Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Month: November 2004 (page 1 of 2)


The moon has risen and passed overheard, the night has grown chill, after a chilly day. It was a mix of a day, frustrations interspersed with occasional curiosities.

I spent two hours vacuuming my truck. That should say something of the day. Then I spent four hours breaking and partially fixing a section of this website. My eyes are glazed with computer glare.

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night, and prayed for a bit as I’m getting better at doing. I realized I was hearing a rustling outside, near my window. Wind? It was breezy, but this sound was something else. A racoon? A bear? I was hoping it was a bear. I walked to my window and looked out. The full moon was shining and showering its pale light across the hill from the west. Shadows were thick still and my eyes were not ready to see into the night. I continued to hear the rustling. Then I saw two triangle ears coming into the light, a long muzzle, thin body, long legs. A coyote was casually rummaging about in the brush.

I walked outside onto the balcony and said, “hello coyote.” It leaped away, though not far, out of sight, mine at least. I knew it had turned and was watching me. I didn’t want it to feel safe around our house, but I wasn’t going to spend all night at the job. So I went back to bed. As my prayers were renewed I heard the rustling again, continuing until I fell asleep not too long later.

This afternoon, while writing a little bit which has nothing to do with what I should be writing I leaned back in my chair and looked outside. The sky is boldly blue, the air crisp, the trees strongly green from the chill and recent downpour. Not a couple of seconds into my gazing I see a black shape high, very high, in the sky. At first I assume it to be a raven. Though a big raven. And a raven with a bright white head. It was a bald eagle flying southwest, maybe the same one I saw in a tree yesterday when I was kayaking.

Spiritually, I remain in a doldrums… well a doldrums that encompasses all my -allys, I press onwards but feel a dullness to my heart, and pray both for renewed excitement and delight. I am getting things done, though not the things I necessarily want to get done, so find myself in a curious state of listless productivity… feeling like I am moving no where while getting to things that have been needed doing for a long while. Just not those things I want to do, maybe that’s the source of the confusion.

Ah well, there is only forward, whether slogging or running, in light or darkness.

Maybe I’ll look into new paths tomorrow. We’ll see. I didn’t even think I was going to write tonight… so things change when we simply get started.


There’s no getting around the fact. It’s cold. Quite cold, mild Midwestern winter cold, which for here is bitter cold. The birdbath never did thaw today, and tonight the chill came even stronger.

The chill air meant I stayed busy despite myself, for my mind becomes so able that even idleness results in some level of productivity. I cleaned, and designed, and considered, and thought. All of this with the hope, if not the reality, of tasting of heaven at least a little bit.

It didn’t work out this way, though I know that often in this progress is made when one feels none has been. So, I press onwards, trying to seize hold of that for which Christ has seized hold of me.

There is only that.


Very early Thanksgiving morning yesterday, around four am, I woke up feeling very thankful. For what? That’s always the question, and something I can easily beat myself down with. This wasn’t the point in that moment. There wasn’t a ‘for what’ there was simply a thankfulness, a full, cleansing thankfulness that had no object only a direction, and so I prayed and prayed for others.

I spent the morning cooking, something I don’t do very often, so I try to have a bit of adventure when I try it. So, my contribution to the family feast was salmon cakes with a walnut and pomegranate sauce. It indeed turned out well, better than I thought. The whole morning was filled with delight, and the day went by with that glow of thankfulness.

Then evening came, brother and sister in law came over, and I slowly descended. Until today when a fog rolled in over my soul, clouding my insights and delights. It was the kind of day that wanted to be wasted, which wanted to waste me. But, someone I pressed on, turned direction, and spent the day building a renewed spiritual habit. I didn’t feel the pull of the Spirit, nor did my soul look outwards and upwards, but I did work to facilitate the habits which would keep my eyes focused even during the days of storm and fog.

I looked to the Daily Hours for inspiration and renewed the habit of posting the daily Bible. So, the fog rolled in, and I rolled onwards, seeking God and Christ and the Holy Spirit no matter the emotion or frame of mind.

Tonight there is a full moon reflecting on the snow which still fairly covers the land. It is an eery glow, a mystical light that the soul embraces without knowing why, or caring. A breeze picks up every once in a while, catching me by surprise as it stirs the branches and rattles the needles in the trees. I love the sound of the wind rushing through the trees at night, I love to look at the wan light of the moon reflecting palely off the snow. I need to dwell on this more, and dwell less on those things which God has called me towards but has not revealed. I need to dwell in the present, and embrace the work of the Spirit in the now.

