Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Faith Walk: Chapter 6

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 8:35 AM EST

I resume writing having stopped late yesterday after a marathon session. I arose to my watch alarm at 3:00 AM this morning for Vigils at 3:15 AM, although I was already awake. A thunderstorm had descended upon the Abbey. I was lying in bed listening to the rain and thunder, and watching the lightning dimly strobe my room through the filter of the window blinds and half-closed eyelids.

Vigils, Lauds, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline are the seven hours of the liturgy of the hours or opus Dei (work of God) as St. Benedict called it in his Rule. They are common prayer services, the prayer of the Church as well as the prayer of our community. None of these hours actually lasts an hour. All seven add up to two and a half or two and three-quarters hours. The backbone of these services is the 150 psalms, sung or recited according to a two-week cycle. At each hour there is also a hymn, reading from Scripture, prayer of the day and commemoration of Our Lady. Some of the brothers recite a simple office of Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Glory Be to the Fathers in another part of the monastery. The monks and others who pray the liturgy of the hours do so on behalf of the Church, and of all humankind, to praise, thank and petition God throughout the day. [1]

I enjoy Vigils because it is quiet, sparsely attended, and the prayer time has an overwhelming spiritual ambiance: a sanctuary shrouded in the early morning darkness subtly illuminated by candle light. The flickering flames create fluttering shadow angels on the high Abbey walls, apparitions formed from the praying figures of the monks. The environment demands a quiet, meditative attitude impressing upon you that this is a place of worship and reverence, and that you are in the presence of God. This atmosphere is further imposed by the storm that accompanies our vigil. Lightning flashes like epiphanies, and thunder resonates deeply through the stone of the Abby before rumbling off into the distance. It is as if the heavenly hosts are slowly sweeping through. I catch imaginative glimpses of the specter that accompanied Israel and Moses in their wanderings.

Father Matthew mentioned in last evening’s homily that after Pentecost, the form of man, worship, and the Church was different because the Holy Spirit accompanies us now as promised by Jesus after He left us. Today is Pentecost and this is the first worship period of the day. I cannot help but feel a connection between the power of the storm and the Holy Spirit as we worship.

I left my story on Monday afternoon, May 17, 2004, heading to my interview with EASI after the events of Sunday evening and Monday morning with Phil, Nathan, and the family. The interview goes well. We had taken one car to the hospital Monday morning knowing we would be back that afternoon. Anita and Maria have driven me to Hendersonville for the interview. I call Anita via our cell phones when I am finished as she and Maria are cruising around. We head back to Nashville with greater hope as EASI has invited me back for a second interview. I am to return on Thursday at 10:00 AM.

On the way into Nashville, the Philadelphia lawyers call regarding the intellectual property dispute in which I am involved for CIC’s parent, Exelon Energies, who is selling us. They want me to change my schedule for the following week. Referencing Chapter 4, I have told the attorneys from the beginning that I am not available on those dates. I have a ticket to the Rush concert on the 26th, and my Gethsemani retreat begins on May 28. The Rush concert is opening night of their new tour, and they have not toured in about five years. I am adamant that I cannot change my schedule. Keep in mind that Exelon has seen fit to dump me on the street at the end of the month, with no severance, yet they want me to continue assisting with the case and be a key witness as well. The lawyers are sympathetic, and they have argued my case with Exelon. They cannot understand how Exelon is hanging their key witness out to dry. They have said they would understand if I told everyone to, “Go pound sand.” I will help as I can, but I will not change my schedule.

On Tuesday May 18, I am back on the phone with the lawyers. Paul, the lead attorney, a very profane but otherwise nice person understands my stance. He is scrambling to adjust the witness schedule to get me in on the next Monday and maybe carryover until Wednesday so I can get back to Nashville by Wednesday afternoon. The judge is not meeting on Tuesday, how convenient. Paul likes me, and he tells me not to apologize. He has been pressing for a severance package but hasn’t had any luck. Although Paul and I are completely two different people with different sets of values, I have formed a friendship with him, and with the co-lead attorney. The co-lead attorney, Rich, is an ex-football player, ex-district attorney who has seen more than anyone can imagine. When he was a child, his father was executed in the streets while they were walking together. His father was a non-violent, Cuban resistance leader. I think Rich was 8 years old when he testified in a world court. He has a daughter who is Maria’s age who is dying from an ALS type disorder that affects children. She is the oldest living child with the disease. Rich is a great guy and a strong, sincere family man. I have been praying hard for his family, which they truly seem to appreciate.

Changing themes for a moment, I failed to write about another powerful event involving Christ and His Church that occurred on Sunday. I had mentioned in an earlier chapter a family for whom I had been praying. Their 7-year-old daughter, Julia, had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, despite the congregation’s fervent prayers that the tests would be negative. I had truly felt in my heart that she would not be found positive. I had steadfastly relied on Mark 11: 22-24:

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “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.” [2]

On this Sunday morning, Tim, our minister, noticed the mother Maria crying in her pew. Many of us had noticed, and we were tearful as well. Tim said he could not preach until he dealt with this opportunity. He walked over to the family. I got up to accompany Tim. A large number followed including our elders. We put our hands on the family and prayed over them. Their younger son, our daughter’s age, was to be tested for CF the coming Friday. At Wednesday evening services, we are asked to pray and fast for young John’s CF testing.

