Wholehearted

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

… you shall love the Holy One with all of your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and with all of your strength …  Mark 12: 30 

Seeker,
What merits your wholehearted attention these days?

We are living through a time of extremes,
where the so much taken by so few
leaves too little for too many;

where understanding and forbearance
are held hostage
by fanaticism and fear;

where hateful brutality
comes garbed as religion,
and callous cynicism dresses up as freedom.

Yet, it is deeper into this disturbing wasteland
that we are beckoned,
to bare our hearts to a plea;

the keening chorus
of tenuous life,
sorely afflicted:

echoed in the churning storms
and crackling glaciers
of warming-wasted oceans,

amid the chafing cries
of God’s children cast adrift
on treacherous seas.

Within this refrain lives
the deepest longing
of Our Long-Suffering Lover- aching for healing.

May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.
May you know the urgency with which God longs for you.  John O’ Donohue

It begs us to leave hearts ajar
and comforts behind,
that would only harden the crusty edges of our care.

The wilderness of compassion hides seeds;
dry and dormant, anticipating catharsis—
the melting of hearts, the changing of minds and lives.

Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separated from.  Terry Tempest Williams

These packages of possibility hold blueprints for peace
that blossom with the merest inclination of reverence,
and precipitation of tenderness.

In a world such as this,
who has the courage
to be vulnerable first?

Who dares confront
untruths, terror and taunting
with the hot truth of tears?

Who is strong enough to be gentle,
willing enough to embody the paradox:
only the broken are made whole-hearted?

Vulnerability is the only reliable measure of courage.  Brené Brown

Though in her manifold dimensions
universe looks like chaos,
at her core mysterious, she is profound connection,

light itself, ever-outreaching,
craving communion—deep calling out to deep
in a singular cosmic sacrament!

Will you quiet your soul,
steady your voice,
and ready your loved ones for wholehearted living,

so that lovingly we might stand together,
before the haze of hurt and hatred,
misguided mockery and the reckless ruination of holy life?

It is when we love the most intensely and most humanly that we can recognize how tepid is our love for others. The keenness and intensity of love brings with it suffering, of course, but joy too because it is a foretaste of heaven. When you love people, you see all the good in them, all the Christ in them.  Dorothy Day

Will you weep and keenly wonder,
at the state of God’s good garden,
and wounded humanity—body-broken of Christ?

Wholehearted living— compassion practiced—
is a narrow gate into Mercy’s expansive realm
that evaporates separation to draw us tightly together:

the dominated with the divided,
the gated with the segregated, the distracted with the discounted,
the privileged with the persecuted people of God,

together at last
under the cross we all bear,
brimming with pains and joys we can share.

joe

A Fuller Flock

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

As he went ashore, he saw an immense crowd; and he was deeply moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.  Mark 6:34

Seeker,
Who restores your trust in the kindness of humankind?

Listen, learn, be led!
This is how we come to know
who to love, how to serve, and as a faithful flock be fed.

On the crosswalk
I saw him
step right in front of me.

Head bent, as in prayer,
dark-hooded, ebony-faced,
bravely he flashed a look.

In one eternal instant
brown eyes met grey,
and what might be menacing appeared monastic.

I’m not a statistic
I’m not the inches in somebody’s column…
I am at odds with all that requires me to be a symbol.
I insist on being real.  Kathy Galloway

Fear breeds mistrust,
presenting parasitic opportunities
to make some predators and others prey.

How many of your younger sisters and brothers
are daily endangered in predatory cities?
How much life is threatened by soulless predation?

And who will tend such troubled souls,
and attend to lives without opportunity or refuge?
Who cares for the trafficked, fragmented flock of the Holy One?

Beware pastoral pretenders, trapped in trappings,
who wield authority by blaming and shaming,
lambasting the lost, ignoring the wounded.

We too become predators
when we allow diabolical dread and rapacious greed
to divide us and lead us astray.

The Holy One is my shepherd, I shall not want. Psalm 23:1

Engaging deeper expectations, prophetic people meet rejection.
Persecuted by the presumptive powers they threaten,
they are caricatured as wolves.

Such prophets are not people ahead of their time.
They are simply single-hearted souls
who have penetrated the signs of these times.

Called in crisis,
they sound alarms with urgency,
but only because there is much to be alarmed about.

How can modern Christianity have so solemnly folded its hands while so much of the work of God was and is being destroyed? Wendell Berry

Focused by the lens of faith,
their surgical critique illuminates what is not,
to highlight what and who we might become.

Prophetic people are truth-dwellers.
Gathering the scattered, they refuse to inhabit the gloom
by choosing to walk together toward what can and will be.

With the medicine of mercy
they brew a tonic of hope
and begin to rebuild what has been ruined.

May you embrace every prophetic opportunity
afforded you this day
to be folded back into this fuller flock.

One light; many candles.
One sky; many stars.
One sea; many rivers.
One Love; many hearts. Noel Paul Stookey

joe

Life is Motion

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

…a messenger from the Most High appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt,
and abide there until I tell you…” Matthew 2:13

Seeker,
If you had to, how far would you go to find safe haven for your family?

Ever-emerging, erupting, evolving;    
explosive creativity from boundless devotion;
life is miracle in constant motion.

No calculus or static system
explains this transubstantiation; 
energy and matter in infinite re-formation.

Day unto day pours forth speech, night unto night declares knowledge.
No speech, no words, no voice is heard;
yet their song resounds through all the earth,
their words to the edge of the world. Psalm 19:2-4

Blizzards of spiraling galaxies,
upheld in cosmic flow,
slow-dance to eternal rhythms that none can ever know.

Our swirling dust-mote planet,
in radiant eddy bright,
makes her endless circuit around a lonely light.

All on earth is mobile;
flowing river of relations;
as tides and seasons come then go without a destination.

See the Earth as a point compared with the vast circles it describes.
Stand amazed that this circle itself is only a tiny point in relation to the course traced by the stars revolving in the firmament; that the whole visible world is no more than an imperceptible speck in the ample bosom of nature. Blaise Pascal

Ponder mass migrations
that very few will see,
of wildebeest and caribou, butterfly and bee.

On grassy plain and foaming fathom,
clouded sky and forest floor,
living things on epic journeys stream and teem and ever soar.

Have you glimpsed those fast formations
riding high on tides of air,
undulating skeins of cranes that float from here to who knows where?

A blade of grass is commonplace on Earth; it would be a miracle on Mars…
And if a blade of grass is priceless, what is the value of a human being? Carl Sagan

And then our own dear story  
about a vagabond race,
compelled by such a sacred ache to find our one true place.

Empires forged now lie fragmented,
shards of shifting states, after waves of exploitation,
spoils of conquest, war and subjugation.

Who dares stem humanity’s migrant stream
or shut out the refugee in flight,
that hopes for hospitality; shelter from the storms of night?

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land… Warsan Shire

No barbed-wire boundary,
line or law, can make us alienate
those who arrive, in Christ disguise, to stand before our gate.

The alien who resides with you shall be to you as a citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. Leviticus 19: 34

Now let the hinge of mercy creak,
and do your very best
to make a space at least for one, and pray for all the rest!

I was a stranger and you welcomed me… Matthew 25:35

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