Saturday, November 29, 2008

In Search of Thanksgiving

(this is the final installment in our Thanksgiving Saga. Thank you for joining us this week)
The boys shouted, "Restaurant!"
It wasn't a true restaurant, not in the sense that we mothers classify an eatery as restaurant. It was in actuality a singles bar. Finding the parking easy, we cautiously marched single file through the guarded entrance. A big bouncer stepped in front of me, blocking us from entering.
I asked the bouncer, “Would it be all right if we ordered something to eat?”
I don’t remember that he answered us in actual words. He looked down at me as if I was a pathetic nuisance. Then when he herded us inside—far corner to the left along with two other starving groups of parents from England--that we came to understand that we had misguidedly stepped outside the bounds of permissable culture. The bouncer implied in no uncertain terms that we should sit still and not agitate the unattached customers with our familial bliss.
Unblinkingly, the waitress told us, “You have to leave by ten. It’s kareoke night.” She glanced nervously up and down the row of single customers who stared at us from the barstool gallery, their eyes glowing like jittery rabbits.
“We promise to leave by ten,” I said. “We just need food and then we’ll be out of the way.”
The British father said to me, “We didn’t know about Thanksgiving. There’s not a restaurant open in the entire city. Our kids are about starved, as are we.”
How well we knew. We had phoned to the farthest edges of the county. Even the Cracker Barrel and the Chinese restaurant were shut down.
The bouncer explained to every incoming single customer that we would be gone by ten, locking gazes with me as he said it.
After we huddled around our table, my eyes took in the surroundings. Almost surreal, a smoky haze torched our senses while our oldest son grumbled, "This is only the worst Thanksgiving we've ever had."
“Here’s what we’ll do,” I said, feeling that somewhere in the choking cloud of fried chips and Texas Pete’s hot sauce that each of us surely had something for which we could be grateful. “Everyone share one thankful thought.”
First there was the collective groan. Then, we found a consensus. We all decided we were thankful for our family and for God's comfort. As each one spoke, my eyes kept roving to the shelf of items for sale behind the guys. Not so anyone else would notice, I made out the bar’s retail offerings--a whole plethora of little nude ceramic women clinging to cups, their limbs curving to make coffee mug handles, some upright, others upside-down or spraddle-legged with long bare-legged handles. Turquoise colored ashtrays formed to look like beds held more of the naked ceramic girls, only these ladies were sprawled across the ashtrays, gazing up flirtatiously from their tiny stark white faces. The bouncer was still managing us with his eyes. I imagined leaping in front of the display case and covering it with what fragments remained of my maternal instinct when all at once a tyke escaped from the herd of friends and siblings at the table next to us, the Londoners. The fugitive English child headed straight into a group of frightened singles. The bouncer lunged forward and grabbed the little boy, tossed him up over his head as though going for a long pass, and hurled him back at the astonished parents.
The dad, using his most distinctive British elocution turned to me and said, "They're bloody well good kids, really, once you get used to them!"
But I was too shaken by the bouncer’s cat-like reflexes to respond. Not wanting to be hurtled through the air myself, I stayed in my chair, bound to the rules for people packing children. To try and cover the nude ceramic girls with a mom’s fiery-faced quintessence was kin to social suicide. So I asked Jared to please not look at the shelf behind his brother. My youngest son sat rigid fearing who-knows-what while his twenty-two year old brother turned completely around in his chair to gawk.
Finally our food arrived. We wolfed down our Thanksgiving meal of buffalo wings and homemade potato chips, bid farewell to the mollified Brits, and headed home.
Randy surprised us by pulling into the take-out lane of a Krispy Kreme donut shop. These places are all over the eastern seaboard, turning out donuts assembly-line fashion behind an clear acrylic wall so that patrons may watch in plain sight the wondrous birth of perfection; we’re talking hundreds of donuts filing past, dropping into the log-flume-like vats and then finishing up perfectly browned and coated in melted icing. The most extreme climax of elation however is found in nearing one of these establishments and finding that the assembly lines are moving and the donuts are hot off the rollers and you know because the Krispy Kreme donuteurs alert you by flipping on the shop’s bright red neon sign that, when turned on, reads Hot Now!
We pulled into the take-out lane as the boys yelled, "Hot Now!" We ordered a dozen hot ones to-go to top off our Thanksgiving feast. Warm, delectable morsels melted on our tongues, finer than chef’s pastry.
Driving down the darkened interstate, we all told funny "Jessi" stories like the one we always told on Christmas Eve, how she used to plead for us to tell Santa to just leave the stuff outside on the porch. She never wanted a strange man in a red suit slipping into her house while she slept. Or the way she insisted that serving scarcely eaten meat on holidays was cruel to animals. Or the manner in which she saw the handiwork of God in every living thing.
It should have been our worst Thanksgiving. But somehow it was the worst and the best. Our family realized that Thanksgiving did not embody a fancy spread of poultry and stuffing but instead a feast of the heart. A thankful heart could be drummed up as simply as faith itself if we measured our blessings by the breadth of our love for one another rather than the girth of our stomachs.
Before we pulled onto the ramp that would aim us toward home, I heard Randy whisper, "Thank you, God. Just . . . thank you." I echoed the sentiment. Instinctively, he and I joined hands. Our youngest son sang another carol and his brother joined him in harmony. It sounded otherworldly and peaceful. Then all grew quiet and I thought I detected the music of stars, distant yet not so far away.

