Monday, May 31, 2010


Sometimes contemplation can be so intimate that I instantly pull away. Often, when I get a sense of impeding extreme closeness, I instinctively start chattering. It is at that point that I often feel a subtle pressure on my lips, sealing them against the chatter. Then, I put up all manner of personal boundaries, in lieu of the chatter, to avoid intimacy beyond my comfort zone. On one level, I want the intimacy and am drawn to it; on the other hand, I find myself instinctively backing off from what I want. I wonder how others are able simply to accept.

For the most part, I understand where these boundaries come from although that understanding does not necessarily help me to avoid putting them up at the very next opportunity.
- We teach our kids to set and respect boundaries. Boundaries are very important to Americans. So, is it any surprise that I would instinctively set up boundaries with God? (I don't want to, but habit is so strong...);

- Then there is touch. We are taught not to touch. Managers, especially, are taught not only to be careful about touch (oh, do I violate that restriction often) but also to know in depth all the EEO regulations (the ones I violate on a regular basis);

- Personal violations that I have experienced -- physical and sexual abuse -- make it difficult to remove the boundaries and certainly difficult not set them up in the first place.

When I am conscious of my own thought, I pull back the most strongly and/or establish the thickest boundaries. Perhaps that is why meditation is nigh onto impossible for me. I am conscious of what is going on in my mind as well as, to a lesser extent, in my environment. Likewise, perhaps that is why contemplation, over which I have little control (no thinking involved at all), is easier for me and more meaningful to me. Communication with God and relationship building happens for me only when I am unaware and unsuspecting, when I have no conscious thought, when everything depends on God and nothing on me.

Recently, in a moment of feeling guilty about my self-established barriers, I asked God, “What kind of relationship do you want me to have with you?” In response, I felt a touch on my hand, then felt myself being drawn very tenderly, very closely into a figure without limits that I can only describe as pure love transparently embodied. I was instantly enveloped in a depthless embrace that moved me to tears.

What an offering! What a promise! I am highly grateful for it, so why can I not simply accept it? Why, at the last minute, do I often pull away? I wish it weren't so, but God had a lot of work yet to do on me so that I can simply accept in full (rather than in part) the depthless, boundless love that He offers.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Voice VII

In the early days after my conversion, I received what seemed to me to be a very strange locution, one I do not understand to this day. Perhaps someone reading this will have some insight into the meaning of it, or, for that matter, the authenticity of it.

To understand any part of it, though, I will need to go back to more than a year before my conversion. At that point, I had spent nearly two years living and working in Jordan as the chief academic officer of an American university there. I had, in fact, no counterpart chief administrative officer, and so I took on that set of roles, too, until one arrived 18 months later. Although I enjoyed the job—especially the faculty, staff, and students, there were complications in carrying out my instructions from the home office because it was difficult to determine what constituted the “home office” on any particular occasion. It could be the local umbrella university to which we were attached; that president was my local supervisor. It could be the Middle East administrator; that person was my supervisor when it came to admin decisions. It could be the New York main campus vice president; that person was my supervisor when it came to academic decisions. Unfortunately, some decisions overlapped in nature, and all three supervisors rarely agreed. In fact, there was a good deal of jockeying for position among them, and I would often be left to commonsense in implementing whatever decision seemed to be best for the faculty, staff, and students. Always that decision met accreditation standards and so typically met with the approval of the academic vice president. Often, however, that decision was not particularly palatable to Dr. Abdullah, the Middle East administrator, who, by the way, held only an honorary doctorate and whose primary goal was to make money for the institute and for himself, regardless of whom might suffer. So, while he and I enjoyed an unusually cordial relationship, given the acerbic relationship he has had with my predecessors and successors, there were times that I needed to use all my wiles—female, younger, American, cross-cultural-chameleon, whatever ones I could muster—to placate him, hold him back from ripping into staff who were trying their best to do their job, and sweet-talk or logic him, as the case may have been, into retaining a deserved soul whom he intended to fire for a fleeting and unintended offense. More than holding him back, many times I had to push him forward—to pay people what they had earned or reimburse what they had spent. The tugs-of-war over these issues never ended, from the day arrived until the day I left.

This attitude of self-love and profit at the sake of any other person permeated everything he decided, did, and did not do eleven months of the year. During Ramadan, however, he splashed money onto the community, feeding the poor in large numbers (quite a manageable act for a multibillionaire as he was), and making a tremendously public show of charity in the name of the university. He himself spent Ramadan on omra (pilgrimage), in addition to making hajj before every Eid al-Adha.

