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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 Realm of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, no-one knows how.  

-Luke 4:26-27

Seeker,

Have you learned to trust in the re-creative power of Nature, when left alone, to astound you with possibilities unimagined?

 

Most of us, much of the time,

are so busy getting THERE

that we fail to realize we are already HERE.

 

Essential prayer is no more or less than this;

the desire and determination,

to be HERE and no place else.

 

For HERE is the stage

upon which the unfolding field of relationships—

God’s Realm— is set.

 

HERE is always beneath THERE… So often we imagine that THERE is more full of gold than HERE. It is the same with love and dreams and the work of our lives. We see the light everywhere but where we are, and chase after what we think we lack, only to find humbly, it was with us all along.

-Mark Nepo

 

For sure, we each have our part to play

(for good or ill)

in the drama of our days.

 

Yet we are not

the authors

of this eternally unraveling story.

 

HERE is neither the beginning,

nor the end

of the journey.

 

There is another Sovereign at work HERE,

a boundless mind, a wilder heart,

an infinite timeframe.

 

Like seed grain, packed with possibility,

the Domain of Mercy germinates by its own power,

in its own good time.

 

We do not make the garden grow,

we can but wake up to it, tend to the possibilities it offers,

enjoy the fruits of reality sprouting of its own accord.

 

Though we do not make it happen,

we can choose

to dwell HERE, or not.

 

With what can we compare the Realm of God..? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.  -Luke 4: 30-32

 

This weedy ground-of-being Realm of God

will not be constrained or contained.

It is mystery, too broad for small minds, too deep for shallow hearts.

 

Neither a territory, nor a State,

God’s domain is a state of being—

a new set of relationships to everything.

 

This encompassing horizon that recedes before us,

beckons and begs

the awakening of consciousness and connection.

 

With ways and means beyond us

our Mysterious Maker

works around us, sometimes through us, and often despite us.

 

And those people and places

we overlook and undervalue

are most laden with God-Realm potentiality.

 

For this is no trickle-down Reign from on high.

It is an eruption,

sprouting beneath the soles of our feet.

 

The lower we go,

the closer we are

to these humble seeds of possibility.

 

…Thoreau wrote, “I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.” By the power vested in everything living, let us keep to that faith. I’m a scientist who thinks it wise to enter the doors of creation not with a lion tamer’s whip and chair, but with the reverence humankind has traditionally summoned for entering places of worship: a temple, a mosque, or a cathedral. A sacred grove, as ancient as time.  – Barbara Kingsolver

 

We do not farm weeds.

They thrive in the wilds,

in lands neglected.

 

Left alone,

they crack the hardened soil

and transform dereliction into diversity, a shelter for abundant life.

 

No life forms—from the rain-forests to the phytoplankton

who give us this day our daily breath—

lie outside the cosmic Realm of Mercy, the Great Field of God.

 

Perhaps we have no handle

on God’s Reign

because it has no door.

 

May you take the path

that lies wide open HERE,

and scatter wildly the weed-seeds of forgiveness far and near.

 

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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