The Blessing Way

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

And Mary sang:
My innermost being magnifies the Most High,
my spirit rejoices in the One who heals,
who has lovingly looked upon the lowliest of servants.
From now on, all generations will call me blessed …
Luke 1:46-48

What might it mean to be blessed and to be a blessing?

Years ago, while overseeing intake
at a women’s shelter on a frigid Chicago night,
I broke the chilling news that there was no more room.

Painfully, I instructed
the waiting line
to seek warmth elsewhere.

When offering direction to a bundled woman,
she extended an icy hand,
exuded a warm smile and thanked me.

With unexpected calm,
she addressed my distress
by declaring: ‘It’s alright, not to worry, I am blessed!’

Bemused and disturbed,
I watched her shamble off,
down the windswept city street.

With nowhere to lay her head, how can she be blessed?
While daily, I am undone by mundane frustrations,
she, with just cause for indignation, chose to bless.

The Beatitudes are a set of descriptions of a free life … When you can weep, when you can identify with the little ones, when you can make peace, when you can be persecuted and still be joyful; then you’re doing it right. Richard Rohr

Among the oft-quoted, least heeded of Jesus’ teachings,
the Beatitudes describe poor, grieving, gentle, forgiving, clear-hearted,
justice-minded, peaceable, persecuted folk as the blessed ones.

Such wisdom upends our understanding
of what it usually means to be graced
blessed, lucky, fortunate, charmed, happy.

Driving home his disconcerting doctrine,
Jesus added the mandate to bless all who curse us
and love any who would call us ‘enemy’.

Can we place ourselves among that tribe of poor,
mourning, meek, merciful, peace and justice-hungry people?
If not, we may be looking for another brand of benediction.

The blessed are not the sure, sinless, successful, or well-liked;
but the little ones who live and love out of a foundational sense
of complete interdependence we call grace.

Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder. For the gift of our unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great.
Just to be is blessing. Just to live is holy.
Rabbi Abraham Heschel

Blessing expresses both our motivation and life-orientation.
When we bless, we are not making holy.
We are simply declaring what is already, always sacred.

There is much in life we cannot alter;
brutality and hatreds that tear us apart, and pains we cannot take away.
Still, we can choose to bless, come what may!

This blessing power is a love-force, available to all,
and capable of transforming how we perceive
receive and relate to whatever comes our way.

Blessed child of earth and sky,
your life is precious, holy, always sacred,
and so is every other.

Only those who know their blessedness
can be a blessing to others.
So, blessed child of the Holy One, may you live up to your name,

joe
Find me on Facebook and Instagram: @InTheStormStill

Now available: A New Book by Joe Grant

The Pace of Peace

Picture by Joe Grant © 2019

I leave peace with you; I give my peace to you.
Not as the world gives it. Let not your hearts be troubled and afraid.
John 14:27

Seeker,
What will it take to slow you down?

When walking the woods,
nothing in Nature
urges me to move faster.

Should you walk into Life,
sauntering so your soul catches up,
your stroll becomes a pilgrimage.

Embracing “pilgrim-hood”,
every sign is received
as a message from the “Wholly Present One”.

A neighborhood notice
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 of us 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 information,
we are adrift in a swell
of contrasting and comparing:

expecting, wanting,
needing more;
better, quicker, sooner.

There is all around and within us
a cult of consumption, a climate of competition,
a craving for accomplishment.

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

How might we show,
by spacious pace and living slow,
that every creature merits our attentive care?

Amid the fear-fueled,
anxious urgency of this age,
could the way to peace begin by slowing everything down?

Slower and lower, where less is more:
might just light the way
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.
Oscar Romero

Imagine relationship
valued over achievement,
and caring holding sway over competing.

What if contemplating
overruled calculating,
and love won over everything.

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 gradually cultivated
through the prevalence of pardon,
ripened by courageous reconciling.

