Saturday, July 31, 2010

Contemplation IV

I marvel at how contemplation, practiced faithfully, can, like nearly anything that is practiced faithfully, become routine. It used to be that each morning I would try to remain is a state of quiet prayer for 20-30 minutes before going to work. The hardest part was leaving that perfect moment to go busily about preparing to depart for work.

Not that God wasn't with me in the preparation. Of course, He was, and I felt His presence. It was just somehow different and somewhat less satisfying than spending lazy minutes together with Him. Being lazy with God is my favorite activity, yet one that find myself doing less often than more active activities. I do believe that God likes just as well those active activities that minister to His children and their needs as well as those moments of intense companionship for they glorify Him as well.

So, every morning I would try to allow enough time between waking and leaving to begin my day being lazy with God, and every evening before returning I would do the same. Day after day, even when traveling, although I have to admit that, especially when in travel status, there were days I would miss. ("Miss" I mean in all senses of that word.)

Then something extraordinary happened. I don't know when the change came, I just noticed it rather recently. I no longer had to plan this time or to remind myself to take the time. It just happened. It had become habit. At least, that's what my detail-oblivious mind first thought. Then I paid closer attention to what was happening.

The contemplative periods had moved away from my control. They were more than habitualized, autonomous responses to the ticking of a clock or the perception of a biorhythm. They were -- and are -- out of my control and under the control of God. For weeks now, I have been waking up a half-hour or more before the alarm is set to ring in a contemplative state, in the presence of God, and I have no real idea how long we have been being lazy together as morning takes over what might have been an all-night joint adventure for I do not remember my dreams or even the sense of having any since the night several years ago after being attacked by evil nightmares I begged God to stay with me as I slept and drive away all evil and protect me from these nightmares.

I still spend time in contemplation before retiring, but I have moved from chair to bed. I know the common wisdom is to stay in the chair so as not to fall asleep, but since I can fall asleep in any position, even standing, if tired, that advice helps me little. So, I go to bed while not tired so that I can spend time in contemplation and then fall asleep in the arms of God. I like to think those arms hold me all night, protecting me from the nightmares that have never returned and gently rock me awake in the morning to the joy of being in the presence of God. If so, to spend the entire night with a fraidy cat -- what remarkable patience, what incredible love!

Whatever the explanation -- I don't need to know why things happen anymore -- such a marvelous beginning to the day brings light and happiness to the rest of my day -- well, until some highly stressful, distressing event over which I have no control sends me to the nearest prayer place, i.e. any place I can be alone again with God, not to be lazy (I wish!) but to turn over matters I cannot manage to his control.

This condition I find myself in -- this walking with God, relaxing with God, and desperately looking for God when I stray -- became clear to me during a recent retreat. We were given specific instructions and time for contemplation, early morning and late evening not being among them, but God maintained the routine that He has established of greeting me in the morning and tucking me into bed at night. How much more blessed can anyone be, I wonder with gratitude so deep I don't know how to express it. The thing that makes the gratitude even sweeter and deeper is that I don't have to know how to express it. I don't have to be able to find all the right words and actions. God knows fully that which I can express only in part. Ah, yes, that is how much more one can be blessed. God's blessings are depthless, boundless, and, oh, so fortunately, endless. And they do not even have to be deserved.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Voice VIII

A discussion of locutions came up at our prayer group recently. This is a topic I rarely discuss with anyone except a couple of priests I truly trust and to whom I go running for help in determining authenticity, and, of course, Sr. Maria. I do not remember whether the discussion developed as an outgrowth of something I had said or something that Fr. Kevin had said at the monthly contemplative prayer group meeting in Campbell. In any event, our entire evening discussion between our prayers that began the meeting and our prayers that ended it focused on locutions, mainly mine, and I shared far more deeply than ever in the past, including even with Sr. Maria.
I have actually experienced less than a dozen locutions. However, each remains seared into my memory because of the element of surprise and the message, almost always something I have not wanted to hear or do. (Mostly “doing” has been associated with these locutions).

Getting Sr. Maria’s insights on my more unusual and intimate experiences made the discussion valuable. I assumed that it was okay with God if I were to share with others who love Him the kinds of locutions that I occasionally get. (I am pretty certain that if it were not okay, I would soon find out.)