This is the goal of time formatted to reflect a Spiritual yearning, and one which has encouraged countless seekers after Christ to find their rest in him. So, given that I was going to end the day with no thoughts and little encouragement, and after reading my though the evening prayers by candelight I sit and write this with a kernel of delight renewing in my soul, I figure it is precisely the course I was supposed to take.

God calls, and it does us well to listen.


The snow is melting, but there’s so much of it it’s going to take a while. The world is still white, with brown flecks and green highlights. The trees are bare, the roofs are not. The roads are icy, until late morning at least.

A cold caught up with me and now lingers. My car was taken to the mechanic where my window was smashed and my radio was stolen, something which ended up saving me money oddly enough. The rule continues…. never trust me with a car, it often becomes a victim of the swirling maelstrom. It’s back now, parked in the icy driveway, fixed and in shape to get a new registration… but can’t move as the emergency brake release snapped, thus leaving the brake permanently on, until I have a look at it later tonight. At which point it may or may not be fixed.

There is much swirling about, and this is merely one point of where it broke into physical reality. One wonders if this is simply an irritation or something more pointed. There are no answers to this question, and the headache I have pushes any analysis away for the moment.

Still, there’s hope. And before the dawn comes, before light is shown, before all we wait for is revealed… it’s good to say that I have hope in that which I cannot see and do not know.

Blindly through the cave, bumps and bruises along the way. That is often the story of faith. Pressing on.

Then there’s this, something I wrote earlier in the year:

I am basically a very shallow person. If given the chance, I will happily not delve into the deep end of life, and can be contented with simple entertainments. Some folks are naturally deep, naturally religious, naturally philosophical. These people are oftentimes often bores, but that’s beside the point. I, however, was thrown into the deep end, and have spent years now flailing about, trying to find my way, becoming ever more adept all the while. Which is likely a good thing, as my natural shallowness would have never forced me out to where I am pleased to be. God, there is no doubt, wants me to be more than I want to be. That’s his way, though, so no surprise. I just have to remind myself of the fact.

The sad thing is that once in the deep end of life, one can’t go back to being purely shallow, even though one might try it for a while. The brain works against a person in these cases, and happily, eagerly, makes for cognitive dissonance at the most inopportune times. There is a bliss about ignorance, but there’s a quality about depth which while not bliss, can be epiphanic. I live for those times, which pull me through the times in which wrestling with unknowable things becomes too much a burden. Heaven can be found in those moments, and will be those moments continually. It’s not about harps and clouds, it’s about being fully everything we were always meant to be for all time, without our own failings constantly tripping us up. Choose God, and choose yourself — that’s the basics of the Christian message.

I think I’ll stick with it for a while longer yet, just to see what happens mind you. Wisdom awaits I hear. Though my own shallowness still wants to keep me away. Someday, I’ll become deep, I think, Someday. Until then, I must learn to ride the waves, and catch the wind.


The day is crisp and gorgeous. I leave my window open at night, and a fan near the window because I love the cold air when I sleep. Last night I had four blankets piled on me, the last coming in the wee hours of the morning when I woke up with a bit of a chill, despite the three hearty blankets I fell asleep with. I threw another one on, considered my thoughts, prayed for those who came to mind, and fell back asleep, not waking until about 8:30… a very late sleeping in for me. I woke up and watched the breeze stir the bright green branches of a cedar, and watched as juncoes, chickadees, squirrels and chipmunks began their day foraging outside my window. It is always a disney scene when I wake up, but for the animals speaking or singing in good English.

Over the last few days, since Thanksgiving, I’ve mellowed. Not a good mellow necessarily. Every few months, or maybe a bit longer, I come to an end. And end of what I rarely know, only I know it is an end just as I know when I come to the end of pier. I stop and look around, look inward, retreating for the most part from most interactions with others, even as tenuous as my interactions with others are these days.

Sometimes, in the past, I’ve become mired in these places. This time I pressed for some kind of light, and pressed onwards in at least feeding a creative burning. There is a certain amount of courage which comes from the realization that God has his firm and strong hand on one’s life. It is a courage which encourages reaching out in diverse directions with an understanding that any development will be stopped dead if it is not purely the purpose of God. This is my life the last many years, so now when I reach out I do it without expectation of anything, except that God will or will not lead whatever I do towards something more. What that more is remains always a mystery until it is revealed. Or not. That is the other side of a heavy hand… there is a lot done which bears no fruit, and a lot which seems overwhelmingly stifling if one forgets to view the world through the lense of faith.

