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

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

Autumnal Graces

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

Very truly, I say to you, unless a wheat grain falls into the earth and dies,
it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears abundant fruit. John 12:24

Seeker,
Have you heeded the beckon of the fall?

If you happen to live
along the northern curve of our planet,
you get to watch as we wobble into winter.

And with each autumn come lessons;
a harvest of graces
to color our lives and carpet the ground.

Let sky be glad. Let earth rejoice.
Let the seas and all that fills them roar.
Let the fields and everything within them exult.
Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy… Psalm 96:11-12

As trees turn to fire,
Nature announces her blazing revolution,
in showers ocher and orange gold.

If ever were offered three wishes—
as in the tales of children—
then my desire would be for autumn’s golden graces.

Three unexpected gateways to wholeness,
revealed in letting-go,
falling-down and giving-back.

What return shall I offer the Holy One
for all the goodness given to me? Psalm 116:12

If I could wish three graces for those I dearly love,
it would be these alone:
gratitude, tenderness and humility.

Fruit of wonder,
gratitude is gateway to joy,
turning lack, loss and letting-go into gilded gift.

Fruit of forgiveness,
tenderness opens the way to healing,
transfiguring pain into passion—love’s long shadow.

Fruit of failure,
humility is the low door to wisdom
growing us back down to earth.

Mirroring the setting sun,
these autumnal lessons are poured out
in resplendent hues, for us to pore over.

Like all presents, they come to life in the give-away.
For every golden gift withheld surely turns to lead
and weighs us down with worry or woe.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise…
We are prophets of a future not our own. Ken Untener

Perhaps there is a burden you are carrying.
Perhaps someone worries you.
Perhaps a situation weighs heavily upon you.

Welcome then, autumn’s invitation
to grow by smallness and surrender,
by putting down, by giving away, by letting go.

There is no happiness without thankfulness,
no healing without hurt,
no wisdom without diminishment.

In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not. T. S. Eliot

As this season slowly strips the landscape bare,
to surrounds us
in stark splendid death,

may we in thanksgiving
share the harvest, 
and scatter the seeds of dreams to come.

And savoring the bounty of sunshine, showers,
soil and sweat, may you seed peace, sow forgiveness,
leave the leaves and let go!

joe