From my blogging and occasional mention of my experiences to others, I have learned that people rarely accept locutions, let alone understand them or receive them. For that reason, I am grateful for the people in my prayer group and the people who read this blog.

From our discussion at prayer group, I gained an understanding of the rarity of locutions (and both respect and gratitude for my experiences). It has taken a considerable amount of time for me to understand why and how others react to my talk of locutions and really to know that they are a rare gift. For me, everything in my conversion came along topsy-turvy. I did not run begging to God for help at any time before conversion because I was a chronically happy atheist. My world did not shatter, and God did not lift me from among the shards. My world was a place of joy. God simply one day entered it. Definitively and vocally. Because I did not come to God through the church but rather to the church through God, contemplative prayer, which was my starting point for believing, is to this day much easier for me than the formulaic prayers that most Catholics have known by heart since childhood. I am still trying to learn some of the more beautiful ones and have given up on ever knowing all those that cradle Catholics know. (For that matter, I still have trouble with the mysteries part of the rosary and need a cheat sheet or someone to prompt me.) Talking to God, on the other hand, comes easy, and listening to and hearing God comes even easier.

I know I am making judgments based on a very backward “journey” from communication and contemplation into formal ritual. Nonetheless, my intuition rightly (or wrongly) tells me that I should not be unique among my peers. I know I share experiences common to a group of people spread around the universe and most closely with my dear Sufi friend, Omar the poet. In fact, there is an Arabic word used by the Sufis, the mystical side of Islam, for what I experience: zikr. I just have to wonder, it being my nature to wonder, if there would not be many more people who receive locutions if they truly believed that God wants to communicate with His people. Just as most people find that a difficult thing to believe, I find the opposite difficult to believe, not only based upon my experience but also upon what seems to me to be logic. Why would God make people and then go silent?

, my rather severely retarded adult son, clearly hears locutions. For many years now, he has said to me “God told me” this or that. I used to tell him, “that’s nice, sweetheart,” and change the topic. Now I listen when he prefaces a comment with these words.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I admit it. When it comes to ambition, I am a poorly motivated person. If something needs to be done, I do it. That is my motivation. Once done, I move on to the next thing in front of me. I've always been that way. A dying child artist from Siberia needs to come to the USA for medical care. I bring him. A young couple from a far away state runs out of gas 30 miles from their destination. I fill their tank. Cleaning crews fail to show for their 2-hour shifts at the church fiesta. I work as a crew of one for nine hours. The local retreat center needs $50K for a kitchen. I find it. God says, "Bring him to me." I bring the person to God. My boss says, "Here's your 51st program." I accept it and manage it even though my span of control is already stretched razor thin. The vice chair of the national board, hearing my abbreviated overview of my work, says, "I am speechless."

Yes, indeed, that is how I am motivated. Have task -- see task -- do task. And that's the end of it. I don't know why I am that way. I just am.

As I began to write this post, I had to stop. I felt that God had sat beside me and filled all the space around me, in me, above me, below me. There was nothing I could sense but God. At those times, I stop working. Why would I want to do anything else when I have the Presence -- and even sometimes the touch -- of God to enjoy. It is as if God is gracing me with permission to be lazy with Him. Is there anything more enjoyable?

Beyond the tasks, I suppose it is the Presence and the touches that keep me motivated. God clearly knows that. What motives Him to care enough about an unremarkable, unambitious, unmotivated person like me to task and to touch is a puzzle, enigma, riddle that I will not soon solve -- but then I have not been tasked with solving it.

Monday, July 26, 2010


The fourth letter of FRATERNITY is T. It stands for trust.

In 2009, when I was teaching a course at Lithuania International University, I gave several Chapel speeches. After one, a student asked, "Do you think we can trust God?" So, when I returned last January, I knew the topic I had to address when the chaplain asked for a repeat performance: trust.

Among other examples, I told the students how I lost a credit card on a business trip. I called the bank to cancel it, but Muslim colleagues with me stopped me. "Allah always takes care of you," they pointed out, correctly predicting my card would be in my hotel room. It was. I had forgotten that I had used it on the plane as a bookmark. The title of the book? Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin's Path to God. A divine lesson on trust?

No matter how great our faith, we all need that lesson occasionally not only for developing greater trust in God but also greater trust of each other. For what do members of a fraternity trust each other? For a helping hand, not a turned back, when we are weak. For love, not criticism, when we have transgressed. For acceptance of our spiritual experiences and mutual sharing of the ways in which God works in our lives.

