Let go and be thankful.
Chickadees are well groomed birds. They flit around, busy hanging onto the side of trees, or underneath branches, getting into all sorts of piles on the ground. But in the mornings and evenings they line up at the bird bath for their regular washing. They take a few sips of water then jump in, dunking their head under and splash with their little wings, then splash with their tail. First they shake their front, then their rear, staying a while before flying off to a nearby branch to preen for a bit. When one bird leaves, another flies in, the steady line continuing for an hour or so in the mornings and evenings.
Meanwhile, ravens are flying over the house from the hills to the south and back, a steady, if not regular, line. I think they are juveniles sneaking past established territories to get a drink from the lake. They have that look about them, that look of frivolous adventure with a note of caution. The mated pairs who own the woods over which these juveniles fly are quick to re-establish priority.
I spent the morning editing, finding myself lost in my own story. The images returned with even more force, as I sharpen the description rather than create a new world. It is like writing about a scene outside. What I note, and how I phrase things are the tasks. It’s in my imagination, now I have to convey the movie I see in my head.
The only worry is the promotion of all of this. An answer seemed to spark, only I’m not sure of the spark now, sure neither of the direction of the wind or even the duration of the flame. Thoughts of Egypt pass through my head, something my reading of Isaiah 30 last night encouraged even more. That I read by candlelight certainly encouraged the mysticism of the moment, but I still think it relevant.
There is a crucial point in which one decides for uncertain integrity or certain frustration. I could be sure of what I do, and sharpen my own skills trusting in the vagaries of a hidden path, or I could take what seems to be the broader road, though with still uncertain results, merely because it seems more assured. The latter means a loss, maybe a great loss for myself, and maybe, if the Spirit is working, in what I can offer to others.
I stand at the walls and look out not knowing whether Egypt is my ally in reality or my foe in disguise. That is the question. So, I pray for wisdom. And I stand at the walls, not yet turning down an offer nor leaping into the arms of a suspected salvation. I wait.
I ask for wisdom, for while there is the passages as represented by Isaiah 30, there is also, I know, the very interesting tale of Pharoah Neco.
May God give me the light I seek.
A warm day, inside at least. A cool breeze welcomed me when I walked outside, which prompted me to sit outside for a long while, letting the air fill my soul, ease my mind.
I feel like I am in a time of transition, from what to what I don’t know, only it has the spiritual quality of shedding a skin, or like Eustace’s shedding of the dragon in Prince Caspian.
At one point today I turned off the computer for some reason, and never turned it back on, enjoying, again, some space.
There are activities looming, which will take up an immense amount of time. Now, however, is the time for mulling. Once I leap in…
It is Ascension Day, a day I never recognized growing up in the Evangelical Church. Sad really, but not any more. Now I do know it, do celebrate both the rising of Christ from the Tomb, and the rising of Christ to heaven, waiting now to celebrate the coming of the Spirit in ten days.
This isn’t morning when I write. I wrote other things this morning, in celebration of the occasion. I’ll do my usual bit tonight. Now, I settle in and take a moment or two away.
Four ravens dance in the sky, breaking off into partners, weaving and diving, touching in midair. Or is it more akin to an aerial dogfight, wingmen against wingmen, two flying always close facing against the other two flying close, a battle over territory. Maybe it is just good fun being had by animals who are aware how brilliant flying can be. They fly in rising and diving circles, through the trees, all around, acrobats in the sky. Four ravens, teams, together or competing.
Now another pair comes in and joins them six ravens interweaving, and now a single, seven ravens twirling about in master flight over the banks of the lake.
And me? I’m in the middle of the lake bobbing with the wind caused chop. I write here, for since I need to write, and wanted to go kayaking, it seemed a good combination.
So, what is this I’m writing? The third month of twice a day journaling has begun, and I wonder myself. Why this format? Why this style?
One reason is that writing and journaling are fine disciplines, making a person pause in the day and consider. Prayer is also this, but prayer is outward directed, a getting back into tune and rhythm with the Divine.
Journaling is getting back into tune with oneself, or maybe it is a discovery of the tune itself.
I have journaled irregularly for over a decade now. Why publicly at this point? Because it feels right, that’s the core reason, it feels like the right thing to do and I do it. Additionally, it is a way of accountability. It is also a marker for myself and others to see.
I’m standing and walking (well floating right now) in faith, and so this is a way of marking it all, showing the highs and lows before anything else is seen or discovered.
There is also another sense for this. During my college years, during the first dark times of my soul, I was lost, very lost. Those to whom I spoke could give me no wisdom, only more confusion, for they did not have answers to my questions, nor balm for my wounds. “It is sin,” they said, “or immaturity. Be happy and thankful.” Or, “You are just wrong about it all, lost, ignorant, and need to act the part of a Christian.”
