Die to Indifference

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

I tell you truly, unless a wheat grain falls into earth and dies, it remains just a grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24

Seeker,
What keeps you awake and wondering?

Scolded by a blue jay,
brashly inserting himself into the grey morning,
I am chided out of numb amnesia.

Arrested at the crossroads by a brave soul,
I breathlessly pause to watch
her navigate puddles in an electric wheelchair.

Accosted by a rasping skein of geese,
low on the wing over the urban desert,
I look up at life that insistently breaks into my brooding.

Then, a surgical slice of sunlight
dissects the day and, without my consent,
totally and silently transfigures reality.

How many interventions does it take
to unfetter us from automatic living,
and liberate us to breathe, see, connect and care with deliberation?

Flooded with news reports and troubling images of human suffering, we often feel our complete inability to help. What can we do to avoid being caught up in this spiral of distress and powerlessness?
Pope Francis

In this world of divisions and subdivisions;
carved up by taxonomies of race, class, culture;
we are tempted to reinforce our stockades of self-protection.

As terror’s hot hatreds scald societies—
outside the window, over the wall, across the tracks—
anxiously we watch, worry, hope, and pray they won’t come here.

Seeking security, however tenuous,
can calcify our hearts, turning people into problems
and pains into issues always too big to handle.

Playing on our fears,
cold indifference seeps into living rooms, work places
and most especially into churches.

A heart broken and remorseful, O Holy One, you shall not spurn.
Psalm 51:17

What might it mean
for folk like you and me
to wake, walk, wonder and live each golden day differently?

Much is said about ‘making a difference’,
but when motivations and manners remain the same,
nothing really seems to change.

Perhaps the invitation
of spring’s explosion
is to be made different, from the inside out.

Take away the quietness
of a clear conscience.
Press us uncomfortably.
For only thus
that other peace is made.
Helder Camara

This is as much about dying
as it is about rediscovering and responding to resilient life,
in places and people once considered beyond repair.

We need to be both discomforted and inspired,
to wakefully welcome
each blessed and broken-open day.

As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. Thomas Merton (March 18th, 1958)

Would you dare to dispel indifference
by living lightly, as you shoulder the yoke
of this day’s wonders and woes with rinsed eyes?

joe

Change-ability

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

The wind blows where it will, and you hear its sound,
but you know not from whence it came or where it’s bound.
So it is with all, of the Spirit born.
John 3:8

Seeker,
What might you do to change this world?

When the climate changes—
whether political or environmental—
as it is wont to do,

and we are powerless to affect it,
we can
sink our roots deeper;

deeper than fire and flood;
deeper than drought and despair;
deeper than fear and fury;

beyond and below the reach
of trends, tempests and
even traumas.

When the wind shifts—
whether social, cultural or religious—
as it is prone to do,

and we cannot redirect it,
we can
reset our sails.

In prayerful attention
we sink our souls deeper
to ground ourselves in the Perennial Presence.

In prophetic contemplation
we raise our sheet
into the Prevailing Power,

to harness the momentum
that inspires
the restless turn of time and tide.

So, rather than run
we can also choose
to root our souls.

And rather than attack
the blow and bluster,
we can also learn to tack into it.

Thus, do we chart a course,
aligned with
the cosmic sweep of stars,

and pattern our lives,
attuned to that radiant, perpetual pulse;
the Sacred Hub of Compassion.

But if we would write
a tomorrow
which is wider than wounds
we have worn,
we might wield words
like benedictions
and remember
blessings
within brokenness,
beginnings
within endings,
and beauty
within all things.
Bernadette Miller

In a universe in constant motion,
change is always coming;
the revolving refrain of a grand celestial dance.

Through this ceaseless movement of wind and weather
in world affairs, one question remains:
How will we receive, respond and reflect change-ability?

May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.
May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.
John O’ Donohue

We have already entered
the rough waters and rapids of global climate change,
with all its incumbent social upheaval.

Yet, our ancestors also endured trials;
weathering the turbulence of conquests, empires
and global wars that bred ethnocide and genocide.

Now, we face the fearful possibility of ecocide—
the mindless desolation of the one home, loaned by our Maker
for those living generations yet to come.

And perhaps never before, in history’s long arc,
has the inheritance of so many
been squandered so swiftly by the recklessness of so few.

For change is surely upon us and changes are sorely needed.
Each alone, and all together,
we must weigh the price of change with cost of inaction,

so that, rooted deeply and reaching widely,
we might remain anchored through the shifting seasons,
as we navigate the tumultuous currents of our treacherous times.

And may you, dear seeker,
care enough to bare your soul
and daringly raise a sail that will lead to a change of course.

joe

Rooted in the Realm

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

The disciples asked Jesus, ‘Who is greatest in Heaven’s Realm?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Realm. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in God’s Realm. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. Matthew 18:1-4

Seeker,
Why on earth would we make of this heaven such a dangerous place for God’s children?

