From Segregation to Incarnation

Photo by Joe Grant © 2018 

Be aware, keep alert, for you know not when the time will come… Mark 13:33

Seeker,
Who is sacred to you, and who is not?

We have entered that darkening time
of watchfulness;
a season of ripening contradictions.

Festooned with jingle-jangle,
temples of commerce lure us
with sweet indulgences so very good for the economy.

All the while, in hallowed spaces,
choirs croon
over starlit, snow-globe nativities.

So familiar are those alluring songs
and fuzzy festive feelings,
it is difficult to stay awake.

For unto us and into the DNA
of this deep-divided world, Christ takes fragile flesh;
God-within, all around, among us everyone.

Blinded by brutality,
carved up by inequity,
our fractured family huddles into separateness.

While some bow to the East
and others incline to the West,
we also hark from Global North or South.

And many undertake that desperate exodus,
crossing desert, sea or mountain in search of peace:
possibility and the promise of a new beginning.

From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait… Isaiah 64:4

It is so easy to divide us—
Dives from Lazarus, darker from lighter—
the handful who own more than the billions on the bottom.

With fanatic fervor some commit heinous crimes
in the name of merciless gods.
Others give their lives over to national supremacy.

And many millions more find their souls
somewhere in the middle;
worried and wondering.

It may feel safer to stay distracted,
to tune out distant gunshot terror,
disregard protest, hunger, horror.

We might even decorate our lives
with pious pageantry.
But wishful thinking does not bring peace to birth.

Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited… With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. Thomas Merton

Christ has not come
just for a few or some.
the Holy One wears the skin of everyone.

No fence or barbed-wired boundary wall,
no color, caste or class,
can contain that merciful cascade meant for all.

For Christ bides with us already,
and we will know and be known,
when, as one, we refuse to be gated or segregated.

Under the rain of mercy
all are re-consecrated,
as separations are washed away.

In that blessed-broken body of Christ
there is no room for “they”, no place for “them”
and justice means “just us” – all of us.

May you find your way today to honor the Holy One Abiding-with-us!
joe

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