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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.

Hearts Disarmed

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Photo by Joe Grant @ 2018

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Matthew 5:9

Seeker,
When was the last time your heart cracked open?

Children, our dearest-best tutors,
draw out tenderness that softens calloused living;
evoking humble patience with invitations to be forgiving.

That primal urge to protect vulnerable life,
calls out courage and care;
in clearest reflection of our most Merciful Maker.

Bearing witness to atrocious violations—
bullying, abuse, neglect, mass murder—
against God’s dear ones, stirs rightful indignation.

No matter the depth of outrage
at the vile desecrations of violence,
the tools, tactics and arsenal of domination cannot bring healing.

Armored, coarsened hearts foment aggression,
whetting a thirst for retribution
with oppositional posturing that feasts on fear.

We are so tightly tangled together to be able to separate ourselves from one another either by good or by evil. We are all involved in all and any good, and in all and any evil… It is why God grieves and Christ’s wounds still are bleeding.            Wendell Berry

First comes catharsis in lamentation,
a torrent which begs release
to break upon us and break us open.

Rachel must cry to the heavens,
and we must look each other in the eye
to make room for remorse, which alone transfigures suffering.

A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.  Jeremiah 31:15

How else will minds be changed
if hearts cannot be cracked open;
to let light come in and love pour out?

Without this change of heart—
fasting-weeping-mourning—
a nation infatuated with violence will find no peace.

How many more of God’s precious children
must be sacrificed
before altars of economic exploitation?

Then Abraham took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Most High called from heaven, “Abraham!… Do not lay your hand on the child or do him any harm…”   Genesis 22:10-12

There is nothing noble in the manufacture of death;
nothing moral in the marketing of mass destruction;
nothing peaceful in the weaponizing of citizenship.

What delirium equates life and liberty
with the unrestrained freedom
to market monstrous instruments of death?

Daily, across a nation
awash in destructive devices,
gun violence lacerates lives; in city streets and school corridors.

Grief begs redress,
reconciliation requires admission of complicity;
the heartfelt desire to make amends and be made whole.

All your children shall be taught by the Holy One, and great shall be the prosperity of your children. In justice you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you.  Isaiah 54: 13-14

Healing begins with the humble admission
of fallibility, and gifts us with insight
into what it is to be human; what it takes to be holy.

Humbly we acknowledge our failure
to imagine safer, more compassionate
alternatives to life in these times.

Accepting that we are lost,
allows us to be led
into fresh beginnings for a new time.

As disciples of the Prince of Peace
may you follow that Holy Spirit into creative tension
between grief (for what is lost) and gratitude (for new possibilities given).

joe

Holding Fast

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by “diabolos” (the divider). He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. Matthew 4:1-2

Seeker,
What are you really hungry for?

Hunger and thirst
are the most primal drives in all Creation.
What we hanker after betrays our truest motivation.

An ancient, ubiquitous practice;
fasting is easily misunderstood
in a culture of consumption.

Whether we abstain for labs
or medical procedures,
fasting precedes some kind of test.

Yet, unlike dieting,
with its measurable goals,
fasting extends an open-ended invitation into solidarity.

Such emptying-out invites non-attachment,
and proposes a radical reorientation
of our relationships to life.

As full-bodied prayer,
fasting leads to physical desolation,
where we are sorely tempted

to gorge on spurious separations,
or lay bare our dependence
on the singular Source of all things.

Yet even now, says the Holy One, return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing.  Joel 2:12-13

Setting aside a personal appetite,
forgoing the appeal of a habit;
can allow gnawing awareness to grow into felt connection.

Far more than denial, fasting can be
the space-maker for the hopes and hungers
of famished neighbors, nations and Nature.

Resisting that drive to consume and control,
choosing incompleteness over satisfaction,
lets other struggles enter the belly of our lives.

And the emptiness we embrace,
that waits and wants to be filled,
holds possibility together with deprivation.

Out of that empty spot of silence
where we feel helpless, embarrassed, and powerless,
where we suffer from our own impotence
to stop the reign of death in our world.
Out of those depths we cry to you Holy One and say:
‘Lord have mercy.’  Henri Nouwen

In the dank chill of this wintry world,
where greed, violence and fear hold sway;
while we search hungrily for a glimmer of springtime;

May you lay bare your life
to the Holy craving for merciful redress;
that aching appetite for the healing of all wrongs.

And may you make room for those most sorely afflicted,
by exposing your heart to the parched desire
for deliverance, restoration and peace.

Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for justice, indeed you shall be filled.
Matthew 5:6

joe

Wake Up to Wonder

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2017

“God’s Realm is like someone who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day while the sower sleeps and rises, the seed sprouts and grows; they know not how.”        Mark 4:26

Seeker,
What awakens you to the hidden touches that grace your day?

If you are blessed
to wake up warmly
under soft clean sheets;

conjure the sun-drenched cotton,
gathered, dyed and woven, in places
where nimble fingers and sweat come cheaply.

For there are others
who emerge after a night under a bypass,
wreathed in cardboard, nestled in newspaper.

The rumble of natural gas
that ignites your furnace is Nature’s gift,
from petrified, primeval forests that now release their coveted sunlight.

Consider the once-green hilltops,
blasted-bare and gouged by hungry machines,
and communities that rely on this predatory production.

In order that we might live, stars in their millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions even, have died. The iron in our blood, the calcium in our bones, the oxygen that fills our lungs each time we take a breath – all were cooked in the furnaces of stars which expired long before the Earth was born.  Marcus Chown

You step into a steaming shower,
refreshed by waters from lakes and rivers re-directed,
piped and purified.

Remember too, that clean water
remains beyond the reach of millions,
who trek daily to standpipes and water-holes.

With underwear crafted in Bangladesh,
denim from Nicaragua, leather molded in Malaysia;
you are swathed in the weary work of the world.

Now you cradle your morning brew,
harvested in Sri Lanka or Guatemala,
in a mug fired in a Chinese factory.

You smear your breakfast bread,
baked in a far-flung city,
with summer fruits, gathered from fields unknown.

And, savoring the rush of sweetness,
you reflect on other hungers unabated;
for warmth, food, friendship, dignity.

Before stepping outside, to draw in
the morning freshness with the canticle of the birds,
already you are gift-wrapped in the wide world.

As you slept, a multitude of unseen hands
worked the land, shifted boxes, mined minerals,
and manufactured the materials of your morning,

while the good Earth relinquished
her bounty of soil and rolling rivers
to make this and each passing moment possible.

Radiance enlightens your morning
with the realization of the ageless interplay
of matter and energy, travail and tragedy; passion, death, resurrection.

Spidery filaments
of mystery, misery and magnificence
all entwine, to entangle us in the morning’s first communion.

This tracery of holy connection is revealed by dewdrops,
shimmering breezes and sparkling sunlight,
along with the frantic flapping of life, trapped in tragedy.

When next you step into the web of morning,
wearing the world and wondering about the Source,
may you be grateful for each momentary connection.

So I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call upon Your name.  Psalm 63:4

Only those who know
how blessed they are
can be a blessing to others.

How will you walk into this holy day?
joe