Hajj is the at-least-once-in-a lifetime pilgrimage to Mekkah required of all Muslims who can afford it. Dr. Abdullah made hajj every year, seeming to understand this act in a way similar to which some young Catholic children understand confession: confession sets you free to sin again, enjoying a clean record against which to work until the next confession comes along to clean up your new dirtiness. In this way, it seemed, Dr. Abdullah believed that he could “buy” salvation by spending money once a year on the poor that he took from them during the rest of the year and making a pilgrimage to clean up his "dirt" before doing so.

When Eid al-Fitr (known as “little Eid” because it is only three days long) approached at the end of Ramadan, he would appear in Amman to celebrate in great joy. There were smiles all around, parties the likes that none of us working souls would likely see in any other context, and gifts for many. The same was true for Eid al-Adha (the week-long “big Eid”). My first Eid corresponded with my birthday, and Dr. Abdullah handed over the keys to a car, his birthday/Eid gift to me and arranged for a celebration with 75 leading university staff and townfolk in one of the most lavish restaurants in town.

That was the dual nature of Dr. Abdullah, and one never knew which side he would show. I fared well. I always had his smiles, and when he was about to mutilate one or another employee, I would be able to draw him away long enough on some trumped-up emergency to elicit his smiles again, not just for me but, more important, for those he intended to harm.

And so it went, more or less on an even keel, thanks to my ability to elicit his smiles that usually, although not always, prevented little worse from happening than the failure to pay people for their work. I constantly fought with him over that, including a $30K debt he owed me. I advanced a hefty portion of my salary one semester, based on Dr. Abdullah’s promise to reimburse me, to buy all the student textbooks because the bookstore would not order books until Dr. Abdullah had paid them the $75K debt he owed them. (He had sold the books and retained the money.) I should have been wise enough to know that he might do the same thing to me. He did. The rest of the year I scrimped and scraped to get by on the little that was left of my salary. (Fortunately, at that time in Jordan, before the Iraqi financial invasion, one could live on very little.)

When I left the university, Dr. Abdullah still owed me the $30K. He still does. At one point after I left, I wrote to him, suggesting that if he had any conscience at all, that if the purification of his soul that was supposed to take place during omra and hajj really did occur and he felt both guilty for not reimbursing the $30K yet awkward for any reason about returning the money directly to me, he could donate the amount, in his own name if he preferred, to the Middle East Institute of Special Education, which, as a new, unusual-for-Jordan-at-that-time, and struggling institute, could really use the money. Returning the money to me would indeed have been awkward for him since he was angry with me for considering taking a job in California. In a purely Arab way, he understood any discussion with a potential employer to be an indication of disloyalty. His negative reaction to the potential other-job situation propelled itself to heights higher than normal because I was a woman, in fact, the only woman he had ever trusted, and he had told this to anyone and everyone, saying that his level of trust in me surprised even him because, as everyone knows, women really are not capable of competing successfully with men, a rampant belief in the Middle East.

And so, one evening, a year later, with all of this in the background, I found myself walking around Old Mission, as I did so frequently in the early days after my conversion and thinking about Dr. Abdullah for no particular reason other than that he came to mind. He had been a significant figure in my life in the most recent two-year period, so, not surprisingly, I thought about him on more than one occasion. I prayed for him, as well. After all, it seemed to me that he needed prayer in order to move from the rules and regulations of religion and an impersonal God to a love-based spirituality and an immanent God. I wanted him to be able to feel the kinds of love, acceptance, and forgiveness I had felt and to be able to pass them along as I had been trying to let them flow through me and splash out onto others. How different his life could be!

That particular evening was probably the third or fourth occasion that I had prayed for Dr. Abdullah. I was getting ready to wax eloquent about the matter when I was startled by that Voice that always catches me by surprise and often completely confuses me. This time the confusion has outlasted and outranked other confusions, and to this day I do not know how to interpret what I was told. “Do not pray for him,” I heard.

This made no sense to me, and I am still unsure which “side” the instruction came from. I felt like I could not continue to pray for someone for whom I had been commanded not to pray. But was it God’s voice? Even while I accept that it is okay if God chooses not to provide greater clarity to me, I have a difficult-to-repress, almost seething, desire to determine authenticity. I just don’t always know for sure what is real and what is not. In this case, as in similar cases where I just do not know, I balanced benefit against harm, good against evil, and scripture against non-scripture and could not find a good reason not to follow these instructions. So, I ceased that particular prayer though I did not and do not understand why I should.

