Still in Stormy Times

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

[A version of this reflection was posted in 2017]

As a furious gale arose, waves beat into the boat threatening to swamp it.
But he was asleep in the stern, so they woke him crying,
“Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?”
He awoke, rebuked the wind, and told the sea, “Peace! Be still!”

Mark 4:37-39

How can we be still, yet still be in the storms that surround us?

Disasters never fail
to move us,
or draw out the best in us.

For who can watch
a person, creature, community
or environment endure devastation,

without being disturbed,
touched, moved to connect,
and make some effort to alleviate suffering?

Innately human inclinations toward
compassion, mercy, forgiveness, justice
are essential expressions of divine likeness.

Holy One who is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and good to all.
Whose compassion extends over all creation.

Psalm 145:8-9

of nature and lives
grace us with hard-holy questions:

Why do terrible things happen?
Why do the most vulnerable suffer most grievously?
What might happen if we let our lives become entangled with theirs?

As tragedies compound,
we strain to maintain
an attentive, focused and caring response.

Indeed, it only when winds die
and waters recede,
that the journey toward mending begin.

And how can storm-tossed people
sustain hope,
without a tsunami of human, moral and financial support?

We humans need hope.
We can survive without many of life’s physical, intellectual, and emotional realities,
but we cannot survive without hope.

Glenn Hinson

Catastrophe uncovers
a collective reservoir
of untapped resources.

We are stronger,
deeper, more caring
that we imagine.

Yet, we must confront other,
more insidious, storm tides;
fearful forces intent on driving and keeping us apart.

Divisive and distracting tempests
of self-preoccupation, grievance, cynicism
erode our capacity to care.

Unchallenged, such ideological influences
send us spinning frenetically,
beyond the reach of compassionate engagement.

I must confess, my friends, the road ahead will not always be smooth …
There will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair…
Our dreams will sometimes be shattered, and our hopes blasted.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Compassion cries to be unleashed,
mercy needs to be nurtured,
forgiveness begs for release.

Such truest reflections of our deepest nature
provide generous immunity,
against powers determined to pull us apart.

We are made for togetherness.
We are made for all the beautiful things that you and I know.
We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders.

Desmond Tutu

May the disturbing-consoling Spirit
keep folding us all back together
till we become a shelter in the eye of the inevitable storm.


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(A version of this reflection was posted in 2017)

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

Look closely at the ravens.
They do not sow or harvest.
They have neither storehouse nor barn.
Yet, Holy One sustains them.

Luke 12:24

When was the last time Nature made you whole?

Deprived of natural habitat
we retreat into the head,
to feast on flashing images, make ideas our daily bread.

No creature
is designed or destined
to be caged.

All are fashioned
freely to roam,
broadly to range.

Thus, the majestic magnetism of Creation
exerts a hold on the soul;
not merely as playground, but original living room.

God is ever at home,
it’s we who’ve gone out for a walk.

Meister Eckhart.

Woody wilds
still possess power to captivate,
for we but recently clambered down from trees.

Walking leafy woodland
we break out of a heady hermitage,
back to holy ground where all belong.

But how can we know creaturehood
until we recover relationship
with the soil and seasons of natural neighborhood.

The moment we step outdoors,
draw breath and wander the wilds,
observers no longer, but participants are we.

The real prayers are not the words,
but the attention that comes first.

Mary Oliver

Failing to thrive in artificial isolation,
nature deprivation
spawns synthetic spirituality—spiked with unholy dualism.

Denied organic connection,
inhumane nature concocts conditions
that alienation people from planet.

Consider multitudes,
brothers, sisters, neighbors all,
consigned to shanty-town, defined by suburban sprawl.

Expanding mega-cities
fostering amnesia about sacred sister species,
breeding disdain for creatures who creep or swim or fly.

Such earthy expressions of creaturehood,
with every right to livelihood,
have much to teach that sanctifies and makes us whole.

How many are your works, Holy One!
In wisdom you made them all;
earth is brimming with your creatures.

Psalm 104:24

Pilgrims, not exiles, on this planet,
we root for restoration;
to reclaim our place in an expanding universe.

Timeless rocks, endless stars,
expansive ocean depths, holy hills—
all living facets of Life that lives in us.

Wherever we pay attention,
Creation obliges with magnificent demonstrations
of gentleness, generosity, tenacity, liberation.

Remove the sandals from your feet,
for soulful is the ground beneath your soles.

Exodus 3:5

Without teachings from figs and fungus,
rocks, worms, and wrens,
how can we understand outlasting life?

This grand show is eternal.
It is always sunrise somewhere;
the dew is never all dried 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

Are we not here to magnify munificence,
and do justice that paves the way for beauty—
truest trademark of our Maker?

Have we not power in our holy hands
to bring back balance,
and mirror magnanimity resplendent in Creation.

May you, this day, go out of your way
to let Nature school your soul
and restore Holy Creaturehood.


Visit my website:

Coming Soon!

SCRATCHINGS: Poems & More by Joe Grant