Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Month: September 2004 (page 2 of 4)


The night air is cool and still, still enough to hear someone’s television playing in the distance. This secluded house has somehow in the last five months become part of a neighborhood.

At least I still have the trees and squirrels and birds. I miss the darkness and quiet, but they will be around in other places where I can embrace them with more stillness of heart.

Fall has come today, and Fall for me is a time of thinking. It is a time of consideration, of looking back, and forward, and around.

Yes indeed, Fall is a time for thinking.


Autumn is upon us. The seasons changed this morning, and now the weather matches the name. Summer ended with a whimper, cooling off significantly in a matter of days.

With rhythmic changes such as these I always feel there is a chance of a new start of some kind. The slate it cleaned, the pattern of life is renewed. It is only marking the sun over the equator, to be sure, but it seems much more.

However, with the delight of the cooler weather comes a weight, a weight which has a name, and a seeming cause.

I’ll let my mind stew a bit more before I name it here.

It does depress my soul, though to my little credit I attacked my tasks this morning, wrote despite the clawing at my inner being and pressed forward into the dim light ahead.

That really is the call. To keep moving forward, to stand, and when it is all done to still be standing. Our emotions and spirits will waver, that is assumed. To press on anyway is the mark of maturity.

I’m not sure what the rest of my day holds. My thoughts seem to wandering to attempt a quiet time in the hills, more accusing than fruitful.

I shall pray. That it my best course, methinks.


Evening — The air is still chill, making sitting outside a delight. I spent a while looking at the stars, letting my mind and prayers wander afield, letting them come back again. It is again true, and will always assuage my summer worries. My mind is not dulled, just performs less creatively in warm weather. I could never be a desert father methinks. Now a mountain hermit, or a snow monk maybe. I revel in the rigors of cold, my mind comes alive when it is in the forties.

I wrote my thousand or so words, taking a wandering path to getting them down, finishing a good bit if I may say so. This was by noon.

Then I went running, and like Forest Gump in a way I got to where I usually turn for home and kept going. Up and down hills, through shaded glens, then around paved streets, doubling for some reason my usual path. I’m not sure why.

Prayer seemed to burst out of me all the day. I’m not very diligent about prayer, it is among the weakest of my spiritual habits, but not because I don’t believe in it. I thoroughly do. It surprises me if I pray for someone and they don’t find light or answers. Only, this isn’t visibly evident for prayers about my own life, nor do I feel that mystical connection through my sharing words. Some have ease in prayer, I have a constant struggle. But today, it seemed renewed. I don’t know why.

That’s the thing about the Christian faith. We too often think of it as the do’s or don’ts, or the accession of a set of statements . It’s not that. Not really. It, at its core, is all about hope, a holy hope that all is not as it seems, and more is always waiting for us. Not more stuff, more being. It is the living as though what we see is not all there is, and making our decisions match these assurances, living for eternal life, not temporal security.

Living like this places a person within the running river, where turbulent water flows by rough banks. Branches reach out, fall trunks hide under water, and swirling rapids pull one from the life giving air.

Then it changes. Sometimes all at once. The rapids drain into a calm pool, where radiant light illuminates a gentle shore. All of it, everything we once knew become new in that instant. In a day, in a moment, all our grief turns to joy, all our hopes begin to find fulfillment, and our sacrifices manifest in untold blessings.

This is not simply a tale of death and future life. This is a tale of eternal life which can intrude on this present reality we call our own.

That is why we walk so as to worship, and live so as to cling to the God who calls. It is the moment in which we see him, know him deeply, and can say from the depths our our whole being, “Ah yes, all is indeed well.”

Holding on through the confusion and frustrations is our present call. It’s worth it, so I hear.


The roof is white, covered in a thin layer of frost. A cold breeze chills the body, enlightens the mind. There are no clouds in the sky, the sun has crested the horizon as is making it way up past the trees and hills to the west, it is also below freezing outside. I put out the more hearty ‘critter feed’, which is all corn and sunflower seeds. I figure the area beasties have had a cold night of it, and need the sustenance. Within a minute, two jays come… they watch me when I walk outside.

The invisible vapors rising up from the heater vent make shadows on the wall in the light of the rising son.

My soul still dances within, almost in a frenzy, driving me to more than a little bit of distraction.

The trouble with this is expression. This inner drive has no outlet within my present context. I cannot go and worship with crowds of the faithful, I cannot share the intimate presence of another soul similarly enthused, I cannot go and preach to those who would hear my words.

I only have this small room, this little tiny path of expression which mocks the depths of my drive to respond.

I do have prayer.

