Sacramental Spring

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

God’s Realm is like someone who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day while they sleep and rise, the seed sprouts and grows, how, they do not know. The earth itself produces first the stalk, then the full head of grain. Mark 4:26-28

Seeker,
How have you received and celebrated the sacrament of today?

Sacraments are not magic.
They are majestic, messy and,
at their core, mysterious portals to the eternal.

Prolific though they be,
we just don’t see what we won’t see.
In the face of resurrection’s springtime release, how blind can we be?

Pollen to irritate the eyes,
perfumes and bouquets resplendent
to overwhelm the senses.

And still the miracle fails to arrest us,
draw us out of our own heads,
teach us humility, and school us in awe.

This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dry all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.
John Muir

But first, we must be freed
from fractious fears,
and self-preoccupations to become self effacing.

For every day is Earth Day,
when we open wide the soul’s window,
let in the bird-song Psalms,

and intentionally practice that holy communion
of breath-receiving-and-returning—
first and final sounds we ever make.

In the face of our original inhalation,
and in the wake of our ultimate exhalation,
surely all else pales.

Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.
It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live.

Abraham Heschel

I went one day
for a walk in the woods,
and time lost track of me.

So, on I amble and sometimes stumble,
knowing less and less about anything,
but more and more sure about everything.

Don’t we need to lose sight to regain vision?
Knowing our blindness might cause us to reach out
and lead us into the path of another’s pain.

Amidst the meditation of mountains, the humility of flowers –wiser than all alphabets— clouds that die constantly for the sake of God’s glory, we are hating, hunting, hurting. Suddenly we feel ashamed of our clashes and complaints in the face of the tacit glory in nature. It is embarrassing to live! Abraham Heschel

In all this wildly
wonderful and woeful universe,
love alone endures.

We understand this best
in the act of letting-go
what and whomsoever we have come to love

For we do not manufacture compassion.
We only welcome it,
make room to receive it, and express it with abandon.

From first breath to final,
this is our sacramental mission,
love is not attachment; it is release, outpouring, falling, letting-go.

How strange we are in the world and how presumptuous our doings!
Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder. For the gift of our unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great.
Just to be is blessing. Just to live is holy.
Abraham Heschel

joe

Simply Human

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

How blessed those who are poor in spirit, the Reign of God is theirs (for the sharing). Matthew 5:3

What might a simpler life look like?

Physics teaches that with speed and pressure
comes heat and friction;
stress and tension following closely behind.

The antidote to compulsive-comparative living
lies in a wholesome embrace of our natural sanctity;
the gift of being simply (and not super) human.

Knowingly imperfect, ready and willing
to forgive and be forgiven, we are all made for mercy.
Compassionate connection is our role and link in the chain of life.

Un-possessed by possessions,
those who claim their humanness
welcome their own poverty of spirit.

For only those who know
they are incomplete
can be made whole.

And living with less (by choice or circumstance),
we are more likely, in lean times,
to lean on Providence and rely on one another.

Reverencing our limitations lets us savor and share
an abundance of simpler pleasures
and taste the humbler joys of a less-complicated, uncluttered life.

Live simply that others might simply live! Attributed to Elizabeth Ann Seton

Meanwhile, a global conspiracy consumes us;
cramming our days with stuff and activities,
promising purpose and happiness to fill the sink-hole at the heart of us.

Paradoxically, true ‘holey-ness’ widens that gaping ache within,
by reducing needs, minimizing wants,
and clearing the clutter of compulsions, to making room for others.

Though a simpler life
is intentionally uncomplicated,
simple is never easy.

It exposes the emptiness of overfilled lifestyles
as it celebrates the satisfaction
of spacious fulfillment.

Simpler also presumes slower;
moving away from purpose-driven and toward presence-drawn;
from transactional into relational living.

How we synchronize our days,
sets our patterns of rest, work and wonder,
with careful attention to well-being.

Slowing allows us to live
from that deep-within-well,
and avoid running ahead of grace.

When life becomes frenetic,
it is time for sabbath slowing,
back down to the pace of God’s good time.

Slowing… to attend to those who cross your path.
Slowing… to match the gait of frailty, the pace of infirmity.
Slowing… to meet the tottering steps of old ones and infants.
Slowing… to notice the contours of life around you.
Slowing… long enough to scent the breeze or be captivated by sunset.
Slowing… to feel the road beneath your feet.
Slowing… to be redirected, detoured into byways to learn about loss and hope.

May you follow the lead of the Timeless One,
that ageless, ever-patient lover of the lost;
so slow to anger, so simply rich in radiant mercy.

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

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

Re-Inhabit Life

lorettoapr15 074
Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

…every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. Matthew 7:17

Seeker,
How do pattern your day with habits to clothe the passing moments of life?

Renouncing the appetites of the marketplace,
the earliest monks
pursued the soul of Christianity into wild and rocky places.

In the desert they re-patterned life,
marking hours in prayerful rhythm,
into a daily office to transfigure routine into ritual.

Ironically, these ritual hours of office,
first formed in ancient cloister,
now shape the routine of office-workers worldwide.

With due attention and wakeful wonder—
practicing soul-stretching habits—
mundane becomes mystical and work an act of worship.

The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us. Our battles with our habits speak of dreams yet to become real. Mary Oliver

How do we re-inhabit our days,
to wear us wider,
and stretch the span of our short sojourn?

Can we invest our brief time
in the sacred art
of becoming fully human?

What might shake us free from self-obsession
and bring us to our knees,
as we negotiate the stumbling blocks of ideology?

And, if suffering-love is more lasting
than faith and hope,
what are we prepared to do, for love’s sake?

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

The trust-filled gaze of an infant
implores us to do our utmost
to make a safer world.

Tender shoots, boldly up-reaching,
beckon us to stoop and tend to beauty,
green with hope’s fullness.

Timeworn, aged hands,
shakily extended,
beg us to slow our pace and inhabit each fleeting moment.

Silent, hungry cries
of kin clad in different skin
fire the desire to simply live together as better beings.

This visible, earthly world is still God’s creation: one should not condemn it as a valley of tears; it is really the miracle work of God. And this earthly life is the life that God gives us, which it is our task to develop. Emil Brunner

Try these soul-stretching habits,
re-solutions for re-inhabiting 
this budding new year:

enter the dark quiet,
and listen for the signal
beneath the static;

seek sole time,
and turn off to tune in
to rhythms deeper;

extend loving attention
and cultivate concern for livelihood,
beyond the immediacy of you and yours;

practice Christhood,
by letting everyone you meet today
know they are Christ-companions, not competitors in your way.

Whenever I groan within myself and think how hard it is to keep writing about love in these times of tension and strife which may, at any moment, become for us all a time of terror, I think to myself: What else is the world interested in? What else do we all want, each one of us, except to love and be loved, in our families, in our work, in all our relationships? Dorothy Day

May you resolve
to shape a world
where it is easier for us all to love.

joe