Living Abundance

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21

Seeker,
What keeps you grounded through the seasons of your life?

After decades of practice, studying the scales,
weights and measures of an integrated life,
I’ve let go of almost everything I once held.

The heart is stretched through suffering and enlarged.
But O the agony of this enlarging of the heart,
that one may be prepared to enter into the anguish of others!
Thomas R. Kelly

For a while, my pantheon
housed an array of minor deities,
each vowing to carry me closer to fulfillment.

Disciplines of asceticism, rigor and repetition,
devotional ardor, meditation and mindfulness,
philosophical argument, right action and social concern…

…each took a turn on the podium,
pointing out pathways to perfection,
promising to uplift or nudge me further along.

Blessed be you, mighty matter, irresistible march of evolution,
reality ever newborn; you who,
by constantly shattering our mental categories,
force us to go ever further and further
in our pursuit of the truth. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Now, at home with ample weaknesses,
I am spreading wide,
slowing like an aged river.

My desire to savor life,
in its myriad emanations,
has become prayer.

And knowing we have a brief time
to walk the soft grass together,
I intend to take my time and share it generously.

When seeds germinate,
roots come first,
drawn by gravity to penetrate earth’s loamy heart.

In my ceaseless to-ing and fro-ing,
it is the grave
that draws me down.

Grave human realities
hold me here,
rooted in place and time.

Life seldom disappoints
if we are determined
to stay awake and engaged.

Whether in tatters at the losses of the day,
or smiling at my own awkward antics,
abundance awaits.

I am delighted
by the fragrant bounty of wild flowers,
or the aerial gymnastics of swallows, open-mouthed in the wind.

…when present in the moment, I view life more deeply,
I meet life through an awakened sensibility,
and I make more peaceful decisions…
Like all of us, I struggle
with trying to control what happens
and trying to participate in what happens. Mark Nepo

Gravity and levity, soul and spirit,
mind and body, wonder and woe…
there is room for this and more in a life slowly savored.

So, what makes for a well-lived life?
What is expected of us?
Haven’t we already been told?

The Holy One has told you, O mortal,
what is good; and what does the Almighty require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:6-8

Gratitude is the motive for justice;
Mercy the courageous response to every situation;
Humility the honest pathway to fullness of humanity.

Abundant life reveals itself
the moment we cease
expecting, wanting, needing something else or more.

As we cycle through the mysteries
of living to die and dying to live,
may you take your time to suffer and savor with those you love.

joe

From Head to Heart

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (in everything).                    Matthew 5:8

Seeker,
Who helps clear a path out of your head and into the heart of our world?

Most of us
come into this world
head first;

the heart following the brain,
till at last
the feet emerge.

Our lifelong journey
toward wholeness
mirrors this top-down trajectory.

They say the head can be fooled
but the heart can’t turn
without the body. Mark Nepo

It starts in the head,
as we rake this world with reason,
desperate to be right, needing to be rewarded,

till those days when
wisdom and wounds
can muddle the mind with mystery.

Impenetrable graces,
masked as wonder or woe,
push the center deeper down.

Move from within.
Don’t move the way
fear wants you to. Rumi

Shedding the fear of being wrong (or punished),
unreasonable love takes the tiller
and, for a time, the heart holds sway.

The lures of love
and the magnetic draw of passion
pull us into one another (and out to every other).

Turned inside out,
we quiver with joyful exhilaration
and shiver at the severities of despair.

Rich in perspective, experienced in failure,
the person advanced in years
is capable of shedding prejudices
and the fever of vested interests. Abraham Heschel

Now exposed to losses
that shatter the soul,
sweet dreams sour in collision with reality.

Unbidden suffering emerges,
as love’s long shadow
casts our whole life in gloom.

Pains, violations, and desecrations in every corner,
enough to take the heart away,
tear at the ragged fringes of our lives.

Failure is life’s ballast. Huston Smith

Yet, here at last, we can make a friend of failure;
let it steady us while we step deeper
into the mire of holy humanity.

Walking, now with measured step,
in company with the low and slow,
we marinate in the wisdom of love-as-letting-go.

Finally, the feet can take us—
head and heart, body and soul—
where we’d always feared to wander.

