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.
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. John 9:5
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.
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
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!
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;
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
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.
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
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
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