Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Month: December 2004 (page 1 of 2)


The fog was yellow. A pale yellow, sickly almost. The ground was white, mostly white with scattered spots of brown. The trees are green, dark green, bold green, that peculiar happy shade of green only living trees can express.

I woke up frustrated at many things, myself most of all. It was a vague frustration rather than specific, tinged with that creeping depression which comes at times seeking to swallow me. I wondered and watched the moving fog, feeling the frustration turn to vague anger. Loss of focus, loss of spiritual connection, waking up early feeling I’ve had it with chasing after God. If he wants a relationship with me he will have to start doing some work himself.

The vague negativity made me desperate for some path of release.

So I wrote. I went back to that which I put aside for various reasons, some very good and some bad. And I felt better. I felt alive, at peace, restored.

“Grace,” Bono sang a while back, “is a name for a girl and also a thought that changed the world.”

We wander away from what fills us and wonder why we lose touch. I know I am supposed to write. Not because I feel this inner demand to be a “writer” or to wander alone through the field of words. I know because nothing else fills me. Writing is not easy but it demands me. Only when I write do I feel things are alright. I take time away and lose myself, becoming good for nothing else or for no one else.

That is a key aspect of real spirituality. Obedience is better than sacrifice. I think it is also the hardest because we can explain away so much of the lack of grace in our lives, we can blame ourselves or other or circumstances or politics. The more noise in our lives the more we can explain away, the more we can hide from how grace is leading us because we can shower the absence with so many other attempts to fill the gaping hole. It hides the hole but does not fill. Only grace fills and grace is used by God to steer us to where we need to go. It fills and retreats. This isn’t grace for salvation, that is something different. This is grace for living, the living grace of the Spirit towards sanctification and more importantly towards God’s design for us. Learning to ride this wave is like learning to surf it seems. A bear to start, a quite unnatural proposition but oh so grand when one is able to really get the hang of it.

Losing touch is like crashing, and where once one was riding, flying even, the wave because a terror and crashes down with a weight heavy and dangerous. The more confident, the bigger the waves, the more dangerous the crash.

That, again, is the lesson. I am not being filled with grace to spend the day in endless prayer, or stare at a tree, or study books deep and profound. I’m not being asked, today, to do a ministry or speak wise words to a congregation. Those are good things. Wonderful even, needed. But there is only grace for me to write and keep writing and continue at it for the time being, come what may. There is no palpable response which makes my mind interfere. But I don’t do it for the financial rewards… it is my soul I look to and my soul demands grace to live. Having stepped out with the aid of grace to go in a direction which is entirely focused on spiritual pursuits I no longer have the option to do without grace or live absent the filling of the Spirit. That I do sometimes is true… but I cannot survive like that. It is like the vacuum of space sucking out my air.

That is a consequence of all my decisions. I have to pursue where Grace resides. I have to do this even without the response my mind and heart can appreciate.

And so I write and the yellow fog wanders north and reveals the rising sun. The blue sky begins to peek out, first in patches then in great swaths. The juncos fly in. First two, then another four, finally about twelve all on the ground. A chipmunk comes, two jays, and the hill outside is a flurry of activity.

Haze still fills the sky. A strong breeze makes the limbs sway in its rhythm.

And I remember the path of grace and remember why I do what I do. Something which no other person may understand leaving me too often unable to properly explain my present place in life. There is only to follow Grace, however, and listen to the demands of my soul. I’m too long down this path to go another way, come what may.

That this path fills the heart with joy and peace and light when pursued is certainly a boon, one only to be fully grasped in the fullness of time and the lead of the Spirit.


“Stormy weather, boys, stormy weather, boys, When the wind blows our barge will go.”

It’s a fine winter storm here in the mountains. No snow for us… it’s all wind and rain, foggy skies and dancing limbs. With the light on shining in back it seems the pine is particularly enjoying the wet. New needles are growing it seems, a different shade than the rest, filling out branches. All the pines are gone, long live the pines. There are a couple of saplings but this is the last one of any size and it is a small size, about twenty five feet.

The holidays are winding down, and me with them. I think it is a case in my present existence that I am so desiring to press forward that stopping for whatever reason tends to knock my soul off track. Holidays are wonderful, to be sure, only I need to keep moving forward before I can really stop to enjoy them. I suffer from thinking too much at times like this.

I like the steady rhythm, finding a groove in which to ride for weeks on end. For now at least. Seasons change and so there is no doubt that this is a season for work and in the future I will be able to better step back.