Without mysticism politics soon become cruel and barbaric; without political love (justice) mysticism becomes sentimental and uncommitted interiority. Edward Schillebeeckx

Moored in muddiness; wrinkled by worry
and crinkled with laughter, we release absolutes
as we make our tear-stained truce with ambiguity.

Liberated from the tyrannies
of reason and fickle feelings,
barefoot, we walk this world.

Less sure, but surely more tender;
wonder, gratefulness and simple pleasures
come back to visit.

Justice, peace, compassion and sacred wisdom,
deeper than ideas, wider than feelings,
are now embedded in every daily dealing.

Let me seek, then, the gift of silence, and poverty, and solitude,
where everything I touch is turned into prayer:
where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer,
the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is all in all. Thomas Merton

May we embrace silence of mind,
solitude of heart, slowness of step;
that we might humbly walk with the frail and forgotten.

joe

Named and Known

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’
Peter answered, ‘You are the Anointed One.’ Mark 8:29

Seeker,
Who are the nameless people in your daily interactions?

Human beings are name-givers.
Everything we encounter
receives its own unique designation.

From Higgs-Boson to the Crab Nebula,
we confirm quantum and cosmic connections
with the gift of a name.

In sacred stories of our beginnings,
name-giving is a primal task;
our personal re-creative power.

Our earliest babbled utterances are names, 
as we lay claim
to the critical relationships that shape us.

Like sails billowing in the winds of wonder,
consciousness unfurls
when we explore a universal ocean of connectivity.

The Universe is a continuous web.
Touch it at any point and the whole web quivers. Stanley Kunitz

We plot our positions in life
using the names we confer upon one another
and every thing under the sun.

Awareness of self and everything else
is held together by this
ever-expanding network of descriptors.

As we broaden and deepen our relations,
what was distant and unknowable
comes near and draws us in.

Yet names are doubled-edged;
they can cut as well as connect,
narrowing or widening our field of vision.

Giving a name puts word to love—
or our lack thereof—
re-shaping the supple clay of reality.

We yearn to belong more than to be loved. Jean Vanier

Just as terms of endearment draw life close,
epithets, classifications and categories
bruise or sever our sense of connection.

In our daily dealings, we can use this naming power
to distance, divide and alienate ourselves
from the responsibilities of relationship.

What, how, and whom we name,
determines our depth of integrity (our lived connection to life),
and describes the condition of our heart (our willingness to care).

The fewer collectives we adopt,
the closer we come to integrated living. 
The names we choose, use and refuse, indict us all most honestly.

No-one truly belongs in a category
or any other collection;
for alone and together, we are formed in mystery.

Oh how we hunger for intimacy,
even as we fear the risk of living deeply
and the cost of caring dearly!

Somewhere, deep within,
we sense that such connections and cares will change us;
free us from our need to be above and beyond.

In the Realm of Relationships,
Jesus refused title, rejecting office or distinction.
And, whether lawyer or leper, he called his followers by name.

There are no others. Ramana Maharishi

Naming is a first step into re-creation;
one way of expressing loving connection
without ‘they’ or ‘them’.

As we transition from purely transactional
to deeply relational living,
people and things are transformed from objects into subjects.

It all begins with one
simply-difficult decision,
to let no-one be anonymous and remain unknown.

So we step into the Reign
by addressing every person and creature
with an acknowledgement of our fundamental connection.

Thus, named and known,
we can restore relationships
wherever fear and hatred have been sown.

joe

Spread the Light

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. John 9:5

Seeker,
Did you miss the miracle of today, or did it wake you up to wonder?

It’s happening right now;
somewhere out there
daylight is dawning.

That fresh gift of morning
has already graced us all, as bleary-eyed,
we rolled from shadow into nuclear radiance;

a momentous transmutation
of hydrogen into helium, casting out enormous energy
to shatter the all-surrounding gloom.

Every millisecond of existence,
this sacrificial spectacle
enlightens the frigid immensity of the void.

At 186 thousand miles per second,
solar outbursts hurtle across 93 million miles,
to wake us, warm us, make us squint.

And we may blink and blindly say:
“It’s just the sun. It happens every day.”
After all, it has been reliably radiating for over four billion years.