I told the story to a friend who is a Protestant minister. She told me not to worry about authenticity and simply stop praying for him. She would do that for me. I hope that is okay. I assume if it is not, she will find out in time.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tasked II

I am heading for a meeting, the purpose of which I am unsure. But, let me backtrack and give some background both for the meeting and for my uncertainty. It goes back to my encounter with Goliath. For those who have not been following this blog and the drama with Goliath, here is the first installment of what appears will be the Goliath series: Tasked. The second installment is here: Decision?. Now the tasking and the decision-making seem to be rolled up together, and absolutely nothing is clear. Argh! Help!

Details? They follow, but to understand them, you will need to be familiar with the two postings above for this is actually the third in a series.

After what I thought was case closed, tasking completed, following the SFO Council meeting where I explained the problems with Goliath, the name I had given to the Formation Director who systematically belittled people, put up barriers to profession by the most spiritual among the group, and seemed intent on snuffing out any discussions of deep conversion at formation meetings (even general spiritual discussions he would nudge out of the conversation, moving it into more secular or rules-oriented topics). Worse, several of us felt a cloud of evil surrounding him, which made it difficult for us to meet in a small, enclosed space with him. The outcome, with which we had been left after meeting with the SFO Council about this (not an easy matter to arrange, either, as you know if you have read the first posting on this topic) was one that left N and me, the two who presented the case to the Council, filled with elation:

(1) No one who objected to being with G would be required to attend Formation until a new director came into place (some unspecified time in the future);

(2) Meetings would be held in San Ignatio, making them easier to attend by local people who could not afford to go to Salts where the director lived (something that G had been insisting upon for his personal convenience);

(3) One or more senior members of the organization would be present at all Formation meetings to ensure that spirituality was not waved aside and that the presence of God was always requested.

That lasted for two months before G fought back. Soon, he had intimidated the three candidates who remained in Formation to come to Salts. Since none of them were from San Ignatio, I suppose it did not matter although San Ignatio is considerably closer to their homes, an important fact when considering that one of them suffers from agoraphobia. At least, however, Goliath is not allowed to be alone with candidates. That is a major accomplishment for the side of good, and G is not happy. In writhing to extricate himself from the "cell" he has been placed in by the Council, he, of course, has tried to blacken my name and reputation with all with whom he comes into contact. I don't worry about that. I did as God asked. The interesting and perhaps not surprising result, then, is that G's efforts have been turned against him. People other than those originally involved have begun to see what N, O, E, and I saw months ago, and now G is becoming marginalized, or at least his efforts at bringing evil into God's organization are being deftly turned away. It is so interesting and encouraging to watch God defend His people.

Nonetheless, when the two strongest Council members, AR and L announced that they would be resigning in protest over G and what he has done and is doing, N and I felt that the side of good had clearly lost ground. There was still no spiritual advisor, whom we felt could balance the force of G. So, N and I invited AR and L to dinner to try to convince them to (1) stay on the Council and (2) push for a spiritual advisor.

Donnie cooked a wonderful spaghetti dinner for us, which everyone enjoyed. N ran about my kitchen helping serve and clean up. (I am lost in a kitchen. Send me to the war zone in Afghanistan? Sure, no problem -- and that really is on the docket for me for most of the summer. Put me into the kitchen, and I become nervous and confused.)

We began our dinner meeting with prayer, and it seemed that God stayed with us throughout. The dinner had not been necessary, however, except as a wonderfully supportive coming together of sisters. AR and L had already taken back their resignations; although they might be very frustrated, they realized that they, too, had at least an implicit tasking. They had also pushed forward the hunt for a spiritual director and had identified a local nun, whom I know quite well; she would be ideal -- very spiritual, honest, and strong. She will attend our next SFO meeting and make a decision as to whether she will join us as spiritual advisor.

AR and L said that they were concerned that the others and I had been hurt by G. Not so, I assured them. I was not hurt. God gave me a tasking. I did it imperfectly perhaps but to the best of my ability, letting the chips fall wherever they might. I added that I probably cannot be hurt because God would not allow me to be hurt. L and AR did not understand that latter part, about God not allowing me to be hurt, but I suppose that does not really matter. And, yes, I know that sometimes God does allow His people to be hurt if there is a greater purpose, but in the long run, the greater good becomes clear and the hurt turns to something valuable.

