Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Month: March 2004 (page 2 of 7)

oops

I knew this moment would come. From the day I began, it was looming on the horizon. Now it came, and may in fact come again. Alas…

I went to bed last evening without even a thought of adding my evening comments. I even had some thoughts in the afternoon that wanted to explore. If there had been a fine excuse I would not mind. There was not. Hmmm…. Good thing I wrote a lot in the morning.

Well, back at it. No harm, no foul. Discipline has never been innate. Only thing I can do is restore the rhythm and keep my thoughts more aligned with what I ought to be doing.

morning

It was not raining, but it was very wet, wanting to rain. One could feel the weather yearning to let loose. The fog was thick, rolling by, pouring out over the land. Drops of water beaded at the tips of pine and cedar needles. Jays flew back and forth, landing in dead pines, announcing themselves. I got to my morning tasks. A moment of these and I returned my gaze. Sun was shining through the fog, the beads of water illuminated and glistening in the glare. Chainsaws and construction vehicles start their day early. And yet all I hear is the songs of wren and chickadee celebrating spring. The wind itself delights and dances. It is going to rain, that is for sure, just not quite yet.

My life is spent pondering mysteries and delving deeply into what it means to follow the Way (which I shall continue to use despite finding the term has been soiled by popular literature, which in only a few short years no one will remember). There are several paths in the Christian life, illustrated by characters in Bible and history. All seem to be approved by God, and yet all three contain inherent weakness that requires others to complete the fullness of the Christian life.

There are the pastors, the missionaries, and the, for want of a better term, monastics. Each expresses an aspect of the fullness of Jesus’ life, who was the only person who was indwelled with the fullness of the Spirit. We have a part of his whole, and can only display those parts. The pastor cares and teaches those who are in the kingdom, maturing and leading, enveloped in the lives of those around so that together the community may mature. The missionaries seek out new souls, entreating and convincing, knowing that God loves all people and desires all people to find fullness in Christ. The monastic (which I use though I don’t imply the Catholic form and all those trappings) is called to a life a prayer, a life of pursuing the depths of the Christian life.

The monastic digs the mines, the pastor mines the ore, and the missionary distributes it to others. The monastic is the explorer, the missionary is the trader, the pastor is the settler. Made unique and united by the Spirit all three are essentially, and cannot claim a hierarchy of importance. Of the three, the pastor type is the most plentiful, the standard which the other types must deviate. For we are all called to care for each other, and only specific callings can suggest more specific plans. We are who we are, and while it is easy to feel guilty for not being something else, something which may in fact be more popular, we can only be who the Spirit wishes us to be. There is only grace in that, there is exhaustion and frustration otherwise, even if we think we are doing good.

The trick of the Spiritual life is to not want others to be who we are. I’ve made that mistake, to be sure. We accept others, everyone, because Christ accepts them, and do not judge, except in places of explicit sin, because we ourselves also fail. Unity in the church is not based on either agreement nor is it based on perfect responses. It is based on a commitment to each other despite ourselves, raising neither ourselves nor others up on a pedestal.

Our path is not the path of others, though many lessons and thoughts can and should be shared. It is Christ alone who gives us sustenance, who gives us strength, who gives us love. Some of our problems are indeed real, many come from a faltering faith. Christ calls us to reach out to the hungry, to the sick, to the poor widows and children, to give a hand to those who are blinded by physical causes beyond their means to repair. He also calls us to have faith, to stand when we want to crumble, to put on the armor of faith so that when the day of evil comes, we stand our ground, and having done everything, we continue to stand.

So, we learn to walk and learn to stand, like toddlers approaching a new stage of being. I am very thankful for those who were there when I needed help, and thankful for those who have helped me learn to stand on my own.

Today, I consider my regular tasks again, and seek to live this life with a ruthless devotion to the call of God for me. I am ready, I think, to jump in a moment to help where I can, and also ready to remain patient when the call does not come. Only in prayer and training can I be alert to both. And that is my goal for the day. There are seasons to this life, times of calling and times of waiting. All the greats of the faith went through these seasons, it seems. Training for battle, and readying for tasks beyond human ability.

I’ve no doubt that someday soon God will call me to more active service, for now though, I seem asked to only do what I can do, and trust that God is doing all in all. By embracing this reality I find peace.

evening

Cool wind came this afternoon, unbeknownst to me until I was running in it, wearing shorts and a tank top. It kept me running to be sure. Still it blows, my wind sock nearly horizontal. Fog comes as well. Spring is here, but winter has not yet had its final say. I see my breath when I exhale. I love the cold, and welcome its return, knowing that this will be the last taste for many a month.