I was thankful for my family and our time together. I realized that God's grace is present even when my holiday feast is reduced to buffalo wings and hot donuts.
When served with a side of grateful love, all fare is choice. All fellowship is meat for the soul.
I hope and pray your Thanksgiving was simply joyful!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

In Search of Thanksgiving

(Part two of a three part holiday saga)
The day, overcast and gray, reflected the undercurrent of our emotions. We both refused to allow the tide of loss to draw us under. Our talk instead embodied our vision for the meal. Soon we would return home with the prized booty--sacks that brimmed with poultry, cranberries, and fresh thyme. But after a half hour of circling our little township north of Charlotte, we realized that all of the grocery stores had, without ceremony, closed up shop and sent their employees home to be with family.
The realization of my lack, my failure to prepare a traditional meal disappointed our two sons, aged twenty-two and eleven, whose ages had surrounded their middle sister and who now had to learn to live without the sister in-between. Our missing feast stemmed from the fact that I had not come fully awake from my walk of grief. My usual take-charge vigor had stalled out months earlier. Whatever idea the boys and Randy suggested to me, I simply agreed, as though all I had to do was lift my feet and be dragged along by the current of their desires.
Randy, always the warrior of the desperate cause, convinced us all that a restaurant was out there waiting to nosh us with our annual share of turkey and yams. He prodded us out to the family car and drove us toward Charlotte.
By this time, the boys sat silent in the rear seat, glum and grumbling to one another about how poorly we, as family heads, had planned our holiday feast.
After we had passed dozens of dimly lit restaurants, a parking lot that overflowed with parked cars sparked a degree of emotion.
“Look Dad, something’s happening! Over there!” Our youngest son pointed in the direction of the parking lot of uptown Charlotte’s largest mall.
City cops directed us into the flow of traffic. We followed the stream of cars, not at all certain where we were going but glad to be in the flow of anything remotely smacking of life.
In the daylight’s melting candle, we had been drawn into a tree lighting ceremony. We watched the magic along with thousands of full-bellied families. On the lawn of the new symphony park, a children's choir serenaded us with tomes of “Joy to the World” and “Silent Night.” Just after the last ray of Thanksgiving light kissed the Blue Ridge Mountains good-night, a gigantic tree hidden by night suddenly shone with a million lights. It was as though angels had appeared out of nowhere to paste the stars among us. We smiled, warmed by the glory of children, electricity, and good will. For a moment we even forgot our growling stomachs.
I had finally begun to count my blessings when the broadcasting guy on stage shouted, "Hey kids, I'll bet you are all so full of turkey you won't be able to eat for a week!"
En masse, all of the bright eyed tykes shouted with bloated bellies, "NOOOOO, no more turkeeeey!" while over a foot away two Hickman boys groaned, "We're starving because our mom didn't cook us turkey."
Suddenly, the sky thundered like a hundred rockets. A hum of approval rippled through the audience as all eyes lifted to watch a spectacular fireworks display. The autumn night sky was festooned with lights that bloomed, glittering from fiery centers only to magically dissipate before hitting earth. During the extravagant finale, Randy led us backward through the crowd to aim us out once more in search of the phantom restaurant.
Back inside the quiet of our minivan, we wove in and around the Christmas throng and rounded a bend. I blinked, not sure of what I was seeing. From the center of a shopping strip, we saw the sign--a modest neon light flashed open . . . open.
The boys shouted, "Restaurant!"
But it wasn't really a restaurant. Not really.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In Search of Thanksgiving

