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Photo by Joe Grant © 2016

Photo by Joe Grant © 2016

Before You the whole world is like a speck that tips the scales, like a drop of morning dew that falls on the ground. But You are merciful to all, You who can do all things, You who overlook our falling short, so we may repent. For You love all things that exist, and detest no thing You have ever made, for you would not have made anything if you had hated it. How would anything have endured if You had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by You have been preserved? You spare all things, for they are Yours, Most Holy, You who love the living.

-Wisdom 11:22-26

Seeker,

With places to go and needs all around, how are you most likely to be found?     

 

In life,

some are runners, others are reservoirs,

Both are necessary.

 

Once a conductor of motion and sound,

at another time and place,

I am now intent on being still, becoming a holding space.

 

My running days long-gone,

it is a slower current I seek—

deeper-wider restoration.

 

There are others, thanks be,

nimble, fresh, and ready to run,

who are eager to turn possibilities into projects.

 

Yet, we all crave refreshment,

re-sourcing from creativity’s font—

a well of mercy to make us well.

 

At the center of our being is Being itself, and in this we are ultimately sustained and come to know ourselves as we truly are. -Cynthia Bourgeault

 

In all our coming and going—

days of doing, demanding, desiring—

how on earth do we stay well-grounded?

 

And how do we get ourselves back, body and soul,

from NEXT to NOW, from THERE to HERE,

from THAT into THIS?

 

In any moment, our first act is simply being,

being present, being now (not then), being here (not there),

being this (not that). Might this be true purpose of prayer?

 

When we present ourselves to life,

the moment expands to let us see

we what we can do, where we might go, and who life calls us to be.

 

While there is much to do,

We are not here to do.

Under the want to problem-solve

Is the need to being-solve. -Mark Nepo

 

With each breath, practice being,

every sigh breathing attitude into action

in a singular desire to dissolve into NOW! HERE! THIS!

 

Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
   -T. S. Eliot

 

May you clear a way

at least once a day

to pause, to rest, and to restore.

 

And may you hold open a holding space,

in this tempest-tossed time,

for the ones who have no choice but to be on the run.

 

joe

A Note of Thanks

After twelve amazing years on the staff of JustFaith Ministries, I have retired from full-time employment.

My heartfelt thanks to all of you who have followed and shared Still In the Storm over its five years and nearly two hundred posts. This blog site will be retired in July, 2016.

Copies of the Still In the Storm publication are available through JustFaith Books and Videos: http://justfaith.org/shop/

Those willing to continue exploring “engaged presence” with me will be prompted in July to follow my new blog:

In the Storm Still.

With a grateful heart,

joe

Photo by Joe Grant © 2016

Photo by Joe Grant © 2016

God reigns! Let earth rejoice and the many coastlands be glad!

The heavens declare your righteousness

as the people behold your glory.

-Psalm 97: 1, 6

 

 

Seeker,

How have you welcomed, celebrated, shared the blessed sacrament of today?

 

Sacraments are not magic,

they are messy, majestic,

and at their core, mysterious.

 

Pungent though they be,

we don’t see what we don’t see.

To resurrection’s ubiquitous release, how blind can we be?

 

Pollen to irritate the eyes,

perfumes and resplendent bouquets

to overwhelm the senses.

 

Still the miracle fails to arrest us,

draw us out of our heads,

teach humility, school us in awe.

 

First we must free ourselves

from fractious fears,

and frustrations.

 

For every day is earth day

when we open the soul’s window

to let in the bird-song Psalms.

 

Now we practice holy communion,

the sacramental act of breath-receiving and returning—

first and final sounds we ever make.

 

In the face of that first inhalation,

in the wake of that final exhalation,

surely all else pales.

 

This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dry all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.

-John Muir

 

I went one day

for a walk into the woods,

and time lost track of me.

 

So, on I amble, and sometimes stumble,

knowing less and less about anything

and more and more about everything.

 

Don’t we need to lose sight to regain vision?

And knowing we are blind might be the first prerequisite

to letting ourselves be led into the path of another’s pain.

 

…you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied…
-Warsan Shire

 

In all this wide,

wonderful and woeful universe,

all that is real is love.

 

We understand this best

when letting-go of what and whomsoever

we have come to love

 

For we do not, cannot make love.

We can only welcome it,

make room to receive it, share it with abandon.

 

This is our sacramental mission,

from first breath to final.

Love is not attachment; it is release, losing, falling, letting-go.

 

Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live. It is embarrassing to live! Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder, for the gift of our unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great.