Even before I awoke this morning I felt a weight. Upon opening my eyes I felt the same weight on my soul. It was already late afternoon before I learned why. The details are not important. It was just that I felt what I did not know, and upon responding felt free.

The Spiritual path is a lonely one. There is no doubt in my mind about this. I know it from my own life, and I know it from the lives of the saints before me, extending back into the far reaches of time. All those in the Scriptures who God has called encounter points in which they feel utterly alone. They are not always by themselves, in fact rarely are they, but they are alone, for God was leading these men and women down narrow paths, distinct from others of their time. Not a single soul drawn by God throughout time since the New Testament ended has gone down a path with perfect company. All the greats felt the burden of loneliness, learning through these dark times that only God is the trusted one. In understanding that all others fail, that we walk a lonely road at key times, we can then engage community with a healthy sense, accepting people with all their faults, joining together with our own failings, thankful for each other, dependent on God. While others might be by, no one understands our trail and travail. So, we feel the weight of this, overwhelming at times.

Paul felt it to be sure, for even with all he did he could not do enough to please everyone. He did not act the way others thought he should, and so he was left alone, attacked even, except by a few. It is not all lonely, for there are points of joy and community which taste of heaven itself. Only in heaven though will we bathe in that which we seek now. And so we walk, at times alone, learning over time that there is only Christ and us. He is the only one who can reach out, and the only one who will not abandon us. For we are imperfect, and sinful, and without wisdom in too many ways. We are limited beings, with limited strength, attention, and intelligence. So we do what we can, helping and offending in turn, able to only do that which we can, no matter what others may demand of us.

I feel the weight of not being enough. Though I think, with joy, that which I can do and have done, thanking God for those who I have been able to assist, thanking him that I have some measure of ability. I can not do what I do not know, and cannot see all things. So I fail, and will, for the rest of my life, continue to fail, causing hurt and pain. For I am a sinful man. The God who saves, though, will also give me tasks which help and aide, which give courage and wisdom, which help those in the deepest of loss. Through his Spirit I will do much that is good, of that I have no doubt.

I can only be who I am, walking as the Spirit asks, responding not to the demands of others, but always being mindful of how God wants me to be. I am not enough to be all things to all people. That is only God. Those who imagine themselves such are torn always, forgetting their responsibilities to those who have their commitments. Lives are destroyed, families are lost, because we think ourselves able to be spread thin, and then help no one.

I felt a weight this morning on my soul. I feel it lighter this evening. Not without pain, nor without doubt. I pray that God makes up for where I lack. Even Christ knew the lonely road, the road that led to his death. Some could say that he was selfish in leaving, in not healing just one more person. His call was larger, though, and he knew that in walking it greater things were to result.

The call on the Christian is many and wide, often entailing complex decisions, priorities in the balance. We pray and do, trusting that God is in charge, knowing that the weight of all the world is not on our shoulders. There are others, who are also called, and who are charged to tasks we are not. Together, all together, we make up the body. God does not need me to prove his love to him, nor do I need to prove my devotion to others. I do what I do, I am who I am, and trust that God is all in all.

To ask anymore of ourselves or each other is to invite pain and confusion. I want neither. At the end of the day, at the end of this day, I feel I am right before God. Thus, having sought wisdom and counsel, responded to the weight, I end the day with peace. Christ alone is the face who will not go away, and it is to him I now look.

morning

I awoke and it was dark. I awoke again and it was very bright. Beautiful day, perfect one might say, a light breeze accenting the warm Spring sun. Ravens are flying through the trees.

There are times in which one has to tell a story over and over again to different people who are interested. Especially when a big decision is made or some kind of traumatic event occurs.

That was my night last night. Not in reality did I have these conversations, they were in my dreams. I don’t usually dream, or at least I very rarely am aware of my dreams. Visions and meaningful dreams are not among my gifts. Last night, though, it seemed I dreamed all the night, the same dream, in different contexts. I kept having to explain myself, not with bitterness or frustration, just with the kind of optimistic hope that I generally do in reality. At two thirty my dog barked, waking me up and getting me up. From that point on I was restless in mind, if not in body, and ended up feeling emotionally drained from having slept.