(part one in a Thanksgiving saga)
November in the south is a mix of summer and winter, the reason that so many southerners catch cold. We layer our clothing in the morning and peel it off in the afternoon. A cold front can blow in a dusting of snow atop freshly planted pansies that melts away by dinner. That first Thanksgiving without our daughter Jessi, November was stuck in that weird gear between autumn and winter. A gray mist hung in the neighborhood along with the rumors that continued to circulate about the fallen Twin Towers of New York.
Jared, our youngest, stood in the landing of our circular staircase, pensive, wanting me to come downstairs but unsure of how to say it. “Come see to Dad.” He said and ran downstairs.
My husband Randy was a tent maker, meaning that he was working odd jobs while starting a new church. He delivered fireworks, he measured houses for carpet, he watered plants at the home improvement store.
“Mom, Josh is carrying Dad in the house. He forgot to make our reservations.”
Jared’s voice sounded troubled. He was always the non-emotional child, so to hear worry tainting his matter-of-fact tone brought me to my feet.
“Why would Josh carry Dad?” I asked, following Jared down the circular staircase.
Josh burst through the front door, Randy’s arm around his neck. Josh’s arms were wrapped around his dad and he was hefting him along.
Randy was working a second job to make extra money; church planters call it “tent making” after the Apostle Paul. He was delivering fireworks to various vendors around town. He had pulled off the interstate on the side of the road overcome with grief. Disillusionment sucked all life out of him. By the time he pulled up in our driveway, his fingers were frozen to the steering wheel. Josh looked out and saw his dad sitting frozen in the driver’s seat of his truck. He ran out of the house and pried his fingers from the steering wheel before hoisting him out of the truck.
Randy’s face was haggard. His eyes were half-mast. He kept apologizing. “I didn’t make the reservations. I knew I was supposed to.” He kept saying, “ I’m sorry,” to the boys.
“We’ll do something else,” I said, as if I could think and plan.
I made a few phone calls to restaurants. The first three I called closed for Thanksgiving. It was no matter, I thought. Plenty of restaurants would offer a Thanksgiving buffet. I would call in the morning after some rest. I went to bed, racing the elephant of holiday grief to dreamland.
Josh awakened me the next morning. “I’ve called a dozen restaurants in Charlotte. None of them answered the phone.”
“The staffs are busy. It’s early,” I said. I threw on my robe and joined Josh, making calls on another line. We called until noon without reaching a single restaurant.
Thanksgiving is important to restaurants, I thought. We would have no trouble finding a place to eat. “It’s ridiculous to worry, Josh.”
It is considered in modern culture wrong to disappoint our children. We forget how disappointed pioneers often had to sit down with their children and tell them, “I didn’t get that bear today. It’s gopher meat again.” But by noon, the guilt that accompanied the disappointed look in both boys’ eyes moved in and sat down on me, squashing me like a too-small sofa.
As I crossed the threshold of that first Thanksgiving without my daughter, I learned the practice of counting the disappointments. I counted them at first as personal failures as a mother.
Josh hung up the phone again and said, “Not a single restaurant is open in the entire county.” Irritation was spilling out of him.
“We’ll go to the grocers. Let’s make a list,” I said.
The pain chafed against me as Josh and I bundled for the brisk gray day and went out into the city in search of an open store.
(To be continued. . .)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Thanksgiving Big Give

This week, the Secret Angels Project will distribute Thanksgiving food boxes to our families who are affected by AIDS/HIV. We are being stretched beyond what we’ve ever been stretched as triple the families are requesting boxes this year. If you can give to the SAP, we will make sure that these families are blessed beyond measure. After the Thanksgiving Give, our Christmas campaign will begin. Our goal is to provide at least $50. $75 in gift cards to 163 infants, children, and teens affected by AIDS. Our goal is to raise over $10,000.
in contributions between now and Dec. 13, 2008. Thank you for helping us meet this goal. Many
of the children we serve need clothing and coats. A toy under the tree is greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What to Wear for the Holidays

If true humility comes from a heart submitted to Christ and dead to self, then false humility is born of a desire to exalt self so that others believe we are good. The first act requires the death of self; the second only requires a few acting skills and a little finesse. The first creates room in the heart for a true love and benevolence for others. The second causes others to be used to promote the hungry little idol of falsehood. And it takes over devouring whatever good works are accomplished to exalt the self rather than exalting Christ who dies to offer us a covering for our naked soul.