What was clear from our discussion was even more encouraging than our meeting with the Council. First and most important, G is receiving oversight. In L's words, "no one is allowed to be alone with him, and no group is allowed to be alone with him." Clearly, G is feeling boxed in. He lashed out at AR and L, telling them "you betrayed me." They laughed and told him that they could not betray him because he is not holy; they worship God, not him. I wonder how that went over! AR and L also told me that MB, the minister, had "found her voice and her role" on the Council and was no longer being intimidated by G or taking directions from him that are self-serving, wrong, harmful, and even anti-Franciscan. It seems to me that AR and L have also found their voice!

So, just when I thought everything was over and I could make some kind of decision about my participation in the SFO, that I had completed my tasking by the Council's reaction in containing G, the saga suddenly continued with G fighting back. Then, when that seemed contained, when the other members of the Council had found their voice, and I assumed that now I could move on, N called me (yesterday) and said that AR and L want to meet with us for a pre-Council-meeting discussion. Neither of us knows why.

Nonplussed by this information (and the sinking sense that my tasking has still not been completed), before leaving for the meeting, I asked God what He would have me do. In response, I heard two words, more impressed than spoken, that absolutely flabbergasted me: "Love him."

Love him? After everything I had been through? After making a fool of myself in front of the Council by revealing that I had been told to "Let Goliath know he cannot treat My people this way?" Love him when I seem to have been tasked to de-claw him? Love him when his intent toward me has been clearly stated -- he wants me out of the way, completely out of the way, gone -- and refers to me only in the scathing-most terms? Love him when the characteristics that best describe him -- ambition, pride, condescension toward women, derision of the poor, selfishness -- are ones that repel me? Love him when I feel Evil pulling at him, even enveloping him to the point that at times I simply recoil? Love him? Lord, You are indeed inscrutable!

If God says love him, though, I guess I have to learn how to do that although I don't really know how. I do pray for G very frequently. Perhaps that is a start. I can bring myself to hug him, but from his side it is always a cold, mechanical, public gesture. I hope that what I return is not the same, but it is admittedly not some kind of passionate care and concern. Lord, how do you define love?

I guess the first step must be learning what God means by love, and then maybe I will be able to love Goliath. Right now, though, I have to run off to a meeting and, on the way, decide whether to share this new "enlightenment" with the Council members who probably have already written me off as a bit "touched" after I shared with them the earlier visions and locution. I will let you know soon what happens.

(This post was written last Sunday; I am just now getting a chance to post it. The meeting has taken place, so stand by for a post on the results and next steps in the sage that this tasking has produced and is continuing to produce.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


My conversion to Catholicism stunned my husband, Donnie. For days after returning from Jordan and learning my conversion story, he could not speak. Truly. He would mutely look at me and shake his head. I had been such an outspoken atheist that, as he said, he "could not get his head around it." He had always been agnostic, not truly atheist, but certainly very skeptical. My atheism kept his agnosticism on the negative side of belief, and then, wham!, during the six months that he remained in Jordan after I returned to the USA from our sojourn and work experience there, a heirophany so converted me that I was deeply into RCIA sessions by the time Donnie returned.

For the past four years, I have prayed that Donnie would become untainted from my previous atheism, that he would somehow understand what I now understand, that God would conk him on the head in the way in which he conked me. And, yes, please, Lord, right now is when I want the conking to take place!

However, God has His own ways and His own timing. Rarely do they match my impulsiveness, but never do they miss the mark.

Three years ago, as I was walking around the mission grounds here in San Ignatio and talking to God about this dilemma called Donnie, I begged for help. Surprisingly, God threw the burden back on me. (Well, maybe not so surprisingly; this seems to be one way in which God has chosen to work in my life.) "Pray with him," that quiet but overwhelming voice told me.

And, as usual, I argued back. (This is a part of my personality that seems unconquerable. I am told to do what I think is impossible; I argue back; I get no reprieve; I do what I was told to do. Then the same four steps are repeated the next time around. Sheesh! You would think that since I know I am going to end up doing it, I would skip the arguing. Intellectually, I know to do this, but when the time comes, the emotion, not the intellect, rules.)

So, this time, too, I argued. "How can I pray with Donnie?" I contended. "He does not believe in you."

"He will," came the response. A promise? I took it as such.

