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Reflections

Reflections

In the Storm Still

Exploring "engaged presence" in the midst of the turbulence of our times.

 - reflections excerpted or carefully crafted to accompany you in your practice of 'engaged presence,' as you draw the world of crying need and awesome complexity into your heart and center.
 
In the Storm Still comes in regular installments as reflections, resources and reminders for engaging spirituality in times like these. Created by Joe Grant, Louisville, Kentucky. Reproduced with permission.

Un-Stuffing

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

Woe to you who are stuffed now, you will know a gnawing hunger.
Luke 6:25

Seeker,
Is there slice left in your life for one more person, problem or possibility?

In times like these it is hard to pray,
when my head is a repository without repose
and my home a warehouse of rooms without room;

when there’s no longer an ‘away’
in which to hide
the acquisitions of each day;

when my body is stuffed,
and days are crammed
with too many comings and goings.

This sorry tale is made sadder still
by a world of needs neglected
where greed goes guised as development.

The world would become better off
If people tried to become better.
And people would become better
If they stopped trying to become better off.
Peter Maurin

But we are shaped
by what we devour;
eaten-up by what we consume.

Such gorging and busying,
discarding without considering,
has now become the norm; no longer an aberration.

When less seems evermore elusive,
and living simply just one more thing to do,
how do we uncover the path that’s taken by the few?

Can you even imagine
what might our daily lives
be like…

if less were valued over more,
thrift rewarded,
and slowness and simplicity the traits of celebrity;

if humble, quiet living were applauded,
listening prized,
and littleness lauded;

For when everyone tries to become better off,
nobody is better off.
But when everyone tries to become better
everyone is better off.
Peter Maurin

if children were raised to reverence life,
soiled hands appreciated and gardeners honored;
and our heroes were softer rather than super;

if communities centered on
the lives most vulnerable,
and worldly ways were organized for care;

Everyone would be rich
if nobody tried to become richer,
and nobody would be poor
if everyone tried to be the poorest.
Peter Maurin

if people looked with sympathy
upon poor souls burdened by over-accumulation
and life’s greatest polluters received rehabilitation;

if mending and making-do replaced discarding,
and we punctuated each day
with gracious pauses to give our thanks away.

If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.
Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day.
And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Now imagine,
if you can,
what might happen

if you and I practiced un-stuffing,
and tried lightly-living, with slower, smaller steps
to shrink the footprint, we leave our children’s children.

What then might life really be like
for us and all our kin
with whom we share this most uncommon home?

The goodness of the sea be thine.
The goodness of the earth be thine.
The goodness of the sky be thine.
Celtic Blessing

joe

Weed Seeding

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

God’s Realm is like someone who scatters seed on the ground, then sleeps and rises night and day, while the seed sprouts and grows, no-one knows how. Luke 4:26-27

Seeker,
Have you witnessed the re-creative power of Nature?

Most of us, much of the time,
are so busy getting THERE
that we fail to realize we are already HERE.

In essence, prayer is no more or less than this:
a desire and determination,
to be HERE and no place else.

HERE is the stage
upon which the unfolding field of relationships—
God’s Realm— is set.

We see the light everywhere but where we are, and chase after what we think we lack, only to find humbly, it was with us all along. Mark Nepo

For sure, we each have a part to play,
for good or ill,
in the drama of our days.

Yet we are not
the author of this
eternally unspooling story.

And HERE is neither the beginning,
nor the end
of the journey.

HERE is another Artist at work—
Presence unbounded, wider in mind, wilder in heart—
on an immeasurable canvas.

Like seed grain, packed with possibility,
the Domain of Mercy germinates by its own power,
in its own good time.

We do not make the garden grow.
We awaken to it; tending to spontaneity that surfaces,
enjoying fruits that sprout of their own accord.

Though we do not make it happen,
we can choose
to dwell HERE, or not.

This weedy ground-of-being
will not be controlled or contained.
It is mystery; too broad for narrow minds, too deep for shallow hearts.

With what could we compare the Domain of the Divine? It is like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds; yet when sown, it grows into the greatest of all shrubs. Mark 4:30-32

Neither a territory, nor a State,
God’s Domain is an ever-new state of being—
in relationship with everything.

This encompassing horizon that recedes before us,
beckons the awakening
of consciousness and connection.

With ways and means far beyond us,
our Mysterious Maker
works around, sometimes through, and often despite us.

And those people and places
we overlook and undervalue
arrive laden with God-Realm potential.

For this is no trickle-down Reign from on high.
It is an eruption,
beneath our souls.

The lower we go,
the closer we come
to the humble seeds of possibility.

I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders. Henry David Thoreau

We cannot farm weeds.
They thrive in the wilds,
in outlands neglected.

Left alone,
they crack the hardest crust
to transform dereliction into diversity; a shelter for abundant life.

No life forms—from the rain-forests to phytoplankton
who give us this day our daily breath—
lie outside the cosmic sweep of creativity.

Perhaps we have no handle
on this Great Field
because it has no door.

May you take the path
that HERE opens,
and wildly scatter weedy seeds of forgiveness.

joe

Listen Freely

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

They brought him someone hard of hearing who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hands on the man. Leading him away from the crowd, he placed his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue and looking heavenward sighed and said, ‘Ephphatha’; ‘Be opened!’ Mark 7:32-34

Seeker,
What does it take to open your heart?

Are you following all the surface chatter;
that social media static—
a billion voices buzzing?

Inundated by a multitude of messages,
so much is being said
about the power and prerogatives of free speech,

but who is freely listening—
opening a receptive space,
leaning in close, with focused attention?

Myriad opportunities present themselves every day,
inviting us to incline our heads
and expose our core.

Listen carefully… to the master’s instructions,
and attend to them with the ear of your heart.

From the prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict

Though there are countless modes of communication,
and immeasurable ways to attend to life,
gentle listening is the silent language of love.

We can listen for the strike;
the clash and clamor of events;
action and reaction in the explosive cloud of crisis and conflict.

Then, there is heartfelt attention,
attuned to the lingering resonances;
residual whispers of lives barely noticed.

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. Henri Nouwen

When mistrust breeds fear, injustice brews resentment,
and violation begets revenge,
we are bidden to listen through threats and past tears.

Will we listen till we hear
our lives and our hopes,
echoed in the cries of other voices?

Dare we wade deeply enough into realities
to acknowledge their complexity
and our complicity?

Can listening be our avenue
to share pains and bring hidden possibilities to light?
Otherwise, how might we come close to understanding?

Incline your ear to me; answer swiftly on the day when I call. Psalm 102:2

Leaning in to listen to another,
paying heed to a need beyond my own,
re-places the center of gravity outside me and mine.

We can ill-afford to reject
this defining orientation of our humanity;
an authentic expression of our God-likeness.

May we not abandon listening
but rather listen with abandon,
throwing wide the hinges of our hearts.

For healing happens when together we listen
to the LIFE within our lives; to the timeless tale
playing out behind and between our varied accounts.

We can listen our way out
of anger, if we let the heart
soften the wolf we keep inside.
Mark Nepo

Much harder than simply hearing;
we listen with our eyes,
with our faces and our entire being.

As you attend to the wind and the song-birds’ chatter,
to sea creatures and the silent stars,
let listening be your first, most enduring prayer.

And may you listen freely with the Great Listener,
for signals of resilient hope and signs of tenacious life
beneath the events of our times.

joe