“Clothe yourself with humility toward one another for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because he cares for you.”
1 Pet. 5:5,6
Verse 10, a little further down, reminds us that God will one, perfect, two, confirm, three strengthen, and four, establish each of us. It is a wardrobe that will not go out of style, year-to-year

Monday, November 17, 2008

You Concord FA Ladies Rock!!

My goodness, did I have an awesome time at the Concord FA A Gift For All Event! You ladies know how to put on a spectacular event! What gorgeous facilities and then, your awesome ministry team worked so hard to make your event so special—made me want to put up my tree. I think at last count for the dual event there 865+ women in attendance. The electricity was amazing and that made it all that much easier to share my story of a life restored.

I pray that God continues the process of SUPREME ELEVATION in all of you, from start to finish!

Please drop by my Facebook and post a big hello and let me know what the Lord is doing in your life!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

When Did You Know

Welcome to the writers of the NC Network of Writers. I look forward to our discussions and reciprocal learning experiences.
If you have not yet signed up for this comprehensive and annual writer's event in the Carolinas, do visit the link and get into some workshops. Many, many talented authors will be presenting.

In her book For Writers Only Sophy Burnham asks the question “When did you first know you were a writer? Did you always know?” Oftentimes, the writer is the last one to know.

I once edited a student writer’s essay; I’ll call him Larry. Larry was assigned a report, a factually supported essay about a problem within any culture that either lacked a solution at present or if the student so desired, a potential solution. The point was that I wanted the students all writing about a topic for which they felt passionate. Larry turned in anything but a report. His essay, if you want to call it that, rose to the level of edgy prose. Setting, dialogue, descriptive prose, narration, and expository writing, were all roughly lumped together in a story he told about a friend of his who had gotten into some trouble with the law. There were police dogs, local cops, guns, handcuffs, and a delightfully drawn character that was compelling and psychologically complicated.

When I selected a few “shine” papers to read aloud to the class, Larry’s mouth fell open as I read his name in front of his classmates. He was mystified. I was delighted. I had found a gem among the requisite essays and was the first person to tell Larry, “Yes, you are a writer and probably a novelist.” Hang the assignment! Larry was a storyteller and up until that moment, did not know.

For years as I struggled in misery in real estate, I recalled the day that Professor Francis Gwaltney, III pulled my freshman essay out of the stack and asked my permission to read it aloud. He asked me, “What is your major?”

My father had insisted that I major in elementary education. I told him and he said, “You’re no grade school teacher. You are a novelist.” Like Larry, I was mystified. His words nagged at me, nipping at my Nikes until the day I gave my words story form. I had loved literature and writing, but in all my years at an Arkansas high school not once had any teacher noticed my abilities. I was overlooked and had grown comfortable with being overlooked. Years later when I got my first little book deal I remembered Francis Gwaltney and was still mystified. How had he known that I was not simply a writer in the raw, but a novelist? As I read Larry’s essay to the class, I finally realized why. Author Francis Gwaltney, also the best friend of Norman Mailer, was at that time writing his thirteenth novel. He knew like I knew that Larry was a storyteller. Nothing profound, but it takes one to know one.

It could be that each of us write because we have been prodded into the writing arena by a writer who first saw us as a glob of potential. During the long nights as we bend over our keyboards writing for the audience of one, pondering words and their meaning, behind us is a voice of encouragement that won’t stop nagging at us to keep trying until we get it right. The words have formed like a thunder cloud overhead—you are not a baker, a butcher, or candlestick maker; you are a novelist and won’t be satisfied until your life takes the form for which you were made.

When did you know?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Secret No Woman Should Keep

Native Americans believe the soul journeys south after death, thus the meaning behind the term “going south.” Outlaws using the phrase might mean that they plan to disappear into Texas or Mexico; it denotes the idea of journeying into a place where one might disappear. Perhaps going south represents a mixture of longing and succumbing, of giving up on this present life for a life less complicated; the death of an old life in exchange for the possibilities that lay ahead in an unknown landscape; a longing for anonymity.