Yet, if the miracle of sunshine,
fails to impress or startle us from our stupor,
perhaps we are simply blinded by the glare.

The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision. Helen Keller

In this world so darkened by despair and deep division,
we fumble dimly,
to see past self-interest, fear and endless feuding?

Looking Down to See Beyond
In the darkness before dawn,
a pilgrim stumbled upon
a limpid pool.

And kneeling down to drink,
glimpsed the Milky Way
shimmering beneath dark water.

Then gazing heavenward,
gaped and gasped
at the cosmic show beyond the trees.

And the silence whispered:
“Be still, that all who look upon you,
might also lift their hearts to Me.

For the stiller you’re becoming,
the clearer will your reflection be.”  (Anonymous adapted)
if we are still not astonished, we are not yet awake!

From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Holy One be praised. Psalm 113:3

God-willing, we’ll be blessed by another sunrise,
to open our hearts and bring us to our knees.
But none will exactly be like this shining, singular morning.

So, as our world rolls, dawn to dusk,
we contemplate the countless faces,
whose loves and longings sunlight graces.

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like deer,
and the speechless sing for joy. Isaiah 35:5-6

Then each life illumined in morning bright
will reflect that merciful light,
to everything under the sun that comes within our sight.

joe

Cross-Contamination

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched the leper,
and said, ‘… Be made clean!’
…he could no longer go into a town openly but stayed out in the country;
and people came to him from every quarter. Mark 1: 41, 45

Seeker,
Have you been condemned for the company you keep?

Touching and being touched
by people, lawfully deemed unwholesome,
Jesus shattered age-old taboos of ritual purity.

Now cast out,
he became accessible
to other hungry, hurting fringe-dwellers.

Choosing personal contact with undesirables,
he likewise consigned his companions
to the ranks of the contaminated;

untouchable, diseased and distressed bodies,
dispossessed beggars, public sinners,
unseemly outsiders and tormented souls;

for their condition forever condemned,
to inhabit the outskirts,
beyond the margins of respectability.

Encircled by such discounted souls,
his vision, his message, his benediction
became virulently infectious:

   Blest are you,
   already holy, freely forgiven.
   Your lives matter!

   Blest too
   because you are listened to
   and loved as you are.

   Blest even in your exclusion,
   your craving for wholeness,
   your longing to belong.

   Though crushed and wretched you may be,
   you are also the hallowed
   children of the Holy One.

Because you are hungry for justice, clear-hearted
humble, mourning, poor, persecuted peacemakers,
you are warmly welcomed; presently blessed.

Thus, in scandalous solidarity;
with words, with wonders, with witness;
Jesus grated against the grain of established meritocracy.

There will always be voices that promise you greatness and glory:
They call out from the worldly marketplace;
They call out from the spiritual marketplace;
They call out from the fill-your-holes-marketplace;
They call out from the bigger-better-more marketplace.

Do not buy their false promises or purchase their ephemeral wares;
What fulfills for a moment is not worth the price of your soul.                   Jennifer Welwood

Pilgrim beware the blessing
of this controversial Christ;
whose touch cross-contaminates;

whose vision beckons a bridge-building
Spirit that tolerates
no carefully-constructed barriers to forgiveness;

whose friends
are sure to ruin reputations,
with guaranteed exclusion from polite circles.

Your very presence, now disturbing, your company
made contemptable, like your Teacher,
you become a menace to authorities political and ecclesiastical.

Following the tainted tracks of Jesus
inevitably leads to personal contact
with sullied and unsavory types,

and surely bears the
promised, burdensome
bliss of persecution.

If these blessings have not
yet derailed you in discipleship,
you might well wonder whose lead you’ve been following.

Rise up, follow me,
Come away, is the call,
With the love in your heart
As the only song;
There is no such beauty
As where you belong;
Rise up, follow me,
I will lead you home.  Stephen Paulus

In the downside-up Reign of Unlikely Relationships,
the sinless, successful, and self-satisfied
are NOT the ones already sanctified.

Seeker take care to befriend the Christ cast-aside;
not fearing blemished reputation,
and marked with the sign of cross-contamination:

   God bless your head with understanding. 
   Bless your heart with love expanding.
   Bless your arms with lives to tend,
   with worthy work and wounds to mend.

joe