"Prayer" by Galway Kinnell

Whatever happens. Whatever
"what is" is is what
I want. Only that. But that.



St. Patrick's Day is one of my favorite holidays. Obviously, Christmas and Easter top the bill at the numbers one and two spots, but St. Patrick's Day and Thanksgiving always duke it out for that third position. Granted, my own Irish heritage has a lot to do with the intense nationalism that swells within me each March 17th, but I think there's something more to do with it than the fact that my blood is green.

But, there's so much more to do with the holiday than corned beef and cabbage, bagpipes, parades and pints of Guinness (though all of those things are truly magical). The most important part of March 17th is the beliefs, ideals and legacy of St. Patrick -- a missionary to Ireland who made a profound impact on a civilization of barbarians, warriors and persons steeped in pagan religions. He played a major role in the conversions of what is believed to be thousands of Irish people.

If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples; even though some of them still look down on me. -- St. Patrick

* * * * *

This past St. Patrick's Day, all of us attending The church In DeKalb met at Pagliai's Pizza for our weekly community group meeting. As we settled in and opened our Bibles and notebooks, expecting to receive and to learn the Word, Pastor Jamie made an announcement: "We're going to do something a little bit different tonight." At that, he explained the evening's goings on and divided us into groups of four. We were then given forty dollars and the task of going out and making a positive impact in our community.

"God has been good to us," Pastor Jamie explained, just before we set out on our great venture. "This is our opportunity to reflect His goodness by doing good for others."

...Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. -- Jesus (Luke 6:35-46, ESV)

We prayed, headed out to our cars and each of us silently considered, for a few moments, the challenge set before us: "bless as you have been blessed." We pulled out of the parking lot and headed for Sycamore Road, DeKalb's strip.

Several ideas were thrown around the car: buying ice cream at Ollie's Custard, buying books for someone at Borders, buying drinks for Starbucks customers, buying clothes for someone at the Salvation Army thrift store -- with so many people in need, we didn't know where to even begin. Buying groceries for someone at Wal-Mart was the option we all agreed on.

Upon arrival, the four of us split into two groups: Collin with Aaron and Sarah with me. We decided that, rather than giving all $40 to one person, it would be more beneficial to separate, give $20 to two people and meet back at the front of the store at a designated time. So we prayed for wisdom and direction, split up and searched out someone to bless.

We each circled the store a few times, scouring each aisle for someone. We were looking for a certain kind of person, it seemed: a single mother, someone who looked homeless or financially destitute, someone in the checkout who just happened to be $20 short of their total. Imagine the providence the unsuspecting customer would be experiencing in that situation!

There were a couple people that seemed to fit our stereotypes, our ideas of people that more deserved to be blessed than others. But Sarah and I just couldn't pull the trigger -- we couldn't muster up the courage, nor the inspiration, to approach anyone.

I was horrified at the amount of difficulty I was having performing this simple task. I found it alarming when I came to the realization that I didn't know how to bless other people, that I didn't even have an understanding of what it means to bless others. It wasn't that I didn't know how to physically hand someone a $20 bill and walk away, it was that I had a mental block that prevented me from doing so -- I wasn't nearly as concerned with the plight of others as much as I was concerned about what others would think of me. I was nervous that I'd be embarrassed, that the person I gave the money to would be put off or offended, that I wouldn't know what to say if the person asked why I was just handing them $20. I was entirely disabled by a crippling fear of man.

The four of us met at the front of the store as planned and we were all dejected to find that none of us found anyone to bless; that's when a middle-aged Indian couple entered the checkout aisle behind us.

The couple looked to be in their mid to late 30's. The man pushed the cart, full of groceries and things an expectant couple would be buying, into the aisle and his wife followed. She held her bulging stomach with both of her hands, gently rubbing, as if she were trying to calm, soothe, her unborn child. Both of them looked tired, run down; neither of their faces were beaming with happiness or excitement at the prospect of being parents. We all agreed this was our couple.

Collin handed the $40 to the cashier and told her, "This is for the couple behind us. Just apply it to their total." And that was that. Sarah and I stood off to the side, by the magazines, just so we could see the aisle -- this gave us the ability to see their reactions in real time. They finished up their transaction and started toward the exit, but with looks of confusion on their faces. We watched them pull out their receipt and carefully study it, no doubt perplexed at the $40 cash applied that was deducted from their total. A giant grin appeared on the woman's countenance, her eyes bright with glee. They looked back toward the cashier to see if she was going to chase them down and demand another $40, they looked over their shoulders, perhaps to see if they were on a hidden camera television show, then took off. As far as we could tell, their smiles never erased. I imagined them at home, putting away their purchases and remarking to each other the providence of not having to pay $40 of their order. What would the $40 they saved now go to?

* * * * *

I've often wondered how St. Patrick felt going into his community and blessing the barbarians that inhabited the nation at the time. I wonder if he also suffered from a debilitating fear of man that inhibited him from blessing those around him the same way I did on the day set aside to honor his work. For as much as I felt totally disconnected from St. Patrick, I guess I felt a certain kinship with him at the same time. Much like him, we were missionaries in every sense of the word that night -- we went out into the community and blessed people with the hope that they would see Christ in us. We weren't trying to promote The church In DeKalb and we weren't hoping to recruit members -- it wasn't shameless advertising or anything like that. It was a pure hope and desire to bless the community.


