Surprised by Obedience

In May of 1991 I made the first extended retreat of my life at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia. (At the time we lived in Montgomery, Alabama, so the monastery at Conyers was the closest monastic house to us.) I was very naive and had great ambitions for the five days, one of which was a three day fast. I was in the habit of fasting at the time, but never more than 36 hours at a time. When I met with the Retreat Master, Dom Augustine (or Father Gus, as he was more commonly called), I told him, with some smugness, that I was planning the long fast.  He winced and said, “Don’t do that; just loaf with the Lord.” I inwardly rolled my eyes and thought, “What does he know? The path to holiness does not lie in “loafing with the Lord.” Continue Reading

First Lesson in Obedience/ First Step Toward Conversion

I mow my lawn as obsessively/compulsively as I do a number of things.  One time I’ll mow in rows running north-south, the next time east-west, then diagonally one way, then diagonally the other way.  Back when I lived down south and had lush St. Augustine grass, my yard would rival a major league baseball diamond. Since we moved to Iowa, I’m happy if any grass grows at all; “lush” is no longer in my lawn-related vocabulary.

Fifteen or so years ago, I can remember mowing along a perfectly straight row one hot July or August day when it occurred to me, out of the blue: “turn around and go the other way.”  It wasn’t an audible voice, but it was definitely one of those attention-getter “thoughts” that have now and again over the course of my life turned out to be God’s way of communicating with me. Continue Reading