Then I began being exposed to the Greats, and reading — the Fathers, Wesley, many others who spoke of the depths, depths which the Church never taught anymore — which it seemed to me, no longer knows. So I wandered, lost and confused, but at least with the guidance of centuries ago to help put me right. I was terribly lonely in and through it all.
Now, ten or so years later I have a heart for those with the same struggle, a desire to come alongside and help them along, to identify and reforge trails long overgrown. I want to discover and help others discover to not only say one is a Christian, but to really become a Christian.
I want to become the person, the teacher, the leader, the counselor I needed, still need. So I write about the journey, not because I’ve come to my “strangely warmed” moment, but because I have not, because my soul is being poured out into the void still, and I wait. It is the time of incompleteness, not victory, which I write about.
Too much is made of the voices who have arrived, or say they have arrived. What comforts me is to read of or listen to those who have not made it into a hagiography, or for those who have, to hear what it is like being there, getting there, with all the complications and realities of real life. While the words of honor and success are exciting, the words of struggle and effort are helpful, for then I hear how they moved past and beyond.
Wesley had two sets of journals, private and public. The public tells of the joys, the success, the outward efforts of faith, the Christian game as it was meant to be played. and were intentionally published. The private tells of the depression, the struggle, the times in which he was sure he did not love God and God did not love him.
I am no Wesley, to be sure. I am still yet to be determined, however, and in this era, I think, we can finally do away with the religious facade. I want no artificial veneer of spirituality. I want to explore faith and Spirit in fullness and honesty, and maybe in doing so find people to accompany me, or people farther back who need guidance forward, or wise people farther ahead who can lend me a hand along the Way.
I am no Hermit, I am not one who seeks exclusive solitude, so I write, expressing my heart, and somehow connecting with the hears of others who are likewise called to live out a life they do not feel naturally suited for, a life which is directing the soul to Christ above all else.
I have walked alone these many years, and will continue to do so if others are not found to be walking the same direction. That is why I write, to explore the trails, and tell of what I find, building community through sharing thoughts with those who are on the same path, to the same end.
I love waking up to white, seeing the snow upon piles of wood, a thin blanket over the hillside. It is not a deep snow, and a few hours of sun will melt it. For now, though it is a delight. The snow speaks of winter, a winter which did not deliver as it should, our precipitation many inches below normal. Yet here it is again, still reaching out, telling us that Spring is not yet here, Summer is not yet near. Spring does reveal itself in the sounds of the birds, the activity and songs of chickadees in distant trees, the strident calls of steller’s jays landing on the balcony. The world is bright now, even in the dull dawning light, dark forest greens and vibrant snowy white mingle together, an intricate pattern of great beauty and infinite complexity. Why does it dazzle and soothe? Because it taps into senses deeper than we know, that awareness which inspires art, which allowed humanity to survive when comfort was not an expected right. I am entranced, for I know and do not know how much what I see speaks in a language my very soul cries out to hear at all times. The language, the touch, the majesty of the creator.
All is not full of peace in the outside world, even nearby. I think of the baby birds cold in their nest, the parents having to both feed and warm them in this deep chill. God, we are told in Scripture itself, watches over these birds, over the trees, over all the world, coming not to save just sinful humanity but to indeed save all the world from the insidious influences which corrupt. So, I should not worry. The salvation of the whole world is beyond my ken and strength. There is only to do my part, that which I’ve been called to do at this moment in space and time. More than a cog, to be sure, though not that much more. It is a restful thought. All I have to do is that which is laid before me today, just those things which are included in my calling. I do not live to prove my worth, to show God or man how much I deserve fruit and love. I am loved already by the Creator of all I see, who watches over the birds in their nests, and over me as I sit. It is just my task to become, to attune myself increasingly to the ways of God in and outside of Time, so that when the call comes for action I will be ready.
It was a cold night, a three blanket night, and I slept well, renewed for the tasks of the day. The frustrations reveal again my delight in writing, my focus restored by just those few words I added here last night. Writing, I find, is not an onerous task, rather it renews my soul like little else does. Watching a sunset, staring at stars, feeling the grooves and rough texture of an old cedar, listening to the sounds of songbirds singing with morning cheer, and writing. For what reason, I do not know.
That is the only drawback. There lies in my heart a need for justification, not before God, but before people. Revealed in praise, and something that pays. I delve deep into my soul and find this is my lack, my only pause in embracing the fullness of the present. I do not know whether this spurs me on or holds me back. It is right and not right all at the same time.
In this moment, staring out at a windsock lifted in the cold air, a small celtic symbol of the Trinity made in green stained glass twisting, a small icicle hanging off, the cut and uncut logs draped in a white sheet, green needles drooping with weight and bursting with life, all that which is just before me without moving from where I wake, I feel a measure of peace and content. All the world may drift away, but if I keep my eyes on the One who calls, who creates, whose artistic mastery I see outside, all will be well, whether in death or life.