Needless to say, my enthusiasm of yesterday is depleted a bit, all because of an overactive mind at rest. I feel like I’ve spent hours in a crowd, and need to recharge through quiet and solitude. Only I haven’t, which leads to conflicting feelings. I’m not sure what to do with this, since the source of my irritation has only minor import it seems. Who’s to say. It just is another day in which my self motivation seems somewhat stalled, and I would like a purpose outside myself to motivate me up and out.

Nothing has changed, though, so I deal with what I have, and pray for happier dreams tonight.

evening

Dark again, later than I would like. I’m off to bed, hoping for another early morning.

This morning went as I had hoped, a ruthless re-engaging with my called task, and I felt the inner surge of joy which came from such momentum. I shall press on the same tomorrow.

I continue to seek to pray, continue to walk in a way which shows I am not settled, trusting in the nudges of the Spirit, and hoping I hear right. I can do no more, only I wish I could see more than I see. The broader narrative is beyond my scope, and I only know limited parts. So I do and do, not knowing why, feeling my way around in what is dark. At the end of the road, I’ll see, I know. The only way I will be able to look back with honor is to be able to say I did all I knew to do. I can not be asked more than that.

I feel good this evening, cautious, but good. There are many things afoot I think. I must press on.

morning

It is dark out still, only the barest hint of blue in the black sky. Faint outlines of branches swaying in the fair breeze can be seen. All is quiet still, and I am awake.

I put my shoulders down, take a forceful step, then another, pressing forward. I am called to write, I believe, and when I do not engage this call for whatever reason I feel the darkness creeping up and in. It chases me, and I must stay active to keep beyond its grasp. So, today I discard those things which distract. I put aside even those things which are helpful in other ways, which are good and right, thinking now only of my goal, of the single cause, of the primary purpose of my present being. I lean into the wind and forget what is behind and around, blocking out the voices and noises of the world, seeking to take hold of that again which seems resonating with the Spirit.

It is not a choice. My soul demands this today. I must re-engage, even if it means everything else is lost. My eyes have trouble focusing on the goal, the end, and so all other distractions must be sacrificed, and tomorrow, and the next, until I again can dance with the rhythm, and lose myself in the melody, allowing other parts to merge with the fluidity of being.

And so I begin.

evening

The light constant breeze whooshes through the trees, a whisper, though loud in the surrounding quiet. Planets are lined up, a bright line beginning in the western horizon. My sister-in-law just called, asking about a Kenny Rogers song. I have no idea why.

This day was one of those which make me likely to spend a long Saturday or Sunday catching up. I did no more than the minimum, and felt groggy throughout the day, weary to do more. Part of me wonders if it is just one more expression of a cold too long lasting. I don’t know. My mind stayed agitated, my soul found no peace in its reviews. Things lost and looked for remained lost, the only result being closets emptied, and now a mess to clean. It does reflect my inner self, so I will likely let it be until tomorrow.

Today was another day in which I feel myself being drawn back to some sort of community. It is not in my strength that I need those surrounding me, it is in my weakness. There are times, many times, in which I can bolster and encourage, then there are days like today when I need someone to help me get moving, to spur me to where I do want to be. I miss that today, as I always have. However, the difficulty remains the same… finding a community who are no more lax than I am, who I am not allowed to drift while at my low points.

I’m of that terrible sort that I will always live up to the challenge before me. If there is little challenge, I live up to that, and take on an emaciated sort of life. If it is a great challenge, beyond me even, then I come alive, finding joy and ruthless devotion to the task. In this I remind myself of Sherlock Holmes, who between cases would descend into some netherworld. I yearn to find a place where daily prayer, constant attention, openness and honesty can thrive. I am not catholic, nor do I hold to the theology which they insist upon, so a community of this sort is hard to come by.

It is not because I am stronger or better that I seek a more passionate focused place, it is because I know I need to be surrounded by likeminded men and women, who I can help with my gifts, and who can help me with my weaknesses.

That is not before me, so to lust after such is not worth the effort. I have what I have, and that means a more solitary quest at the moment. Learning to know Christ, and Christ alone, is a worthwhile, if difficult, pursuit. The road gets very narrow, and the way becomes steep. Yet he calls, and though I stumble and feel the pain of the effort creeping into my legs, I will get up and press on once more, finding in these kinds of days nuances of understanding.

