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Issue 6-36

"Ain't Gonna Bump No Big
Fat Black Ladies No More"

The esoterica broadcast over National Public Radio often seizes my attention, and I spend more time in parking lots waiting for interviews to finish than I care to count. One Sunday morning I was almost late for church because the songwriter of Ain't Gonna Bump No Big Fat Black Ladies No More shared how the song originated in a music club where he had bumped hips with a big fat black lady as part of the dance. Her motion was actually so powerful it sent him sprawling, and he ended up in the hospital. I loved it! I guess that was one lady who sure had the last bump.

We humans are wary of the situations (or the people) that cause us harm, create damage—or send us to the ER. That is why, during my very slow reading through Scripture, in which I have been savoring the Old Testament stories, I was struck by the fact that, through eight whole chapters of Exodus, Moses keeps going back to that dangerous, capricious, hard-hearted Egyptian, the Pharaoh, and proclaiming all kinds of disasters and calamities if this monarch doesn't let the Israelites go into the desert to worship YAHWEH.

First of all, I think it would be pretty hard just to go back to Egypt. Wasn't there a warrant or something out for Moses' arrest? (Ain't gonna bump no big fat black ladies no more.)

"Where in the world did Moses get the raw courage to face this mighty world mogul again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again--once for each of the plagues, once even after Pharaoh had threatened his life if he 'showed his face around here again'?" I wondered amazed. (Ain't gonna ... ain't gonna ...)

And then I remembered that Moses had spent all those years in the wilderness. In the wilderness there is time enough for transformation—40 years to be exact. Forty years for the wasteland and the vast expanse of space, for the thought-provoking arches of day and night skies to challenge him with the majesty and wonder of creation. Forty years and the thousands of empty miles traversed on foot are time enough for the flaming sun to burn up, bleach out, blaze away the Egyptian thinking that had subsumed Moses' mind. Forty years to learn the terrain around the Gulf of Aqabah and to unlock the secrets of the desert so that he can thrive and lead a slave nation (some 600,000 men plus women and children) through another 40 years of nomadic vagabondage in order for their subservient mentalities to be burned up, bleached out, blazed away. Forty years for this half-prince of Egypt to take on the identity of a wanderer who will become a wonder-worker.

In her book Praying the Hours, Suzanne Guthrie makes a point that we humans are often subverted by time. We consider it our enemy. We fight against it; we wrestle with it; we attempt to conform it to our lists. But, she maintains, in prayer we learn a different kind of time—a place where our souls meet the divine and moments of eternity invade our human dimension. This is accomplished by creating "mini-wildernesses" in our days. "For engaging the sense of reality behind time in prayer does not require that we learn to walk in two worlds at the same time, but rather that we learn to walk in two times in the same world."

Moses had learned to walk in two times in the same world. A bush flamed and he said, "Let us turn aside to see." He did not say, "Hmm, lightning maybe. Little brush fire going on over there." This was a man who in forty years had learned to live con-jointly in a time of action and a time of contemplation. In the magazine, Conversations: A Forum for Authentic Transformation, E. Glen Hinson quotes Thomas Merton: "When action and contemplation dwell together, filling our whole life because we are moved in all things by the Spirit of God, then we are spiritually mature."

Let me say something clearly. Without wilderness experiences in our lives, we can never really know our God. E. Hermann writes, "In meditation God grows upon us until we are saturated with the thought of Him. At first the whole spiritual world seems a vague abstraction, but, gradually, as we gaze with reverent, steadfast eyes into that infinite Life from which we come, we come to discern its beauty and splendor."

I am frankly puzzled by those who have never spent time in a spiritual desert (the mini-ones they make themselves or the full-blown wildernesses they do not choose). I do not trust the depth of wilderness-less people. I am skeptical about their maturity. Give me a wind-blasted, stuttering, sand-calloused nomad goat-herder who knows how to see the burning bushes and how to pause because something holy might be going on, and who is honest enough about himself to know that he has a speech impediment and is not very effective on public platforms. Build some mini-wildernesses into your days so when the real wildernesses happen, you will be able to lean into them.

Some practical suggestions: Hungry Souls offers two learning experiences in silence.