The Importance of Being Cautiously Optimistic

“Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. 2 Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land. 3 If clouds are full of water, they pour rain upon the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there will it lie. 4Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. 5 As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. 6 Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.” — Ecclesiastes 11:1-6, English Standard Version

* * * * *

About a week and a half ago, I drove to Wheaton, armed with a resume and a cover letter in my holster, to a Christian publishing company called Crossway Publishing — producer of the English Standard Version of the Bible. I was there to meet with someone, anyone, who would talk to me about an open position they had posted on their website; the opening was for a Pre-Press Pagination and Typesetter in their Bible production department – tasks that I have a few years of experience in. I expected to personally hand my application materials to the hiring supervisor, to look that person in eyes and shake that person’s hand, and I wasn’t going to let myself leave until that happened.

The receptionist greeted me, looking over her chic horn-rimmed glasses, and asked what she could help me with. “I’m here to speak with someone in Human Resources — I have a resume I’d like to hand over.”

“Oh, well I can take that for you, if you’d like,” she replied. Gauging the tone she spoke in, it was clear that this Friday was a long one for her and she was itching to clock out.

“Um, well. Look, in all honesty — nothing against you or anything — I’d prefer to speak to someone myself,” I said. “I drove all the way here from DeKalb to meet with someone and I would feel a lot better if I could do that.”

She sighed, consented, handed me a couple of forms and said, “Fill out these application materials and I’ll call Don — it looks like he’s on the phone, but I’ll ask him if he’s willing to meet you.”

Within a few minutes, Don had emerged from his office, we shook hands and I handed him the materials. We chatted for about fifteen minutes and he seemed genuinely impressed with the amount of experience with and my enthusiasm for the position. We shared a couple of laughs, discussed the company, the economy, the job opening, Christianity, shook hands again, exchanged pleasantries and I was on my way and thankful to God for the opportunity to finally talk to someone about a job. I suppose they really were interested in me, because the next day they emailed me an aptitude test (which I struggled through).

Exactly one week later — this past Friday morning — I found myself sitting in an office on the 70th floor of the AON Center — the second tallest building in Chicago – interviewing with two managers for a Production Coordinator position with Schofield Media Group.

Once again, the employers seemed really impressed with my experience and knowledge of the position they have available. I was in their office for about an hour discussing advertising, marketing, the economy, my experience, the company I worked for before, the strength of the company, the incredibly young demographic of the company (I would estimate that 80% of the people I saw that day were under the age of thirty), the excitement of working in the greatest city in the world, we shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and I was shown back to the elevators.

And as the elevator scaled its way down to the ground level with my ears a-poppin’, I was suddenly overcome by my nerves.

Let me tell you the story of how the interview with Schofield came about:

I found the position in a Craigslist advertisement about a week after I lost my job and immediately applied. Their recruiter, Mandy, sent me a reply a couple days later just to let me know they received my resume okay. Just like every other recruiter that’s emailed me a response, I saved her email in a special folder in my inbox called “Mas Importante.” I called her and left a message about a month later, just to ask if the position was still open. I never heard back.

Last Monday, Mandy sent me an email saying, “I finally heard back from my manager and he’s impressed with your resume. If you’re still interested in the position, we’d like to bring you in for an interview this week.” This email came a full two months after I initially applied for the job. After sending Mandy a reply to let her know that I’m definitely still interested, I called my friend Joshua and told him that Schofield had finally written me. He was silent for a few moments, then said, “Wow. That’s really weird because, you know — I’ve been hoping you’d get a job and all, but I never earnestly prayed for you to get a job until yesterday.”

* * * * *

Here’s my dilemma: I don’t know what God desires for my life. Granted, both of these opportunities might not be God’s will for my life. In that event, I’m going to break even and I’ll just wait until the next opportunity. But, what if both companies offer me a position? It’s not that far of a stretch I don’t think — like I said before, they both seemed wildly interested in me.

There are a couple of scenarios I’ve thought out and their antitheses I’d like to share with the jury for their deliberation:

1) God wants me in Wheaton, with Crossway. He is going to honor my longstanding dream of working in publishing and He’s going to put me in a positive, Christian environment so that I can further honor my commitment to deepen my faith and strengthen my walk with Him. Because I’m in Wheaton, I won’t have to move very far from DeKalb (if at all). My new pastor and all of the new friends I’ve amassed by helping to plant The church in DeKalb will be most grateful and I will be more easily able to honor my commitment to becoming more active and involved in the goings-on of the church,


2) God doesn’t want me to work in Wheaton. He is going to honor my longstanding dream of moving to The City and He’s going to demand that I step out in faith when it comes to the goings-on of the church. Rather than making my commitment of becoming more active and involved in The church in DeKalb easy on me, He’s going to test me to see if I can honor my commitment when I have to commute an hour and a half every week to church. Furthermore, He is going to use me as a witness in a secular work environment and I am going to make a positive impact for the Kingdom,


3) God doesn’t want me in either place and I must continue to wait on Him.

* * * * *

Again, I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself and assume that both companies are going to offer me their respective positions. However, I want to at least be prepared should that event actually happen. Schofield told me they are wanting to make a decision later this week and Crossway informed that they won’t even be interviewing until later this week. So, I don’t want to be in a position, should Schofield offer me the position this week, of me accepting the job, then having Crossway offering me a job next week and having to go to my manager to tell them, “Thanks, but I’ve been offered something else.” Does that make sense? I mean — I’m sure it happens all the time and all, but I’m not that guy. If a company is going to believe in me enough to offer me a position, I want to be able to show my gratitude with a commitment to that company.

Don’t hear me wrong — I’m not being cocky or so self-sure that I believe both companies will offer me their positions. However, I do believe in the importance of being cautiously optimistic.