Walking in Tempo with the Spirit

Walking in tempo with the Spirit:  this is a refrain with me at least since my college years, when I felt after playing the harpsichord one day that the music even afterwards was communicating between my feet and the ground as I walked back across campus.  Perhaps this memory is why the image of “walking” rather than dancing occurs to me; although it could also be because walking suggests a journey, whereas dancing suggests sheer sabbath delight in the present moment (interestingly, the way Ric describes feeling on the bicycle, for though he’s moving in a direction, it’s for the sensation of riding, not to get to a destination).

One of the psalms for today–Psalm 1–oddly reminded me of this walking-in-tempo image.  Oddly, because the image in Psalm 1 sounds more static:  “Happiness comes to those who delight in the Law of YHWH, who meditate on it day and night.  They’re like trees planted by flowing water–they bear fruit in every season, and their leaves never wither:  everything they do will prosper.”  (I won’t comment upon the nature of that prosperity, except to suggest it seems to have more to do with learning how to balance on a bicycle than with having everything we do succeed in every external sense.)

Meditation and trees suggest stillness and rootedness in place, not walking about.  Yet that stillness supports walking in tempo with God’s Spirit–just as the flowing moving water that is God’s Word supports the vertical growth of those rooted trees.

I’ve been noticing new ways of late in which I sense the Spirit stirring.  Often for me this simply means a strong sense of rightness about some little or large decision, or activity, or presence to someone or something.  This winter, one of those senses of right direction concerns spending more hours than usual each week in conversation with students.  Another concerns giving time to legislative activism on behalf of my local peace and justice group, identifying ways (like urging co-sponsorship of House Resolution 104) to communicate with senators and representatives (and their staff aides) about holding the Bush administration accountable for torture, violations of civil liberties, and lying us into war.  I’ve written an editorial published in local and regional papers.  I’ve periodically stopped on a weekend to take 1-3 hours to work on these things, despite having an extra class to teach this semester (and letting papers get back yet later).  This is because I feel moved to do so; indeed, I often notice myself working on these things, rather than consciously deciding to do so.  It feels like it’s become habit, a movement in a natural rhythm.  (It can take years of overriding resistances to get to this point in political activism; or at least it did for me.)

My new musician companion who taught me the meaning of “to mosey” also speaks often of being in a “groove” (betraying his very 1970’s generation).  We spoke recently of how we contend with times when we are both feeling “out of groove” in our respective work.  But the idea of walking in tempo, being in groove, listening to the Spirit–this is connected for me right now with something like that sudden sense of changing direction Ric spoke of while lawnmowing.  I’ve tried for some years to give myself to a church where I don’t feel I fit, and that conscious commitment has reaped its own fruit; but I’m sensing that it seems right to shift energy towards where the groove feels more right, in little and big ways.

We have only the life energy our creator gives us, and can be so sorely tempted to use that energy in ways that are determined by the pulls and demands of others’ expectations, of long-established habits, of genuine commitments we don’t know how to balance with the Spirit’s tugging at our sleeves–of voices other than the voice of the Word and Spirit of God that flows river-like beneath our lives.  Of course we hear the voice of YHWH in the voices of those around us, as well as the inner voice within, but sometimes we tarry too long without connecting our actions each day with a meditation upon God’s command(s).

How do you listen to Spirit?  I am curious what others have learned.  I’ve probably asked this before, and will probably ask it again.

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