-Abraham Heschel

 

How has the blessed-broken sacrament of life touched you?

 

joe

Photo by Joe Grant © 2016

Photo by Joe Grant © 2016

Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back. Luke 6:37-38

Seeker,

Do you worry and wonder at what is happening to us?

 

In times of frustration, fear and fury

we are tempted to protect personal assets,

throw walls around territories, stock up for scarcity.

 

The manipulation of messages

preys upon silent masses, milking the venom of vindictiveness,

heightening our instinct  to hold back.

 

With disgraceful insinuations and petulant pronouncements

some strive to segregate or scapegoat—

so easy to conquer the so-well divided.

 

Others storm the bastion of righteousness

to poison youthful passion with hatred and horror

guised as honor or holiness.

 

As the bar of acceptable human behavior sinks,

insults and ideologies

spiral into violent idolatries.

 

Bluster builds to an acrimonious squall.

Hatred fuels a whirlwind of flapping flags,

fiery crosses, prideful parades of power…

 

And lodged deep, in grainy black and white,

a memory of dread-full times (not so long past)

stirs up a disorienting dose of déjà vu.

 

A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ Mark 4:37-40

 

What bridge can span

the canyon of bitter segregation,

amid a hailstorm of threats and taunts?

 

Who dares display

the necessary remorse

that gives way to mutual pardon?

 

No holding back tears now!

Only mercy’s unction can

unhinge the encrusted doorway to peace.

 

With courageous resolution

the reckless risk of love-over-control

gently uncaps a well of great-fullness.

 

Now,  generosity and gratitude

overflow at the bounty of blessings

received and given and shared.

 

Try saying this silently to everyone and everything you see for thirty days: “I wish you happiness now and whatever will bring happiness to you in the future.” If we said it to the sky, we would have to stop polluting; if we said it when we see ponds and lakes and streams, we would have to stop using them as garbage dumps and sewers; if we said it to small children, we would have to stop abusing them, even in the name of training; if we said it to people, we would have to stop stoking the fires of enmity around us. Beauty and human warmth would take root in us like a clear, hot June day. We would change.  Joan Chittister

 

Will you bare

a listening heart

to a torrent of tirades?

 

Will you uncover the font of forgiveness

and dwell in abundance

till fear itself dissolves?

 

joe

Photo by Joe Grant © 2016

Photo by Joe Grant © 2016

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’  -Mark 1:40-41

Seeker,

What if we’re responsible for the things and people we touch?

 

At this moment,

no matter where you find yourself,

for sure you’re touching something manufactured.

 

Most likely you’re handling plastic,

wreathed as we are

in all things synthetic.

 

Let your eyes rest on a multitude of objects,

surfaces, clothes, and containers,

made in places distant, by fingers unseen.

 

Such miraculous manipulations of oil,

Earth’s ancient ancestral legacy,

now made solid and see-through, pliable and nearly everlasting.

 

Replacing wood and stone, leather and bone,

clay, glass, and steel,

the blessing of petrochemical polymers has become a blight.

 

Now, unless we radically redirect

this working, wanting, wasting spree,

three decades more and plastic trash will outweigh all the fish in the sea.

 

The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.   -Pope Francis

 

Whatsoever we do

unto to God’s good Creation

that we do unto to God’s precious people.

 

This is disaster of our own doing,

billions of lives— without exception or exemption—

trapped in spirals of consuming and discarding.

 

How can goods be good for us

if they’re not good for all,

for plants, plankton, people, for creatures great and small?

 

And how to disentangle

practiced patterns and appetites

from the ruination of creation, throwing life and lives away?

 

They have made my land a desolation;
desolate, it mourns to me.
The whole land is made desolate,
but no one lays it to heart.
   -Jeremiah 12: 11

 

Perhaps, like all things “soiled”,

imperceptibly it starts,

as sap in Springtime rises with the warming wind.

 

We become aware, we look around, we reach out

to whatever crosses our palms or graces our eyes—

coffee-cups, computer keys, handshakes, branches, and holy, sunlit leaves…

 

Touched thus by life, God-made and human-shaped,

we can wonder at creation,

contemplate components, count the costs and the casualties of things.

 

We might try to re-trace the stories

of the stuff that stuffs our days

back to each beginning, its very sacred Source.

 

The little yellow flowers that nobody notices on the edge of that road are saints looking up into the face of God.   -Thomas Merton

 

Whether wood or rock, paper, plastic, or person,

are we not, in some way responsible,

for whatever, whomsoever we touch?

 

To Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

might we also add this Lenten pair—

Reflect and Return gratitude to the Source of All, and all those in between?

