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Issue 6-37

Reprise: "Ain't Gonna Bump No More
(With No Big Fat Woman)"

The final registration date for the Advent Retreat of Silence is Thursday, November 28. Any checks sent after that should be mailed to Hungry Souls, Box 30, Wheaton, IL 60189.

In response to last week's Soulish Food, erroneously titled "Ain't Gonna Bump No Big Fat Black Ladies No More," this response came back to our e-mail inbox: "I'm not sure what I'm feeling. I remember that song from the '70s. Yes, Joe Tex was black, but nowhere in the title or lyrics of that song was black mentioned. Why was 'big fat woman' changed to 'big fat black ladies' in your article?"

This question has to do with hidden racism, with stereotypical thinking—attitudes that are so devious in our culture and so endemic to our humanity that I want to be challenged if anyone detects them in me. Believe me, through the years I have had to root them out time and again and request forgiveness and cleansing.

So I took some time for self-reflection; one of the errors I found had to do with sloppy professionalism and another with not having my contemplative existence in balance with my activity.

Last summer I enjoyed extended months of contemplation; it was one of the most joyful spiritual experiences of my whole life's existence. But because I had refrained from other work, I hit the fall with all pistons pumping—five listening groups at the house, the Mountain Woman Getaway, a high-school class reunion committee sit-down dinner for 16, a Scheme-and-Dream Brainstorm Soup Supper on the new Internet hospitality idea we're building, and two French soirées as a neighborhood Christmas outreach. In addition, I threw in a grandchildren's day to purchase and pack Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, plans for a micro-enterprise trip to Kenya in February, etc., etc.

As we were getting ready to leave for North Carolina, I noticed that a kind of obsessive compulsive behavior had kicked in. I was multitasking BIG-TIME (this despite the recent research that shows too much multitasking is not good for us; concentrate on one task and do it thoroughly, all the experts advise). I cooked homemade pumpkin soup to take down and I whipped up a breakfast egg casserole, but, somewhere around 12:00 p.m., as I was baking pumpkin breads, I realized I had substituted powdered sugar for flour. Four loaves were ruined as well as a banana-nut coffee cake! Something happens when the adrenalin starts pumping. On my to-do list (before leaving) I had actually included picking up innards for the downstairs bathroom toilet tank and replacement dimmers for the dining-room lights. A trip to Menards seemed absolutely necessary (as though Menards wouldn't be there when I returned home from the mountains!).

"Whoa!" David kept saying. "Do you need to do everything you think you need to do before you go?" (The laundry all done, the house clean in case I die, the birdfeeders full.) To bed at 11:00 p.m.; up at 3:00 a.m. My heart actually started to pound.

So after this question about Joe Tex's Ain't Gonna Bump No More…, I made a list of all the little disasters that had occurred because of my madcap adrenalin cocktail. The pumpkin-bread fiasco. Eighteen soirée invitations sent out without a meeting time. An increase in lost items: the office keys, papers I know I had and couldn't find. A question that offended a listening group member—yes, it was my fault. (There are other things I could name, but you get the point.) And a Soulish Food where the writing felt blocked (and I am rarely blocked as a writer).

I had searched for the song and the NPR interview where I had first heard the songwriter interviewed (obviously a repeat, since I consequently discovered that Joe Tex had died in 1982 at age 45), but a busy schedule and a deadline had forced me to send out writing that I intuitively considered less than what it could be. Something just did not work for SF-36! "Well, here it is," I e-mailed Sally Craft. "I've wrestled with it, but I can't seem to get it right. It'll just have to go as it is."

Pay attention to those inward prompts, Karen Mains. Pay attention.

Please understand that I have been having regular times for prayer, and I have been keeping up with my daily prayer journal. What was not happening was this: My activity was not rising out of a center of contemplation (exactly what I attempted to write about last week—and couldn't quite get there to my own satisfaction).

So, into the silence again. Into the deep and listening silence. I cannot be too busy for this. That inner quiet Word stirs deep in the soul. "I ain't gonna bump no more with no big fat woman. … Somebody take her, I don't want her/ She done hurt my hip, she done knocked me down/ Somebody take her, I don't want her/ She's too big for me/ She'll knock me down."

Yep. That's what action will do when it comes packaged in a to-do list, without rising first out of the center of the soul's deepest solitude. It'll jest knock you down, hurt your hip. All those things that gotta get done are jest too big, too big.

Back to one of my favorite books—lessons once learned are all too easily forgotten when the big fat woman (the day runner, the calendars, the schedules, the appointments) threatens to bump you down—Poustinia by Catherine de Hueck Doherty, a modern spiritual classic.

"True silence is the search of man for God.

"True silence is a suspension bridge that a soul in love with God builds to cross the dark, fightening gullies of its own mind, the strange chasms of temptations, the depthless precipices of its own fears that impede its way to God.

"True silence is the speech of lovers."

I had filled the bird-feeders, but I hadn't watched the birds. I was praying, but I hadn't gone deeply into the soul's silence—the only place where you can sense the Voice of the Lover. "I will lead you into solitude and there I shall speak to your heart." (Hosea 2:14)

I need to be still and listen until everything I do rises out of that knowing. I need to take time for the Advent Retreat of Silence. (And I need to be constantly grateful to those people who cause me to look deeper into my own truths.)

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; before November 28, make your check out to Hungry Souls and mail it to our registrar Melodee Cook at 18N184 Hidden Hills Trail, West Dundee, IL 60118 (contact her via e-mail at ). After November 28, mail it to Hungry Souls, Box 30, Wheaton, IL 60189 (contact Susan Hands at our office: or 1-630-293-4500).


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

"Whoa!" David kept saying. "Do you need to do everything you think you need to do before you go?"

Recommended Reading

Poustinia: Encountering God in Silence, Solitude and Prayer

by Catherine De Hueck Doherty

"Poustinia is not a book, it is a stream of life. Catherine de Hueck Doherty's words are tried by fire—a vision that has survived forty years—a movement now become a community. She speaks of the inner journey, but she carries it into the Trinity. She speaks of silence, but a silence that is the speech and silence of God. This book will speak richly to all. … But perhaps it will touch most deeply the hidden poor and hungry who have no words for the gift that sustains them—'the poustinia of the heart', His presence."

(from a review at by Fr. Edward J. Farrell)

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