That is the call of beauty and truth on my heart, why I will forsake all in order to grasp these in the measure they are offered. Having taken hold of Christ, whenever this happens, will bring ease to everything else. Seeking after divergent goals will never bring peace, though satisfaction they might contain. A gentle reminder for me this morning, inspired by white on green, brown interspersed, dawning light and singing birds.
With a borrowed computer I sit in a different room, with a different view than usual. Thin clouds cover the sky, keeping the view from being to majestic, and only the near reaching branches of a large cedar are seen in the shadows. One light shines in the sky, Jupiter alone rides the arc. On the other side of the house, from my balcony, I see the Big Dipper, perfectly fitting between an oak and a cedar, framed in crossing branches.
The chill in the air remains, the snow on the ground does not. By one today it was all melted away, steam and drips constant throughout the morning.
Another day of mindless tasks, of reforming what was lost, attempting to discover how to replace that which is not recoverable. I much prefer to write or run, getting my body moving to sitting around. However, there are benefits, and maybe even future joy in what was done today.
We walk paths for reasons which are not always the real reasons God is wanting us to journey. They are the reasons which make us move, for God knows us better than we think. So, the games he seems to play are not games at all, just his way of taking who we are at one point and leading us to where we need to be. In doing this he sometimes lets us think as we want, the reasons not near as important as the destination.
So, at the end, or middle, or beginning, of all of this I won’t be surprised if the outcome is different than my initial goals. My only goal is Christ, hard as that may be, and whatever this leads into is where I desire to go. I hold onto nothing tightly anymore, even myself.
We want to have reasons for our faith, proof for our hope, endless bounty for our worship. Where is the honor in this? We forgive our enemies, turn the other cheek, pray when we cannot feel, trust when all is dark. That is the call. For we walk in a world much wider than what we see, and in acting as we are called, as though we do see, is drawing us into an eternal perspective which someday we will see.
How nice it will be to see as it all is, and to find one has been walking rightly. This isn’t an issue of salvation, more of duty and honor. To hear the words, ‘well done’.
I miss those things which I could grasp if only I was more practical and willing to waste myself. Those things will come, in time, and much more wonderfully if only I stay the course.
I am tired in mind and soul tonight, the efforts of the day not inspiring. Even in these God is with me, I know. At least I want to know this, and tell myself I know this. I wonder if asserting faith is the same as having it?
It’s 2 o’clock, and I’m throwing the entire system off by writing right now. The wind is blowing rather fierce, the sky is overcast, only the barest sun shines through from the south. Nearby, though not next door, a crew is busy removing yet more pine trees. Their trucks and saws fill the air with mechanical noise.
I’m writing because I don’t feel right not writing. This is more than just a regular way of letting the world know what I’m up to, it’s a spiritual discipline, meaning I write what is there, not just when something interesting is there.
Why did I want to pause? Because I’m not sure what is going on. Yesterday, hell opened up on me, and I’m not sure why. From morning to evening I just felt wrapped in every negative emotion and thought, crushed by the weight of being. Yes, this has a character of depression. But, there was something more, something very spiritual. I know this for a fact, only I can’t put my finger on it, so rather than trying to write out the vague thoughts, I took a pause.
I’m approaching an understanding, and certainly I do not feel the same weight. Maybe, a person shouldn’t spend so much time focused on the crucifixion. Likely, there are many reasons, all of which have a place in the interpretation. My discernment of something went off the charts yesterday, and I don’t have the backup resources to be able to manage it real well.
So, that’s the study of my heart today. What was I feeling? What was internal, what was external? What was natural, what was spiritual? Even with all of this, however, is the added question of what happened that short circuited my own responses. True Spiritual maturity isn’t just understanding and discerning, it is understanding the positive and negative without letting one’s own soul become disturbed. If I was sensitive to something that is one thing, how I responded is another.
What I do know is what I said yesterday, in feeling what I did, I did not have the accompanying resources outside myself to help process. I did not, in addition, feel the reality of the resurrection, knowing it in theology and words, but not in personal experience. This raises a lot of questions for me even beyond the questions which were raised, concerning my present distance and status.
I continue to weigh and discern, praying for wisdom, talking with some others I respect, hoping to find some insight. There is some, and it is both inward and outward. More on that later, and maybe over time as I process.
Ah, a break from the usual pattern, just to spice things up a little bit. The sun is high, the wind blows, ravens and jays are aloft, gliding along. I went for a run up and down the surrounding hills, hoping to exercise out my grogginess. I’m not sure it worked, but at least it is a well-earned grogginess.