 

So regularly may we re-Source our lives,

to be cleansed and healed of hurting and hoarding,

till graciously we release the good to us so freely given.

 

How will you follow the trails of blessing and burden that touch your life?

 

joe

Photo by Joe Grant © 2015

Photo by Joe Grant © 2015

I no longer call you slaves, because slaves do not know their master’s business; I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything…

-John 15:15

 

Seeker,

How has friendship shaped, broken, and mended you?

 

We are not natural solitaries.

We are gatherers,

the most relational of all mammals.

 

From first touch to last breath,

we reach for connection,

our lifelong longings knit into belonging.

 

In the vicinity of relationship—

family, friend, neighborhood, tribe—

we come to know who we are and how to be human.

 

For we are born

missing a piece,

never whole (or holy) till we are part of.

 

Enticed by intimacy,

we defy difference and distance

in order to be bonded.

 

More than our abilities and choices,

beyond our actions or omissions,

it is our friendships that most clearly define us.

 

Friendship, that sound vessel

which carries us over oceans of ideology and culture,

keeps us together through the storms of life.

 

You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.

-Thomas Merton

 

In a hyper-individualized world,

notions of friend, community, connection

have become plastic.

 

The twin burdens

of commitment and co-responsibility

have been lightened,

 

while commodity

gains ascendancy

and “like” usurps “love”.

 

The finger taps which let us

share pictures and messages,

remain a shallow substitute for really being in touch.

 

In times like these

there may be no more endangered species

than the true and lasting friend.

 

Friends live in the shelter of one another.

-Celtic Proverb

 

The real virtue and practice

of friendship involves being in touch:

walking, watching, waiting, wondering, weeping… together.

 

Such befriending is a spiritual discipline

that requires cultivation,

a lifetime of tending and mending.

 

For friends must cover the cost of caring

if relationships are to ripen,

and bring sweetness to life.

 

I acknowledge there is no sweetness
that doesn’t leave a stain,
no sweetness that’s ever sufficiently sweet.

-Stephen Dunn

 

From club to collective, from committee to community,

from solidarity to friendship,

this is our pathway to the beloved circle.

 

Real friendship rides

the relentless tides of time,

that shift the sands of shared memory.

 

Only by keeping in touch

can friends take their bearings,

lovingly looking upon life together.

 

The sense of ourselves delivered by friendship is unparalleled.

 It is absolutely the right thing for us struggling human beings.

-Eugene Kennedy

 

If Eucharist is community’s culmination,

bread and wine of magnanimity—

one body blessed and broken,

 

then friendship is its distillation,

eighth sacrament dripping golden unanimity—

one soul shared by many.

 

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!

-Psalm 133:1

 

Lasting friendship, forged in trust,

is a virtue begging attention, demanding depth,

and transfiguring the substance of life.

 

As ever-rising waves of woe

break upon this world we love,

the firelight of friendship can help us banish despair.

 

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

-John 15:13

 

What might you lay down

for the sake

of such lasting love?

 

May you this day find your way

to touch those friendships, fine and few,

that have shaped and made you, you.

 

(For the sake of your soul,

the health of our family, and the love of our common home,

get in touch with a good friend today!)

joe

 

Click here to order:  Still In The Storm

Photo by Joe Grant © 2015

Photo by Joe Grant © 2015

The things that truly last are only three— FAITH which flowers first, HOPE whose seeds we cannot see,  and LOVE the fruit of letting-go, the joy of setting free.  

1 Corinthians 13: 13 (Adapted)

Seeker,

Where do you hunt for hope, and who looks for hope in you?

 

The young lean

into the future,

filled with promise.

 

The old recline

on the past,

cushioned by memory.

 

The wise sink

into the present,

soaked in possibility.

 

“We love this magnificent planet on which God has put us, and we love the human family which dwells here, with all its tragedies and struggles, its hopes and aspirations, its strengths and weaknesses.”  Pope Francis

 

There is a story

about a neighbor

searching in the long grass.

 

“What are you looking for?”

a friend inquired.

“I lost my key,” the neighbor replied.

 

“Where did you drop it?”

the friend continued,

eager to help.

 

“In my house.” declared the neighbor.

Astonished, the friend asked,

“Then why are looking out here?” 

 

“Oh, it’s much too dark in there,”

the neighbor concluded, and continued

a fruitless search in entirely the wrong place.*

 

“We have been called to be fruitful – not successful, not productive, not accomplished. Success comes from strength, stress, and human effort. Fruitfulness comes from vulnerability and the admission of our own weakness.” Henri Nouwen

 

Watching the weather, we worry and wonder

about what will become of us,

and whether we can morph from life-takers into life-makers.

