I am at a Panera Bread, gentle classical music raining down on me. I have just finished Chapter 12 of my novel, with nine more to go in this first draft. In the preceding weeks I have come to terms that it will take much longer than I had anticipated for a final draft to emerge. But this is ok. It has to be. I will not settle for anything less than a work of art, self-torturer that I am.

And now…I am trying to be still and go slow and embrace the gift of time I have right at the moment, but finding it so hard. I sense that God wants to show me something right now, but I feel blind.

My BlackBerry is nearby. I have already glanced at my email a couple of times. Across town at T-Mobile, the game is going on. Metrics are being evaluated. The grind there never stops. It gets in your bloodstream, and it is hard to escape. The emails keep coming. I have to stop looking at them, at least for today and tomorrow. My finger almost involuntarily clicks on the space button in order to illuminate the screen, and it feels rather OCD. Maybe one day I will have the guts to leave this device that puts food on my table at home as I approach the table of contemplation.

I should have brought my iPod with me instead, to drown out some noise with the companion of my favorite songs from across my lifetime. I am finding that the snippets of multiple conversations cascading around me are somewhat getting on my nerves. A lot of minutia of the minutia, uttered by well-meaning, normal people. I have no right to judge them or be annoyed by their presence. I may need to scoot over to the library, but only after grabbing a chocolate croissant first. The problem is me, and my inability to quiet my heart and mind.

During the past few days, I have thought back to my time in seminary, in Wilmore, Kentucky, when life seemed far more innocent. I was aware of my brokenness but not fully conscious of my capacity for darkness. For hours at a time I would be still in prayer.

Across nearly a decade post-graduation now, I have been tested; all of the insights and wisdom and heartfelt touches have been tried by fire. There is far more noise, the price of more abundance. And at times I scarely know the younger man who journeyed to seminary and grew so much along the way, who emerged to seek to be a leader in the church, who was so hungry for God. I do not know how to go back and re-enter that wineskin, and I suppose I cannot and should not for the old has passed away. There is so much potential in the present.

Yet it it tough to become garbed in a new wineskin, to find a size that fits.

Spiritually, the structure and focus of seminary life gave me a sense of identity that accelerated my pursuit of the sacred. As an appointed pastor the first part of this decade, I had a grounded identity as well.

For nearly five-and-a-half years now, seving in the business world while writing and offering my spiritual gifts at churches from time to time, this identity has felt far more sketchy. It seems as though I slashing my way through endless rows of tall corn, making a new path that I sense is leading to something but without any final confirmations of what it might be. I would like to find a clearing in the field for just a few minutes, and lay there on the scratchy ground and be enveloped by the peaceful quiet I recall from visiting the heart of Nebraska a few years ago.

The classical music continues. The Panera cafe has grown a little more quiet, the lull before the next wave of patrons. I am really considering that croissant.

Writing this out has been a form of therapy. It makes western the eastern streams flowing through my mind, gives linear flow to the circular. I need a healthy dose of both the linear and the circular, in order to get closer to the taste of that holistic identity and the feel of new skin.

Mmm. For now, the taste of chocolate suffices. The journey continues.