Curiously I tend to bump the trend. I tend to drift away from God and spiritual thinking on holidays, while others show up for church on only the holidays. Overall it’s not a bad thing as Humpty Dumpty once said celebrating an unbirthday is better than a birthday because we have more unbirthdays. Or something like that.

I have reread about five of the Harry Potter books so far this week, always a delight on various levels.

So, as the fog rolls in and rain continues to drip off the trees I feel it in my soul. Not bad, merely mellow.

I have decided to kick myself and get back to the actual discipline of morning and evening come the new year. How hard is it to write a few words each day, eh?



Revelation 12:

1 A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth. 3 Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born. 5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days.

7 And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world-he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah, for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.

12 Rejoice then, you heavens and those who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

13 So when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to her place where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 Then from his mouth the serpent poured water like a river after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman; it opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus. 18 Then the dragon stood waiting on the sand of the seashore.

Psalm 92:
1 It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
3 to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
4 For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
5 How great are your works, O LORD!
Your thoughts are very deep!
6 The dullard cannot know,
the stupid cannot understand this:
7 though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever, 8 but you, O LORD, are on high forever.

9 For your enemies, O LORD,
for your enemies shall perish;
all evildoers shall be scattered.
10 But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox;
you have poured over me fresh oil.
11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.
12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree,
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the LORD;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 In old age they still produce fruit;
they are always green and full of sap,
15 showing that the LORD is upright;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Merry Christmas!!


I wake up inspired to read New Testament theology, inspired to spend a while staring at the gentle waving of branches in the cool winter breeze, content to ponder, and wait, and consider. It is all right. Even though computer problems arise I retain the sense of delight and peace. Maybe it helps to read such words from Thomas a Kempis this morning:

Christ: My child, it is safer and better for you to conceal the grace of devotion; do not boast of it, do not speak much of it, and do not dwell much on it. It is better to think the more humbly of yourself, and to fear that this grace has been granted to one who is unworthy of it. Never depend too much on these feelings, for they may be rapidly changed ot the opposite. When you enjoy such grace, consider how sad and needy you are without it. Progress in the spiritual life consists not so much in enjoying the grace of consolation as in bearing its withdrawal with humility, resignation and patience, neither growing weary in prayer nor neglecting your other acts of devotion.

Do willingly, and to the best of your ability and understanding, whatever lies in your power, and do not neglect your spitual life because of any dryness or anxiety of mind.

There are many who grow impatient or indolent when all does not go according to their wishes. But man’s life is not always in his control; it belongs to God alone to give and to comfort when He wills, as much as He wills, and whom He wills, just as He pleases and no more. Some people, lacking discretion, have brought ruin on themselves through the grace of devotion, attempting more than lay in their power, ignoring the measure of their own littleness, and following the promptings of the heart rather than the dictates of reason. And because they presumed to greater things than pleased God, they soon lost his grace. These souls, who aspired to build their nest in Heaven, became needy and wretched outcasts, in order that, through humiliation and poverty, they might learn not to fly with their own wings, but to trust themselves under My wings. For those who are still new and untried in the Way of the Lord can easily be deceived and lost, unless they are guided by wise counsel.

If they follow their own notions rather than trust others of proved experience, their end will be perilous unless they are willing to be drawn away from their own conceit. Those who are wise in their own conceit seldom humbly accept guidance from others. A little knowledge and understanding tempered by humility is better than a great store of learning coupled with vain complacency. It is better to have few talents than many of which you might be conceited. Whoever yields himself to joy, forgetful of his former poverty, is very unwise, for he forgets also that pure reverence for the Lord which fears to lose grace already given. Nor is he wise who, in trouble and adversity, yields to despair, and fails to put his trust in Me.

The man who feels secure in time of peace, will often in time of war be found discouraged and afraid. If you were careful to remain always humble and modest in your own esteem, and to direct and ocntrol your mind rightly, you would not fall so readily into danger and disgrace. It is good advice, that when the spirit of devotion is aflame in your heart, you should consider how you will fare when the light leaves you. When this happens, remember that this light will one day return, which I have now for a while withdrawn as a warning to you and for My glory.

Such a trial is often more profitable than if all went agreeably with you, and in accordance with your wishes. For a man’s merit is not to be reckoned by the visions and comforts he may enjoy, nor by his learning in the Scriptures nor by his being raised to high dignity. Rather is it by his being grounded in humility and filled with divine love; by his pure, constant, and sincere seeking of God’s glory; by his low esteem and honest depreciation of himself; and by his preference for humiliation and despite rather than honors at the hands of men.


