Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Month: March 2005 (page 2 of 3)

morning

It is a beautiful day in the mountains. A temperature which goes unnoticed, not a cloud in the sky, and curiously quiet for a Saturday.

This morning I woke up to the sound of parrots flying over. They are quite a noisy bird especially when they fly around in freedom. It gives a tropical flair to Southern California which even when expected is a nice surprise.

And, I haven’t written for a few days. Because, as the desert Fathers wrote, there is a call for discipline but discipline and order never, ever should get in the way of the higher callings of being a neighbor. There are times in life when we are called to shoulder another’s burden, and in shouldering the burden it becomes our own. These are moments of wonderful bonding in circumstances all too unfortunate. So, that’s where I went… to try an be a representative of Christ to folks who really need to see Christ in their lives. This is the role and calling of the Spirit in all of us, however we as individuals play it out. There are times, to be sure, I have needed to see the incarnation of the Spirit through another believer, and there are times in which what I have learned in the shadow of the valley of death becomes curiously useful.

Best that none of those things happen. But, they do, and when they do there is only to follow the peace of the Spirit in it all and pray, and keep praying the Spirit works above and beyond what we can do.

Evening

Kyork! Kyork! Kyork!

The sun was beginning to brighten the sky and I was sitting at my desk, trying to get into the rhythms of the day.

kyork! kyork! kyork!

The sound echoes. It sounds like a small cat or dog or some kind of mammal. And it sounds like it is coming from the closet space in front of me or under the desk. I look around, wondering how a wee beastie could have gotten in. I stand near the window and realize the kyork is coming from outside, thankfully. It is an odd sound… a sound that is deceptive, like it is coming from everywhere. I try to figure out where it is coming from. From the tree? From the driveway? Beneath me. I think it might be coming from the woodpile.

I step outside. The sound stops.

Chipmunk? No, that’s a high squeak. A hurt squirrel? Maybe… it’s not quite right. Jays are good mimics… but this doesn’t have the character of a jay. They are good mimics but not nearly as regular and steady as what I was hearing. A raven knocks in the distance, reminding me that odd sounds do come from birds.

I sit back at the desk and it starts again. I get up to look outside (understanding what is about is one of the key requirements of mountain hermitting I think). It seems like the sound is coming from the saplings or the woodpile behind them. Of course the fact I am wearing my glasses doesn’t help because my glasses don’t help me that much. I got them about twelve years ago when I last had eye insurance. Since then my eyes have, well, gotten a lot worse. I pay for contacts… but haven’t gotten around to paying for glasses which leaves me rather blurry eyed when I have them on. Certainly they are not good for seeing a creature who wishes to be heard but not seen.

A chickadee flies to the rail and I notice there is no seed out. So I oblige the request and pour some seed on the balcony rail and throw some out on the ground. I suspected what the sound might be, and seed on the ground was a way of finding out. Sure enough within a moment a plump bird with a tall plume and colors which seem painted on wandered out from beneath the saplings. It was a mountain quail and it was alone.

It stayed around a while, I got back to work. And so the day progressed from there, mostly consisting of my frustrations bubbling out followed by a restoration of understanding my calling… repeated through the day. I feel like some transition happened this past weekend, something which makes me feel different somehow, something which brings a new perspective to my eyes. Only I can’t explain it, or understand it. I just feel it, and all the world feels like it shifted, if only a fraction of a fraction of an inch. Maybe it’s nothing and it’s just a curious effect of the lingering sickness I’m feeling.

Still, it’s worth noting, and worth noting that I feel a profound hope and peace and a dawning light, despite no word from any quarter which would point me to such.

Such is faith, and the calling of those who have been called by God. At least I was able to figure out what was making that sound this morning.

Evening

I woke up at 2:30 this morning with a rather strong and dull headache. I found some aspirin and tried to go back to sleep. I think I must have, because time went by quick, but it sure did not seem like I slept. I got up in time to hear the first bird of the morning give its call to the world, before dawn, and before any light would reveal the first bird of the day.

This is a different sort of week for me, one in which I leave off my writing for a little while to devote to more visual creativity, by working on web design stuff and newsletter stuff… the kinds of things which one day I turned around and realized I could do with enough skill for others to ask me.

I had a fine morning, productive and a little whimsical, not really admitting until around ten that I was in fact sick. I had been sick but I wouldn’t let myself think so… until my eyes grew so heavy, I was a tad dizzy, and all around I felt the best thing for me would be to take a long nap.

So I did… and I got up, and back to work, admitting I was sick then forgetting. The fact is I’m still a little bit sick and really should go to bed after making sure to drink a lot of water.

It was a good, productive, if not overly inspired day in which I pressed forward through mundane tasks upwards towards the more vital. It’s all about laying the foundation… and the foundation must be deeper than one might initially expect.

Evening

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.

Morning

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.

Evening

The day was gorgeous. A fair breeze blew through the trees creating that mystical symphony of nature which fills the mind with thoughts just out of reach and the soul with a peace which says everything is alright. The birds were active all the day, chirping and singing, flittering about, enjoying the first real full day of sun we’ve had in a rather long time. There were scattered puffy clouds moving across the sky, just enough to cause the occasional shadow, hiding the sun for a moment, long enought to be excited anew when it came out bright and warm.

And again my soul was opposite the weather. I had a bit of the melancholy today, my soul searched and could not find, leaving me a little confused and more than a little uninspired. I cleaned a little bit. That didn’t seem to help. So, I wandered the fields of my soul trying to find what it is that doesn’t seem to be quite latching together when a fair breeze comes through. Nothing new presented itself. So, I read a little, finding more wisdom in Oswald Chambers than I expected (the key is to read the rest of his writings beyond the daily bits). That renewed my quest if not my inspiration.