But there is a shadow that is going south as we speak. It is a shadow that stigmatizes and wrecks this present life, leaving in its wake an uncertain landscape. It is the shadow of AIDS stretching from Washington D.C. to the Mississippi Delta and into the Southeast.

The research triangle in North Carolina contains the highest number of Ph.D's per capita in the US and is the biggest research park in the world. One would think that with all of that super brain power here in the Carolinas, we would enjoy a built-in immunity from this creeping death. Instead, we’re facing the news that we have the highest rising demographic to hit this nation since the plagues. North Carolina alone is believed to have over 35,000 people living with AIDS.

The Secret Angels Project was established by a group of local Christian moms who organized a gift giving campaign every Christmas for local children and teens affected by AIDS/HIV. We believed that because of the optimism of drug treatments that in a few short years AIDS would be a myth in America. We still remember when we talked about the near future, how we dreamed of when the Project could leave the Carolinas and head for Africa. Instead, our gift giving drive had to take on new complex facets. With over one million people now diagnosed with AIDS in America and over half a million having died from it, the Secret Angels Project has become a charitable organization, still very driven by moms, that offers crisis and domestic support to southern women, children, and teens affected by AIDS. There’s one thing that we want women to know—AIDS should not be a woman’s best kept secret.

If you would like to sponsor a child, teen, or mom for Thanksgiving or Christmas, you can visit our website, check out the resources page, and bless an angel for the holidays.
“’For I will restore you to health and I will heal you of your wounds,’ declares the LORD, ‘Because they have called you an outcast, saying: “It is Zion; no one cares for her.’”
Jer. 30:17

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

In Search of a Transformer

We’re told in church growth circles and how-to-succeed-in-ministry books that we first need to realize that there’s not only a sin divide but a cultural divide. The cultural divide gets talked about as though it’s something new.

Paul, Peter, Timothy, all of those guys waded into Christ’s ideology dripping wet with culture; but then following their respective transformations, were nudged by God right back into the cultural pool. But what they came out of culture possessing, and what they returned newly containing, had to be subjected to Christ’s scrutiny and infused with the Spirit’s Power. Without that, when they organized the Church into groups that did everything from waiting tables to sewing clothes for the needy to feeding the poor, the works could have become what I guess we mean by a social gospel. But they didn’t, and from that point forward the message of Jesus Christ literally infected the globe. The difference was the Big Invisible that infused the visible.

Without the Power of the Spirit steering and transforming me, I might naturally embrace helping the poor and lending grace because I sincerely leaned toward those things early on; but pursuing that work without God’s Spirit is empty of transformative power. I can’t transform a soul, especially my own. While helping the poor and the sick and the displaced person with God’s Power on my life “ministers grace” through the delivery system of works, it’s the Spirit that causes a life to turn around and go a different direction. While the Spirit inscribes the good work, he also identifies me to others as genuinely His. People can sense/feel the Spirit’s presence (or whatever you want to call that identification with God that people detect in us) and that’s what draws them, that courting thing that God does that is personal and often unseen by us. But while the avenue of good works compels people, we must consider motives. We can use those who were first drawn to Jesus as an example. Some came out of curiosity, some came desperate but all gathered around Jesus waiting to see if he might meet their personal needs. Humans may be drawn to our works out of a care for that work or a need for it; it could be that their interest is piqued by our good works and that’s not a bad thing. But we can easily take credit for good works. We can’t take the credit for God’s power and Spirit performing human transformation through the imperfect conduit of bones and flesh.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
2 Cor. 3:18

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote and Trust

There are many reasons to get out and vote today. But one of them should not be fear. There are always going to be fringe elements in the Body of Christ that want us to believe that the world is coming to an end if the wrong leader is put in place. By the same token, I’m not na├»ve. I do not want to see laws against human life grow even more lax. Nor do I want to see our rights eroded. But with America’s system of checks and balances, we’re not going to be turned into socialists, not with Patriot’s blood still pumping through our veins. Too many watchdogs are in place.
So today you can vote with confidence, having prayed for God to continue to guide us as a nation. Even if your favorite candidate does not win, your favorite God is still in control.
“For the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.”
Prov. 3:26

Monday, November 3, 2008

Waiting for the Finisher

Yesterday I discussed practicing the presence of God. That’s not to be confused with abiding in Christ. Abiding exercises a different spiritual muscle than practicing God’s presence, that of patience and even more aptly stated, resting in Christ.

