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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

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2015

Photo by Joe Grant © 2015

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against such things.

-Galatians 5:22-23

 

Seeker,

What will it take to slow you down?

 

The continued acceleration of changes affecting humanity and the planet is coupled today with a more intensified pace of life and work which might be called “rapidification”…the speed with which human activity has developed contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution. -Pope Francis

 

When walking the woods,

nothing in Nature

ever urges me to move faster.

 

Should you walk into life,

lingering to let the soul catch up,

your stroll might become a pilgrimage.

 

And realizing your “pilgrim-hood”,

you might receive every sign

as a message from the “Wholly Present One”.

 

Where am I going? I’m going
out, out for a walk. I don’t
know where except outside.
Outside argument, out beyond
wallpapered walls, outside
wherever it is where nobody
ever imagines.  
   -Philip Booth

 

A homemade sign,

at a four-way stop proclaims:

“Slow down, children at play!”

 

What might it take I wonder,

for me, for you, for those who are dear,

to slow our pace for all children far and near?

 

How can we find peace, true peace, if we forget that we are not machines for making and spending money, but spiritual beings, sons and daughters of the most high God?    

-Thomas Merton

 

Deluged daily by inundations of information,

we are awash in a swell

of contrasting and comparing,

 

expecting, wanting,

needing more,

better, quicker, sooner.

 

There is around and in us all

a cult of consumption, a climate of competition,

and a craving for achievement.

 

But might we show

by spacious pace and living slow

that every creature merits our attentive care?

 

Amid whirling crises, fueled by fanatical fear,

could the way to peace, in the urgency of this age,

begin by slowing … every thing … down?

 

Slower and lower, and less not more:

could just be the pathway

that cuts through earth’s dark night?

 

Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all
to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity.
It is right and it is duty.
  -Oscar Romero

 

Imagine relationship

valued over achievement,

and caring holding sway over competing.

 

What if contemplating

overruled calculating,

and giving-in won over winning?

 

For surrender, not vindication, is the way to reconciliation,

and peace is the fruit of a willingness

to compassionately dissolve distance.

 

It is so easy to simply get too busy to grow. It is so easy to commit ourselves to this century’s demand for product and action until the product consumes us and the actions exhaust us and we can no longer even remember why we set out to do them in the first place. -Joan Chittister

 

Much more

than the halting of hostility

or the absence of aggression,

 

peace is surely cultivated

by the prevalence of pardon,

and ripened by courageous reconciling.

 

Will YOU walk slower, would YOU live lower,

to safeguard God’s children today,

who simply wish to wonder and hope to play?

 

Then let the leaves fall,

and as you watch them letting go,

may they slowly undo the doings of your day.

 

joe

 

 

Click here to order:  Still In The Storm for Advent!

Photo by Joe Grant © 2015

Photo by Joe Grant © 2015

You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it.    -Psalm 65:9

 

Seeker,

Is there space in your life for one more thing, person, problem, or possibility that demands attention and presence?

 

In times like these, it is hard to pray

when my head is a repository without repose,

and my home a warehouse of rooms without room,

 

when there’s no longer an ‘away’

in which to hide

the accumulations of this day,

 

when my body is stuffed,

and my days are crammed

with comings and goings.

 

This sorry tale is made sadder still

in a world of needs neglected

where greed goes guised as development.

 

…our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. -Pope Francis

 

Stuffing and busying,

and discarding without considering,

this now is the norm, no longer the aberration.

 

When less is ever more elusive,

and living simply just one more thing to do,

how do we take the track toward un-stuffing?

 

The world would become better off
If people tried to become better.
And people would become better
If they stopped trying to become better off. 
-Peter Maurin

 

Can you even imagine

what our daily lives

might be like…

 

if less were valued over more,

if thrift were rewarded,

and slowness and simplicity became the traits of celebrity,

 

if quiet, humble living were applauded,

if listening were prized,

and littleness were lauded,

 

For when everyone tries to become better off,
nobody is better off.
But when everyone tries to become better
everyone is better off.
  -Peter Maurin
 

if children were raised down to reverence life,

if soiled hands were appreciated and gardeners honored,

and our heroes were softer rather than super,

 

if communities centered on

the lives most vulnerable,

and worldly ways were organized for care,

 

if people looked with sympathy

upon those poor souls burdened by wealth

and life’s greatest polluters received rehabilitation,

 

if mending and making do replaced discarding,

and we punctuated each day

with pauses to give our thanks away.

 

Everyone would be rich
if nobody tried to become richer,
and nobody would be poor
if everyone tried to be the poorest.
-Peter Maurin

 

Now imagine,

if you can,

what might happen

 

if you and I practiced un-stuffing,

and tried lightly living, with slower, smaller steps

to shrink the footprint we leave our children’s children.

 

What could life really be like

for us and all our kin

who share this most uncommon home?

 

Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand of it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love. -Fyodor Dostoyevsky

 

The goodness of the sea be thine.

The goodness of the earth be thine.

The goodness of the sky be thine.  -Celtic Blessing

 

joe

 

Click here to order:  Still In The Storm

Photo by Joe Grant © 2015

Photo by Joe Grant © 2015

Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth? Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or given understanding to the mind? Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?      Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens…

-Job 38:33-37

Seeker,

How do we find our way back in touch with each other, back down to holy ground?   

 

When I found myself grounded

by turbulent weather

in a tumultuous airport,

 

it was not the raging troposphere

that terrified me.

I was jolted by another electrical storm swirling round about.

 

Navigating anonymous multitudes

I struggled to find someone, anyone,

who was not entangled in an electronic web.

 

Everywhere I witnessed wandering souls,

finger-scrolling, transfixed,

and illuminated by soft screen-lights.

 

Wide-awake in this bustling terminal,

beneath a roiling grey-black ceiling,

I withered under the weight of alienation.

 

Out of phase, seeking some connection

I pressed against the window

and lifted my gaze skyward.

 

Crackling with blue electric fury,

I watched those bruised clouds break

into misted torrents,

 

and I was visited by shocking flashes

of a darker vision—

a downpour of discarded devices.

 

Consuming precious earth elements,

mined and manufactured by throwaway people,

this deluge of disposability now threatens to drown us all.

 

I must confess that, on human judgment, the world tasks we face are appalling – well-nigh hopeless. Only the inner vision of God, only the God-blindedness of unreservedly dedicated souls, only the utterly humble ones can bow and break the raging pride of a power-mad world. -Thomas R. Kelly

 

So, I am powering down,

to the soles of my feet

turning off, so I might live lower and listen harder.

 

I pay no mind to twittering trends,

but this does not mean

I am not listening

 

I neither scroll nor text,

but this does not mean

I am disconnected.

 

I am not enchanted by the allure of technology,

but this does not mean

I lack understanding.

 

It has become countercultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same.  -Pope Francis

 

I am beneath the flow of cultural tides,

but this does not mean

I am out of touch with currents deeper.

 

I am learning to humbly handle electronics with care,

to use only when necessary,

and I discover that the scope of necessity shrinks daily.

 

I am breathing deeply

to prepare for the profound plunge

into a darker quieter age that is surely coming in the storm’s wake.

 

Because there are no virtual relationships,

this blog will now shrink to a monthly posting,

with the invitation to power down, reach into reality and find our virtue there!

 

Will you try this?

Try walking around with a child who’s going, “Wow, wow! Look at that dirty dog! Look at that burned-down house! Look at that red sky” And the child points and you look, and you see, and you start going, “Wow! Look at that huge crazy hedge! Look at that teeny little baby! Look at the scary dark cloud!” I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world – present and in awe.” -Anne Lamott

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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