 

It is such useless toil, however,

to run our lives

on the fumes of optimism.

 

For clever science can neither save us

nor adequately describe

the depth of our dilemma.

 

No matter where we turn,

on this spinning, blue-green globe

there is everywhere upwelling a hunger for hope.

 

Why then would hope elude us,

unless we are seeking her

in all the wrong places?

 

Afraid of the deep dark of unknowing,

avoiding those light-blind places

where lives languish and troubles threaten to unseat us,

 

keyless and clueless,

we opt to become victim

and perpetrator of mass distraction.

 

How else might hope find us

unless we choose

to dwell in the shadow…

 

Holding

On, despite the dark, to

People with nothing left but aching

Expectation of newness.

 

“Hope is not a matter of waiting for things outside us to get better. It is about getting better inside about what is going on inside. It is about becoming open to the God of newness… Surrendering to the demands of the moment, holding on, when holding on seems pointless, brings us to that point of personal transformation… we hope because we have no reason not to hope.”  Joan Chittester

 

The only name

which does not diminish the Divine

is “SURPRISE!”**

 

While not all surprises are pleasant,

they are by nature unpredictable,

even unexpected.

 

“Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.”  Pope Francis

 

Turn your face to the sun, the Maori say,

and the shadows fall always behind you.

May this be you practice and your blessing today.

 

joe

 

*Adapted from The Song of the Bird, by Anthony de Mello.

** Wisdom from David Steindl-Rast.

 

Click here to order:  Still In The Storm

Photo by Joe Grant © 2015

Photo by Joe Grant © 2015

Praise be to God from the earth, you sea monsters and all the deeps of the sea; Lightning and hail, snow and thick clouds, storm wind that fulfills God’s command; Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars; Animals wild and tame, creatures that crawl and birds that fly.  -Psalm 148:7-10

Seeker,

How do your daily choices give praise to the Source and thanks for the gift of life?

 

Steward-ship not owner-ship

is the craft capable of preserving

an inheritance entrusted to all generations.

 

Maker of All does not

favor only some,

but out-pours abundance on each and everyone.

 

It is not to people alone

that garden Earth is given on loan,

for this life-making miracle belongs to none but the Holy One.

 

Then God said to Noah and to his family, ‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. -Genesis 9:8-10

 

Lately it seems

we are awakening

to the tragic cost of over-consumption.

 

Threatened at every level by exploitation,

sacrificed for human industry,

sacred life is turned tribute to the gods of gratification.

 

And poverty—

by-product of human engineering—

has reduced holy creatures to objects of “economic calculus.”

 

…earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor… -Pope Francis

 

Such loss of reverence

in our relationship to the tapestry of creation

leaves our children a legacy of despoilment and desecration.

 

Though we wave flags and stake claims,

none can own the sun, the earth, the winds or rains.

This still is God’s country, every mile and millimeter.

 

…we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, physical or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference… These situations have caused sister earth, along with all the abandoned of our world, to cry out, pleading that we take another course. Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home…  -Pope Francis

 

Many are the fields

in God’s great garden,

sown with mysteries that ask for humble care.

 

Created for contemplation and communion,

we are made to till and tend and ponder

the wilds of this world.

 

How then can we tolerate

the squalor to which

God’s dear ones are consigned?

 

This news is not so new.

It is a cascade of consequences

now come to shock us out of comfortable isolation.

 

What the earth will make of our tinkering and abuse can be modeled by computers but is, in the end, beyond our reckoning, our science. Nature is not simply done to. Nature responds. Nature talks back. Nature is willful. We have no dominion over the wild darkness that surrounds us. -Eva Saulitis

 

There still may be another path open to us.

Despite the detritus of decades,

we just might find our way back to grounded living.

 

Perhaps it starts with daily devotion

to an unnoticed plot or person,

or little choices, mindfully made, to simplify, slow and show our care.

 

An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness. -Pope Francis     

 

In days to come may you come home to yourself,

your work an act of worship, your rest a grateful praise,

your loved ones every creatures that meets your gracious gaze.

 

Happy those who endure in peace, by you Most High they will be crowned.  -St. Francis of Assisi

joe

Click here to order: Still In The Storm

Still In the Storm

Carefully crafted reflections that accompany you in your practice of 'engaged presence,' as you draw the world of crying need and awesome complexity into your heart and center.

A resource for engaging spirituality in times like these.

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