The road becomes slow at its later stages, growth is almost imperceptible. Only by slogging on does it happen. There is no turning back. I just pray that tomorrow will be a day in which I feel the renewed strength of the Spirit within and around, finding inspiration, where as today I found only agitation. I will go to sleep earlier, and wake earlier, hoping by this to return to the schedule which is most helpful. I also, again, need to devote myself to prayer. I feel this is my next step, the call on my life, the wall which is before me. And with this I end the day.

morning

Clouds are covering the land, blocking out the rising sun. Birds are active, the wind is heavy. One could almost expect a storm to be coming. A small tree blooms in the distance, white flowers weighing down the branches, non-native and fitting all at once. Closer to my view is a squirrel foraging on the ground, running over pavement and dirt. They only visit my balcony on snowy, stormy days.

My agitation of last night, from internal doubt and external awkward communication continues. I awoke this morning praying for three specific people, whose lives are in points of stress. Surfacing as I continued to awake were thoughts stirred up like leaves in the wind, unmanageable, scattering. While last night I was wishing to understand the spirituality of it, understanding my role, this morning I am a wee bit more offended.

It takes my eyes off my goal. I awake this morning not with thoughts of how to pursue the creative life, how to progress in fiction or add another touch of spirituality. I awake instead agitated, distanced from my calling, forced back to engage the past of which I have moved beyond. My eyes were turned, and while I am willing to engage others with where they are at, I cannot lose sight any longer. I understand Antony in the desert.

I cannot be what others may want me to be. My goal is Christ, and those around me can aid me, or they can even give me rest and restoration, but I can’t be dissuaded anymore. I have no desire to return to Egypt, though I may have left friends there. There is only forward. I have friends who journey along, some who stay. For my own sake I have to keep my eyes on the prize, even if it means only me and Christ.

Today will be spent attempting to regain that which I lost, that which I lost because I am not yet strong enough to maintain my sight in storms.

I am young, spiritually immature, only having gone a short while along the Way. It is too easy to distract me, to tempt me, to pull me away, leaving me not with change, but with increasing confusion. For I know the path, and so today I must walk it again, come what may. I pray for peace, for strength, for wisdom. The road is unclear right now, and I have to trust Christ will bring it back into focus. There is nothing else.

I also have a bit of a stiff neck this morning, I must have slept in an odd position. God warns, of course, against stiff-necked people, so hopefully in all things I can move on.

evening

A light wind blows, the stars are clear, it is peace outside. Not a single dog barks, there is no sound of traffic, the coyotes have gone elsewhere.

Words of community have, it is assumed, words of welcoming, of comfort, of connection. And I think this is right. But today was not filled with those kinds of words. Instead, I spoke words of distance, words which I’m not sure were right, but which felt right to say. All I can say to others is what is on my heart to say. If my instincts are wrong, than I fully admit my own lack of sense. I question, this evening, whether it was right or wrong.

In cases of clear sin obviously God asks us to be firm. The grey areas, though, are where things get tricky. Can we speak words which cause distance even hurt? Is it part of community to be honest rather than sensitive at times? (of course some would say this is not a forced distinction). Does God actually call us to go farther rather than come closer. It doesn’t seem so. Though, now that I’m thinking about it, the model of the Apostle Paul comes to mind. He distanced himself from the Church at Corinth, refusing to visit (even when he vowed to do so) because going there would cause more hurt until the situation was settled. He stayed away and had to explain why.

Jesus rebuked Peter for words which only the strictest person would say were sinful. There are stories of monks who refused to answer questions, even after months of pleading, for various reasons. I question myself, but I don’t feel convicted. Though I’m not sure whether or not I should. I said what I said, because I was responding to what I understood. So, I was honest… and hurtful… to one who seeks Christ no less, and maybe more, than I do. Did I say something that was needing to be heard? I don’t know. I know I did cause consternation in one who desperately needs words of peace. How can I say, ‘peace, peace’ when there is no peace in the topics raised? I would bring up the topic of Balaam, but he didn’t end so well, so I won’t.

The rest of the day, apart from this, was spent nicely. A little writing, a little running. The warm day sprinkled by a nice easterly wind.

There is nothing more to life than embracing the call we have been given. Once started it has to be played out, like a bull which is bucking wildly. I’m throwing myself into the void, and am not adept at reaching out to those in the void around me. That is learned, that is also a reason why process has to be fulfilled. Antony didn’t see anyone for twenty years, because only then he was ready. Jesus told his mother, “My time has not come” because only when the time was ripe was he to engage others with the fullness of the message.