As I told the college kids, when we lack trust, we can always ask God to help us trust Him more. Similarly, when we lack trust of each other, we can ask God to help us be the kind of people that He would like us to be: loving, trusting, caring. I believe that God delights in answering such prayers.

Reprinted from an article I wrote for our SFO newsletter, Footprints, in which each of the letters of fraternity is being defined, one newsletter at a time.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I mentioned in my 7 Quick Takes post this week on my 100th Lamb blog that I had learned earlier this year that there is a chapel only five minutes away from my office that offers Mass at noon on Wednesdays and Fridays. (Otherwise, I can attend daily Mass only when I am off work because our little chapel here at Old Mission is a half-hour from my office and celebrates Mass at noon.) Although I have known about the near-by chapel and Mass for a while, unfortunately, I have always been tied up at those hours and have been unable to attend Mass (except once about a month ago). Then, I realized something very simple. I have a choice of whether or not I am too busy to make the trip around the corner and down the road. One thing I do not want for sure is to be "too busy" for God. After all, God is never "too busy" for me; how awful would that be if He were to forget about me as often as I forget about Him!

This week I marked "do not schedule" in the 11:30-1:00 blocks on my calendar, so that my admin assistant would not fill them in, either with people wanting to talk to me or people wanting to lunch with me on those two days. It worked like a charm. I walked out of my office both days at 11:30, and while it took me as much as 20 minutes to get to my car because of people catching me in the hallway -- and on Friday, even one employee who walked me to my car in order to talk to me (not the first time that has happened), I did make it to Mass both days. On Friday, I was the lector because the regular lector was not there. I have to say that both days were my best days at work: calm, quiet, productive, pleasant. Perhaps that is because on those days I had my priorities straight.

Although I do start and end the day in prayer (and often cry out for help in between), having the opportunity to worship God together with others is a special gift, one that I have decided not to miss claiming in the future. I have marked those times on my calendar now as "do not schedule" ad infinitum. I have a previous and more important engagement that I have chosen to honor.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I did something on Sunday which shames me to share, but since I did it, there must an admitting of it. At the end of our contemplative retreat, each person took turns sharing what was uppermost in his or her mind, particularly in connection with experiences, thoughts, and emotions emanating from the retreat itself. Personally, I felt quite blessed that I was able to be there. There was some doubt about that initially. (See post, Spoiled.) I needed that extra time with God to reach quietude about a pending work assignment.

During the retreat, I thought a lot about that assignment. It is considered dangerous, more than just moderately so, and considerably higher than simply risky. (We actually have a rating scale for our more unusual assignments if you can believe that!) I am having to acquire a new skill, which will be the only protection I have; it is coming far more rapidly than it should. That leads me to believe that God either wants me to follow through on this assignment or is giving me an unusual ability to acquire this skill in order to protect me. (In my better moments, I am fully confident that He will indeed protect me and I have no fear; in my weaker moments, I do have fear. I know that this does not come from God, but I have it anyway.)

It is troubling that the assignment comes from my higher ups (beyond my immediate supervisor) and that I, in essence, volunteered for it but don't know what God's will might be in the matter. I usually have a good sense of that. God spoils me that way. This time I do not, and I do not know how to handle it, except to keep going in the direction and I am going, assuming that God will steer me where He wants me to go. I have asked Him to close the door if He does not want me to do this. I have also asked Him to close all others and open wide this door if it is the one He wants me to walk through. God is good with using those doors to push me in the right direction. (See post, The Jobs God Would Not Let Me Have, And The One He Made Me Take And Keep.)

At the end of the retreat, then, as we were sharing with each other, I told the group something about my new, hopefully one-time, assignment (which I am reluctant to describe here because the Internet is a very open place -- I will give details when done), described my worry that God just might want me to do the most dangerous part of it and how I just might not want to follow His will in this (but, of course, I will). I asked for their prayers.

How selfish! There are four other groups involved in this assignment, not just me. There will be one colleague at each juncture (a different one), another group of colleagues, a group of uninvolved people who could be innocently hurt but probably won't be, and a group opposed known for their violence. We will all be together in one location. I will be involved only for three weeks; my colleagues will be involved for a year. I, however, am the only one who will have no protection except for the grace of God. (Oh, wait a minute; there is no better protection!) The shameful part of my sharing on Sunday is that I did not ask for prayers for all those others, including the "enemies." I, who have lived in the lands of enemies literally off and on for 25 years, forgot to ask for prayers for my enemies! And for my colleagues/friends/acquaintances!

