There is a classic sailboat in need of restoration sitting in the driveway. Its blue cover gives the appearance of protection, though snow and rain have entered at will. Much remains to be done with it, to restore it to its original grace. The sails sit folded under the house. A squirrel now runs over its rails, sitting and staring while sun bathed, then scurrying down the trailer. Two jays screech, cackling in the distance. A neighbor’s dog barks, the sun shines on my fingers, now also on my hands.

I like waking up early. I don’t necessarily like being woken up early, to be honest, rather I like it when my body, before dawn, says it’s ready for another day. I get much more done this way. This morning was one of those times, up and at tasks by the middle of 4 am. For some reason I was inspired to pick up my Cassian again. I have not done well in this part of my daily discipline, finding myself reading the daily Scripture, but leaving off my other considerations. So, it has been a month since I read purely for devotion.

John Cassian is my favorite Christian writer. Although unproven, my contention is he was a key mentor to my namesake, whose day is celebrated tomorrow. I do not read with a mindless acceptance, but I do read with the acknowledgment that before me lies a man much farther along the road than I am. I read his thoughts and I am both challenged and encouraged, given insight and wisdom, and feeling like I stumbled onto truths. My own impressions are confirmed in these classic words, as are my own self-admonitions.

I like being challenged, to be honest. Not that I won’t attempt to defend or explain myself, but this is mostly to get at the heart of the topic. I like being affirmed, to be sure, but there is an honesty to challenge which expresses a deeper concern for one’s soul. We don’t care about someone if we do not tell of the holes they may fall into.

In the quest for the deeper spiritual life, however, the guides are few. Most of the signposts erected tell how to get into the kingdom, and little of what to do once there. Few are adept at the directions within the realm of the deep country, and I have known many in the profession. So, to the ancients one must go, or to those who make their life’s purpose the exploration of this beautiful land.

My reading this morning was on friendship. Among the thoughts were that true friendship cannot be maintained unless the friends have the same spiritual goals and hopes. If one veers off then the other continues onward. Interesting. They can maintain acquaintance, but not friendship which remains eternal.

Another thought which stood out makes me reflect on my recent church experiences, in which I found myself in conflict. “Nor should one think of is present state and utter the things that rage suggest to him and his aggrieved mind broods over when he is upset. Instead, he should recall the joy of past love and in his mind look forward to the restoration of a peace fashioned anew, seeing it, even at the very moment of distress, make a speedy return.”

Then, though, there are the prophets who spoke harsh words at key moments. So, in looking back at my experiences I question myself, and know that while my words were worthy and needed, I had not yet the fullness of heart and soul which allowed me to speak without letting anger and frustration in. Thus the words were lost in my emotion, maybe. Hard to say. Though, no matter if right or wrong I see again my own role, and how I am not in charge of anyone but myself. It is to my own soul I must look, even when I am right, to discover the flaws which arise with pressure. I saw those flaws even then, and admitted them, so I do not feel guilt. Only, I feel the lingering of that time still shows I have much farther to go.

A sign post. That is why I like Cassian.