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 he went ashore, he saw an immense crowd; and he was deeply moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34
Who restores your trust in the kindness of humankind?
Listen, learn, be led!
This is how we come to know
who to love, how to serve, and as a faithful flock be fed.
On the crosswalk
I saw him
step right in front of me.
Head bent, as in prayer,
bravely he flashed a look.
In one eternal instant
brown eyes met grey,
and what might be menacing appeared monastic.
I’m not a statistic
I’m not the inches in somebody’s column…
I am at odds with all that requires me to be a symbol.
I insist on being real. Kathy Galloway
Fear breeds mistrust,
presenting parasitic opportunities
to make some predators and others prey.
How many of your younger sisters and brothers
are daily endangered in predatory cities?
How much life is threatened by soulless predation?
And who will tend such troubled souls,
and attend to lives without opportunity or refuge?
Who cares for the trafficked, fragmented flock of the Holy One?
Beware pastoral pretenders, trapped in trappings,
who wield authority by blaming and shaming,
lambasting the lost, ignoring the wounded.
We too become predators
when we allow diabolical dread and rapacious greed
to divide us and lead us astray.
The Holy One is my shepherd, I shall not want. Psalm 23:1
Engaging deeper expectations, prophetic people meet rejection.
Persecuted by the presumptive powers they threaten,
they are caricatured as wolves.
Such prophets are not people ahead of their time.
They are simply single-hearted souls
who have penetrated the signs of these times.
Called in crisis,
they sound alarms with urgency,
but only because there is much to be alarmed about.
How can modern Christianity have so solemnly folded its hands while so much of the work of God was and is being destroyed? Wendell Berry
Focused by the lens of faith,
their surgical critique illuminates what is not,
to highlight what and who we might become.
Prophetic people are truth-dwellers.
Gathering the scattered, they refuse to inhabit the gloom
by choosing to walk together toward what can and will be.
With the medicine of mercy
they brew a tonic of hope
and begin to rebuild what has been ruined.
May you embrace every prophetic opportunity
afforded you this day
to be folded back into this fuller flock.
One light; many candles.
One sky; many stars.
One sea; many rivers.
One Love; many hearts. Noel Paul Stookey
…a messenger from the Most High appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt,
and abide there until I tell you…” Matthew 2:13
If you had to, how far would you go to find safe haven for your family?
Ever-emerging, erupting, evolving;
explosive creativity from boundless devotion;
life is miracle in constant motion.
No calculus or static system
explains this transubstantiation;
energy and matter in infinite re-formation.
Day unto day pours forth speech, night unto night declares knowledge.
No speech, no words, no voice is heard;
yet their song resounds through all the earth,
their words to the edge of the world. Psalm 19:2-4
Blizzards of spiraling galaxies,
upheld in cosmic flow,
slow-dance to eternal rhythms that none can ever know.
Our swirling dust-mote planet,
in radiant eddy bright,
makes her endless circuit around a lonely light.
All on earth is mobile;
flowing river of relations;
as tides and seasons come then go without a destination.
See the Earth as a point compared with the vast circles it describes.
Stand amazed that this circle itself is only a tiny point in relation to the course traced by the stars revolving in the firmament; that the whole visible world is no more than an imperceptible speck in the ample bosom of nature. Blaise Pascal
Ponder mass migrations
that very few will see,
of wildebeest and caribou, butterfly and bee.
On grassy plain and foaming fathom,
clouded sky and forest floor,
living things on epic journeys stream and teem and ever soar.
Have you glimpsed those fast formations
riding high on tides of air,
undulating skeins of cranes that float from here to who knows where?
A blade of grass is commonplace on Earth; it would be a miracle on Mars…
And if a blade of grass is priceless, what is the value of a human being? Carl Sagan
And then our own dear story
about a vagabond race,
compelled by such a sacred ache to find our one true place.
Empires forged now lie fragmented,
shards of shifting states, after waves of exploitation,
spoils of conquest, war and subjugation.
Who dares stem humanity’s migrant stream
or shut out the refugee in flight,
that hopes for hospitality; shelter from the storms of night?
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land… Warsan Shire
No barbed-wire boundary,
line or law, can make us alienate
those who arrive, in Christ disguise, to stand before our gate.
The alien who resides with you shall be to you as a citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. Leviticus 19: 34
Now let the hinge of mercy creak,
and do your very best
to make a space at least for one, and pray for all the rest!
I was a stranger and you welcomed me… Matthew 25:35
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21
What keeps you grounded through the seasons of your life?
After decades of practice, studying the scales,
weights and measures of an integrated life,
I’ve let go of almost everything I once held.
The heart is stretched through suffering and enlarged.
But O the agony of this enlarging of the heart,
that one may be prepared to enter into the anguish of others!
Thomas R. Kelly
For a while, my pantheon
housed an array of minor deities,
each vowing to carry me closer to fulfillment.
Disciplines of asceticism, rigor and repetition,
devotional ardor, meditation and mindfulness,
philosophical argument, right action and social concern…
…each took a turn on the podium,
pointing out pathways to perfection,
promising to uplift or nudge me further along.
Blessed be you, mighty matter, irresistible march of evolution,
reality ever newborn; you who,
by constantly shattering our mental categories,
force us to go ever further and further
in our pursuit of the truth. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Now, at home with ample weaknesses,
I am spreading wide,
slowing like an aged river.
My desire to savor life,
in its myriad emanations,
has become prayer.
And knowing we have a brief time
to walk the soft grass together,
I intend to take my time and share it generously.
When seeds germinate,
roots come first,
drawn by gravity to penetrate earth’s loamy heart.
In my ceaseless to-ing and fro-ing,
it is the grave
that draws me down.
Grave human realities
hold me here,
rooted in place and time.
Life seldom disappoints
if we are determined
to stay awake and engaged.
Whether in tatters at the losses of the day,
or smiling at my own awkward antics,
I am delighted
by the fragrant bounty of wild flowers,
or the aerial gymnastics of swallows, open-mouthed in the wind.
…when present in the moment, I view life more deeply,
I meet life through an awakened sensibility,
and I make more peaceful decisions…
Like all of us, I struggle
with trying to control what happens
and trying to participate in what happens. Mark Nepo
Gravity and levity, soul and spirit,
mind and body, wonder and woe…
there is room for this and more in a life slowly savored.
So, what makes for a well-lived life?
What is expected of us?
Haven’t we already been told?
The Holy One has told you, O mortal,
what is good; and what does the Almighty require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:6-8
Gratitude is the motive for justice;
Mercy the courageous response to every situation;
Humility the honest pathway to fullness of humanity.
Abundant life reveals itself
the moment we cease
expecting, wanting, needing something else or more.
As we cycle through the mysteries
of living to die and dying to live,
may you take your time to suffer and savor with those you love.