How small and mean is man, even that man who loves and tries to serve the Lord! No matter how we try, in a crisis those of us who are merely ordinary people still put our own needs first. May God have mercy on us -- and on our enemies!

I have since reconciled this weakness of mine with God, at least for now, for surely I will sin again. I have asked God to convert every prayer He receives on my behalf to two prayers each for my colleagues and enemies. Would you pray for them? As for me, God will take care of me even without the asking. God always does.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Touch II

At a contemplative retreat on Franciscan spirituality that I attended this weekend, during a period of contemplative prayer I felt a touch, strong and affectionate. (This occurs from time to time -- see post Touch. I tried to describe it, unsuccessfully, to a fellow retreatant, so I am not sure I will do a good job in describing it in this post; hopefully, others who are reading this blog have had some experience with this phenomenon.)

This brought me immediately out of my contemplative state. Although it probably was not particularly what God wanted, I am sure He knows me well enough to know what would happen. It always does when I feel a touch from Him other than a pat on the head. The pats come frequently enough that I am used to them although the first few times they as well startled me.

Over time, I will likely get used to the touches. While I accept them philosophically and emotionally, the reaction is exclusively and most likely a result of years of childhood sexual molestation. I have been told that I am an emotional fortress, and that is likely true as I have never as an adult received unwanted sexual advances -- and I do think I am so ugly as to terrify all men. On the other hand, I am simply not interested in extramarital sex. I have plenty of other things with which to occupy my time and plenty of other ways to complicate my life. That attitude probably exudes in ways of which I am unaware.

Still, it is sad (or so it seems to me) to think that my grandfather (if you really want the gory details, see my post, Pop, on Mahlou Musings) could taint my relationship with God. Any way in which he tainted my worldly life represents but a bump in the road, and I have long ago forgiven him that bump. Worldly things matter little to me. A spiritual taint, on the other hand, means everything to me.

Fortunately, God understands. Even more fortunately, I do not have to overcome my unwarranted reaction by myself. God will help. I know that, and so when it happens that God's touch startles me from a contemplative state, I note that it has happened again -- sigh! -- and return to prayer, turning myself over to God as absolutely as possible. I know that God is patient and with time will bring me into a more perfect union with Him. SO, too, can I be patient, looking forward to that end with joy in the waiting.

Friday, July 16, 2010


(Note: This post follows on from the previous post, Arrogance.)
Looking back on that awful day and what I had done and felt, I should have been punished. Instead, a loving God brought me home to San Ignatio, back to Him in every meaning of that phrase, back to where I belong, where nothing of the material world matters. Now, too, I could look forward to being on time two days later for the retreat being led by Fr. Kevin, who also leads a contemplative-prayer-for-busy-people group in San Jose that I have participated in for nearly two years now. I would have had to arrive late because of returning from out of state.

I took the next day off from work -- I was owed comp time -- to be with God now that I was back in a spiritual environment. What a marvelous day that turned out to be!

The first thing after I arose (later than normal, yes!) I checked my email. Astonished, I read one note twice. It was the cancellation of a mandatory meeting on Friday, the second day of the retreat. I had worked it out with Fr. Kevin that it would be okay to miss Friday because of that meeting. Now I would have no distractions during the retreat!

A short while later, I attended noon Mass in the little chapel, celebrated by Fr. Paul on his last day in our community before returning home to Nigeria. Still reeling perhaps from my out-of-control behavior on Monday, I felt so very unworthy to be there and at the same time so loved. As I stood in line for communion, I could not keep the tears from pooling in my eyes, and I did not care if anyone saw them; we are all friends and all God's children.

Following Mass, two friends (one of them the person who assisted the priest in my RCIA class) asked me to join them for the rosary, after which we went out for cookies and milk. (I admit it; milk has always been my favorite drink.)

During our milk-and-cookie fest, I told my friends about my plaintive prayer, in which I bemoaned my separation from San Ignatio and loss of a sense of God's presence in the past few day's tumult, and how everything had suddenly worked out for me to spend the entire rest of the week with Him. One of my friends reiterated what a Sufi friend told me several years ago, word for word: "God spoils you."