What is this day? What was yesterday? I don’t know. Sad to say. I didn’t notice very well. The computer took most of my time, and fell into repairing and redoing various parts of this site, and what with the dross and flotsam which had built up, I barely turned my head to notice the chipmunks or birds which surely were about. Not a thing did I notice today, not a thing.

But for a good cause and a cause which reminds me why God has me so without much else. I would eagerly grasp ahold of that which would buy my time and which, it seems, would by notice from those who I would want some return.

That’s my weakness in all of this, you see. I walk close to the line of vainglory, and as one person recently noted, I want to prove myself too much.

This is a distinction from me and a real religious, something I know, and ponder, but do not change.

If only I could be the kind who would pray for prayer alone, or seek God for who he is more than for what he can do.

I am weak, and shallow, and too eager to wander, so God builds a fence around me and has hidden the key in a secret place. Where is this key, who has it? All mysteries which remain, though I continually eagerly send out the raven to fly about and see if there is land anywhere to set down this heavily laden ship. Only water remains, the raven flies about, the dove in reserve waiting for confirmation, always waiting.

But first I have to begin noticing again. Not for the vague ‘something’ but for myself, for my own soul to find peace and joy which computer work or other occupying ventures never bring.

Now that part is done, and so I can move on, or move back maybe, to where my soul resides and again seek up and outwards. I pray God meets me there, I sure would like to find him once more.


Space, the final frontier. No, not the starry void. I’m talking about Time. It is space in time which defines and shapes the spiritual life. Take this morning for instance. I woke up early… quite early. It was dark, quiet, with only a slight breeze bringing movement outside, where the shadows of undulating branches seemed to emphasize the stillness more than disturb it. This space I used well, for prayer and for consideration.

Yesterday I had space, carved out due to the comments below. Delving deeply requires a person pause in consideration at times, allowing space for contemplation of place. It’s so easy to get off track and much easier to stay there. The Space in my present life allows for immediate response, if I am diligent. I can pause, step back, sift through the various tools I have acquired to determine my state.

Once again, my dissolution was halted by meditation on the desert fathers. What I realized when I felt my heart turn back towards God is that our path is so often solitary in this world and always distinct from this world. Even in a church setting, which I am not in, it is easy to get trapped in a milieu of worldly concerns. Then the concerns of the Spirit begin to drift, our souls seek after that which is no longer before us.

Hearing the concerns and remedies of those who have gone before is balm for this malaise, both in action and in awareness. We realize our selves are not fighting a new battle but one which is expected for those on the Spiritual path. It is a comfort and an exhortation all at once.

Syncletia said, “We have no security in this world.” The Apostle said, “Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.” We are sailing on uncharted seas, as the psalmist David said, “Our life is like a sea.” Yet some seas have dangerous reefs, some are full of sharks, some seas are calm. It seems as if we are sailing in calm waters, while men of the world are sailing in rough weather. We are sailing in daylight, led by the sun of righteousness, while they are being driven along in the night of ignorance. Yet it often happens that worldly men, sailing in darkness and through storms, are so afraid of danger that they save the ship by calling upon God and by watchfulness, while we, in our calm waters, become careless, leave the proper course of righteousness and are sunk.

The most spiritual thing we can do sometimes it let go of everything, step back a while, and approach it all new after a worthwhile pause in our souls. I found this again yesterday and note this because I so often forget the vital need for space, and am too eager to fill it with whatever presents itself. Because this is what the world tells me is right. Those who have walked the Spiritual path before me say different words, and I am better and fuller when I surround myself with their wisdom.


The trees are alive and alive with birds. Juncos mostly, which conceal themselves in the branches if one only glances. A longer look shows movement, then more, then everywhere. In the space of about fifteen feet there are about fifteen birds, mostly juncos and one jay who just arrived with a double screech. The sun crests the hills, showering light in the higher branches, not into this room anymore until the transit and tilt of the planet coax the light more northward. The sky is blue, the snow is mostly all gone, the ground is covered in tan oak leaves, which hide the last remnants of pine needles. The oaks will come back in a season. The pines will likely take a century. Days and months, eh?

I wake this morning with a fair bit of discontent. Not the everyday “wish I was somewhere else” kind. Rather it is the eternal kind, the kind that drove me to the mountains, that gentle persistent whisper which if everything else is quieted becomes a dull roar. It calls and I cannot resist the call.