There was a benefit barbeque and concert after Church that Sunday for the Wayne Reed Christian Childcare Center. Todd, Julia’s father, gave me an extra ticket he had to attend. We had not bought tickets at $25 per person due to our uncertain financial state. Maria had a cold that morning so Anita had stayed with her at home. What an act of kindness on Todd’s part. Wayne Reed is a long time member at our church. We used to play basketball together every Sunday afternoon. Wayne and his wife, Diana, founded the Christian Childcare Center after realizing Wayne would not be able to coach his sons in sports when Wayne was diagnosed with ALS. Wayne suffers mightily, but he is at Church every Sunday. He has had the disease a long time now, much longer than most with ALS. A true miracle. I am surrounded by examples that put my situation into sharp perspective teaching me how to handle my trials with faith and courage.

Back to Tuesday, May 18: That afternoon I get a call from Ingram whom I had felt was another lost job opportunity. They want me to come in on Wednesday. Amazing how the Lord is working. I am officially terminated, but I have two follow-up interviews in the same week, both are in the Nashville area, and the Philadelphia arbitration does not interfere. I find out too that the deal for CIC Global has died. Now Ritchie and Mark, the only two at CIC that are moving on to the new company, are in the same boat I am, but they have no other prospects. I empathize with their turmoil. I head back to Vanderbilt Hospital on Tuesday afternoon to sit with Nathan’s family during his follow-up skin graft surgery. The prognosis is very good, but they do not perform the skin graft. The doctor wishes to wait until Thursday.

I go to the Ingram interview on Wednesday afternoon, but I have mixed feelings on its success. I like everyone I meet. The VP of human resources and I interact well. I also feel I did well with the team members I would be working with, and I had a nice conversation with the VP of Sales. Yet, I again get the impression that Kaj, my boss elect, does not like my personality. Kaj is a very direct but pleasant person. I like him, but I am not sure he cares for me.

Another diversion note and flash back to the Friday, May 14. I remember while I am journaling that my Vanderbilt football season ticket and my National Commodore Club donation were both due on that Friday. I had held off as long as possible not knowing if I could afford it, or even if I would be staying in Nashville. I had several resumes submitted for out-of-town jobs, and theoretically, the job with DCSI in St. Louis was still open. It was not dependent on DCSI buying CIC. My support of Vanderbilt University and its athletics programs are a financial priority. I worried that I would not be able to continue this support. I again made the leap of faith trusting that I would remain in Nashville, and that I would be able to afford my support. I renewed.

Picking up at Thursday morning May 18: I have my second interview with EASI and again it goes well. I get a better feel for the business. The position will be over all manufacturing and engineering as well as being responsible for distributor and sales support. I would report to the President, Paul. The schedule and objectives would be aggressive. I worry that Paul’s and the company owner’s expectations may be too high. The w0rkload would be heavy. Travel would be necessary, but hopefully it would not exceed 25% of my time. However, I know Paul is traveling frequently trying to do two jobs. It is evident that my family would need to move to Hendersonville eventually in order to minimize the commute time and to allow me to maximize family time. Paul and the owner tell me that whoever is in this position can write his own ticket if he can perform. They also want someone who would have fun doing the job. I like both Paul and the owner, and I feel I can succeed.

EASI is a small company with few benefits and no health insurance, so I would have to fund my own. Higher risk, greater reward, at least financially, is the way I sum it up. I like the potential, but I have some reservations about the company overall. Would I be stepping into another CIC? The interview ends shortly after lunch. They acknowledge that they will probably make an offer and will call soon. Hope grows!

I leave Hendersonville traveling to Vanderbilt to be with Nathan and family. They are just taking Nathan down for his surgery. Bailey, Nathan’s older sister, arrives from school with Phil. Bailey and I head to the playground so Phil can eat, rest, and be with his wife Patti and with Nathan. The playground is on an upper floor outside which is pretty cool. You can look out over the hospital complex while you play. You have a great view of the Life Flight helicopter traffic which is always exciting, even though I mindful of what each arrival and departure imply. Maria and Anita arrive a short time later. Maria and Bailey run to each other, shouting each other’s name, and they hug tightly. They never say a word about the situation, but this 3-year-old, almost four, and this 7-year-old know just how to minister to each other. Love abounds among sadness and tragedy. Is the growth of love among our families and our Church a tragedy? God indeed works in mysterious ways.

Nathan’s surgery is a success. I end up taking Bailey and her grandparents to her house. This allows Phil to keep their van at the hospital and to go home later that night after Nathan has come out of anesthesia. I arrive home about 8:45 PM; tired but with a measure of peace that I have not felt in a long while.

[1] “A Monk’s Day.” Monastic Life. Copyright 2003 The Abbey of Gethsemani. 19 July 2005.

[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.


jettybetty said...

You really should write a book!!!

I love looking back to see how God works things out--I think you must, too. God is so faithful!


JMG said...

Some more great imagery there in your first paragraph--I may have to borrow it for class. I love thunderstorms.

I too have experienced not receiving what I had fervently prayed for and believed God would do. It is quite perplexing.

Another great chapter!

Tony Arnold said...

JMG. God works in mysterious and marvelous ways. As I move forward, keep that particular situation in the back of your mind.

Jettybetty, thanks for the compliment. Probably not enough for a book. But if God wants a book out of me at some point, I am sure He will get one.


erinlo said...

I've been checking your blog often to see if chapter 6 was posted. I was glad to finally read it today. It did not disappoint and was worth the wait.