Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: March 7, 2005


Lesson one: Don’t open the door when there is a coyote underneath the deck.

Lesson two: Thank God that when the dog runs out of the door and starts barking madly, the coyote decides to run away rather than towards the little dog.

Given that the first lesson is difficult to precisely apply, the second comes in handy.

I also learned again this evening that a raven cawing at the top of a nearby cedar during sunset is an eery sound. When the nearby pack of coyotes gather for a round of yelping and barking while the raven is cawing this is a very, very eery sound on a late winter evening.

The Spiritual Life is one of learning these sorts of things. Sometimes there are lessons clear and straightforward, sometimes there are lessons which creep up on you after the fact and you hit your head realizing it was a lesson.

Sometimes stopping and listening becomes the best lesson of all. Occasionally saying something is a lesson, and not always a positive lesson.

Over the monthes I’ve learned that I do in fact have a pastor’s heart, only it is rather differently expressed than many in the business. I am an investor. I like to invest in people, doing what I can to see them see more, know more, and be more. This is a problem of sorts because I am really only interested in investing in those I know, whose soul I can determine. It is a problem because investing in people is not always a profitable venture… nothing like investing in a company or investing in a business.

The other issue is the old “do to others bit”. One should do to others what one would have done… only what I would appreciate from people isn’t always what they appreciate. So, I learn… learn that telling people they are gifted is a wonderful thing, to be spread about as it is seen. Mentioning something more negative needs a lot of caution, in a community of prayer, and with a much deeper awareness of the state of one’s own soul.

That being the case, the lessons are not learned without being willing to make a mistake. I’ve seen the damage of misspoken words, but also the wonderful fruits of a spontaneous reaching out.

Above all, I appreciate honesty. I love to know where I stand, and appreciate those people who I can always gauge.

The biggest lesson in this all is the height of discretion, knowing when to speak and when to remain silent, always fluid in determining one’s own soul as the soul of another is exposed.

The art of the perfect word seems to be one of the most impacting gifts which Jesus expressed. He knew. And certainly he knew more than he said he knew, only occasionally saying what he did know. Always it was the right word, for good or ill.

That’s a lesson and a gift to be treasured, and so I am excited when I get it right and bothered when I get it wrong, trusting that the Spirit is working in me to help me become ever sharper in all of this.


The birds are singing joyously, with new songs and new delight. Stopping and listening to the apparent quiet makes one realize how much activity the natural world is engaging in this morning. The sky is bright blue, the weather on the warm side of cool. It is a day for a picnic or a long hike, a day for praise and hope.

It is definitely a day to put aside the distractions which weigh one down and renew the trail ever upwards.

I realized my own distractions yesterday had become a heavy weight around my ankles, keeping me bogged down in minuciae unable to focus and unable to ascend the heights.

It is common to think only in terms of black and white, sin or not sin. The Scriptures don’t seem to be as narrow. There is sin and then there is ‘unclean’. ‘Unclean’ is not sin but it keeps us from God. There is a spiritual reality to our lives and activities which can be important and yet still remove us from the close presence of the Spirit in our midst. By dwelling overlong in the ‘unclean’ we lose the connection and lose the inspiration which the Spirit longs for us to have.

The law delineated the clean and unclean, showing that which is kosher and that which is not. With Christ and the Spirit, however, we are not bound to the Law as formed in millenia past. Peter was told to get up and eat that which was unclean as a sign that the old standards were no longer effective guides. Yet, rather than having a checklist we have something more complicated… the work of the Spirit in and through us who guides and directs towards and away.

What is right for some is not right for others, what is a blessing to many is a curse to a few, what I might be called to do you might be called to not do. By doing that which is not within our calling or purpose, even if it is good and respectable in itself, is engaging in uncleanness. Clean and unclean are not determined by the law but by obedience to the Spirit in each of us.

I realized that I was sunk in a mire of uncleanness the other day. My uncleanness is a fascination for current events, a love for politics, a desire to keep up with the world even as I’m rather removed from it. The internet does not just encourage blatant sin… it also encourages the uncleanness of disobedience by giving unlimited information on any side trail we would wish to take.

I wasn’t reading theology, I was reading CNN. I wasn’t studying the early church because I was reading the newest commentary from political pundits.

The fact is I have nothing to offer the world of politics. There are those who have much more training, much more insight, much more passion to talk about the present decisions of various governments. I have only the qualification of being a US citizen. So, by investing in this I invest in that which is weak within me, and miss out on investing in that which is strong. I do that which I am not trained in instead of pursuing that which I can offer uniquely to this world.

But, it’s addictive. I love to know, and learn, and participate in that which seems to matter. But, it does not reflect my calling, learning, or joy. So, I have to change pace, renew my call, restore the purpose for which all paths in my life have led. Thus, I uninstalled my web browser… and while I give up a very good research tool I help myself restore the purity of the calling within me.

“But I’m not sinning” is a comment that has led many people to confusion and hell methinks. It is all about obedience, and pursuing the Spirit in us which brings light.

This is a lesson I am learning this morning… once again. Someday I’ll get it right and be able to move onto new lessons.

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