So I stand outside, letting the words pour forth, driven to God not by despair but by an encroaching joy which has no relevant source. Lacking a source, there is no expression, no release. No one with which to share this epiphanic dance.

In the past this height has been followed by depression, as falling from the lofty places can bring. I’ve asserted my weaknesses, so as to dull my delight. Without a source or response it seems unfitting a feeling.

Today, though, I test the waters with new intentions, letting my soul rise while keeping my purpose steady onwards. I shall pray, continually throughout the day, letting my soul’s overflow rise to the heavens, letting this exultation drain free through positive endeavors, allowing my soul to grow through the hefty bounty of a heavy touch of the Spirit. This is a taste of heaven, and now I know my soul’s limit in embracing such a reality. To grow with it, rather than let it slide away through imperfect responses, is my goal.

The question remains about what it is pointing towards.

I don’t know. I’m much better, significantly better, at identifying the nuances of a evil spirit. This now is a joyful noise, and I don’t have the ear to pick out the individual strains or heavenly melodies.

May I learn.

It is also worth a note that I dreamed last night. That’s not something most people would find interesting. I do, only because I very rarely dream, and nine times out of ten the dreams I remember are mundane and boring.

Dreaming dreams with meaning is not one of my spiritual gifts it seems.

Most of the time. That discernment bugger makes its way into my slumber during rare times, and not usually during times of positive responses.

I can remember just about every nightmare I’ve had in my life, and can count these just using my fingers.

I had one last night, and I know it’s meaning, and I know that all about me are swirling battles which seek to win over my soul. The fighting is fierce today, and my very being is the prize.

No, I’m not going to share what it was or what it means… that remains within.

There are moments of calm and moments of decisive action, there are times in which we are asked to wait, and times we are asked to endure. Sometimes we are called to do something, all the time we are called to become something. Now is a time in which the battles rage fiercely for my soul, and I can only do the barest actions in support.

Daniel was told his prayers were answered, but the angel was delayed. This isn’t a tale of cute cherubs or insane individuals clamoring for answers to rational problems. We live in a world which contains a reality we are only a small part of, we cannot see more broadly, and all around us there lies a fog. Some can hear the battle raging, but only know the barest details. Today is a day in which the battle rages, and I hear the cannons, feel the errant shots pierce into my being, exulting and confused all at once, wrestling with a reality which transcends everything I know.

Such is the spiritual life. Antony knew this well, as do all those who leap into the void and let themselves drift with the current of the Spirit.


I have a coat, an all wool coat, patterned after the union overcoats of the US Civil War. I got it in 1993, my first year at Wheaton, and the coldest winter I had ever experienced.

It’s warm, and full, meaning I got into the habit of only wearing in when the temperature dropped below thirty two degrees.

When I moved back to California I changed this rule, only because I would never wear this coat otherwise. I like it, and I think I look good in it… though I may be flirting with a bit of vanity on that last.

Since coming to the mountains I’ve had one winter, a fairly warm winter as historical records go. Still, when the outside is dramatic, the cool breeze drops the wind chill to where the birdbath begins to freeze, I liked to stand outside and take it all in, letting my skin chill in the air, finding my prayers tend to lift up a little more actively, my mind drifts a little more fluidly, and all my being exults with the crisp surroundings.

Summer still has a couple of days left.

Tonight, though, I donned my union coat, and stood outside, praying for light and grace to fill my soul and for my life to reflect the bounty of the God who has called me as his own.

It is that cold tonight. As of six thirty it was about forty degrees. Three hours later it is colder still.

I love it. My soul needs it.

The whole day was dramatic, fog rolling in, clouds bubbling over, blue sky only twice made an appearance, the sun was out for no more than fifteen minutes. It was glorious.

It reflected my inner being, and for that it was marvelous.

Every once in a while I come across a person I recognize. I don’t mean that in the normal sense. I mean that spiritually. My discernment goes off the charts on the positive side, and my soul exults in the person’s presence, leaving me wondering what is going on.

When I can continue the conversation, or extend the relationship it is always wonderfully fruitful. When it seems more fleeting, I’m left in a state of mild to severe bewilderment. Surely such recognition means something?

To define it more is difficult. There are those, I know, who for whatever reason radiate the presence of the Spirit more than others. This doesn’t mean they are more beloved by God, or better people… it’s different. There’s a spiritual reflection I sense which seizes hold of my soul and asks it to dance. As I feel the negative tones of less than holy spirits as well just as strongly, with my being wrapped in a cloud of frustration and depression, it is truly wonderful when I can taste the joys of discernment rather than its burden. It is a rapturous feeling, a feeling which trancends simple words and launches me into platitudes of being, which then is lost when distance is asserted for whatever reason.