The slower you walk and the lower you live,
the more will you safeguard God’s children today,
who simply wish to wonder and hope to play,

So, let the leaves drop,
and as you watch them fall away,
may they slowly undo the doings of your day.

joe
Find me on Facebook and Instagram: @InTheStormStill

Coming in November 2019, A New Book by Joe Grant

Wandering and Welcome: Meditations for Finding Peace Pre-Order Set For Release On 11/12/2019 12:00:00 AM

To Order: https://shop.franciscanmedia.org/products/wandering-and-welcome-meditations-for-finding-peace

Ever Ready

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

Be dressed and ready with your lamps lit. Luke 12:35

Seeker,
What do you need to put down in order to be ready to receive?

In contrast to drowsy relaxation,
contemplation is readiness in its heightened state,
as in: Ready! Steady! Wait!

For, in any given moment,
grace makes an unassuming appearance
should you be quietly alert, poised and ready to receive her.

Such attentiveness
allows prayer to blossom into undivided presence—
being ‘now’ and nowhere else.

Here wonder erupts and sweetly ripens—
fruit of radical hospitality—
into that eager desire to unwrap the surprising present.

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.
Absolute unmixed attention is prayer.
Simone Weil

Stooping to examine the fruits of presence
leads to grounded living—
being intently focused and wholly here:

captivated by majesty
devastated by tragedy, inspired by miracles,
moved by mystery.

My heart is ready, Holy One, ready is my heart;
I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul!

Psalm 108

As awareness deepens,
we reach out to be touched
and the saturated moment overflows into blessing.

Benediction broadens
when hearts stretch and minds open,
allowing generous kinship to widen.

All things are ready, if our minds be so. William Shakespeare, Henry V

When abundance peaks
through this gracious embrace of life
we enter the sanctuary of awe.

Now, reverence weaves a silence
that melts into gratitude,
uncapping an infinite well of great fullness.

And gratefulness is just the prelude to joy.
No joy without gratitude.
This surest sign of Presence cannot be manufactured.

I will give thanks to you, Holy One, among the peoples,
and I will sing praises to You among the nations.

Psalm 108:1-3

Innate inquisitiveness beckons us to look more deeply,
to savor and connect with life,
which further fuels amazement.

Such curiosity—caring enough to inquire—
is a natural trait of children, whose ready openheartedness
earns them primacy in the Realm of the Reachable.

‘I tell you truly, whoever does not receive God’s Realm like a little child will never enter it.’ And he embraced them, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. Mark 10:15-16

On the other hand, disassociated living—
conceding to the rote and routine of acting and reacting—
is soul-sleeping sickness.

Relentlessly cruising from task to task—
reaching for the next, bypassing the now—
life over-washes yet fails to rouse us.

There are multiple realities surrounding me
and I know that I must keep the eyes of my heart open
to allow all of existence to be.
Catherine Garland

Even a scintilla of presence
can draw the heart’s inquisitive eye
and spark wakefulness.

…for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore it says, ‘Awake sleeper! Arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’
Ephesians 5:14

How light to be enlightened!
We need only to let down our guard,
open our eyes and let in delight.

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram: @InTheStormStill

Coming in November 2019, A New Book by Joe Grant

Wandering and Welcome: Meditations for Finding Peace Pre-Order Set For Release On 11/12/2019 12:00:00 AM
To pre-order: 
https://shop.franciscanmedia.org/products/wandering-and-welcome-meditations-for-finding-peace-pre-order-set-for-release-on-11-12-2019-12-00-00-am





Disturbing Peace

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:44

Seeker,
How do you encounter peace in these disturbing days?

At the beginning of beginnings,
before there was anything
but depth of darkness,

Spirit hovered
over the face of the deep
to disturb the waters.

Thus, paradox was born
in the rippling Holy Breath of life:
Disturbing Peace.

And that initial exhalation,
first creative sound—shalom, salaam, peace—
breathed everything into being.

Each subsequent sacred encounter
was premised by a calming invitation:
“Peace, do not be afraid!”

