Unlikeliness

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

I tell you truly, whatever you did to one of the least of these [insert label here] members of my family, you did to me.

Matthew 25:40

I cherish a faded remembrance
of my three-year-old daughter
scribbling on scrap paper with crayons.

Openmouthed with excitement,
proudly she presented
her handiwork:

a wrinkled sheet
that bore a stick-legged rendering
in pastel lines blue and pink.

With unabashed ebullience,
she described
her picture of God;

careful to point out
the curls, pink dress, high heels, handbag,
and painted fingernails that adorned her icon.

The sea is in love with the drop
the sun in love with the candle

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

And have we not always imaged
the Eternal
draped in our likes and likeness?

After all, are we not
born of the same Source
as spiders and sea anemones;

formed of that same spiraling substance
as fungi and algae,
nematodes and narwhals?

Inside and out,
are we not all likenesses of Love,
enfleshed and inspirited but briefly?

Diminishing biodiversity is the result of diminishing kindness.

Satish Kumar

If BEING begets diversity—
limitless variations
on a limited set of notes—

why elevate a singular theme,
reduce imagining
to one particular preference and partial semblance?

Why not decorate the Ineffable
with varnished fingernails, envision the Sacred as flyer,
swimmer, or that liquid love we call water?

Only presumption would restrict Mystery
to human molding, predominantly pallid hues,
chiseled masculine contours.

Idolizing some selves
offers homage to certain look-alikes,
paying tribute to diabolical dominance and supremacy.

By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined [the divine] as distant and inaccessible, when in fact we live steeped in its burning layers.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

And if we cannot shape a world
that reverences all manner of human-kin—
Christ clad in black, and brown, and beige skin—

how on earth can we revere
Love that lives beneath fur and scales;
resides within emerald leaves, sweeps above mountain trails?

Contemplating the make-up of material
makes clear that matter, like energy,
is transformed not destroyed:

changed in form,
no thing in universe
is rejected outright.

The only way we can ever be human is together
The only way we can be free is together.

Desmond Tutu

Can we reflect Love that
does not dominate, cannot coerce,
refuses to reject?

Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his

Gerard Manley Hopkins

When we fashion
networks of relationships and resources
exclusively engineered,

designed to deny the dignity of any
to privilege some,
we lose track of justice— Love that restores.

We will be known as a culture that feared death
and adored power, that tried to vanquish insecurity
for the few and cared little for the penury of the
many.

Mary Oliver

Let us look, and look again, for Christ-likeness—
body and blood, soul and spirit—imaged in unlikely places and faces,
and see Love-light refracted in each member of one expansive family.

I tell you truly, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these [insert label here], you refused to do for me.

Matthew 25:45

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
Visit my website: inthestormstill.com

A NEW BOOK BY JOE GRANT


Cross-Fire

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

[In memory of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, killed in the crossfire by police on March 13th, 2020 when they broke into her home in Louisville, Kentucky.]


Blessed the meek, it is they who will inherit the land.

Matthew 5:5

Seeker,
Are you strong enough to be gently tenacious in trying times?

I was a young man in the early 1980s,
crossing Belfast city
during deeply troubled times.

From the bus stop I watched
whirring helicopters
announce armored personnel carriers.

Strings of camouflaged soldiers emerged,
hugging doorways, scanning streets
through crosshairs.

Two of them pursued me
to the upper deck
of the bus.

The crucifix around my neck,
advertising my denomination,
targeted me for trouble.

Pointing his rifle,
with booming profanity,
a soldier interrogated me.

Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice.
Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Scared speechless,
I stared at the muzzle,
so close to my body.

In the mounting tension,
I noticed the other barrel
gently trembling.

Looking up,
I caught the wide eyes,
of a soldier my age.

One disarming glance
captured centuries bloodied by strife,
sectarian and state sponsored.

Scared like me,
young like me,
caught like me.

Like me, I could see
he wanted off that bus;
to make a break

from spirals of repression and rebellion,
with their myths and martyrs,
hallowed heroes, villains and so many victims.

Surely he did not wish to succumb to a sniper’s bullet,
or shoot at rock-wielding children?
Nor did I desire to be caught in the crossfire.

When finally I alighted,
I was determined to leave behind on that bus
a heritage of rebel songs, slogans and religious bigotry.

I sought a new identity, to inhabit a wider world;
a deeper peace, to no longer be afraid and angry;
a larger love, to set me free.

We can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world … there is nothing we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as our friend.

Dorothy Day

Four decades on, in another inner city,
I keep anxious vigil under
the staccato throb of helicopters and screaming sirens.

As young ones stand boldly,
amid clouds of tear gas
and the boom of shock grenades,

my weary hearts sinks
and I shudder;
after all these years trapped on that bus.

Spirituality is not learned by flight from the world,
by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there.

Meister Eckhart

Borrowing from highland clans in my homeland,
hooded figures spread terror in this land
by setting crosses aflame.

Still, across this nation,
racial domination reigns with systemic supremacy,
bolstered by fear and apathy.

Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Paradoxically,
redemption rests in the tenacity of meekness.
If you think meekness is weakness, try being meek for a week!

Rejecting imperial ways and means,
Jesus resisted with the radical nonviolence
of the humble of the earth.

Such meekness is not for the timid.
Well-rooted in compassion, with courageous resolve,
it refuses to submit to the subjugation of anyone.

Have you witnessed nature’s
magnificent meekness,
her enduing power to persist and resist?

Let us invoke that gentle strength
to stand up, stand strong, stand together for a worthier world,
gently and stubbornly, with the tenacity of trees by the waterside.


joe

A NEW BOOK BY JOE GRANT

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
Visit my website: inthestormstill.com