by Robert Brow      January 1999 by   (web site - www.brow.on.ca)

Lois was precise, exact, meticulous. By grade six her spelling was right, and the grammar. Math was easy, then physics. In her Master of Business Administration course at Western she took the prizes and got the job offers.

She was on the fast track to be the Chief Executive Officer of any company she chose.

And men would dance to her tune.

Her make-up, hair, and fashion suited her style. Women admired her looks. Men also noticed, but you didn't tangle with her type. A careless hug might get you sued for sexual assault.

But it worried her. Hormones were insistent, and she pictured a baby sucking at her breast. So she paid for dance classes, and mastered the Tango with her teacher. He danced beautifully, and was gay.

She bought How to Make Love to a Man, and underlined it carefully. And every issue of Cosmopolitan gave helpful hints. One of her executives was good looking and very bright, but painfully correct. So she took him to sign a big contract in Dallas. They wined and dined the first evening. The next night at her hotel door he looked like a frightened rabbit when she kissed him. The third day did the trick.

It wasn't as painful as she had imagined, and she landed two more that summer.

But she decided men are like salmon. The fun was casting, and bringing them into the net. But she hated taking the hook out, and she gave them away rather than clean out the guts and fillet.

She thought of exchanging her immaculate town house for the quaint Victorian red brick across the road. The kind of man she wanted might prefer to see her in a more relaxed setting. It had a garden children could play in. Just the place for grub clothes and letting your hair down.

One cold day last winter she was in a hurry, but her car was stuck in a snowbank. The man of the house came over to dig her out. Now she saw his wife with a folder in her hand. But you never answer the door bell if people haven't phoned ahead.

There was an invitation to breakfast that Saturday morning. That sounded good. She could check out the house and see if they might be thinking of selling. The problem was that the breakfast was followed by an Alpha course. That sounded rather ominous. It was obviously something very religious. Last month during a business lunch two women at the next table were enthusing about the Alpha course they were attending, and a friend she played squash with said she had it at her church.

She saw three cars come up. One of them was a Mary Kay pink Cadillac.

Impulsively she got dressed and joined them. The video was by a stunningly good looking preacher from England. He had the improbable name of Nicky Gumbel. He had been a criminal lawyer for murder trials at the Old Bailey in London, and it showed. His case developed ruthlessly point by point and was unanswerable.

Either Jesus was a lunatic, or a confidence trick man, or he was exactly what he claimed to be, the Son of God.

To her surprise she wanted to be back the next Saturday and this time she wore slacks and sandals. She was glad two others in the group had even more doubts than she had. And nobody seemed embarrassed to say the preacher was wrong. One woman was on welfare, and had had her children taken away by Children's Aid. An IBM salesman mentioned he had been retrieved from being a drunk through AA.

That there must be a Creator seemed as obvious as the fact that IBM was created. In the process there was much luck, random experiments, and survival of the fittest. But to say it came without a purpose was ridiculous. She tried to picture how God could be the Chief Executive Officer of our world. How could a CEO be three persons?

Her own father had provided well for the family, but at arm's length. Jesus seemed a bit of a wimp like her sister who didn't believe in having sex with anyone. What interested her as the Alpha videos proceeded was how the preacher began talking about the Holy Spirit. So she asked the fellow recovered from alcoholism whether it was the same as the higher power that helped him? He invited her out to lunch.

During the hors d'oeuvres they talked about this and that. When a whole salmon came in on a platter, he asked her why she laughed. "Oh, I thought of the three I caught and gave away because I didn't want to clean and fillet them. Now let's get down to business. Who is this Holy Spirit and how do I make a deal with him or her?"

Joe explained that in Old Testament Hebrew the word for Spirit was feminine.

Ruakh moved you like the wind or inspired you like breathing. The Greeks pictured him as the nine Muses. You couldn't be a great dancer, love poet, or sacred singer, without them. "Is that the same as the Great Spirit of the aboriginal people?" He said he hadn't thought of that, but it seemed possible.

Things were going well till Joe suddenly put her on the spot. "Would you like to accept Jesus as your personal saviour? " Lois gave him a withering stare. "I didn't ask you about Jesus, and I don't need any personal saviour. Do you imagine I became head of my company by closing deals before I know what people are trying to sell me?"

Next Saturday she slept in. When she looked out she saw Joe's Mercedes wasn't there. A week later she thought, "This is stupid. Just because Joe muffed it, I am missing the video and the discussion with people I enjoyed." Anyway Joe never came back. "Poor fellow, he was too humiliated to meet me again."

When people had left, she saw the lady of the house cross the road, again with a folder in her hand. Lois didn't answer the bell. This time there was an invitation to join the group for a week-end away at a fishing lodge.

She couldn't find the place on the Internet. And when she called, they said there were no phones in the rooms, and you had to walk along a corridor to the bathroom. But she filled in the form, wrote a cheque, and dropped it in the antique brass mailbox across the road. She noticed the house didn't have a Yale lock, only a slot for a big iron key.

At the week-end there were more videos and discussions. In one meeting there was prayer for people who had cancer and other incurable conditions. It certainly wouldn't do them any harm. One woman fell flat out on the carpet. The man from the house noticed Lois looked alarmed, and he explained that when Paul was converted he had fallen to the ground on the road to Damascus. An emotional younger man prayed as if he was in trance, and there were more "Praise the Lord" and "Hallelujahs" than Lois felt comfortable with.

But she remembered she used to shout like crazy and wave her arms when her brother got the puck in a hockey game. Some of these people were strange, but they seemed happier than she was. Joe was ignorant and pushy, but she was sorry she had scared him off. You don't refuse to buy a house because the owners cluttered it with doodads. And the preacher was still good looking and very persuasive. If it was true that God was love, and love is caring about the freedom of the other, then whatever the Spirit chose to do was for her freedom.

That was the bottom line.

What could she lose? And there might be something exciting ahead. The tough problem was that his or her deal was unconditional. She could not dictate any of the terms. Joe had explained about the Vine and the branches. The Vine was the Son of God and the Spirit was like the sap. If we were connected with him, and allowed the Spirit to fill our branch, the love fruit would appear. But we couldn't say the grapes had to be Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, or Chianti.

She liked that illustration. As long as it wasn't Chateau Neuf du Pape! The Pope would certainly object to birth control.

She was still weighing the pros and cons when she found herself saying, "OK, Holy Spirit, if you can move me, inbreathe my life, inspire me like the Muses for love poetry, or even sacred singing, here's my hand to shake on the deal." Happily she didn't fall to the floor. But strangely her arm went up, and she seemed to be gripped by a warm loving hand. It wasn't the kind of thing she believed in.

When the group gathered again, she joined in the singing, and the woman who had fallen to the floor said, "You have been filled with the Holy Spirit. I can see it. Praise the Lord, Hallelujah." Lois wondered if her employees would see a difference.

Up on the wall of the fishing lodge lounge was a huge stuffed salmon. It was jumping out of the river with a hook in its mouth. As the video began, Lois giggled, and the woman thought she was laughing at her. "No, no, I was laughing at that fish. I am glad I don't have to take the hook out and fillet it."

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