Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: May 27, 2004


A gentle breeze, barely a whisper of wind, stirs my windsock, making a slight rustle. Various flying bugs wander about, attracted to the light I turn on. I sit for a while outside, my feet on the rail, letting the peace of the evening enter into my soul.

I’ve gotten out of the habit of just sitting, stirred to press onwards to discover the meaning of this moment, forgetting my own purposes. Watching is enough for now, immersed as I am within the view. There is more to be sure, and yet, I feel not the slightest bit of rest, not the barest contentment. I press onwards and stopping has no rehabilitory effect.

I wonder if it should, if I am merely losing touch with that deeper side, or if indeed I am in touch and God does not have me content in the meditation. He is pressing me somewhere, to be sure. I must consider further what this means. Am I letting acedia disturb me, and theologizing it as direction. I honestly don’t know.

Scripture came to mind today, and yesterday for that matter. Not a specific verse, just the whole topic. Passing through the channels last night I stumbled by Jack van Impe. He’s a ‘prophecy’ guy who looks at current events and has a bucket of scriptures he relates to the goings-on. In talking he quotes and references, throwing out addresses as apparent authority. I’m not convinced by his predictions, nor really by his use of Scripture. Proof texting is what it seems to be, that is using verses out of context which vaguely relate.

Then I remember Paul does the same thing, so does Jesus, according at least to modern exegetical standards.

I’ve never been a memory verse kind of guy. I know Scripture, however. Mainly because I came at it from a different direction. I love to read, always have, and when I was young my parent bought me a Bible, an illustrated Bible. Not the kind with the NIV interspersed with EuroJesus. Mine was essentially the Bible in comic book form. I’m sure there were, and are, those who would vehemently fight against such sacrilege. I began beating adults at Bible trivia games when I was still young.

The pictures are still in my head. Just the other day when I was reading about Solomon and his riches the picture of the crates of goods, including peacocks, sitting on the beach brought a smile to my face.

I didn’t know the verses specifically, but I learned the story, the narrative, the overall flow and the characters of Scripture, old and new testaments in a way which propelled me into more professional studies with almost too much ease.

This came to mind because I realize in comparison with other writers on spiritual topics I don’t lace my comments with a lot of verses. It’s not because I lack the appreciation, it is because Scripture for me is such an assumed part of everything I do and write.

The earliest writers didn’t note their quotations, forcing editors of the past couple of centuries to add footnotes. Patrick, my namesake, is said to have a rather poor written latin, except for those times in which he uses Biblical phrases within his own thoughts. They knew Scripture, much more than we do really, and it infused everything they wrote.

That is my goal, to get there someday. I don’t want to be someone like Jack van Impe who throws out verses, watering down the authority by misuse. I want to be someone in whom, through whom, Scripture flows as part of my own thoughts, where I write about the Spiritual life without specific quotes. I want to know Scripture, and swim within its depths, to get to the point where I may not write exactly what Paul said, but write something Paul would agree with. Though I do want to write what Paul said, I suppose, only not with the assumed authority of adding addresses. Who really is convinced by addresses? “Oh, a verse in the second letter to the thessalonians says it,” the pagan will never say, “so then it must be true.”

We’ve become a people who know some verses, but don’t know the story, can’t reflect on the rhythm and flow, melody and harmony, which Scripture presents. This goes beyond the conservative harmonizing, making seemingly opposing verses fit together. It is an understanding of the God who was, is, and is to come. How we can read Ecclesiastes and Revelation with the same mind, how Romans is intimately connected with Judges.

Because there is a connection, a wonderful glorious revelation of a very complicated and unexpected God.

Maybe this is merely a sign I am not of the previous generation. Because the Bible tells me so? No, for me it is because of what the Bible is saying, what it is telling me. The story gives it authority, not vice versa.

The task is to get to know it as a whole, not bits and pieces with dubious purposes. I explain myself and exhort myself all at once.

I also realize I’m tired now. Off to bed.


I opened my eyes this morning and spent a long while not moving, instead laying there, staring outside at the forest, the increasing light, the surprising amount of spider webs which reflected the sun. A squirrel ran across the roof of a neighbors house, not a single breeze stirred the branches.

I drank a lot of water last night. Before I went to bed I had a glass, then another. I realized I was very thirsty. For whatever reason I’ve always felt better when I drink a lot of water, but I often forget to so. Dehydration affects me in ways which doesn’t always tell me it is thirst. So, today, in response to my thoughts of yesterday, I will pray, and I will also drink a fair amount of water.

That is the physical side of spirituality which the Christian greats have not addressed too specifically. Yes, there is a lot of emphasis on fasting, which sharpens the mind, regulates the body, cleanses, and keeps one from eating overmuch. There is also as strong emphasis in the early monks for physical work, long walks to the river to get water, long walks back carrying sixty pound jugs. Exercise not termed such, for it was for necessities.

Now, physical labor is not often a part of our lives, at least for most of us. And certainly in America we have very little emphasis on a good diet, a diet which encourages health and strong minds. Joseph asked Poemen, “How should we fast?” Poemen said, “I suggest that everyone should eat a little less than he wants, every day.” Joseph said to him,”When you were a young man, didn’t you fast for two days on end?” He said to him, “That’s right, I used to fast three days on end, even for a week. But the great hermits have tested all these things, and they found that it is good to eat something every day, but on some days a little less. They have shown us that this is the king’s highway, for it is easy and light.”

Other religions, especially eastern, religions have a more focused emphasis on the physical aspect of spirituality. They are not as laced with latent dualism, and understand the reality that humans are of body and spirit, one, not two.

The fact is that our bodies are intimately connected with our souls. Trauma in one does affect the other. In order to keep myself attuned fully to the nuances of the Spirit in my midst, I must always be sure to do all I can to make sure my physical side is not intruding its own demands. When dehydrations makes me tired, depressed, unfocused, I can see this as a discernment issue, but I am wrong. When I do not exercise, letting my body succumb to the wasted aspects of too much sitting around, it is not a spiritual battle when I am not alert or cannot think as well.

For me, exercise, nutrition, regular care and focus on my physical aspects are as vital as prayer and study. One facilitates the other.

I end with a good quote by Evagrius which stood out to me this morning:

A wandering mind is strengthened by reading, and prayer. Passion is dampened by hunger and work and solitude. Anger is repressed by psalmody and long-suffering and mercy. But all these should be at the proper times and in due measure. If they are used at wrong times and to excess, they are useful for a short time. But what is only useful for a short time, is harmful in the long run.

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