he wind picked up late in the afternoon, and so did I. Now the wind has stilled, and so have I. Many bugs are flying about, making the air seem to move, all shapes and all sizes fluttering about their own tasks. Cedars are turning a little brown at the edges, oaks are full and green, even and especially the ones once heavily damaged recently, even and especially the one split completely in half by a falling trunk. Sealed back together it now blooms like the rest. Little trees emerge everywhere, some pines still hang on to life, an unforgiving life for the once mighty ponderosas.
I went running today, for the first time in a month or so. It was good for my soul, and my body. Kayaking is wonderful exercise, but running has effects unmatched. Not quite as fun. There was a raven flying over me part of the way, circling as I made my way up a steep hill, a hill that seemed less steep a month ago. I wonder if it was watching me, and I don’t know.
The fun thing about ravens is they are territorial. Well, that’s not the fun thing really, it’s more what is connected with this fact. I see lots of squirrels running around, a whole bunch of jays in the trees, and I don’t have quite a sharp enough eye for their details to determine individuals. Ravens, however, tend to stay in an area. There are two ravens, and these are the only ravens I am likely to see in this area. There are two other ravens who live near a particular shore over the lake. Once I saw five ravens in that spot. The aerial combat was extroordinary.
Knowing one is seeing a particular bird is a fun treat. It builds a connection. For me at least. Ravens don’t tend to associate with the earth bound.
I thought about grace while I was running. Not the salvation kind, the kind that keeps on coming. Grace isn’t a one time thing. The awkward analogy which popped into my head relates to trains, the kind in cities that run on electricity, from wires running over the tracks. As long as they stay on the path the power keeps on coming. The rails, of course, keep them on the path. More interesting would be something without rails, with a conductor who had to toe the line, keep the contact. It would be an art. This art is akin to the spiritual pursuit.
Grace comes when we are walking right. Even if it is not easy, there is energy, passion, hope. Turn away, even in what seems wonderful directions and the grace disappears, we run down our batteries. Most pastors, as everyone knows, burn out after not too long in the ministry. I consider this and consider how it is likely they were not acting within the framework of the Spirit, even when they were doing all the ‘right’ things.
This comes to mind because I think about my own tasks. New books of learning came today and for whatever reason these sparked not only my interest in that direction, but seemed to lift up my whole soul, turning me back towards light. They aren’t spiritual books by any means, very practical resources for helping me learn what seems to be the right task at the present.
So I turn with the wires, realizing when the energy drops, becoming more sensitive to the contact.
I pray and trust God hears my prayers. He responds and asks me to respond. So I do, perplexed at the direction, feeling only the strong power of grace leading me onwards. Once a person gets a taste for it, develops an ear for the tune, it becomes ever more clear in its distinctions. Confirmation, of course, is a wonderful thing, only no spiritual writer I respect seemed to have ‘found’ it by my age, so it would be rather presumptive to think I should, even if I think I need to, and soon.
The spiritual life is a curious path indeed. Much more so than I was ever taught, much more so than most folks are willing to discover. The end is worth it, from what I hear.