When I was an adolescent, one of the visions that filled my head with flash and color and glory was the French Revolution. I actually knew very little about it. Some vague impressions, incidents and names mixed haphazardly in my mind to produce a drama of pure romance, excitement and the triumph of righteousness.
A pastor calls the kids to the altar rail for yet another children's sermon and says: "I am thinking of something that is brown, has a bushy tail, and every fall gathers acorns to itself. What am I thinking of?" After a long silence, a young child pipes up: "I'm sure the right answer is Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me."
His name I have forgotten, but the image of him eating at our table is indelible. Every month on the first Sunday he would make his way from the back country to the city of Novi Sad, where my father was a pastor. A fellow Pentecostal, surrounded by a sea of hostile nonbelievers and Orthodox Christians, he came to our church for communion.
A few years ago I bought a book called The Managed Heart on the basis of the title alone. At the time I was deeper than a decade into full-time parish ministry, serving a congregation of some 400 souls in rural north Georgia. My heart was sore from overuse. I had what is sometimes called "compassion fatigue," and I was looking for anything that might help.
My study, where I read and write and pray, is set on a cliff overlooking a mountain lake. Each morning I sit at my window and watch the lake fill up with light. It is a quiet place and spacious. A mountain chickadee and red-breasted nuthatch show up most mornings, embroidering the silence with their chatter.