Indeed, He does! And I am so very grateful!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I don't know where the words came from. I could hardly believe they came from my mouth, yet I heard them as they slid out. "I don't think you are taking this project seriously," I said to the recently assigned project manager of a subcontractor at our Washington DC branch. She cringed and averred differently. I only shook my head unkindly and walked off to begin the presentation I had come to deliver.

I can explain how I got to the point of saying those words. In preparing for an all-day briefing to be conducted in DC together with a specialist from one of our subdivisions, I discovered that the concept papers we were to use were so poorly done that we could not use them. So, I had to re-do the work of several employees, whose supervisor had assumed that the work was fine. To worsen matters, the computers had been down (server outage) for the two days prior to my departure for DC. I had only one day to get everything done once the computers were back on line. That day I had several meetings, and during the time available in and around the meetings, one after another employee came into my office on small issues (well, important issues to them but ones I considered minor at the moment). Although I had closed my door, no one had seemed to notice. My open-door policy had been turned into an open-the-door policy. Too much to re-do, too little time to re-do it, and too many distractions from doing it! I was annoyed.

Add to that annoyance the fact that everyone around me seemed to be falling apart. I had one senior manager undergoing emergency surgery and another in the hospital with internal bleeding, cause undetermined. An employee had gone into the hospital for routine knee surgery and ended up comatose and packed in ice (we were waiting to here whether and when heroic measures would cease), and a junior manager had been diagnosed with a tumor and had to be brought back from his field assignment. This was all in the space of two days. Our senior leadership at the annual BBQ the day before I left for DC was decimated. I was stressed.

I did not escape any drama by leaving. As the plane was taxiing into Dulles International Airport, I quickly checked my Blackberry and learned two disturbing pieces of information. First, a project that I was to have been involved in had been downsized; much of the physical risk had been removed from it (that part was good -- while I was unconcerned for my own safety, my prayer group had been praying that something like this would happen), and the performance date had been moved to September, interfering with my need to be in Korea at that time. Second, my supervisor had overturned my appointment on an assignment I had promised to an employee. (She deserved it, and later in the day he recanted.) However these things work out and worked out, I arrived disappointed.

Following a night of only five hours of sleep after cleaning up from the BBQ, which had been at my house, and having had to go to work earlier than normal to begin that day of meetings and interrupted work, I had to jump onto a redeye from San Franciso to DC. Of all times, the pilot raced across the continental skies, arriving 30 minutes ahead of schedule, leaving me with a mere four hours of sleep. I was tired.

When I arrived at ground transportation, I blackberried the supervisor of our DC branch for an address to give to the taxi driver. She gave me the office address. I showed up there only to find out that the briefing was taking place at the premises of the subcontractor in another part of town. Now I would be late. I learned that the mistaken address was deliberate: the supervisor wanted to discuss the project with me alone. That meant that the specialist, who did not have the briefing powerpoints (I had them) would have to do with the first presentation without them and without me. I was angry.

Annoyance, stress, fatigue, disappointment, and anger combined to evoke my caustic remark when, having finally arrived at the subcontractor's location in time for the second presentation, I was informed by the project manager that two key personnel would come only after lunch. Any one of those conditions would have served as an excuse for my remarks, I initially tried to justify to myself. However, no justification exists for arrogance, and it was certainly arrogance that lay behind my words: whatever I had to say was more important than anything they had to do, and obviously that was not true.

I apologized to the project manager later. However, words don't dissolve; they don't run away; taking them back is nothing more than a vacuous expression.

While I know that I have not lost God's love, I was not thinking of God's presence when I made my unkind remark, and so I did not feel God's presence. The worst part? I lost an entire morning with God. That time will never be regained.

Clearly, I needed some time with God alone. After finishing the day of presentations, I ran to the nearby metro station where I knew there would be a line of cabs to assist me in my cab-plane-car dash to our Georgia branch. I grabbed a cab, driven by a courteous and calm middle-aged man from Pakistan. We chatted casually, and while the conversation was calming, it permitted no opportunity for time alone with God, as there had been none all day. I missed San Ignatio with its quiet spirituality.