Over the years I’ve learned what this emotion means, and have gotten better at reacting. It can be disconcerting to both parties when I ‘know’ someone I don’t really know. But that’s what it is. One of my better pastoral gifts, I think, is my ability to pierce through outer attributes and seize hold of what makes an individual a wonderful part of the body. Unlike the Young Life folks and their philosophic adherents, the obvious matter of societal success or leadership has little bearing on someone’s potential in Christ.

Some people who seem great, are not so much. Some who seem small have within them a seed of glory which can grow beyond anyone’s understanding. I sense this at times and rejoice at the discovery. Only, what I see is not always what the person may understand about themselves. I get frustrated at that.

Or, more likely, I really know this deep powerful spiritual aspect, and find a significant bond which transcends time and space touching heaven itself in its grasp of eternity, but don’t know how they spend their day, or about their family, or favorite movies or music. My discernment gift pushes me into the deeper realms of awareness, where I know them without knowing them. Knowing the surface, however, and being allowed into the deeper parts is a vital part of a relationship. I skip that without intention, and find a weird interaction ensuing. I know, but don’t. I’m comfortable with them on a profound level, but have a hard time beginning a conversation.

When she’s cute as well, that adds a whole new layer of pondering. What am I reacting to? I know enough now to be confident I’m not just renaming more primal responses… and not everyone I find cute brings out that ethereal response. There are those who bring out this response who I’m not, for whatever reason, attracted to on other levels.. making it easier for me to grasp, but not easier to respond.

I suspect I once again encountered the fleeting form of this interaction last night. And I’m left with the emotions of an epiphany in human form, knowing that it is God’s Spirit I recognize, and would wish to develop more insight into what I ‘know’.

Fleeting glimpses as people move on, a person who was not seemingly called to be in my life, but who I see as someone who has the same call by God in her life. In my loneliness of that same call, recognizing another who shares those depths is both joyous and disheartening. I’m weary of the lonely path tonight.

But, there is only prayer. I pray, and trust that God is answering prayer, and has all these many years. All things are within his power, so what is comes from his knowing me more than I know myself.

Tonight I am left with that deepest of spiritual understandings, that most profound sense one can ever approach. There is only God and my soul. If I can learn to embrace this, I will find joy and delight reigning in my life as I bring light to others through the very peace of the Spirit within.

Tonight, not fully embracing this, I tend towards melancholy. Hope beckons. Dawn is not that far off.


The trees outside are dancing in a prescient Autumn wind. Green limbs move in intricate unison, tall trees sway with the natural rhythm. Birds come to the birdbath and one after another jump in, shimmy around, their wings splashing water all around. The chickadees wait in an orderly line. Two bluebirds, of a kind not usual to this house, cut in front. They have strong curious eyes, and seems to enjoy the fresh water with delight.

A cooler day, a day in which whatever spiritual fog had rolled in these last few days has now rolled away. Ti feels a clean day, a whole day, where one could contentedly sit and stare at the dance of nature all around, cup of tea in hand without feeling the urgency of more transient endeavours.

“Ah, yes,” the soul says, this is it, as a taste of heaven comes in the breeze.

Worship comes forth, unbidden, celebrating the delight of the Creator’s hand. All may not be settled on this morning, nothing may be settled on the day, but all is indeed well.


Writing is cleansing. I’m not particularly sure what I mean by this, to be honest. Only I was sitting here at my computer this morning, looking through the morning news and I got a inner reminder to start writing. This thought felt so clean, so wholesome, so right. It is like washing, or tidying, where the work sometimes is a bother, but at the end of it everything seems so much more right.

So, I need to get to it today, and continually. I think it is driving my soul.

That, and drink more water. It’s amazing how much more focused I am when I start drinking a lot of water.


I thought it was Mars. Bright red light, much brighter than anything else around. Clearly red.

Apparently it’s Antares, at least as far as I can figure on consulting my astronomy program. Huh, how about that? There was wind today, between 4 and 6 in the evening, the rest of the day was hot. A squirrel has built a nest high in the cedar outside my window here. The pines are gone, and they’ve moved on.

This was a bland day, a day where I researched, and realized I needed a library for more research (which will be taken care of on Saturday). I did some errands, going down to the village, and even traipsing through the various shops. I’ve never done that, but for once which a friend had a camp hereabouts. She took a break along with her other teacher friends, and we shared a meal at the Waffle place… which is a Lake Arrowhead kind of waffle place, not the kind you see along the 10 freeway.