One year passed, and the promise had not been realized. Strangely, that did not bother me because I know that God keeps His promises in His own time. During that year, I used every opportunity possible to pray with Donnie. Mainly, it was simple graces because those were obvious times. I even occasionally got Donnie to say a word or two (which he did, "just in case" -- progress, right?)

A second year passed, and the promise had not been realized. Still, I was confident it would be. We continued to say grace at appropriate times. I could not get Donnie into church, but Padre Julio, a priest from Colombia assigned to our parish who spoke only Spanish, was now coming to my house three times a week for English lessons. (I had volunteered to teach him because I knew that no college would develop his language skills as quickly as he needed or use the textbook he needed: the Bible.) He prayed with us at the hospital before Noelle's surgery, and he always bless Donnie before leaving, so three times a week, my prayer efforts were supplemented by Padre's. Thus, the "praying with Donnie" expanded in scope.

A third year came. As we passed through it, my rotator cuff injury was miraculously healed during Mass -- Doah was with me and felt the same Presence that I had felt, the Presence that had briefly touched my arm, immediately after which the full range of motion returned (documented by MRI four days later). That had a significant impact on Donnie. My prayer group also began to meet once a month at my house to watch inspirational movies. Donnie would watch the movie with us, then retire to his office during our prayers. The third year ends in June. In June 2007, God promised me that Donnie would believe. For eleven months of this third year, I have continued the small prayers with Donnie, confident that God would keep His promise in His own way and in His own time.

This past Monday night, our prayer group met once again for our monthly movie at my house. We watched Padre Pro, a moving documentary about the life of the Cristeros in Mexico. (The movie is in Spanish, but subtitles are available for those who cannot understand the original language.) Once again, Donnie watched the movie with us. When the movie was over, we turned to prayer. Donnie did not retire, as usual, to his office. Instead, he asked to join us! Everyone implicitly understood what had just happened -- I could feel the awe in them. Wonderfully, they truly understood and reacted in the best way possible. Without making any fuss (which would have disconcerted Donnie, who is a serious introvert), the people on either side of him just took his hands and drew him into our prayer circle.

While I never doubted that God would keep His promise to me, the day and the way of its fulfillment was awesome in its simplicity!

Saturday, May 8, 2010


(I rarely double-post anything here, but the content of this post that I just released onto my Blest Atheist blog seems quite a propros for the discussions here. In fact, I was torn between posting on that site and this site. I have now resolved that dilemma by posting in both locations. So am I correct in this being an interesting and pertinent subject for the readers of the Modern Mysticism blog? You tell me!)

When the High Muckety Muck from my organization was leaving this week and a new Muckety Muck arriving, a party followed the passing along of the muck. At that party, I met an old friend and colleague from Washington, DC, DR. He is getting ready to retire, he told me, from his influential position. Then, he asked me if I had considered retiring from my current position.

I have enough time in the organization to do that because work in related organizations in the past counts, but I am not old enough. However, I could take an exceptionally early retirement and make out okay, especially if I were to take a post-retirement, double-dip job, which is what DR had in mind.

He went on to tell me that there are not one, but THREE, positions of high status (and big money) in Washington about to open up because their long-term incumbents are retiring soon. DR told me that all three incumbents, including he himself, would like me to be their successor. I do have the qualifications and experience to hold any one of those jobs and would just have to nibble at the bait that they are holding in front of me.

Certainly, the money would be much better than I am earning now, especially if it were to be added to retirement income from my current job. Opportunities for moonlighting and consulting would be much more plentiful. So, from the point of view of $$ and what they will buy -- a comfortable retirement, a luxurious home, money to travel now and after retirement, nice stuff, an inheritance for the kids -- these opportunities are enticing.

From the point of view of excitement and rubbing shoulders with national power mongers, just thinking about any one of these positions brings a rush of power-fueled headiness. I would be associating not only with the people about whom one reads in the national news but also with the people who write about them and who would write about me. Now that brings a great sense of importance! Self-efficacy, Self-esteem! Confidence and pride!

From the point of view of making a national contribution, the work itself will be a contribution. I could leave a legacy, see my name in lights, make my kids proud.

It sounds like I could have any of the three without much competition. DR suggested that I drop by the next time I am in Washington and, preferably, sooner rather than later. Neat! I did not drive home. I floated home on some kind of elevated cloud and wisped up to Donnie, giving him the great news.