Having swiftly picked up my ticket and passed through security without incident except for my typical random search, I took the airport train to the Delta terminal and made my way to Gate 76, keeping my eye out for any place at all for quiet prayer. There was none at all, just masses of people moving in cohorts to and from gates, into and out of restrooms and restaurants, and along the corridors. I missed even more San Ignatio's quiet spirituality where nearly every nook and cranny provides an opportunity for prayer.

I had more than an hour to wait for a now-delayed plane. I opted for a yogurt cone and seated myself at a table near a large potted plant, surrounded, of course, by other travelers.

My thoughts turned to my increasing unease. From whence these feelings? A change in the equilibrium of my life! I realized that I spend most of my time helping others, sometimes because I have been given a divine task, sometimes just because I stumble across someone in need (which may not always be accidental), and most often because those in need are people who work for me. My last few days, however, had been focused on me: the just-completed presentations in DC and the upcoming one in Georgia. I had moved away from helping others for lack of time (the employees to whom I had shut my door), lack of authority (the overturning of my decision by my supervisor), and lack of ability (the sick folk). I missed helping others, being God's helper. I missed time with God. It would be two more days before I would return to San Ignatio.

Even though I had no sense of God's presence while I waited for the plane, I wailed a silent prayer, spilling out those emotions and desires. I knew God would hear, understand, and forgive.

And then everything changed. Delta cancelled the flight. There were no other flights on Delta that night. I would miss the Georgia presentation, scheduled for early in the morning the next day. I called my admin assistant to inform the folks in Georgia, as Delta set about rescheduling all its passengers.

"Does anyone speak Russian?" one of the gate agents called out loudly, then a few seconds later, appealed "we really need someone who speaks Russian."

"I'll call you back," I told my admin assistant. Then I stood up and raised my hand, "I speak Russian."

The gate agent was visibly relieved. So were the mother and daughter who were trying to get back to Moscow via Atlanta. We very easily settled everything for them, and as their stress level eased, so did mine. (I find that happens a lot -- if you help someone who is stressed out, it eases your own feeling of stress.)

The grateful Delta agent offered to take me out of turn, but I waved off the offer, telling her that my office could handle my situation. It did. I ended up coming back to San Ignatio early! On a United non-stop flight direct to San Francisco. What could be better? How about a surprise complimentary upgrade to first class? Another redeye, but one on which I could sleep very comfortably.

All was right with the world. I was on my way back to San Ignatio. I wondered how much of this occurred because of my plaintive prayer about missing my quiet time with God. Ah, for any part of it -- and every part of it -- I am grateful.

All the way back home I could not sleep in spite of two short-sleep nights. The excitement of nearing San Ignatio overpowered every thought and emotion. God no longer has any need to look for this lost lamb. This lamb knows where to find the rest of her flock and her Shepherd!

(What happened next? Follow-up coming soon!)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Humility III

God comes to me most frequently in the humble moments of my life. In the early morning and late evening when I take some moments (far too few) for contemplation. In the early evening, when I take a walk around my beloved San Ignatio or on Old Mission grounds (those times are too few, too). Sometimes, more often than not, actually, when I am driving, especially when I am thinking about Him but just as often when I am not, when I am simply trying to drive within the lines, a skill I extrapolated from learning to color within the lines when I was in kindergarten and not one that comes naturally to someone who learned first to drive a tractor in the wide open farm fields.

He comes to me even at meetings when I let my mind focus on Him. I have been blessed with the ability to multi-task although once when I was called upon by my boss's boss to explain something at very important high-level meeting, I had to admit to not being present in his, the boss's moment. I probably could have admitted that I was present, instead, in His moment because that individual had strong faith, but, a coward at the moment, I simply said that I had been "distant" for a moment. The "big boss" could have become angry but instead he laughed and said, "clearly, very distant." Another time I drove this same boss to prayer when he misunderstand something that had happened and truly was angry with me but did not want to show it; he entered the meeting room, sat down, and while everyone waited, prayed himself into calmness. Would that more do the same! Oh, yes, I love it when God attends meetings with me, when I can feel His presence in the room with me, whether I am leading them or attending them. There was even a time that a prayer resulted in intercession in what could have been a very awkward and uncomfortable meeting.

At the proud moments, though, I find God missing. Actually, I don't find God at all in them because I am not looking for Him. I am looking at myself. Those are empty moments. The fulfilling ones are when I look for -- and find -- God right there with me.