The Advent Retreat for Women is a 24-hour guided experience in silence. Please avail yourself of this opportunity. The Season of Advent is the beginning of the church calendar year. Begin the church calendar year by setting a time aside for God. There are few evangelical institutions that provide retreats of silence for their people. Details are below.
The Three-Day Retreat of Silence is conducted in a working and living Benedictine Community of Sisters. We will observe the daily offices with a community that has given itself to the life of prayer. We will take our meals in silence and spend the days in quiet. This is a rare opportunity and provides a point of contrast to the kinds of lives most of us live. Details are below. Last year's group felt we didn't stay long enough!
Hungry Souls recommends the magazine Conversations. Its focus is spiritual transformation; consequently, its articles emphasize much of what is near and dear to what we hold spiritually important. Check out their Web site at

One day there will be a burning bush that will flame in your path. What will your response be? Fear (ain't gonna let no big fat black lady bump me no more)? Or will you let God speak to you from the bush? Have you developed the inner fortitude to be obedient to His perilous commands? I agree with Thomas Merton. Most of us live too much in our demanding, busy, overscheduled worlds. Indeed, do action and contemplation live in harmony in your life? If not, then you have not reached spiritual maturity.

Seek silence.

Annual Advent Women's Retreat of Silence

Tuesday, December 4 - Wednesday, December 5, 2007.

Has anyone ever given you the gift of silence?

Every year at the start of the new church calendar (at Advent, the four weeks before Christmas), we provide a guided experience in silence. This is a beginning in time; a time to be still, to quiet yourself, to turn your heart toward God, to receive the gift of being before the onrush of the holidays and of the New Year.

Have you ever given yourself the gift of silence?

Sibyl Towner and Valerie Bell will be retreat leaders. Cost is $95; make your check out to Hungry Souls and mail it to our registrar Melodee Cook at 18N184 Hidden Hills Trail, West Dundee, IL 60118. To register, contact her via e-mail at . Or call Susan Hands at our office: 630-293-4500. I would like to have as many as possible registered by November 15!

Have you ever given the gift of silence to someone else?

If you would like to send an e-flyer about the Advent Retreat of Silence to a friend, just download this PDF flyer and forward it by e-mail attachment or print it to post on a bulletin board or hand out to friends.

Three-Day Retreat of Silence

Monday, February 11 - Thursday, February 14, 2008.

Karen Mains and Brenna Jones will be retreat directors. We have room for 12 women at St. Mary's Monastery in Rock Island, Illinois. Cost for three days and nights, including all meals, is $250. We need a $50 deposit upon registration; make your check out to Hungry Souls and mail it to our registrar Susan Hands at Box 30, Wheaton, IL 60189. To register, contact Susan Hands at or 1-630-293-4500. The deadline for registration is January 15, 2008!


The Soulish Food e-mails are being posted each week on the Hungry Souls Web site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to register on the Web site to receive the weekly newsletter. You might want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to

Karen Mains

Karen Mains

"We humans are wary
of the situations
(or the people) that
cause us harm, create
damage—or send us
to the ER."

Holiday Prayer Cards

We respond to your invitation, O God. As we are, we come.

We offer to you the hostilities that shape us, the hostilities we carry, the hostilities that carry us. In these matters, move us from hostility to hospitality.

Be our guard, for we guard ourselves too much. Be our protector, that we need not overprotect ourselves.

Create in us a space, a room, a place—free and friendly space where the stranger may be welcomed
—that we may be at home in our own house
—that we may be healed of hurts we carry in the soul
—that we may know brother and sisterhood
—that we may know kindness
—that we may laugh easily
—that we may know beauty

Nudge, guide, entice, prod. Move us to live within your will. To the end that within this flesh, within this house in which we live, we may be at home with you, our neighbor, with ourselves.

Thus we pray, remembering Christ who says, "I stand at the door and knock."

Create in us a place of hospitality. Amen.

These Holiday Prayer Cards with John Stott Quote are available in packets of 8 or 10. The image shown above is printed on the left front side of the card and the prayer typed above is printed on the right front side.

Packets of 8 are available for $10.00; packets of 10 are available for $12.00.

A check made out to Hungry Souls and mailed as soon as possible to Box 30, Wheaton, IL 60189, will ensure that you receive the card packets before the holidays.

Copyright 2006-2009 Mainstay Ministries. All rights reserved.

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