So, I do and do, some days feeling discouraged over years of not seeing fruit from continual work, like today. But, there is only to press onwards, because now I’m in a situation where I’m wholly dependent on the work of God, and wholly unable to seize hold of that which is distant from his purposes in my life. This is not now a happy place, but it is a good place, as in our culture the ability to seize hold of what we think is right in the moment is likely the largest hindrance to true spiritual growth in the long term.

So, I do and do. And pray. Pray for light and encouragement, for restoration and resetting, pray htat something I do echoes past the enclosed walls of the present outwards towards some benefit. There is only obedience. And there is only to renew one’s sight so that I can see with sanctified eyes that which would otherwise be discouragement.


Who knew this much snow would come down? The most snow in twenty years or more, I’ve heard it said. For certain those in northern climates would seem nothing unusual in the snowfall. But this is Southern California. It’s been since 1997 since I had this much snow around me, and never this light of snow. It is like the air itself decided to lay down it is so light.

Because of the snow this day remained simple. I didn’t work. I mostly stared outside, even went outside for a bit of a walk. And I prayed. Little prayers throughout the day for those who did not have the leisure to take the day off. I could not toil for them, so I participated through prayer, praying their time was productive and grace filled.

It is my part.

Though I think I’ll be a little more active tomorrow in my own pursuits.


Truly a California mountain day. I spent a good part of the afternoon on the deck, pencil in hand, editing through some stuff I wrote. I find I am a much more thorough editor of my own work when I can hold the paper. Call it the vestiges of an earlier era or something. I sat on the deck, the sky perfectly blue, two feet away from a birdbath where chickadees would come for a sip of water. They are daring little birds. The air was warm enough for a t shirt, the breeze was light, the sun working as it should.

Now there is a growing layer of snow on the ground, a light fluffy snow that is coming down with persistent gentleness. The air is filled with snow, the roads are covered, the branches weighted down. A beautiful evening.

Really what more can be said than this?


Awake long before dawn, I prayed a while and felt an odd yearning. I’m convinced that the fluid way of the Spirit is curious. Maybe that’s the best sign of following the Spirit. We do curious things that upon later thought seem unusual, except for the fact that in the moment we had to do them.

I’ve tried to pursue these odd tacks, finding such things to be even more than writing the hallmark of my present existence. The foundation of this is simply that if we pray God answers. If we pray for wisdom God gives it, if we pray for light God shines down upon us. Only we have so conditioned God to act in certain ways we don’t listen well or see well when he works outside of those ways. In leaping at instincts one hopefully restores sight and sharpens the ears to hear.

There is no place for staid and sedate existence which only hears that which the world parrots.

I could be wrong, but I prefer to be wrong in acting towards the Spirit rather than be wrong by being stuck in doing nothing. This reality explains my entire present existence.

Part of me thinks God calls us to do the occasional silly thing just to see if we’ll do it because he asks.

The sun rose revealing a brilliant blue sky, and at promptly 6:30 a jay and squirrel came to the balcony to eat. The gentle breeze massages the trees and a chipmunk pokes around the tan needles of pines and orange leaves of oaks.

I sit outside and read. That is the odd yearning. I woke up with my soul demanding that I re-read the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. I’ve finished 1 Enoch so far, and found it again quite delightful, striking even depending on how well the Gospel writers and characters knew this now obscure writing.

In doing this, and in continuing to open my soul up to examination and decision, I press onwards hoping for nothing more this morning than to walk rightly with the Spirit.

It’s all about obedience… wherever that takes us.


Let them eat cake. Well, let me eat cake at least. Thanks, I will. And did. For dessert. And dinner. Well, one slice of birthday cake which served as first dessert then dinner. It was the last slice of a very fine ice cream cake. I have a bit of a headache tonight. Now, that may or may not be the reason for the cake, but I feel it serves at the very least as a excuse. It sounded good. And it was good. Mmmmm, cake.

Today was a curious day, a day in which I was more of a helping hand than anything else, or at least some driving hands to help with errands with one who doesn’t drive. It was for a newsletter I also helped out with, which ran into some curiously bad printing problems the other day forcing another drive down the hill.

