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Photo by Joe Grant © 2015

Be aware, keep alert,  for you do not know when the time will come… 

And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.  -Mark 13: 33, 37

Seeker,

As a new year unfolds in this blessed-broken world, what are you waiting for?

 

 

We call it longing

because it distends our sense of time,

and so much living is enlarged in the waiting.

 

Waiting…

 

for healing to happen,

anticipating a change to come,

expecting a loved one’s imminent return.

 

Waiting…

 

for loss to soften,

an ache to ease,

a void to shrink.

 

Waiting…

 

for tempers to cool,

a chafed heart to mend,

a conflict to ease, a bloody war’s end.

 

Waiting…

 

for a new day to break,

a tired old one to wane,

for the silence of night, or the chorus of dawn.

 

Waiting…

 

for a newborn’s cry,

or a loved one’s final breath,

we vigil before the mysteries of life and love, of birth and death.

 

Waiting…

 

for the torrent to abate,

eager for the drought’s release,

desperately we hold out for hunger and injustice finally to cease.

 

So many ways

and shapes of expectation,

every moment whetted by keen anticipation.

 

All the while, and all around,

so much secretly undeclared,

quietly waits to be noticed, savored and shared.

 

The meaning of awe is to realize that life takes place under wide horizons, horizons that range beyond the span of an individual life or even the life of a nation, a generation, or an era. Awe enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine, to sense in small things the beginning of infinite significance, to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple; to feel in the rush of the passing the stillness of the eternal.  -Abraham Heschel

 

Endlessly empty,

waiting to awaken feels

like drowsy, mid-afternoon dullness.

 

Routines called “ordinary”,

always assumed and taken for granted,

numb and stultify.

 

Immune to golden sunsets and icy mountain peaks,

milky ocean spray and  windswept wilderness,

we fail to notice grandeur and beauty that daily over-wash us.

 

Even crisis fails to stir those still deaf and blind

to famished children, ravaged lives,

littered roads, denuded hills, and rapacious mines.

 

Daily life presents challenges and lessons

that test the level of our attentive presence,

and measure our receptivity.

 

To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.     -Mary Oliver

 

In every moment grace hides

in plainest sight

for those with presence of mind and will to penetrate.

 

When life, love, or loss

lift the veil,

eyes, hearts and horizons are transfigured.

 

In the clarity of astonishment,

there’s nothing

ordinary about existence.

 

Thus are born poets, artists, mystics,

God’s own children

poised for inspiration to crack hearts or mend them.

 

Attentiveness is

a heightened state of readiness—

waiting, watching, wondering.

 

Wakefulness sharpens connection,

disdains distraction, discards pretension,

unmasks torpid self-preoccupation.

 

Like a heron intent on a gravelly stream,

or a tail-twitching tabby transfixed in the grass,

electrically-charged anticipation sharpens senses with focus and purpose.

 

Now we enter a state of expectant attention—

engaged presence—

the opposite of terminal boredom.

 

Fine-tuning the present, attentive to the peripheries,

scanning signs on the horizon,

wakeful, watching, wondering disciples wait.

 

(God) did not wait till the world was ready,
till (all the) nations were at peace.
(God) came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.
  –Madeleine L’Engle

 

Who knows how grace will

greet you this day, this new year.

Will she find YOU ready to receive?

 

joe

Click here to order:  Still In The Storm

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

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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