To enter Heaven’s Domain,
we need to be out of our minds,
revive our childhood and come back down to earth.

Daily, as we commute through Eden,
heaven unfurls all around us,
unnoticed in the misty morning.

And God put the human being in the garden to till and take care of it.
Genesis 2: 15

But this is no pain-free Reign of bliss.
It offers no guaranteed relief
from life’s persistent problems.

Instead, the Domain of the Divine invites us
to revel in our natural humanness;
poised in ready reflection to savor and suffer together.

We enter this Reign always and only as children,
letting-go our self-imposed isolation,
till we fall terribly in love with life—all of it.

In such a childlike state, troubles are freely shared,
pain is yoked, and the tragic beauty of living
is made bearable and beautiful in communion.

A Permeable Life
I want to leave enough room in my heart
For the unexpected,
For the mistake that becomes knowing,
For knowing that becomes wonder,
For wonder that makes everything porous,
Allowing in and out
All available light.
Carrie Newcomer

It takes a small child, any child,
to remind us that, in the cosmic scheme,
nothing we do ultimately matters.

Yet, how we live,
and how deeply we love,
holds universal significance.

So, let us make our small selves absorbent,
so that realities and relationships,
might be drawn close enough to penetrate and saturate.

Such a permeable,
child-like heart the Holy One
will not spurn.

We are guilty of many errors and many faults,
but our worst crime is abandoning the children,
neglecting the fountain of life.
Many things can wait. Children cannot.
Right now their bones are being formed,
their blood is being made,
and their senses are being developed.
To them we cannot answer, “Tomorrow.”
Their name is today.
Gabriela Mistral

To be strong and resilient,
like the trees that make the wild wind sing,
we sink our souls deep into the humus of our humanity.

While leaves quiver,
branches shake, and trunks sway,
roots alone stay firm.

And the strength of any tree
lies unseen,
in the tangled depths of its roots.

So, may you welcome a child this day,
any and every child of the Holy One
who passes your way.

Rooted and grounded in the Realm of Relationship,
may the needs and dreams of the children of today
draw you ever closer to the ground; quieter still, smaller and slower.

joe

Sacred Heart Listening

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

You will indeed listen, but never understand, you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes… Matthew 13:14

Seeker,
When was the last time you gave life a good listening to?

Remember pressing a seashell to you ear,
to catch that ancient echo
of booming surf?

Recall when someone dear
leaned in close
to hear the heart behind your words.

And that time you were drawn
by a tone, a voice, a word
and held spellbound till all boundaries fell away.

Picture that special person,
far away or long gone,
you’d love to listen to once again?

There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing. G. K. Chesterton

Every minute so much is going on,
in, around,
through and beyond us.

And moment by moment
we choose whether and how deeply,
we are willing to connect with life.

The most potent, most intimate form
of connecting and communicating
is neither talking nor touching but listening.

Let us not confuse listening with hearing,
for they are as distinct from one another
as tourists from pilgrims.

Heart listening, attentive presence,
leads to a communion of souls.
It is the truest way to show how deeply we care.

The biggest gift you can give is to be absolutely present.
Joanna Macy

Our ever-present Maker
abides in silence,
all the better to listen well to everything.

Such sacred heart listening,
as a loving practice,
is God-like behavior.

Listening is the highest duty of love. Paul Tillich

The listening Christ
taught us to disarm our hearts
by opening ears once deaf to others.

He commissioned each of us
to heal by listening
to our enemies.

For how can we
be followers of the Christ
till we’ve learned how to love those who hate us?

Followers of the way of non-violence,
who bear the crossbars of suffering-love,
courageously choose to listen to the ones who would harm them.

And in times of conflict and division
sacred heart listening opens up
the risky road to reconciliation.

When we set agendas aside,
to listen and be listened to,
our desire un-taps a well of understanding.

Sacred Heart listening
is how Good News is heard,
broken open and proclaimed.

Choosing to listen
is our first step
into the Domain of the Silent One.

Listen, O Israel: The Holy One is our God, the Most Holy alone.
You shall love the Holy One with all heart, with all soul,
and with all strength.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Listen like children drinking in a story.
Listen like trees teaching the wind to sing.
Listen with your eyes, with your touch, with your insides.

May you nurture your listening heart,
open a quiet listening space,
and let the noisy world tumble in.

Is this not how healing happens to us?

joe

Touched by Earth

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

The Realm of God is like when someone scatters seed on the ground.
Night and day while they sleep and rise, the seed sprouts and grows;
how, they do not know.
Mark 4:26-27

Seeker,
What does it mean to be rooted and grounded; earth between our fingers, dirt beneath our nails?

There is no synthetic soul, no virtual holiness.
Neither by agency, nor rhetoric, nor reasoning
can we manufacture sacredness.

Holiness is free-gifted.
Sanctity presents itself;
an essential quality of each and every being.