Hebrews 3 has as its keyword, rest. Before the connotation summons up a picture of a Sealy mattress, we first have to get a grasp of the meaning of Christ’s rest. To do that, we have to realize what Christ has done for us in advance.

When my father was very ill, my mother having already passed on, Dad asked me to step in acting as his power of attorney. He suffered his whole life with pulmonary disease and then acquired Alzheimer’s Disease in his final years. In the meantime, he had a relative who had designs on the money he had saved over the years. This person was a very violent person who had gone to blows even with her own children. Because she had not planned for her retirement, she was desperate to finagle money her way. When I arrived in town, I found her selling off my mother’s belongings to neighbors to raise money. I had to work very wisely to get her out of my father’s house and to get him into assisted living care. Then Dad asked me to take him to his attorney where he finalized a will that would leave his estate to my sister and me. Until he signed on the dotted line, there was a great deal of tension and pressure on me. I knew this relative would return to try and gain access to my father’s assets once I left town if I did not put in place safeguards. Because my father’s mental condition would soon deteriorate, he would be vulnerable.

But once the will was in place and signed by Dad, I could relax. No amount of scheming or threatening would do this poor individual any good. Finally, I could rest. When he died, I could execute his last will and testament knowing that my sister and I were protected.

When Christ signed my redemption with his own blood, I accepted that new covenant and became God’s newly adopted daughter. My rest is now knowing that my covenant with God is irrevocable, when the testator, Christ, exercises my rights as heir in eternity.

What does that have to do with patience? Everything. All of the work I do, because of Him, for Him, to point others to Him is a long road of work. I have to be patient with myself, knowing that God is finishing a work in me. I have to be patient with His Body because people tend to grow slowly. I have to trust that God is working to finish His work, not to my satisfaction, but to His perfection. Here’s a good verse:
“Let patience have her perfect work, that you may be
perfect and complete lacking nothing.” James 1:4

As God works me through the tapestry of His plan, I can rest knowing that I’m secure while abiding in it. That is a true source of patience.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Seeking the Whisperer

If you’ve ever attempted contemplation or meditation or any of the worship practices that can only happen in solitude, you might find it’s not easily embraced. We’re accustomed to noise and activity. The first time I went away on a retreat to practice solitude, I couldn’t wait for the time to be alone and not be needed by anyone. But what awaited me was a surprise.

When I was alone for the first day, I did what I imagined. I knelt in a quiet room overlooking a rose garden. I had taken prayer retreats with my church, so I was acquainted with practicing God’s presence or seeking God in a waiting posture, not asking for anything. So I did that for a bit and then the silence became nearly deafening. Restlessness caused me to pace. After two days of solitude, I moved out to the rose gardens where I journaled. By the third day, though, I was finally beginning to relax and become accustomed to the silence. That is when I first noticed God speaking to me. Had he been doing that all along? When I leave behind the noise of everyday life, I find out things like that, that God has been talking to me after all. But the place where I live prevents me from hearing him.

The first thing that God showed me was the condition of my own soul. I don’t feel that God does this to make us feel condemned. Women are already innately racked with guilt, so understand that when God does this for me, I sense a benevolent soul hovering over me, guiding me, and helping me to understand why I stumble or why I keep taking the same hills. It’s a necessary examination. Then as I begin to repent of said sin, there is a deep sense of sorrow, especially if my sin has hurt another human. It's when I first understood a true biblical grief.

When I’m home and allowing my life to spin out of the busyness of activities, then I can easily adopt a pseudo-spirituality. I justify my actions, anger, judgmental attitudes by measuring my life by the life of other flawed humans. I might tell myself I had a right to say what I said or think what I thought because that person was in error and as a result, their error was hurting me or someone else. But when I go away for a time of contemplation, then I no longer have those people around me as my measuring stick, just the measure of my own sin-sick life against the radiance of Christ. That is why I think such deep sorrow accompanies the first day or so of contemplation.

"The Lord said, 'Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.' Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper … " (1 Kings 19: 11-13)