Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: April 4, 2004

Good Friday evening

Stars were out, filling this sky, when I got home. The smells of the forest reawakening my soul after an afternoon and evening in the suburbs. The very twists and turns of the highway were comforting, leading me to a different world.

I was gone all afternoon, and returned after the day had ended. Sometimes I feel like writing, last night I went to bed. The day was appropriately remembered, with the comfort and joy of sharing time with old friends. I went to an interactive stations of the cross and felt myself renewed. It was full of peace, meditative, and even with all of my own recent considerations, it was enlightening.

The day ended well, God blessed.

evening

The full moon is out tonight, not that I see it. It’s Passover, a holiday based on the phases of the moon. All I see is night shadows cast by the light to the south, and high above the Big Dipper. I realize in a few weeks my view of the stars will greatly improve. I shall miss the pine, but it’s long dead, and blocks the sky. I stand outside, enjoying the night air, finding it’s just a little too cold for bare feet still. But, I continue to stand, basking in the quiet.

Again tonight I feel less than conversational, my heart poured out in other contexts. More and more I’m running during the day, letting the cool mountain air spur me ever onward up and down, up and down the hills. I know altitude has an influence. I wonder what kind of influence 5500 feet has.

All is well, to be sure, though that is also an up and down perspective. Maybe this is why I always like running through hilly paths, while I hate running on treadmills or around tracks. Besides the beauty, well that’s a major point, it expresses an understanding of life, the slog and the coast, the strain and the rest, the ‘one more mile’ and the ‘I’ll walk when I pass that point’. Never do I understand the spiritual life as much as I do when I run. From the sporadic, now I’m trying to make it the very regular, letting my mind and body both find pleasure in the day.

It is Passover tonight. A profound occasion for anyone who follows the One God. It’s the first holiday really, called by God himself. A fascinating thought, though not quite as fascinating past my bedtime.

I pray for peace and rest, and a fresh start tomorrow.

evening of Palm Sunday

Wonderful outside, quiet, a cool breeze blows, though I feel comfortable in my shorts and shirt. The wind feels healing, comforting, restful. I could bathe in it, and to be honest, I am tempted to sleep outside tonight. I love the night air, the peace and stillness of a world gone to bed. There are few times in a populated area where quiet reigns. Though darkness has its downside, the quiet it offers is always welcoming.

My brother and sister-in-law came up today, we all shared a nice meal overlooking the lake. They are busy, I do not see much of them, though I would be fine seeing them as frequent as possible. Such is the present life, however.

That was most of my day, really, feasting, and eating too many sweets, enough to last me the rest of the month, and maybe the year.

I somehow got a little done of my usual tasks, though I reminded myself how good it is to be fine with an entire day of rest. Given my status, I give myself less rest than I did when I was working or in school. I don’t feel I deserve it maybe, or I feel like I must use every second to get myself back into the game. Sabbath though is important, for mind, body and soul. So, I remind myself gently of this tonight. It spurs me on really, for I know if I am content in what I do, I feel fine with a day off. If not… I want to keep at it, counterproductive as it might be.

My soul is at rest tonight, my spirit feeling strong, trusting the tasks are worthwhile, knowing God is with me. When I let my being relax I feel peace, when I think of the outside world, and all my hopes and dreams, I become tense. The calm of a contented spirit is my goal, in and through all things. I’m closer than I was, feeling stirrings of the beginning of maturity.

Going through Acts tonight, in addition to the resurrection accounts, stirred some thoughts, inspiring me for more tasks later. That is a gift and delight, for it says that if I retouch that passion, look again at my love, the muse inspires as always. So, to there I must continue to look, and trust all the rest will come along in time and a time.

evening

Light rain comes down, my breath, in a cloud, goes out and up, hanging for a moment then dissipating. All around the gentle patter of drops sound out different tone, different textures, all adding to a peculiar sense of comfort. Why does natural noise sedate, while human noise frustrates? I don’t know, maybe there is some instinct within us which can distinguish a perfection in nature that humanity cannot match. All day, the weather was turning in different directions. Cloudy, then sunny, with light clouds dancing across the sky. Then, I look up and it seems like the forest is on fire, great billows of smoke come down the street. Only a cloud, however, thick and wet, pouring itself over tree and ground. A weather fun day, indeed.

My own soul was gentle, neither elated nor condemning. The anticipation or restlessness I’ve been feeling somewhat lessened, though maybe it was enough to get to some consuming tasks, and these tasks did the rest of the work. I sat and wrote, stared for long stretches, enjoying the quiet of earplug enhanced silence. The world around was busy chopping trees, I was imagining what it was like to be Simon of Cyrene, or Veronica, or just a nameless Jewish peasant watching Jesus fall.

These types of meditation are good for the soul, if the soul is ready and willing to listen.

Now I am tired, it being an hour later tonight than it is. An odd philosophical situation which Daylight Savings Time yearly forces upon us. I enjoy the bright early mornings, now I must again wait for a couple of months for their return.

morning

Light cool breezes, a chill in the air, the sun bright and warm, chickadees bouncing about from balcony to branch and back, greens and browns abounding, all interact making the morning comfortable and beautiful.

I am busy already, starting this as a break rather than as a start of the day. My mind back to where it has been, my thoughts dancing over the centuries, considering the manners of a sanctified imagination, ancient and modern mingling about in my head.

There is little introspection, to be honest, little consideration. I’m thoroughly enjoying looking outward, engaged in the Text, loving my more focused return home.

A friend mentioned, upon returning from the oft discussed Emerging Church conference (which always surprises me by how many people return with a “It was good and all, but…” kinds of comments). She said that she wished for the Acts 2 kind of church. That isn’t a surprising comment, nor is it unusual, many people have that wish and dream.

