Five years ago, and a couple of weeks

March 3, 2004

Morning— Looking up one sees only blue, not even a wisp of white. It is not yet late in the morning but all the snow piled on branch and limb is gone, bare greens and browns remain. The snow melts quick. The ground, and all upon it, are still snowy, more slushy than powder. Rain last night, very early in the morning, assured the snows temporary state. Breeze blows strong, whistling through the pines, rustling branches, sounding much like distant traffic The patter of water falling on snow continues, not from clouds, from rooftops and trees. A woodpecker screeches a couple of times, then a tap-tap-tap, repeated, echoes from a distant tree. It is the sound of the wind which dominates and soothes. I awoke earlier to see a squirrel staring at me from the balcony, wondering why the seed was gone, I was wondering why he was out earlier than usual. Which reminds me, I need to put out some seed.

At 2:30 this morning my dog woke me up barking at who knows what. He keeps going until someone asks him to stop, congratulating him for his duty well done. I couldn’t get back to sleep. So I read. Then my mind and soul turned, a weight descended, all the negative perspectives on life and being fell upon me with unrelenting fury. My thoughts turned sour. What should have been, began as, a meditative time of too early morning prayer became something else, a slogging through accusation and frustration, doubting everything I do and am. I wish I could say I maneuvered my way through with grace and ease. I did not. I did eventually get back to sleep, however, and woke again at a more reasonable time feeling the weight lifted, maybe the sun shining has that effect, but the residue of “what happened?” remains.

There is a danger with all of this for me. For many years my spiritual focus has fluctuated, the times of dedicated fervor have always been accompanied by some massive frustration or problem coming up. Cars catch fire, mountains catch fire, cars get stolen, family gets severely ill, financial security collapses, job security collapses. I persevere holding on because of the glory I have seen, knowing the Enemy seeks to dissuade me. Because it has worked in the past the same pattern will like continue, until I learn to be content in and through all circumstances, full of peace despite the storms which rage.

I am increasingly acknowledging God’s purposes in this present for me are less specifically about writing and more about being, becoming, sloughing off the accumulated grime and wandering the trail of sanctification. Others have mentioned Emerging Church conferences and tasks, of which I had, have, a prevailing interest. Now, though, I feel I’ve gone from seminar to advanced courses, whiled away like Antony for independent study. It is not uncommon an occurrence. Doubts emerge strongly, though, when not covered by actions either good or ill. Having space reveals much, much we would rather avoid.

Today my tasks involve sorting through the present, washing off the residue, and reaffirming my passion to engage Christ. It is my solemn desire to do and be that which he requires, holding onto nothing, willing to go anywhere at a moment’s notice. This is my prayer. My doubt is whether I hear right, and am somehow missing the moment.

I read today of Israel before the Jordan, twelve scouts sent out, all but two returning in doubt. Their timidity resulted in decades of more wilderness. I want to be of the Two, only I am not sure if I am. The doubts return, coming against my own intuition. My prayer is for guidance and the ability to hear it when it comes. I am willing to wait, if wait I must. This morning, though, I worry that my wait is of my own creation. So, I pray and ask others for prayer wanting only to find again Christ and Spirit, and live according to Divine direction.

Evening — All is still. The breeze which continued throughout the day has calmed. Not a branch moves. A moon not quite full brightens the night, glowing soft off the remaining snow. Much has melted. Most is gone now, browns and greens again dominating. The air is chill, though not freezing. It is an evening in which one’s own breathing and heart beating are loud. All is calm and settled.

In my soul? I don’t know. This was a day, a day of waiting, of wandering. I wrestled with another over a oddly translated text. Psalm 105:18 reads in most translations, “His feet were bruised with fetters, his neck put in chains.” The Hebrew, yes I retain a little of that knowledge and am again sparked to pick it up again, is quite clearly something else. “the soul of his goes in irons” it reads, without real question over translation. It’s talking about Joseph, the son of Jacob. “They bruised his feet with shackles, his soul put in irons, until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord kept testing him.”

The story of Joseph has always been among my favorite stories in the OT. I’ve always been drawn to him, more than any other character. We read of his being in prison, but read nothing of his time other than he became a leader even there. The Psalmist tells us even his soul was bound, his seat of emotions and passions held down, the Lord becoming an examiner, maybe even a torment (not an unlikely meaning in the OT). Then, in an instant, by powers beyond his influence all changed. From nothing to everything. Because, he held fast, it is assumed.

My soul waits on the Lord, eager to move, not seeing the ripeness or fullness of time. So I ponder things too deep for words, explore realms which many competent theologians say are not approachable. Many others throughout time have said otherwise, and in our era many callings of the Spirit have been lost and ignored by those who over loudly proclaim their own callings as normative.

Again, I think of the image of Christ carrying the cross, my liturgical prayer while watching the scene placing me there. I felt helpless, wanting to help, powerless. I saw nothing I could do but watch and wait. I feel that way now. Living where I do gives me ample opportunity to assist in worthwhile ways, which I do, but I still seek more, practical response to spiritual words. Though, I know, this is the human way, for doing offers more satisfaction than being, waiting, becoming. These latter are more thoroughly worthwhile at times, training for future wars.

Even Christ waited. He was no younger than thirty when he finally felt ready, when his timing had matured. Why do I think I should be better than he? Because others demand my instant action, my immediate proof of worth? The mark of the spiritual life is to retune, letting ones authority and influence be the Spirit alone, not those who deign to speak spiritual words with carnal motives. Too much of the present spiritual community attaches religiosity to aspects which differ none from non-spiritual worlds. The one who finishes the race with the ‘well done’ must first learn to mind only Christ, and care only for his perspective and approval. With this trait one can walk through acclaim and persecution with the same mind, the same peace, for then all that matters is constant and above.

This is what I am learning. Slowly. To act in accord with Christ. To be willing to spend a life in mud, without a moment of productivity, if that is what he wishes, is what I need to be able to not only accept, but rejoice over. That is the secret of being content in all circumstances. Something Paul learned, something I have a long road yet ahead to take as my own. So, I pray for continued peace and wisdom.

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