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

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

Stranger’s Keeper

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

And will God not grant justice to those who cry out day and night, or delay long in helping them? I tell you, God will grant them justice and swiftly.
But, when the Chosen One does come, will they find any faith on earth? Luke 18:7-8

Seeker,
What will you tell your children’s children about these tortured times?

   The other day when Christ came by
   holding her mother’s hand,
   at the river’s edge she started to cry
   on the bridge to a promised land.

When love of the law
supplants the law of love
soulless bureaucracy blossoms.

As the faceless tyranny of legalism,
tears at the roots of co-responsibility,
it seeds an illusion of powerlessness.

What is legal usurps what is moral,
conscience is conveniently circumvented,
ideology is idolized in fluttering emblems.

And anthems proclaimed, 
with boast and bluster,
proudly belie their sullied ideals.

Calloused hearts are always cultivated;
rubbing salt into raw crevasses
that keep us torn apart.

All the while, the fate of our little ones
dangles dangerously
on the fickle whim of sentiment.

How can we not see the face of the Lord in the face of the millions of exiles, refugees, and displaced persons who are fleeing in desperation from the horror of war, persecution and dictatorship?   Pope Francis

Yet held within “compassion”
is our “compass”,
and without it we quickly lose our bearings.

As there are always
profits in persecution,
so too are there prophets who speak for the children.

There is nothing more damaging to unanimity,
than the heartless disregard
of any soul estranged.

For this stranger’s guise
the wounded Christ must use
to pierce our armored hearts.

And once again the crying Christ-child 
unmasks the naked lie of inhumanity,
robed in imperious authority.

   In the clearing arc of history
   who will you choose to befriend:
   hand in hand with control and command
   or lowly-led by childlike care, to welcome, love and mend?

The wolf with the lamb shall live,
the leopard with the young goat shall recline,
the calf together with the lion and the yearling,
and a little child shall lead them.   Isaiah 11:6

joe

 

 

Choose Tenderness

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

My servant will not break a bruised reed
or quench a smoldering wick until justice reigns.
And in this name will the nations hope. Matthew 12:20-21

Seeker,
Can you envision the world that could be?

Another week, another season,
on our quest for rhyme and reason
while another day breaks that many did not see.

As hours and eons run their course,
we make our spinning pilgrimage
and worry as we wonder:

Where are we all headed,
with such haste and fury?
What good newness needs to be ushered in?

Spirituality is about seeing.
It is not about earning or achieving.
It is about relationships rather than results or requirements. Richard Rohr

Can we visualize a more loving global community,
peace-filled and forgiving?
Such re-visioning begs courageous imagination.

Imagination precedes realization,
for each fantastic new creation
is first conceived by imagining.

No longer need we resign ourselves
to self–fulfilling prophecies
that diminish care and damage life’s fragile fabric.

No more must we glamorize violence,
glorify gain or sacrifice God’s precious children
to martial idols that manufacture death.

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
1 John 3:2

If we could just see
family in every face,
we might even love other children as our own dear ones.

Then, doubtless, the crying needs
of the Living, in myriad form,
would trump the mongering and monetizing of fearfulness.

From fear springs violence – yes, not the other way around.
Fear invented wars, weapons, and all the violence weapons can cause.                David Steindl-Rast

It is love alone, and love alone,
that casts out fear.
And only deeper-wider belonging disarms hearts.

In the days yet to come,
each time Life affords you the opportunity,
may you take the tender way.

May you speak with gutsy love,
from heart to heart;
choosing to forgive more readily, holding onto hurt lightly.

Once you start to awaken, no one can ever claim you again for the old patterns.
Now you have realized how precious your time here is.  John O’Donohue

In the brief, bright remaining moments,
with the limited breath you’ve been given,
may you speak your truth gently and forgive freely.

May you say “Yes!” to kin and kindness,
and to listening, and listening more,
as you incline toward Nature’s meekness.

May tears tender you
as you tend
to your patch of fragility.

So, with the shine in your eyes,
may you bestow blessings unspoken
upon all you survey.

More love, more love alone by its power
the world we will conquer, for true love is God.
If ye love one another then God dwelleth in you,
and ye are made strong to live by the word. Shaker Hymn

joe