So what is it? That’s the question really. Rather than being an unapproachable goal, which it has in a way become, sharing and learning in some sort of intimate community is not that difficult. Like with our sins, however, the only real barrier is ourselves. We want, but do not want, we seek, but look elsewhere when we find.

The Acts 2 community gathered together daily. They prayed, some taught, they ate. Mostly they met in each other’s homes, or in the Temple grounds. The Lord brought more and more to join each day.

Pray, teach, read, eat. That is the liturgy of the Acts 2 community. They had all things in common, (but for their wives as Tertullian puts it), and the Spirit moved mightily in and through them. Those who were learned would teach, those who were practical would arrange, those who heard words from the Spirit would speak these words, men and women, young and old. The young saw visions, the old dreamed dreams. Every one used their gifts, and while there was structure, the power always resided in the Spirit.

Pray, teach, read, eat, discuss, and, most importantly, gather. Daily. In the absence, in the rejection of these things, we substitute programs, ‘ministries’, activities meant to interject the results of the easy tasks by means of more complicated, expensive means.

It costs too much to be a Christian in this society, in my mind, much too much. Conferences, Christian schools, books, teachings, tapes, camps, etc. all which cost, all which force us out of our daily mode, because our daily mode is not itself sanctified. We pay to avoid doing that which is simple, but end up losing everything. Why?

Because we do not believe. Had we really an eternal perspective, trusting in the things of heaven more than the ways of this world, we would insist on being the Acts 2 community. We don’t, not really, our words betrayed by our actions. We taste of heaven and find that is enough, unwilling to really commit as they did in the first century, because it is not as real to us now as it was then. So, we bask in our complaints, consoling each other that all is not how it should be, and content to wander for years in the same wilderness of want.

In a moment all this could change. Gather, teach, learn, pray, eat, serve. The daily liturgy of the early Church. Not that hard, but in today’s society seemingly impossible. I don’t know why. If you read this, and want to give it a go, let me know. I’m open for anything.

morning of Palm Sunday

The sun is out, full and bright, birds dance along the branches, birds I have seen, one I haven’t — which is apparently a brand new species since I can’t find it in my books. That, or I’m just not looking right. People are busy this morning, dogs are barking, reminding me that not all find this to be a holy day. For a Palm Sunday, however, it is perfect weather, not a cloud in the sky, rain anointed flora decked in the most brilliant greens, life abundant celebrating, worshiping, in its own way.

I awoke this morning with thoughts of Palm Sunday. Not an odd thing, one might think, being today is that day. Odd for me, however, as I am firmly within what could be called the ‘low’ church tradition, meaning the liturgical year is something which the unbelievers take part in. I kid about that, certainly, though it is the unconscious perception. So, I sat in my bed looking out at the lush colors of the forest outside, watching the birds, considering the day.

It’s an unusual celebration, that is for sure. We celebrate on this day the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem, welcomed by excited crowds, fulfilling prophecy, the entering of the triumphant King to his city of rule.

And yet… this isn’t it at all. The end of the story, well at least the end of this part, tells us a different tale. He was welcomed in word, not in deed. Palm Sunday is, if anything, a celebration of the hypocrite. We rejoice in those who spoke loud words on Christ’s behalf, then a mere week later gave him up to death. Yes, I know, you can say that these were different people, that’s likely true. However, the point still remains.

I heard it said once that this was really the day history turned. If one is open to God being able to have multiple paths dependent on the choice of people then one can see this day as the day of real choice. Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. There he could have been met by priests and pharisees, sharing with the people the praise and welcoming of the coming messiah. They did not meet him, he was not welcomed, and indeed he seemed a little mad at the fact, deciding instead to overturn tables, make whips, and beat the merchants trying to make a living.

His entrance, on Palm Sunday, was in fact rejected. So, to the cross he went. Rather than restoring the Kingdom as God intended (maybe) he had to bring salvation the other perfect way. Israel was destroyed, the nations were welcomed into the people of God, and here we sit today celebrating what was both a terrible and wonderful day.

It is the way things are supposed to be because it is the way that it was. Maybe, though, it was not the way it was supposed to happen. Like all people the leaders of the day had a choice, to lay down their pride and arrogance or to fight with all their being against what God was in fact doing.

The people who rejoiced are the people who stood back later, or changed their own minds.

Palm Sunday, the day of hypocrites. I’ve never thought of it that way before. Not sure I should, though it does make an interesting insight as I daily choose the path I shall take.

In other news, not because it’s connected, but because I found it interesting. Last night I was dreaming. I’m not aware of my dreams very often, so when I am it is curious to me. There was a point in the storyline in which I was opening different doors or, I can’t remember the details very well, clicking through in some sort of internet virtual reality that would open different scenes. I was moving along and I opened or clicked on this one scene, it was a religious dream, connected with my meditations on the cross, and I suddenly felt a burst of the strongest evil, like I had opened a secret door, and the forces within were furious. Suddenly, the dream shut down like a malfunctioning program and I sat up wide awake. I did not just stir, I was forcefully thrown out of my own dream.

That’s never happened, and I don’t know how to interpret it.

So, today I go forth, celebrating this holy day, realizing also in my mind the warning it contains. Waving palm branches is not the sign of true devotion, worshiping with exuberance is not the indicator of a holy life. They are separated from the reality of the heart, and tell us little. For the reality of the Gospel is not in our praise, it is our willingness to stand through trial and tribulation. We celebrate the coming of the king today, knowing that daily we too reject as the people did, and because of our rejection on this day and every other, we must celebrate also Good Friday later in the week.

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