I’ve come to the solid and firm conclusion that the inspiration I seek is beyond me. I can do my part, and must do my part, but that which will be the spark pushing me beyond my present state is not within. Maybe, I think, that is why I cried in all the wrong parts while watching Finding Neverland.

But, my part is still to do and must be pursued, with or without, waiting for the moment in which the time is fulfilled, knowing in increasing measure that I wait for the movement of the Spirit like a farmer waits for rain after he has planted the crops.

So, I continue to do and to wait. For what remains in a fog, with shadows sometimes emerging, ghosts of opportunities float by, none coalescing into a palpable reality. Always I look and I think, is this the phantom that will become real? I grasp, and my hands slip through. It is a lesson to be sure, it is all a lesson, and one which drives me ever deeper into discernment. All is silent and dark, so my brain creates illusions and sounds for stimulation. But, the dark, silent cave is a path to something wonderful, or else I would not have been pushed through.

This was a day of beauty mixed with melancholy wrapped up in driving introspection seeking light in the midst of shadows.

And I made some very wonderful, delicious chili dogs for dinner. Mmmm… good.

I shall lead the blind along a way they do not know;
in paths unknown to them I shall make them walk.
I shall make the darkness that is around them into light.
I shall make crooked things straight.

–Psalm 180

Morning

The fog was here when I woke up and it remains. The movement of the sky seems to have ceased for a while, settling on thick overcast. The birds are active today as are the squirrels, making for a lively scene outside despite the languidness of the weather. Two ravens fly by overhead, on their way from there to over there, flying in good wingman formation as ravens are apt to do. I watched one the other day harassing a hawk over the house, cawing loudly as it swooped in and out. This raven was by itself and seemed anxious to drive the hawk away. I imagine there was a story there, one which I’ll never know.

I noticed that the weather over these last many months seems to reflect the activity of my soul. It is an odd thing when the weather outside illustrates the storms inside, and curiously comforting. Today, however, the weather does not seem reflective. I’m rather happy… dare I say giddy… without knowing the slightest reason why. Life is good, a statement made purely with words of faith. But, this doesn’t make it less true, just more difficult to explain to any who measure the world through prosaic eyes.

I sit here and I smile while I type, knowing of nothing new beyond the reality that God is at work in me and all those he has called to be his own. And his work is indeed good.

Evening

I sit and listen to the sound of water dripping from the branches, condensation formed by cold, wet air. No rain, no snow, only stillness and the sound of water hitting wet soil. Not even a whisper of a breeze blows.

I took the dog for a walk this morning as I do everyday. We wander about in good cheer, sans leash. He minds with a whistle or word as well as any trained dog. We walked around until the path led again to the street. I was surprised to hear a delightful song coming from the cedar across from us. I’ve been here long enough to know that it was a steller’s jay, as they are mimics of surprising talent. It sounded almost exactly like the array of whistles and beeps of R2D2, mixed with the occasional phrase of a song bird’s tune.

It was quite a concert this bird put on, and didn’t seem to mind us watching, even nearby. It was a large, plump jay who seemed quite content with the chilly air and the coming spring. I stood and watched for several minutes, then looked down, where I was surprised to see my dog watching the bird as well, with the same expression of interest as I had been showing. He looked up at me, then we both turned and watched the bird some more.

Me and the animals… a person could certainly find worse company.

I didn’t get around to preaching to the jay, though I suspect it would have listened more than some church leaders I’ve known in the past. No, I let it preach to me, and let it preach good cheer on a late winter day.

Evening

I sit and listen to the sound of water dripping from the branches, condensation formed by cold, wet air. No rain, no snow, only stillness and the sound of water hitting wet soil. Not even a whisper of a breeze blows.

I took the dog for a walk this morning as I do everyday. We wander about in good cheer, sans leash. He minds with a whistle or word as well as any trained dog. We walked around until the path led again to the street. I was surprised to hear a delightful song coming from the cedar across from us. I’ve been here long enough to know that it was a steller’s jay, as they are mimics of surprising talent. It sounded almost exactly like the array of whistles and beeps of R2D2, mixed with the occasional phrase of a song bird’s tune.

It was quite a concert this bird put on, and didn’t seem to mind us watching, even nearby. It was a large, plump jay who seemed quite content with the chilly air and the coming spring. I stood and watched for several minutes, then looked down, where I was surprised to see my dog watching the bird as well, with the same expression of interest as I had been showing. He looked up at me, then we both turned and watched the bird some more.

Me and the animals… a person could certainly find worse company.

I didn’t get around to preaching to the jay, though I suspect it would have listened more than some church leaders I’ve known in the past. No, I let it preach to me, and let it preach good cheer on a late winter day.

morning

The fog rolled in this morning and has stayed a while. It is said there might be snow today. The birds and beasts seem to feel it. There is a surprising lack of activity outside, only a squirrel looking down at me from the edge of the roof deciding if the leap to the balcony was worth it. Apparently, the small pile of seed was not convincing.

I’m having a wee bit of trouble finding focus, and realizing in this all ever more deeply how absolutely I am dependent on God for inspiration and continued direction.

Having a lot of self-confidence is generally a good thing… except when there are spiritual lessons to be learned. The stronger the confidence the more it needs to be broken down and refocused rightly heavenward. So, I’m learning constantly.

But for now the sun seems to be shining through the fog, the sky brightened for a moment in slow burst of light… for a moment, it slowly darkens again, and the rain is beginning to come down.

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