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.
I tell you truly, unless a wheat grain falls into earth and dies, it remains just a grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24
What keeps you awake and wondering?
Scolded by a blue jay,
brashly inserting himself into the grey morning,
I am chided out of numb amnesia.
Arrested at the crossroads by a brave soul,
I breathlessly pause to watch
her navigate puddles in an electric wheelchair.
Accosted by a rasping skein of geese,
low on the wing over the urban desert,
I look up at life that insistently breaks into my brooding.
Then, a surgical slice of sunlight
dissects the day and, without my consent,
totally and silently transfigures reality.
How many interventions does it take
to unfetter us from automatic living,
and liberate us to breathe, see, connect and care with deliberation?
Flooded with news reports and troubling images of human suffering, we often feel our complete inability to help. What can we do to avoid being caught up in this spiral of distress and powerlessness?
In this world of divisions and subdivisions;
carved up by taxonomies of race, class, culture;
we are tempted to reinforce our stockades of self-protection.
As terror’s hot hatreds scald societies—
outside the window, over the wall, across the tracks—
anxiously we watch, worry, hope, and pray they won’t come here.
Seeking security, however tenuous,
can calcify our hearts, turning people into problems
and pains into issues always too big to handle.
Playing on our fears,
cold indifference seeps into living rooms, work places
and most especially into churches.
A heart broken and remorseful, O Holy One, you shall not spurn.
What might it mean
for folk like you and me
to wake, walk, wonder and live each golden day differently?
Much is said about ‘making a difference’,
but when motivations and manners remain the same,
nothing really seems to change.
Perhaps the invitation
of spring’s explosion
is to be made different, from the inside out.
Take away the quietness
of a clear conscience.
Press us uncomfortably.
For only thus
that other peace is made. Helder Camara
This is as much about dying
as it is about rediscovering and responding to resilient life,
in places and people once considered beyond repair.
We need to be both discomforted and inspired,
to wakefully welcome
each blessed and broken-open day.
As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. Thomas Merton (March 18th, 1958)
Would you dare to dispel indifference
by living lightly, as you shoulder the yoke
of this day’s wonders and woes with rinsed eyes?
The wind blows where it will, and you hear its sound,
but you know not from whence it came or where it’s bound.
So it is with all, of the Spirit born. John 3:8
What might you do to change this world?
When the climate changes—
whether political or environmental—
as it is wont to do,
and we are powerless to affect it,
sink our roots deeper;
deeper than fire and flood;
deeper than drought and despair;
deeper than fear and fury;
beyond and below the reach
of trends, tempests and
When the wind shifts—
whether social, cultural or religious—
as it is prone to do,
and we cannot redirect it,
reset our sails.
In prayerful attention
we sink our souls deeper
to ground ourselves in the Perennial Presence.
In prophetic contemplation
we raise our sheet
into the Prevailing Power,
to harness the momentum
the restless turn of time and tide.
So, rather than run
we can also choose
to root our souls.
And rather than attack
the blow and bluster,
we can also learn to tack into it.
Thus, do we chart a course,
the cosmic sweep of stars,
and pattern our lives,
attuned to that radiant, perpetual pulse;
the Sacred Hub of Compassion.
But if we would write
which is wider than wounds
we have worn,
we might wield words
within all things. Bernadette Miller
In a universe in constant motion,
change is always coming;
the revolving refrain of a grand celestial dance.
Through this ceaseless movement of wind and weather
in world affairs, one question remains:
How will we receive, respond and reflect change-ability?
May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.
May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take. John O’ Donohue
We have already entered
the rough waters and rapids of global climate change,
with all its incumbent social upheaval.
Yet, our ancestors also endured trials;
weathering the turbulence of conquests, empires
and global wars that bred ethnocide and genocide.
Now, we face the fearful possibility of ecocide—
the mindless desolation of the one home, loaned by our Maker
for those living generations yet to come.
And perhaps never before, in history’s long arc,
has the inheritance of so many
been squandered so swiftly by the recklessness of so few.
For change is surely upon us and changes are sorely needed.
Each alone, and all together,
we must weigh the price of change with cost of inaction,
so that, rooted deeply and reaching widely,
we might remain anchored through the shifting seasons,
as we navigate the tumultuous currents of our treacherous times.
And may you, dear seeker,
care enough to bare your soul
and daringly raise a sail that will lead to a change of course.
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
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
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.