Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Category: general thoughts (page 1 of 3)


I had a problem with this site, not surprising after letting it lie fallow for so long.  I backed it up, uninstalled it, imported the old posts. It looks exactly the same, but it’s all new. There’s an analogy in that somewhere.

In the midst of this, I was worried I might lose my posts in the process, so I went looking for a document I made a number of years ago using all the posts. It’s a Word doc, and I was reminded of a couple things. One, is that my posts over the years make up about 362 single spaced pages, and that’s 238,311 words.

Second, in my rebooted posts below, I talked about my goals in moving to the mountains and having to recover that sense of purpose in the face of my uncertain future. To latch on to my true calling. Well, it happens that in my random quick scrolling through that document, I came across a most appropriate post from May 2004:

Here’s the relevant part of what I had to say:

There is a place for the focused pursuit of God, I believe, where being an adult means being mature before Christ, not proving to this world how I can do exactly what 99% of people accomplish. Maybe that’s my issue, I don’t feel a need to prove myself, or I don’t most of the time, so I’m happy to do that which brings real progress in my soul, in my spiritual state, willing to let loose the security of this present world to grasp ahold of that which is eternal.

Others who feel a need to prove, look disprovingly on me as not playing the game rightly. Assuming my reasons are what theirs would be in retreating, the feared show of weakness, the abhorred reality of incapability.

That is the case, and yet at moments of confusion, at times in which I stumble, I feel the weight of justifying myself. I know, of course, knowing myself, that the real challenge is not others… it’s me. The person who had dreams of a federal judgeship while in college, who planned for many years the precise path, working at the foundations. Or the person who came up with what, I think, were some rather nifty ideas about church, who found himself dialoguing with some great thinkers and influencing thoughts, knowing that given the right context he could make a real mark in the church world. That person found frustration along those paths, the heavy hand of God leading and guiding, and yet not removing the inner ambition, the drive to have a voice.

Now, voiceless, influenceless, without any aspect which one could admire or respect, living what many would think is the worst reality for someone of my age and education, I struggle to show that my ambition has redirected, become more attuned to the Divine. I struggle because I myself rebel, doing those little things which assert my independence, when in reality my only freedom will come in completely letting go.

I feel the need to prove myself, to myself, to those who doubt. At the same time I realize this need is precisely against my higher goals. Only when I let loose my demand to justify myself will I find the contentment which eludes.

I know in my mind what I cannot achieve in my heart. So the dissonance arises, stifling any expression, making me unsuited for either reality. Ah, but at least I know what battle to fight. That is something. I hope.

nearing Summer

I’m fairly certain I’ve lost some friends this past couple of months. Now, in the past I’ve had that happened and I’ve lamented the decisions I’ve made. Well, not much lamented the decisions as lamented the fact that I really thought that God was leading me towards making those decisions and lamented the fact that some people aren’t good about dealing with people they find inexplicable. They didn’t agree or understand, and drifted off.

Now, though, I realize I made decisions and if I’ve lost friends over it it’s entirely my own fault. As I wonder about this I wonder both about what to do and I wonder about the inner workings of my own soul that led to this unfortunate state. Now that I’m starting to feel more open again I’m feeling it a lot more heavy. Which is basically the one negative aspect to my decidedly more cheery state of late.

It is often thought that the spiritual quest is one of finding out our callings, or our goals, or our focus, or otherwise those enriching points of interaction between God and our lives, so that we can set aside the frustrations of mundane life and move onwards to the higher planes of fruitful existence.

Only, from what I can tell, while that’s a part that’s not nearly the whole of spiritual progression, especially at its more mature phases.

Finding a calling or purpose or focus is all well and good. Gives a bit of hope and purpose to what might otherwise be long seasons of slogging.

But, the more mature phases, from what I can tell, involve already knowing the calling then sloughing off those inner realities that hamper and restrain. Which means we go from rejoicing in being saved by Grace so that we can learn who we really are, to being propelled by grace to overcome those issues and tendencies which are not part of who we really are. God teaches and we reach, straining because of the grace and light of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, but straining still because, you know, those parts that aren’t who we are really seem like they are ever so precious to who we thought we were.

It gets complicated. But, it’s the way of wholeness, stillness, and peace.

More later.

Back to it

For a while I had a blog called Morning and Evening. This was more about my personal inner life, a place where for a little while at least I posted in the morning and in the evening, journaling my thoughts on the spiritual life. That regularity fell off a good time ago. Still, I kept going sporadically, moving to doing more of a pictorial interpretation last year. Pictures, I thought, were an interesting way of looking in when my mind seemed unable to wrap around the right words.

Well, I moved webhosts earlier this year. Part of the reason for that was the servers at my last host were a mess. Constant problems. My databases were affected again and again, so I moved to a new host, siteground. Love it in the new habitat. However, even though I somehow managed to get all the information moved over, something happened with my morning and evening blog. I couldn’t log into it. All the admin stuff was totally lost. I could keep it up but I couldn’t add to it. When it started to get spammed a lot I couldn’t do anything so I took down the blog.

Now, however, I’m getting a bit of a drive to get back to this online journaling. I’m also thinking I need a place to gather assorted writings and thoughts on the spiritual life that make it to various other forums or sites. So, Learning to Dance is born. No commitment other than to be a renewed spot of my thoughts.

And, I’ve saved the posts of Morning and Evening, adding them to this page. Now it’s a lot more complete, updated, and more fitting to my purposes.

What got me thinking about doing this again? It was the fact that the online journaling I did over at Barclay Press was so helpful.

I’m going to also get my old morning and evening posts up, from the first full year I did them, which weren’t in a blog format, but just updated separate pages. Those were the beginning of the dance for me, in a way.

If you want to skip to my earlier writings, that went up to about September 2005. Wow, it has been a while since I mused properly.


the worth of words

Most of the stuff for the last year before this has been my attempts to understand myself through the all too occasional artistic attempt. If you’re interested in tracking the words I’ve written about such stuff, you’ll pretty much have to wander back to September 2005 and everything before that.


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!!


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


Let go and be thankful.


Let go.


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.


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.

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