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

Last and Lasting

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

Come unto me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble-hearted, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.  Matthew 11:28-30

Seeker,
What do you leave behind for those coming after you?

As I grow down, creaking and groaning,
I find my (much-diminished) self,
ever-closer to the ground.

Bent a bit,
and increasingly inclined
to question rather than resolution,

I am more at home
with the lyrical than the literal 
in any and everything: rhyme without reason.

Truth, that once seemed
to fit so neatly
into my travelling haversack,

seems so much larger,
that I can no longer
get my heart, let alone my arms, around it.

Still, wisdom comes to visit,
gracing my committed incoherence
with room enough for wonder and woe to cohabit.

As tears flow more readily than reasons,
explanations evade me for the monstrous misery I witness;
swept away in a deluge of compassion.

What to tell my dear, growing-up children,
after over half a century of wondering and wandering;
looking back more frequently than ahead?

It sounds so simple and simply too hard;
that love is where they came from
and all that keeps us going.

as we live in the light and the love of those
who came before us…
…we will be remembered
in the way others still live, and still live on, in our love.  David Whyte

And, with the evaporation of absolutes
in the harsh light of mercy,
judgement and dogma dissolve.

Though I can’t quite put my finger on it,
I think, somewhere I must have surrendered;
lost or let go these last illusions of control.

How frightening, to be so free;
lightly-burdened;
co-responsible for everything, yet in charge of nothing.

Could this be
the uncharted territory I always sought, 
while playing in the safe confines of the sandpit?

What now remains— last and lasting—
before the long slumber                                                                                                         envelops for good what stood for me.

Now, daily to marry grateful wonder with woe,
and find, in that blessed arrangement, stepping-stones
to help in my stumbling toward the wholeness called well-being.

May it be so for you, fellow pilgrim,
as you make your way home,
much more deeply into here; far less concerned with hereafter.

And in your seeking, may you be found
and found out, as a wise fool, whose supple heart,
cleaved by loss and love, may never close to mercy and mystery.

Rest and be thankful!

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

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

Living Abundance

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21

Seeker,
What keeps you grounded through the seasons of your life?

After decades of practice, studying the scales,
weights and measures of an integrated life,
I’ve let go of almost everything I once held.

The heart is stretched through suffering and enlarged.
But O the agony of this enlarging of the heart,
that one may be prepared to enter into the anguish of others!
Thomas R. Kelly

For a while, my pantheon
housed an array of minor deities,
each vowing to carry me closer to fulfillment.

Disciplines of asceticism, rigor and repetition,
devotional ardor, meditation and mindfulness,
philosophical argument, right action and social concern…

…each took a turn on the podium,
pointing out pathways to perfection,
promising to uplift or nudge me further along.

Blessed be you, mighty matter, irresistible march of evolution,
reality ever newborn; you who,
by constantly shattering our mental categories,
force us to go ever further and further
in our pursuit of the truth. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Now, at home with ample weaknesses,
I am spreading wide,
slowing like an aged river.

My desire to savor life,
in its myriad emanations,
has become prayer.

And knowing we have a brief time
to walk the soft grass together,
I intend to take my time and share it generously.

When seeds germinate,
roots come first,
drawn by gravity to penetrate earth’s loamy heart.

In my ceaseless to-ing and fro-ing,
it is the grave
that draws me down.

Grave human realities
hold me here,
rooted in place and time.

Life seldom disappoints
if we are determined
to stay awake and engaged.

Whether in tatters at the losses of the day,
or smiling at my own awkward antics,
abundance awaits.

I am delighted
by the fragrant bounty of wild flowers,
or the aerial gymnastics of swallows, open-mouthed in the wind.

…when present in the moment, I view life more deeply,
I meet life through an awakened sensibility,
and I make more peaceful decisions…
Like all of us, I struggle
with trying to control what happens
and trying to participate in what happens. Mark Nepo

Gravity and levity, soul and spirit,
mind and body, wonder and woe…
there is room for this and more in a life slowly savored.

So, what makes for a well-lived life?
What is expected of us?
Haven’t we already been told?

The Holy One has told you, O mortal,
what is good; and what does the Almighty require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:6-8

Gratitude is the motive for justice;
Mercy the courageous response to every situation;
Humility the honest pathway to fullness of humanity.

Abundant life reveals itself
the moment we cease
expecting, wanting, needing something else or more.

As we cycle through the mysteries
of living to die and dying to live,
may you take your time to suffer and savor with those you love.

joe