Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: April 12, 2004

Not a noise, not a sound, not a slightest bit of movement. The only thing I notice when I walk outside is the quiet, and the fact that at least four new trees have sprouted in the small slope across from my balcony. I don’t know what it is, but I have the most fertile land in all the forest. Trees are crowded together, trying to grow. I’m perfectly fine with this, for soon I shall loose the two mightiest trees. A little animal ran across the deck today, at first I thought it was a baby squirrel, then I realized it was a chipmunk, far less reclusive than usual, bold even, for its kind. It ran across, ran back, then up the stairs, back to the woodpile, of course. Later in the afternoon I learned that, yes, squirrels do indeed like pistachios. Robins have taken to drinking from the bird bath and a junco learned, fortunately not seriously, about windows. It flew off nonchalant, after a moment on a nearby branch.

I’ve taken a Spiritual Gifts sorter a number of times over the course of my professional and amateur Church life. For as long as I can remember I tend to score high in teaching, discernment, and a few others. The first two I mention, mainly because they are always one and two. My impression of spiritual gifts is not like some may perceive. There aren’t just six, or whatever number you like, staid gifts which a person must fit into. They are not categories which separate us one from another. Gifts are more like a color palette. With the primary colors one can develop an almost unlimited array of shades. Computers now show several million colors. That’s just working with a starting set of a few colors. Gifts, I think, can be numbered into the mid-teens at least, and then can likewise be combined in various ways, making the combinations, the exact color, if you will, almost infinite in variety, just as God is infinite. It’s his Spirit.

I say this because I am considering my weekend still, and I think I have come to some sort of conclusions, though I may be wrong. The discernment thing kicked in, and I didn’t expect it, and was a bit blindsided. It ate away at me, and finally I had no more defenses to handle what I was feeling.

I’ve always had this, to a greater or lesser extent. A lot of people do, I think, only they don’t know it, because it is very easy to pass off this sense as something else, something more explainable. It really is a vague sense, without an exact structure behind it. For me, it is an emotional response, a strong elation or anger, delight or depression, which arises around certain people, places, events, and anything else. I can get excited about someone without even knowing them, feel the holiness of a place I know nothing about, know that something is wonderful about an organization from just a little input. I also flee from certain people, avoid what might otherwise seem a pastoral place, and am confident that something is amiss in a group when nothing points to that. My whole being responds, and the deeper I get in Christ, the more pronounced these feelings are.

To the point I have sometimes intentionally sabotaged my perspective so as to cut the feelings.

It is late now, and I think I will write more about this tomorrow, but suffice to say that what seems right is not. It is powerful and it pulled me into hell for a day or two. I went unaware to a place I once suspected, trusting the words of someone I genuinely respect and admire as a friend and Christian. Maybe it was just me, but the fury of a fierce dragon was awakened. Obviously, this is something I’m going to have to explain more, if only for myself. I’ve learned to trust these feelings, however, for they most often turn out to be right, even if it takes a few years for confirmation.

It wasn’t just this, though, that concerns me. The ability to discern and still stand is maturity. I didn’t stand real well under the onslaught. I learned of my self in the midst of the trial, and learned I have much farther still to go. That is something I can fix, I think. I’m tired now, and my thoughts on the subject are vague even at the best of times. I just wanted to mark my feelings, and express that when I came to these conclusions today, my heart lifted and my soul felt renewed with peace and joy. It was like I had to identify the beast before it would leave me alone.

More to come, I think, this is an exploration which will take time. I didn’t expect it, and it transformed me in a way.


It’s 2 o’clock, and I’m throwing the entire system off by writing right now. The wind is blowing rather fierce, the sky is overcast, only the barest sun shines through from the south. Nearby, though not next door, a crew is busy removing yet more pine trees. Their trucks and saws fill the air with mechanical noise.

I’m writing because I don’t feel right not writing. This is more than just a regular way of letting the world know what I’m up to, it’s a spiritual discipline, meaning I write what is there, not just when something interesting is there.

Why did I want to pause? Because I’m not sure what is going on. Yesterday, hell opened up on me, and I’m not sure why. From morning to evening I just felt wrapped in every negative emotion and thought, crushed by the weight of being. Yes, this has a character of depression. But, there was something more, something very spiritual. I know this for a fact, only I can’t put my finger on it, so rather than trying to write out the vague thoughts, I took a pause.

I’m approaching an understanding, and certainly I do not feel the same weight. Maybe, a person shouldn’t spend so much time focused on the crucifixion. Likely, there are many reasons, all of which have a place in the interpretation. My discernment of something went off the charts yesterday, and I don’t have the backup resources to be able to manage it real well.

So, that’s the study of my heart today. What was I feeling? What was internal, what was external? What was natural, what was spiritual? Even with all of this, however, is the added question of what happened that short circuited my own responses. True Spiritual maturity isn’t just understanding and discerning, it is understanding the positive and negative without letting one’s own soul become disturbed. If I was sensitive to something that is one thing, how I responded is another.

What I do know is what I said yesterday, in feeling what I did, I did not have the accompanying resources outside myself to help process. I did not, in addition, feel the reality of the resurrection, knowing it in theology and words, but not in personal experience. This raises a lot of questions for me even beyond the questions which were raised, concerning my present distance and status.

I continue to weigh and discern, praying for wisdom, talking with some others I respect, hoping to find some insight. There is some, and it is both inward and outward. More on that later, and maybe over time as I process.


Will continue the daily thoughts tomorrow. There is much swirling about inside, and I think it best to take a day of pure contemplation. I did say ‘mostly’ daily, you know.

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