Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: August 9, 2004

evening

The normally bright lights of the neighbor’s are out tonight, leaving a wonderful, soothing darkness to work magic. Many people are afraid of the dark, I’ve come to realize, unable to part from their electric light, unable to leave created glare, fearful what the absence may hold, even if they would deny a present phobia. It isn’t fright, but it is fear, the kind of fear which taps into one’s desire to avoid the unknown and to cover all the bases in order to have the sense of security.

Tonight I walk out and see the stars, listen to the light breeze blow through and around, taste the smell of cooling trees.

These stars I see come out slowly, shy to human eyes. Vega, as always, is bold, shining like a streetlight directly above. The others, in my view northward, are dim, requiring patience, waiting. A quick glance would say nothing is there, but my experience and learning tells me of course they are there, only they require a renewed focus of my eyes, the opening of my pupils. And so I wait, watching, waiting, my eyes becoming better all the while for the purpose. A quick glance would have missed the subtle beauty of the little bear, with the north star within, a most important light, dim though in enculturated places, where it is not needed.

Above it rises Draco, with only the brightest of its stars piercing the distance tonight, even after waiting. Cepheus apparently forms his companion, though only a shoulder, and a thigh, and his side can be seen, the complete view hidden in even this faint light around.

What is on my mind tonight has nothing to do with anything present, only it keeps circling around, asking for permission to land somewhere, so I guess I’ll give it some sway. The topic is leadership, that often bandied about term which everyone claims, but only few possess, with many thinking the words make the reality.

I know some folks who are big into leadership. That they participate in a church is not a surprise because leadership is now the third person of the Trinity in most ecclesiastical settings. Always looking for leaders, always weighing participants according to this weighted scale. Passing on the dedicated, seeking those who meet their peculiar standards.

But, as Eisenhower said somewhere, and he was a man who knew the subject of which he spoke, “Leaders are made, not born.” If leaders are not being made in a setting then the fault is not of the people, it is those who say they are in charge, leading by authority, not leadership. Yes, the army will promote some faster than others, but the fact is that it is assumed that all men and women are capable of leadership, and as they are trained can and will take on greater burdens. There are the few who do wash out, but not the majority.

These administrators want their leaders ready made, because they do not know how to make them from that which they are given. The talents are passed out, buried because they don’t self-multiply. Thus, they are not leaders in reality, but hold onto the words because that gives them a measure of self assurance.

Jesus of course was a leader, taking a bunch of yahoos and making them into something powerful. When the Spirit came, men who had no measure of societal leadership suddenly became icons to not only their world, but to history since.

Where are the Peter’s and the Mary’s and the Stephen’s today? They are not the ones who rise to leadership, but they are the one’s who respond to investment with profound response. They are not the people who we look at and say, “aha, that is the one”. Rather they are those who our eyes glance over. For that is how the Spirit works. But, we obsess over human traits to do divine work, missing the work the Spirit is already doing in our midst, because we look on the outside, never the heart.

Great leaders never worry about having worthwhile leaders underneath them, because they are always raising and training, creating men and women who do lead, learning from a dedicated investment the skills required. Administrators take stock of present realities and make do, never tapping into the wealth of present possibilities, always pining for someone or something else to be the big fix.

The problem is that with the rise of leadership language confusion has entered with power, making good administrators blind to themselves, making them think that leadership is a friendly smile. Leadership is not getting people to do something, that is authority. Leadership is getting people to become something, something more, something fitting and perfect, teaching and guiding many to find themselves within the setting and contribute to the wealth of communal being.

They take a quick glance at the night sky and see only darkness. They pick up a piece of ore and see only the surrounding rock, missing the gold. They do not know how to cut a diamond so they toss away the dirty piece of glass in their hands. That is the state of leadership in many churches today. And the world is worse off for it.

There, the thought has landed, my mind is released. A hot day has ended, with only a barest bit of creativity saving it from total obscurity.

Heat and thirst are the same to me. I cannot seem to sense either directly, but only through their influence. I am thirsty, but feel only sleepy, tired, depressed, irritable. Now that I know to drink, I respond to the secondary. Today it was hot, but I realized this only after my mind couldn’t focus, my heart felt uninspired, my laziness sought to overcome my purpose. It is hot, I said to myself, after considering some mild reproaches.

Unfortunately, I can’t solve being hot with the same ease I can solve being thirsty. There is only to wait for cooler months.

Still, it was indeed a beautiful day, a day in which I watched the proud robin stand erect on the deck, hop to the bird bath, and drink for a long while, a day in which the chipmunk wandered higher in a pine than I’ve seen one go before, coming to the edge of a branch and considering whether or not to leap to the next tree (it chose to not). So, while it was hot, an expectant eye could find points of peace and joy. May tomorrow be the same, though hopefully a mite bit cooler.

morning

I put out some new kind of seed today, called critter feed. Really, it’s not just seed, it’s the obligatory sunflower seeds (have I mentioned the lone sunflowers growing along various hillsides amidst the dry browns bold and bright as though the sun rose at night) along with bits of corn. It’s to keep the oft considered pests of bird feeders away, and mollify their creative hunger through blatant appeasement. But since all I generally have visit me are the steller’s jays and those oft considered pests, squirrels, my putting this seed out is more for their sheer benefit than other concerns.

And they do enjoy. Within a moment of my walking back inside one of the grey squirrels came quietly on the deck, a feat learned over these last many months. I turned and there he was. Little sounds of biting, corn clinking down upon the balcony, soft tapping, subtle sounds of a squirrel feasting drift into the room. She sits up every moment or so, holding a bit of corn in her hands, chewing it in small bites as her mother taught her to do. And now, a three foot leap to a rafter above, onto the roof and gone. Another squirrel wanders the driveway, likely to make its way over.

A week without written introspection has come and gone. Yet it’s still summer, so the source of the writing malaise has not been removed. There is benefit in space, giving room, letting an overwrought soul air out in a spiritual breeze.

I realize in pressing forward and onwards the essence of my inner life, and I realize this morning that while the accidents of my surroundings speak forth peace, the inner essence retains a forceful drive and unrelieved ambition. This is maybe why the present surroundings draw me and hold me so tightly, caressing my thoughts with gentle songs. Not because I am filled with the peace, but because the turmoil of my soul thirsts for it so. This drawing, this pushing, this internal urging towards the unknown, yanking me out of the typical path and hurling me offtrail into the brush, becomes unbearable when there is additional confusion flying about.

I am here not because I am filled with the peace of the forest, but because I constantly need to be surrounded with that mystical presence of life all around, where in quiet and beauty the Spirit sings.

It is balm, an emollient allowing me to traverse the hectic road with some measure of purpose, keeping me, barely, from falling by the wayside, and succumbing to the pressures of this contemporary life.

This is not the point in my life when I can sit back on the deck, glass of lemonade in my hand, and feel the complete ease of soul. My life has not the victory yet to make that a contented scene. Still I am driven, ambitious in invisible ways, seeking the spiritual path and higher roads, missing them far too often to let myself have rest and vacation.

It is a sabbath place, where ease is given with the assumption of duty, obligatory acts of worship and devotion are allowed to be alleviated at moments, in order to make the pursuit stronger. The sharper I get in pursuit of this ambition, the more I will feel the rest.

I press on, not knowing what I press on towards, feeling the weariness of a long march where only the general knows the battle awaiting. Peace and strain all together, leading me, I pray, farther and higher at each step.

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