Still, the day was bland. I did laundry.

Creeping depression tried to make its way into my soul… but I saw it coming and know it for what it is, so while I feel it, I don’t particularly take it seriously. That’s something I suppose.

And so, a bland entry, for a bland day. The fun of writing… representing reality through words.


This was a day I didn’t notice. Not completely, and really I’m only speaking about the weather. I didn’t really pay attention to how the wind was blowing, or the clouds. I did notice the tree I planted, with dark green leaves, a richer shade than the pines and cedards. It seems content so far.

I also noticed the birds on the lake, a few of which I’m sure were turkey vultures, another two which I’m fairly certain are ospreys. White body, black wings. It could be something else, but I don’t have a picture of the wing shape to look at, nor do I remember them if I did.

This day almost escaped me. I almost didn’t write, I almost didn’t spend time outside. Only at each point of a decision I took a step out and did what was right. Last week I made the opposite choices, and felt the inner turmoil begin to burn.

That’s the way of the moral life. Big decisions are inconsequential. By the time we get to them we have already defined who we are through the continual and constant decisions of daily life.

The Didache begins with a desription of the path of light versus the path of darkness. A wonderful, detailed list. Each moment of our lives is filled with deciding the direction we walk on these various paths. Too much of one, and we begin to reflect its reality in the core of our being. Balance the choices and we become lost within, nothing, of little worth.

Each decision makes us choose the path we want, who we want to be… even what seems to be minuciae. It adds up.

So, I end the day a little bit farther down the path of light. To be sure I’m not quite in the market for a veil yet, but, I’m closer than I was this morning.

That’s all I can ask of myself. Of God I ask more.


It was still dark when I woke up. Dog barking loud got me out of bed, and I was just awake enough to try to read for a bit, try to work on the computer for a bit, finding not that much productivity. Then I fell back asleep. For three hours. Too long.

I’m groggy now. The sun is out strong, a chipmunk chirps on the woodpile. I’m struck, for no particular reason, by how green everything is. I think there was consideration of a return to urban life dwelling in my head and dreams, a consideration somewhat dulled by the beauty which encompasses me.

On my mind recently has been a topic which visits me every six months or so, a basic re-examination of self as regards to my status, my purpose, my ambition.

As I’ve noted, this resulted in a renewol of my schedule, especially as regards to my spiritual disicplines. I have to read Spiritual texts, I have to pray more consistently, I have to let my life dwell in the counsel of the Spirit so that my attitudes and opinions are soaked thoroughly with Divine influence.

I look at my circumstances, which are not the ideal settings for a nearing thirty year old California boy. To be a lawyer was my goal in college. A far cry from that now.

I know how others perceive my situation. One friend a while back noted offhandedly how she really valued asserting her independence, proving to the world she could ‘make it’ by getting the ‘job’, paying the bills.

Then, and now, I understand. However, maybe this is a weird form of confidence on my part, I don’t feel that need. No offense, but anyone can ‘make it’ if they choose to do so. The world is filled with people living free for themselves. My heart and goal was not simply to ‘make it’ by showing I can live just like everyone else. My soul yearned for God, to reach out to Christ, to be filled and led by the Spirit so that I, in increasing measure, would reflect the bounty of the Triune God in my own soul. I sought, still seek, to ‘make it’ by establishing in my mind an eternal perspective which teaches me how to live a fluid life, based on discernment, willing to take leaps out into impossible dreams so that I could find faith and worth through the God who calls me out.

I write everyday because the way to write is to keep doing it. For the same reasons I run, and kayak, and do whatever else I do in order to embrace a life which points beyond the prosaic existence most embrace.

There is a surgery called a gastric bypass surgery. It is for those who have lost the means to control their own weight, and make drastic changes in order to limit the food itself. The surgery literally shrinks their stomach so that they cannot take in even near the quantities of before.

I’m convinced that most of society has essentially had spiritual bypass surgery. We are a culture which has such anemic conceptions of the Divine, we literally cannot hold down very much. This results in shallow expressions even in the most holy of sites. Depth is rejected because it is not palatable, or limited because people fill up too quick.

The soul, like the stomach, can shrink and enlarge, able to take in more and more, or less and less as it is habitually trained, or significantly changed.

I seek to enlarge my soul, to allow for an environment which does not shrink my discernment, but rather helps me to touch the Divine in a multitude of ways.

That is my ambition. My call, as I believe God has pounded into my soul, is to write, and more importantly to learn, to become a soul which he can use when the time is fulfilled.

So I write, and I wait, and I seek his goodness outside and in.

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