But goodness, truth and beauty,
are graced to the gardener,
who has learned to live by earthy wisdom.

For mercy rains down from heavy heavens,
justice erupts from saturated soil,
peace blossoms in the sublime harmony of living communities.

Life is too precious to permit its devaluation by living pointlessly, emptily, without meaning, without love and, finally without hope. Václav Havel

Yet, so many of us earthlings
now find ourselves exiles
on our precious planet home.

Divorced from the cycles
of sun and moon, seas and soil,
we seem destined only to despoil.

Whether boxed in slum squalor,
where neither field, nor forest,
nor flower can grace our eyes,

or barricaded behind
artificial blinds,
where Nature becomes a screen show,

our reverence is three times removed from raw reality
by heads distracted, hearts divided,
and hands calloused only from continuous clicking.

What greater stupidity can be imagined than calling jewels, silver, and gold “precious” and earth and soil “base”? Galileo Galilei

Life herself, in proportions minute and monumental—
our one bright sanctuary in the endless dark—
is soaked with sacred mystery.

When we no longer sense this sacramental presence,
we have traded our common birthright for “urbanality”,
and lost our way back home.

How sad to separate
our souls
from the good green earth,

to desecrate the sanctity of soil
and denounce salt of the earth people
as dirty, pagan, heathen, villain!

For followers of a meek master,
once a worker of wood,
touching earth is our spiritual practice.

By calling upon us to consider the lilies,
our teacher was taught by Nature
to renew our covenant with Creation.

Reconnecting with the loam of our lives
we learn that holy is not heavenly.
It is in the humus of our humanity that we touch mercy.

…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.  Ephesians 3:17

And it is to the crumbled communion
of countless ancestors under our feet
that every body is commended.

Will you stoop today, be touched by sacred soil,
and sense the first silent stirrings of spring?
Nothing is more vital and urgent for us than growing deeper down.

The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
Psalm 65:12-13

Blessed are you, who wake up to this unfurling Realm,
to till and tend and be touched by resilient soil,
wherein we plant the seeds of possibility!

joe

Wakeful Waiting

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake. Mark 13:37

Seeker,
As another year unfolds, what are you waiting for?

We call it longing
because it distends our sense of time,
and so much living is enlarged in the waiting.

Waiting…

for healing to happen,
anticipating a change to come,
expecting a loved one’s imminent return.

Waiting…

for loss to soften,
an ache to ease,
a void to shrink.

Waiting…

for tempers to cool,
a chafed heart to mend,
a conflict to ease, a bloody war’s end.

Waiting…

for a new day to break,
a tired old one to wane,
for the silence of night, or the chorus of dawn.

Waiting…

for a newborn’s cry,
or a loved one’s final breath;
we vigil before the mysteries of birth and death.

Waiting…

for the torrent to abate,
eager for the drought’s release,
we hold out for hunger and injustice to cease.

So many ways
and shapes of expectation,
whetted by keen anticipation.

All the while, and all around,
so much secretly undeclared,
quietly waits to be noticed, savored, shared.

The meaning of awe is to realize that life takes place under wide horizons, horizons that range beyond the span of an individual life or even the life of a nation, a generation, or an era. Awe enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine, to sense in small things the beginning of infinite significance, to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple; to feel in the rush of the passing the stillness of the eternal. Abraham Heschel

Endlessly empty,
waiting feels like drowsy,
mid-afternoon dullness.

Routines called “ordinary”,
when taken for granted,
numb and stultify.

Immune to golden sunsets and icy mountain peaks,
milky ocean spray and windswept wilderness,
we fail to notice the grandeur and beauty that over-wash us.

Even crisis fails to stir those still blind
to famished children, ravaged lives,
littered oceans, denuded hills, rapacious mines.

Daily life presents challenges and lessons
that measure our attentive presence,
and test our receptivity.

In every golden moment grace hides
in plainest sight
for those with presence of mind and a will to penetrate.

When life, love or loss
lift the veil,
hearts and horizons are transfigured.

In the clarity of astonishment,
there is nothing
ordinary about existence.

Thus poets, artists, mystics come to life;
poised for inspiration,
to crack hearts or mend them.

Attentiveness is 
that heightened state of readiness,
of wakeful watching and wondering.

Wakefulness sharpens connection,
disdains distraction, discards pretension,
unmasks self-preoccupation.

Like a heron intent on a gravelly stream,
or a tail-twitching tabby transfixed in the grass,
electrically-charged anticipation sharpens senses with focus and purpose.

Now we enter a state of expectant attention—
engaged presence—
the opposite of terminal boredom.

Fine-tuning the present, attentive to the peripheries,
scanning the horizon,
wakeful wondering disciples wait.

(God) did not wait till the world was ready,
till (all the) nations were at peace.
(God) came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release. Madeleine L’Engle

Who knows how grace will
greet you this day, this year.
But will she find you awake and ready to receive?

joe