My story is incomplete. I do not yet know the work Christ will wrought in me. Until then my voice is fractured and faulty. I’ve been thrown off, and trampled, and gored even at times, but I persist in trying yet anew, hoping to win the prize, hearing at the end of the day, “well done.” If I can assist others I want so much to do so. I just can’t say more than I know, and different than what I hear, no matter how that infuriates and frustrates. My part is not to worry about that, but to continue on, readying myself again, persisting until the end.

morning

I wake up late this morning, not yet finding myself holding on to the monastic ideal of little sleep, finding instead a difference of opinion which may last. Jesus, it is said, woke up before light. He also, it is not clearly noted, went to sleep soon after dark. When electric light cannot artificially illuminate, bedtimes become earlier. So, late I went to sleep, and late I awoke, feeling a bit groggy, to be honest, but happy at what became one of my more social days in a while.

It is a warm day in the mountains, warmer most likely than in the valleys. Shorts and a t-shirt suffice. A wonderful wind blows, lifting my windsock up and out, rustling the fabric against the rail, swishing. I hear less birds this morning, though I admit my later start likely means I missed the morning concert. It is Spring, and it is beautiful.

There is another note of contrast I feel when reading the ancients. Laughter and levity was, for them, a sign of a weak soul, empty and not rightly focusing on Christ. One of my favorite scenes in Gibson’s The Passion, is Jesus building the table and laughing with Mary. His laughter and gentle teasing contrasted with the pain of the crucifixion. The key point, though, is that both are fully in keeping with his nature.

Romans tells us that the nature of God is evident from the environment, indeed so much so that even without knowledge of Christ, humanity is culpable for not knowing God. It’s right before them. Only those who do not look, who do not care, will not see among this evidence that included with God’s many traits is a sense of humor. Ravens tease dogs, animals play, dolphins laugh and make simple jokes. We can laugh at how some animals look, what they do, even though the natural world is also one of great seriousness and danger.

I say this because among the conversations I had yesterday one was with someone who is, I’m willing to admit, possibly funnier than I am. At least, I realized in my solitude my own wit has dulled, and being around those who can sharpen it once more is like bathing in an oasis after wandering through the desert. Unlike the monks, I think this is a fine aspect. Wit and humor, like any boon, can be turned to sin and worse. It can bite, and flay. However, it also is a way of looking at the world, of acknowledging that within even pain is a certain amount of absurdity. Not all is as it appears, and pointing out the fact strikes us oftentimes as humor.

I feel challenged by seeing my own waning gifts in this regard, though also excited about restoring it to what, I might say, was once quite the splendor. I have to quit the knock-knock jokes, and get myself back into witty shape.

God, I think, and assert, simply cannot be understood without having a certain measure of humor. The monks, I say humbly, were wrong in this regard, and lost a great aspect of the lives God had called them after. Nature, at times, was also lost by them, another trait which is not in their interest. A story is told of a woman hermit who lived by a river for twenty years, and never once looked at it, this being noted as a sign of her devotion to God. I see it as an act of rudeness to an artist. Who would walk through a great painter’s house and not comment on the works displayed?

The fullness of humanity, created in the image of God, contains within it both a desire for beauty and a love of humor and laughter. We laugh because the Spirit in us gives us this gift. In humor, laughter, and wit which is uplifting and without malice we exhibit an essence of the image of God.

For me, experiencing wit and laughter is much the same as looking at an amazing sunset or gazing at the intricacy of a flower in bloom. It is beauty, and draws in my soul, helping it to expand. Even with my own waning sense I delight, just as I delighting when I first came up to the mountains and began a process of relearning an intricate appreciation of nature. I want to surround myself with both, and in doing this would find life agreeable, most agreeable indeed, whatever else may result.

The secret of contentment is understanding, at all points, the fullness of the Divine. God has much which is unexplainable and confusing. With this, however, he also has much which is welcomed and wonderful. Beauty and truth and laughter are among these, and I want to be around those who display these aspects, and display them to others. For in seeing these in others, I see also God. When others see these in me, they see the goodness that God can work in restoring one who was fallen into an increasing likeness of himself. It is right to be watchful, and alert. It is also right to take joy and delight in this life that God has gifted us to live. A lovely lesson, a lovely day.

Today is one of reflection, and returning to those quiet tasks which God has certainly given me. I embrace them anew today, with God’s grace and pleasure.

Older posts Newer posts

© 2022 Learning to Dance

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