This curiously took up the whole day. But at the end what began in chaos ended with delight, as patience and cheerfulness turned out to have saved both money and gained quite the better result.

Patience is a good thing. Something our era does not teach. Waiting is a virtue, because the very heart of Spirituality means waiting on God to act. Read the Bible. It’s full of waiting. Those who didn’t wait get themselves and entire nations into bad shape. Those who do are often kept waiting, sometimes way past when the time for help absolutely has to come. Jesus was saved after three days already dead. That was a little late. Though it was indeed perfect timing.

I think that is the virtue which is little pursued and which can be pursued in almost infinite ways in our daily lives. Our lives are filled with waiting for big and small. Today I again learned in a small way the virtue of patience. Such lessons stir the soul to remember in times of big worries and long waits.

God does answer. And God is good.

If we keep these two realities always in front of us, what is a little wait? Even if the wait happens to keep us in Rancho Cucamonga for a long while longer than we’d like.

It’s a funny day when an overlong time in an Office Depot will help one feel much more thankful to the One who calls. Or maybe it is a day when eyes are kept open and the heart is eager in listening for that gentle whisper which is always ready to encourage… even and especially in the desert.


I decided to read today. Not just for a bit, or for a break, but to seriously read. It didn’t go quite as I planned, but plans formed at three in the morning are often flexible. I did read, and found myself better for it. I read In the Shadow of the Temple by Oskar Skarsaune, which is a discussion of the Jewish influences on the early church, and thus is also a discussion of 1st century Judaism(s).

I write for a while and forget to swim in the world of which I write, and so lose sight of both purpose and instinct, and thus have less to say and lessening enthusiasm to say it. Of course the same is true for spirituality. I try to live apart from prayer and without immersing myself in Spiritual things I get dry, and my hope withers.

Immersing oneself means reading the right books, Bible and otherwise. It also means leaping out in other ways, finding wisdom to curious problems, confronting one’s own foibles, saying things or doing things which may seem quite silly if in fact the Spirit is not leading, trusting all the while that there is a purpose, a purpose which may or may not be the one assumed, but will certainly lead to greater light and maturity.

For that is Christ. That is the baptism of Christ, to take us from these little lumps in need of forgiveness and transform our entire being towards something wonderful, something wonderful interacting with other wonderful beings in an intricate dance which marvels the world. The baptism of Christ and the Spirit is not simply putting a band aid on past wounds or making sure we are adequate once more. It is a restoration to be that which is possible, and so it is extraordinary.

Guilt and repentance are the beginning, a beginning beyond which the Church has little to say nowadays. But there is more, there is always more, it is deeper and richer and fuller and brighter continually. But the journey is made of the continual steps to embrace all of this and to leap out and face possible disaster or simply disappointment.

A friend wrote something in response to my own leaping out of faith which is wise and appreciated, so I repeat it here:

You know? After all, we are only pilgrims on this Earth. It’s all temporary. I wish I was
in some peaceful place right now, relaxed and not worried about a thing. But I am
where I am supposed to be. Sometimes life is a hard labor, but I think when we take
the risk to pursue our gifts, even (or especially) in spite of our fears, insecurities, and
doubts, and when we truly surrender to God’s will, remembering that our awards
are eternal and these lives are not so all our desires will be met and satisfied, then
God can truly shine through us. He takes ordinary people, gives them supernatural
hope/faith that’s way beyond them, call them to do extravagant things and people
can see His glory.

Whether in difficult circumstances or in the absence of any perceivable circumstance God asks us to stay where we are supposed to be. To have faith in too much or too little is obedience, and that is our calling. For in being there we hear God, and he works as he will in the way he will to do those extraordinary things.

Then one day we will turn around and realize extraordinary things have happened around us and without any pride we will offer thanks that we too were able to run the race well. That is the hope and the glory.

It’s that being where we are supposed to be that is sometimes tricky, because often it is not necessarily where we want to be. Because she’s right, the ultimate place we want to be is in heaven.

Keeping this in mind is both the secret and the trick to it all. It is a struggle, a daily struggle. There is no doubt about that. Because we trust what we see not what we don’t see. So there is only to press on, to leap out, to take risks and let loose our life.

I try to do all of this so that ot the end of the day I can say I showed faith even when everything was dark, and in doing so touch lives beyond my natural reach, and please the God who loves me.

Older posts

© 2023 Learning to Dance

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