He looked at me quizzically, "Would you really want to move away from San Ignatio? I would not trade San Ignatio for Washington!"

Oh, yeah, that! I would have to leave my sleepy little sacred town for the big city of neon and naughtiness (well, and a lot of goodness, too). No, I don't want to do that. Not really.

"I have a thought," I countered. "Since they are coming to me and not the other way around, I could probably work nearly any kind of deal with them within reason, including ten-hour days, so that I could have 4-day weekends, allowing me to commute from here."

Now, I have to give Donnie a lot of credit. He did not think the idea of commuting was crazy. You see, at one time I was living in California and working in Jordan. That was quite a commute. Another time, I was living in California, working in Washington (same commute that I was suggesting to Donnie), and, at the same time, going to school in Moscow. So, my definition of commute is pretty broad compared to the general population of the USA. The only folks who have a longer commute, I would say, are the astronauts, who commute from Cape Kennedy to the International Space Station.

There was only one fly in the ointment. The town I live in is the place God planted me. The job I have is the job God picked for me (for details, see my post on this: The Jobs God Would Not Let Me Have and the One He Insisted I Take and Keep). I have already seen some reasons for both my location and employment. I assume that there are more reasons that I may or may not find out later. The reasons don't really matter. What matters is being where God wants me to be. Thoughts about these new Washington positions created feelings of excitement in me, independent of anything holy. Thoughts about my current position, San Ignatio, and Old Mission bring feelings of peace, happiness, comfort, and belonging. Ah, hah! I think that is what discernment is about -- determining where God wants us.

I suppose if I were to try to march away from here, God would close those positions, just like he did others earlier. I like to think, though, that it is much better to walk away from the temptation on my own and accept the work that God gives me.

So, good-bye big money. For what did I need you, anyway? I already have anything you can buy. My current job will give me a comfortable enough retirement. I really don't need much to be happy. A luxurious home creates the need to pay cleaners and helpers, pour money into maintenance, and spend more time in caring for the home than in other more important endeavors such as caring for the homeless. Money to travel? Puh-leez! My current job has me up in the air most of the time. My great desire is to be on the ground, my own ground. Nice stuff? And just what am I supposed to do with it? Donnie and I already once gave away nearly everything we owned when we moved in 2000 from a 13-room house to an RV. An inheritance for the kids? Well, back in the year 2000 give-away, the family sentimental and heirloom stuff went to them, and as far as any large monetary sums are concerned, that is not the kind of inheritance I want to give them. I want to leave them diligence, self-reliance, knowledge, capabilities, parenting skills, study skills, and good character, along with a sense of joy, peace, and love, i.e. the ability to make their own inheritance.

But wait, what about that great sense of importance and self-esteem that comes from rubbing shoulders with the powerful? Oh, right, I am already important as a child of God, and there is no one more powerful than He with whom I could possibly rub shoulders. Anything more is illusion and hubris. Nope, I don't need any overweaning pride or false self-esteem.

So, golly, I guess I am not going to make that national contribution, not leave a legacy. Hm, wait. I am already making an international contribution through my current position. True, I don't get a lot of personal international headlines. The contribution is known, but the contributor is not. I think that is how it should be. Yes, I can be and am happy with that. I don't need my name in lights, and, as for my kids, they are already proud of me, just the way I am, as I am of them, just the way they are. There is nothing lacking after which I have to chase across an entire continent. Better to remain still and enjoy what all that I have right here.

As I reflect on the negative sides of these tempting offers, it is easy to see the immense treasure I have right where I am. Most of my children are here. So is God, according to Doah, who announced when he first arrived at our new place, "God here," and according to a friend from, of all places, Washington, DC who announced after walking around town for a few minutes, "etot gorod namolein" (this town is soaked in prayer). So have been the tasks that God has given me in the last few years. My support, too, has been here, in the simple folk in our prayer group, in the naive teens in our catechism class, in the yearning-for-understanding townspeople in our Bible Study group. Good people. God's people.

Fortunately, it only took a few minutes for me to see the potential job offers for what they are: a temptation to move away from where God put me, step back from the taskings He has given me, and surround myself with people other than those to whom He brought me. I do get to choose, though. That is what free will is all about, right? In that case, I choose what God wants for me. I find just as much, if not more, excitement in that than in the money, neon, and power being offered by DR. More important, just the thought of choosing God's simpler, humbler way brings a sense of perfect peace.

Whew! Close call!