I return to this now because of some thoughts I had of my yesterday. I went to a Stations of the Cross experience at my old church, the church I left with some good memories and bitter feelings. Curiously, the only people I encountered were of the good memories side, which is likely why the visit held a feeling of peace and meditation. The tremendous amount of effort and wonderful creativity was very evident. For the size of the church it was a wonderful time of contemplation on the last hours of Christ, engaging the senses and stirring the spirit. Each year it gets better, and this year was a true sign of that.
A couple of encounters stood out to me, not necessarily having to do with the Stations, though they happened because I was at the Stations.
The longer one was the time I spent with old friends, one of whom I have known since I graduated high school, being in a small group with her even before I left for college, and maintaining a friendship for the last twelve or so years. She is one of those people who knows my faults and strengths, who has heard my complaints and praises, my dreams and my bitterness… and still values me. She, for me, is the light of that church, the most Christian (if that’s a phrase) of everyone, showing respect and challenge, acceptance and encouragement. I would not have left if those who held the title of spiritual leaders were as mature and wise as she. However, hanging out with her is not encounter of conversation.
It was her husband, someone I’ve known half as long, though I knew him before they were an “item”. He is very different than I am. For a reason unknown to me, though, we can talk like no time has passed. What was interesting to me was his present goals in life. He is quitting a very nice paying job to pursue a creative dream, jumping out into the void, letting loose those contradictions, forsaking the path he does not want to walk. In describing his situation he used much the same concepts as I have over these last months, which basically boil down to making a choice between Christ and this world. Some people choose, some people reside always in the angst of never choosing, and thus never being comfortable in either world. He has chosen. And confirms my own understanding that when I think that what I need is just some extra cash, I am just seeing the grass as greener on the other side, when in fact it’s just green paint someone has dumped out over the dead and brown. I leaped into the void having had closed doors, and philosophical frustrations, my sacrifice being more of the potential than the actual. He is sacrificing the actual, with the same words and dreams, sharing with me a bond of leaping out into the chasm of faith, with the ultimate trust that God is indeed there. I need to have those kinds of people in my life, those who take the leap, because those who don’t have a really difficult time understanding, even if they want to understand.
The second encounter is similar in a way, very different in most other ways. It was brief, briefer than brief, as long as it takes to walk by in opposite directions and acknowledge each other with a ‘hi’ and a smile. Someone I have known, barely, for a couple of years, having had one real conversation over a cup of coffee with her about a year ago. Now, there may be the usual reasons, but I think there is something more, and as I typed the previous paragraph I realized I am likely right. We don’t know each other all that well, I have no idea what God is doing in her life, what she is up to these days. But, as I walked past I felt a resonance, and while the longer conversation took my mind away from this instance, the drive home brought it back. God has his hand on her, and he is, and I don’t even know what I mean by this, doing the same thing in her life as he is in mine. We walk the same path, even if we rarely meet, and may never meet again. I’m trying to work this out in my own mind, so this may ramble a little longer. I am drawn to her, again maybe for the typical reasons, but I think there is definitely more. I recognize her, I see in her something which God is doing, which makes my heart celebrate.
I say this now, because, I have no idea what to do with this emotion. There is a bond, a connection of spirit, which may have little or no practical response called for. A bit like when you are standing before a beautiful sunset or an amazing waterfall, and are enraptured, and the stranger next to you expresses your exact thoughts. There is a bond of beauty and truth.
Or, what came to mind while I was running, is that it is like music. You are playing a note, and someone matches that note either sharing the same pitch, or making it into a chord. That is an image which I need to play around with as being particularly apt for discernment in general.
I have no idea her thoughts, and maybe I’m just completely wrong, and maybe I’m just theologizing other emotions. Though, I know the nuances now, and I don’t think I am. It really is a recognition more than anything, that for some reason the Spirit is doing something very similar (though the details may be different) and I am drawn to her because of that shared activity.
This isn’t to say that she or I have some measure of elite spirituality. There are plenty of people who I respect greatly, who I value as a friend, as Christian. People who I know better in reality, and people who for some reason have paths which at the moment intersect my own. But, with other people I get the sense of their being on different paths, the same goal, but different paths. Not with her, and I think it strange, because there is not really a way of working this out. So, the thoughts and emotions stay, the resonance of discernment sparked by just a mere moment.
Ah, life lived in full pursuit of the depths has some interesting turns. Just once, though, it would also be nice to see some kind of resolution, but maybe that’s just being overeager and impatient.
I have some thoughts about Holy Saturday (being what I see as our location in time, if one wants to be a wee bit dispensational in a way). Christ is dead yesterday, Christ is reborn tomorrow. Thus Saturday is the time between times; it is finished, but it is not, only it also has not yet begun. More to come, I’ve written enough now.