, but it was a very stressful time for him and his wife. I leave him an email telling him I am surprised by his abrupt departure, but I also tell him I have enjoyed working with him and I have learned much at CIC. I also attach a file that gives him a roadmap to all my documents and how to handle my items of responsibilities. Mark has my book, Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road. I wonder if I will see it again. He was supposed to have returned it earlier in the week having had it for several months and never reading it. Like everything else with Mark, you have to hound him for what he promised to do. Contrarily, if he needs something from you, you had better get it done fast and perfect. I do not look forward to the book retrieval process.

    Ritchie is pleasant and we exchange goodbyes and best wishes. Jon, the President of the company, is at his mountain retreat in North Carolina. He has been nice during the last few weeks. We talk on the phone, as we are partners in the ever-changing schedule of the arbitration. He is to testify after me. His last day is also on May 31. I am told by the attorneys that Jon has been going to bat for me behind the scenes. Despite the efforts of Jon and of the lawyers defending Exelon, our parent remains mute regarding any severance. I guess they feel they have squeezed all the blood they need out of this turnip.

    My friend Chuck, my Ingram contact, calls to see how everything is going, and I tell him. He laughs when I tell him some of the statements Kaj made in my last interview. “Another candidate is the one I really want, but he cannot start until July, and I cannot wait that long.” “If you come on board and do not carry your weight, my team will cut you off at the knees.” Kaj was whom Chuck reported to, and to whom I would report. Despite these comments, Ingram is where I want to work.

    So I head to Philly on Sunday. I do well in the testimony on Monday and Wednesday, at least according to Paul and Rich, the attorneys. I personally felt that it was a mixture of good and bad moments, but they say it went well. The judge sustained many of the opposing Counsel’s objections making it difficult for Rich to ask me the questions he wanted to during his direct examination. Both Paul and Rich tell me I did well in making sure our points were made during the cross-examination.

    On Tuesday, my day off in Philadelphia, I call the head of HR at Ingram to inform her that I am receiving another offer on Thursday. I convey that I want to work at Ingram, but that I will find it difficult to turn down an offer while facing immediate employment. I do not want to push Ingram, but I also do not want to eliminate myself if I am still in the hunt. She tells me I am on the final list.

    Wednesday, while I am waiting for my flight, Ingram calls to set up a Thursday interview at 4:00 PM to meet other executives in the Barge group that I have not talked with. Wow! The Lord is working! I tell her that I will try to postpone a decision on EASI until the Tuesday or Wednesday after Memorial Day. I have not heard EASI’s offer yet, so it may not even be attractive. In addition, there will be a 90-day probation period, which works both ways. Either EASI or I can dissolve the business arrangement without cause during this period. I could still accept an Ingram offer later, if one is made, and if EASI is not what I thought it would be. I would not do this unless I knew I had walked into a bad situation. I honor my commitments.

    My flight touches down in Nashville airport at 6:15 PM Wednesday, and I head directly to the Rush concert. I thought it started at 8:00 PM. Most concerts do. While listening to the radio on the way, I find out that it begins at 7:30 PM. If I had known the starting time all along, I would have just been more hurried and anxious throughout the day. My inattentiveness to the start time printed on the ticket saved me a wealth of self-induced anxiety. I make the show in time, arriving at the parking lot at 7:05 PM. I hit very little traffic coming in from the airport to the amphitheater via Murfreesboro Road. I would have been stuck in traffic traveling my normal route from my home. The show starts at precisely 7:30. Rush has no opening act, and the show is a wonderful three hours long. A fantastic concert! The band is tight and full of energy. The light show and big screen graphics perfectly coordinated to heighten the experience of the senses. Opening night after weeks of stress. I needed this.

    Thursday May 27, D-Day, that is decision day. Well, not really. It turns out that Decision Day will be Tuesday and Wednesday next week, June 1st or 2nd. I meet with EASI at noon. They make a decent offer, a very good offer from their standpoint. The base salary during the 90-day probation period is $15,000 below my current—I should say my former—salary, but it would increase by $6000 afterward. Also included is $250 per month to help with insurance (recall that EASI does not provide health, life, or disability insurance); $200 per day for billable travel (they bill my time at a much higher rate); and 10% of the profits for any product or project sales I generate. Additionally, if I can bring them outsourced manufacturing business to consume their excess capacity, I will get a big percentage of the revenue, and it would be my operation to run. One reason I was an attractive candidate for EASI was my long history in the electronics industry. The felt my extensive network of contacts and good relationships with these contacts could help expand their business. Bonuses are also part of the plan for meeting product milestones ahead of schedule.

    I am not a proponent of incentive and quota type compensation plans. I believe they often create behavior patterns opposite of those intended. However, EASI was correct, the person in this position can write is own ticket. I am even more convinced though that I would end up in Hendersonville after the 90 days in order to mitigate the intense work schedule. Yet, it could be fun as well as tough. I would be a crucial member of the company.

    My Ingram appointment has been moved up to 2:00 PM, so I leave EASI and head directly to Ingram. I meet with the President and with the VP of HR and Legal Advisory. Both of these men are pleasant. Chuck prepped me for my meeting with Craig, the President, and the interview went well. I then meet with Kaj. He shocks me by handing me an offer letter. The base offer is much less than EASI and is $24,500 less than my CIC salary. There is up to a 10% bonus based upon profit sharing, but this is not guaranteed. There is also $0.50 on the dollar matching on 401k contributions up to 5% of salary. The matching percentage is graduated based on years of service until it reaches dollar for dollar. EASI does not have a 401k. I will also receive 3000 shares of phantom stock that can provide substantial pay out later. Ingram provides great health benefits, and I need to factor in professional growth within Ingram.

    So on Friday morning, May 28, 2004, I begin my three-hour drive to Gethsemani Abbey with two very different opportunities to choose between. The EASI opportunity offers much better money upfront; an exciting chance to make my own way; staying in my field of expertise of electrical engineering; few benefits; higher risk and higher stress; and a longer commute with a likely move looming. Ingram offers a stable company with excellent benefits; a new learning experience but the risk of a major career change; opportunity to work with my friend Chuck; lower financial reward upfront; and a less stressful environment and an easy commute.
    It is 2:40 PM as I begin my second retreat at Gethsemani. I have walked to the top of St. Joseph’s Hill across from the entranceway to the Abbey, and I am sitting next to the statue that adorns the hill. Joseph, with the baby Jesus in his arms, looks out over the Abbey, while I gaze out over the rolling Kentucky Hills and miles of countryside. It is a warm, just bordering on hot, humid day with thick billowing clouds rolling over the hills surrounding the Abbey. Although the sun shines through frequently, you can feel rain in the air just waiting for its chance. When the breeze blows during cloud cover, it is cool and almost damp.

    Thunder concussions, deep and vibrating, resonate in from the distance, while bright yellow butterflies chase each other above the high grass around me. Swallows dance over the surrounding meadows in stunning acrobatics performing their dinner ballet. Farm equipment drones peacefully from outlying fields. As with my first retreat, God has looked at my time line, and He has put me where I need to be on this weekend. I could not foresee where I would be, what decisions would be looming, what frame of mind I would be in six months ago when I booked this retreat. God did.