When I am, as I am today, in a state where life allows the space to listen and respond the discontent fills me, pushing me, driving me. I do not have the outside clamor to hide the raucous noise, nor do I have excuses thrown on me to quiet the stormy seas. There is only myself and my heart, and in a life which seeks creative response, the stormy waves prevent everything but to batton down the hatches and head into the wind.

This is disconcerting when my purported goal is to ease such storms and sail west with a fair breeze behind. That is the bugbear. I lose sight of the wind and sail along, not paying attention as I should until I realize I’m off course and have no idea where I am or which direction to go.

I check the charts and they tell me nothing, for there is only blue water around. I check the stars when it gets dark, and “Ah” I say, “There I am, how did I get here?”

What keeps bumping around in my head is the thought I am not pursuing the world nor am I pursuing God. I am pursuing God in order to pursue the world and that is not a healthy task, as one finds success in neither. I’m taking Interstate 40 to get to Seattle, one might say, or hoping the trade winds push me onwards to Mauritania.

The fact is, this morning, I don’t want to pursue God. I’m weary of God, finding in my soul a drive to go towards that which has never brought real satisfaction. But I’m driven towards God, bolstered by a faith and study which force me to acknowledge the beauty of seeking him. I am driven, but don’t want to go.

I want him to let go of me, and I don’t. I don’t have any interest in pushing anymore or focusing my mind with great effort to begin to grasp a hold of the depths. I don’t want to worship, I don’t want to pray, I don’t want to depend on ethereal realities for my practical delights. But, I must. God calls, and his hand has pushed me onwards. Like John Wesley once said in middle age, “I don’t love God and I don’t think I ever have.” I’m tired of the discipline, and tired of constantly falling away from the discipline, in not being that which I tell everyone is the essence of who I am.

I want release, and I don’t.

So, in response I live a wan life, a dull glow replacing real passion as directed passion needs some purpose to alight upon. Shining a beam into the night sky becomes tiresome… even when there is a cause to eventually see that which comes.

I pursue God with the hopes of pursuing this world, making him a means when he entirely insists on being a goal. I acknowledge the reality, understand this, but still have no desire to pursue him for the sake of him, unless it means some fine benefit for me. Then I will be a fine Christian, I say, and I will. Neither neglecting worship nor abandoning the faith but raised up within it because of what God provides, when all he is asking of me is to seek only after who He is.

Which means I’m in a bind, a civil war between what my soul knows and what my heart wants.

The Way is so very simple, minimalistic in expression, and yet really grasping onto all of this is an elusive task. Maybe for only me. I know I am not one cut out for the religious game I play. I’m not particularly religious and would do well if Faith did not demand my entire being. I am weak, and silly, and misaligned too much for whatever it is God wants of me. I try to run a marathon by stumbling the entire distance, with chains around my legs, and heavy clothes.

There is only to press onwards. This I know. Being in a place where I have no choices otherwise is likely a sure sign of the Spirit doing a good work in my heart. I want to be distracted, I want an excuse to live a nominal life. I want to gather with those who bemoan a living faith while actively running away from it.

The light shines too bright to ignore. I delight in this light, yearn for it, yearn for it with my entire being, and yet am weary of the chase. It steps away and always I have to step after it, a wearisome task as sometimes I seek to bask in its radiance./p>

So I am drawn to that which discourages me this morning, without another course, and with ony the drive to keep at it. The present realities are not worth such a flurry of discontent. I look around and determine nothing is real as I have seen it, nothing is right, there is no Good. Such thoughts bury me, filling me with evil discontent, pulling me down deeper into the muck and mire.

And so, there is only Faith, the faith which says all is not as it is, the faith which says that which I know is indeed right and perfect if yet unseen. Nothing is seen and everything is seen, dependent solely on which eyes I use. And the goal is not this world, which is the trickier bit to grasp. My goal is this world and my soul drives me towards God.

Leaving me all in a maelstrom of discontent with a burning light of absolute hope and faith. A reality I need to settle, and pray that God settles. Sometimes there is only to trust in the work of the Spirit to do and continuing doing a good work.

That is my hope… my only hope. May God be faithful, and may I be faithful to God.


Let go and be thankful, and “know that I am God.”


Let go and be thankful, and “know that I am God”.


Let go and be thankful.

Older posts

© 2023 Learning to Dance

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