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

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

Wind AND Fire

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

…suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house. Then there appeared tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
Acts 2: 2-3

Seeker,
Are you hoping for peace and quiet, or hungering for peace and justice (or both)?

Breathing Space

Let us be still,
slow to a stop,
rest and be restored.

Daily we must relearn
to hand over the demands of the day,
breathing deeply fresh air, laden with re-creative possibility.

How do we find those restful latitudes,
where we gratefully pour life’s leftovers
back into the lap of Our Great Lover?

Some find solace on the meditation cushion,
other disciples seek out the Calmer of Storms,
who calls us to wander the lonely places.

Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while. Mark 6:31

Fanning Flames

Yet, once awakened,
attuned to cries of affliction,
we are not inclined to slumber.

Why do our hearts not burst with sorrow
at the litany of lamentations?
Where is the indignation to mobilize the masses?

To care is to connect,
and feed the smoldering desire for change;
the hot hunger for hope.

As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he was moved inwardly with compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd… Mark 6:34

But do we really care,
enough to be charged,
and change the way we live our days?

Does not love burn us
with urgent ardor to heal,
and help upturn the skewed tables of torment?

Some would mold
this righteous restlessness
into a torch,

calling upon the sun of justice
to drive the death-dealers
from our earthly sanctuary.

Breathing Fire

Ours is no airy faith.
Nor is it only
ardent anger for action.

Flames needs oxygen,
the winds must
be warmed for movement.

Without air, the fire burns out.
Without fire,
stagnant winds die down.

As the heart is restored
even in its ceaseless rhythms,
can’t we find restoration in our rousing?

Feeding the fire, warming the air!
The world can scarcely
afford drowsy disciples.

Nor dare we spend our fuel
on what fails to satisfy,
forgetting to pause, ponder and conspire.

Tongues of fire come
to rest AND to rouse;
for we are bound together;

folded into ONE,
you and I,
by a raucous-spacious Spirit.

With no respect
for locks and boundaries,
lacking limits and loosening tongues,

we are impassioned
to speak peace to each heart
and breathe openness to every confinement;

to heat lukewarm hearts
and stir up
a storm of creative opportunity.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.  Naomi Shihab Nye

May you be touched and transformed
by the peaceful-passion of Pentecost.
God knows, the world needs it!

Bless you God…
who makes the winds your messengers,
fire and flame your ministers.  Psalm 104:1, 4

joe

Gracefully Grounded

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up, increasing and yielding thirty, sixty and a hundredfold.  Mark 4:8

Seeker,
When was the last time your soles graced the ground beneath your feet?

Daily, we tread
or trample
a lush carpet of life.

Upon this thin floor
of muddy vitality
the elements of our existence depend.

What disdainfully we call dirt
(as in dirty) or soil (as in soiled)
is actually the miracle beneath!

People usually consider walking on water or air a miracle.
But the real miracle is not to walk either on water or thin air, but to walk on earth.
Thich Nhat Hanh

Our given scriptural name
“ADAMAH” or “grounded one”,
describes our earthy roots.

“Human” reflects humble origins,
for we are “humus-beings”;
earthlings realized from sacred soil.

The Holy One formed “Adamah” from the dust of the ground, and breathed into its nostrils the breath of life. Genesis 2:7

Dirt is no dead thing.
Each topsoil ounce holds countless communities;
billions of invisible microorganisms.

One in four forms of life
on our planet
thrives in the dank recesses beneath our soles.

Unseen and unknown decomposers
recycle the necessary elements of life
till even deserts bloom in their season.

Earth purifies water, absorbs waste,
and, in the end, takes us all back
to remake our empty husk into a life-giver.

Source of nourishment,
sacred soil provides raw material for reality,
and cradles the bones of our ancestors.

Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. Exodus 3:5

When walking the woods,
for the recovery of soul,
I cast my gaze upon the loamy litter scattered about me.

Such mucky wisdom, earthy lessons,
fruits and seeds of innumerable seasons,
lie strewn at my feet.

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees takes off his shoes. Elizabeth Barret Browning

While briefly living along the Amazon,
I was awed by the community of crawlers
that cover every available centimeter of forest floor.

To this day, the aroma of wet leaves
carries me back
to my Amazonian epiphany—

from our insect planet
rooted in a thin film of mud,
every imaginable form of breathing life erupts;

from towering mahogany to scarlet macaws;
in over-abundance
we have yet to name.

In our fleeting lifespan we are gifted
with a multitude of graces
in three dimensions.

Illumined Grace gasps in wonder;
at sunsets, ocean vistas,
and misty mountain peaks.

Darker Graces visit us unbidden,
with the embrace of suffering;
the letting-go and losing of all we hold dear.

Then there is Earthed Grace
well-mixed into the messy buisness of living—
bounty revealed to the lowly, who live close to the ground.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

With dusty hands and muddied feet,
may you know gratitude for the blessing of being human,
graced to humbly walk God’s good garden.

joe