… he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ John 20:22

So, we catch our breath
to welcome peace into troubled minds.
and with each deep draw, invite peace of heart.

Now unencumbered,
we become available to the embrace of Shalom—
peace not sourced in us, that offers rest for the soul.

I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief
. Wendell Berry

In its fullest sense,
the deeper peace for which we ache,
describes a wholeness wider than the cessation of conflict or confusion.

Such shalom is the expression
of our innermost desire for completeness,
uncovered in the righting of our relationships with life.

The impeded stream is the one that sings. Wendell Berry

Holy Peace has yet another dimension.
It can appear, be extended and shared, in times of distress.
When most needed, it is drawn out of us.

Consider a time of trauma:
when hard news breaks over you; difficult decisions must be made;
loved ones leave; life’s end looms.

Shalom is also the unexpected consolation amid desolation;
serenity in turmoil; calm in the eye of the storm;
peace that breaks out in broken-openness.

When it was evening on the first day of the week, and the doors were locked for fear of the authorities, Jesus came in, stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he showed them his hands and his side. John 20:19-20

Like a fresh breeze, Christ breaks through
to blow our minds,
and baring his wounds, bestows a renewing Spirit.

We address distress—
inner turbulence as well as outer troubles—
by invoking the life-breath of a new creation.

Jesus promised disturbing peace—
not bolstered by systems of power or security—
stillness rooted in the Presence of providence and mercy.

The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else. Abraham Heschel

Christ-peace becomes
the embodiment of nonviolence;
with all mind, heart, soul and strength.

Followers of Jesus are committed
to the wounded Christ,
who breaks into our midst to disturb us from complacency.

And shalom involves a willingness
boldly to bear
the costly consequences of nonviolent living.

Breathe through us Breath of Life,
Your peace makes us new,
so we can love as you would love
our friends and enemies too!

joe
Find me on Facebook and Instagram: @InTheStormStill

A Heart Contrite

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

…the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little. Luke 7:47

Seeker
Can you recall a time when you begged or extended forgiveness?

Reconciliation requires a heartfelt admission;
the expression of our failures and complicity,
with a desire to be made whole and make amends.

Healing happens as we welcome fallibility,
embrace incompleteness, and open a window
into what it is to be human, what it means to be holy.

Our human grace is not that we are creatures of God, not even that we are image of God. The ultimate divine foolishness… is that we are children of God. Wilfrid Harrington

Among the hardest, most sublime experiences
of my life as a parent are those times
when I’ve had to ask my children for forgiveness.

Though we make every effort
to teach our children to make apologies,
earnest expressions of regret remain rare and rigorous.

Have you known
that burn of remorse
when your actions or failings wounded the ones you love?

Yet precisely here
are we presented with a powerful opportunity
to demonstrate depth of love for one another.

It is equally as difficult, and just as holy,
when our parents, in their frailty,
turn to us for forgiveness; laying bare their inadequacy.

Have mercy on me, Holy One,
according to your unwavering love…
Psalm 51:1

Remorse aches for release.
Churning and burning, it pains us
when it is suppressed.

Despite all attempts at control,
the breath quickens, the voice quivers, the hands tremble;
we flush at naked honesty as warm tears leak.

These are but physical presentations
of a sacred condition brought on by unburdening regret
before a spouse, a friend, a child, a neighbor, an enemy.

When we beg forgiveness,
we reveal our truth
as wayward, willful, wonderful children of the Holy One.

Daring to unmask our innermost
by setting aside self-assuredness
requires real courage.

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken, contrite heart, O Holy One, you will not despise.

Psalm 51:17

Who can refuse
wholehearted contrition.
It is the lever that flings wide the floodgates of mercy.

Transformations, personal and social, are sourced
in contrition and remorse;
so speak the prophets.

Let us be dissatisfied until those that live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security. Martin Luther King Jr.

Good News announces
that our merciful Maker is met by the embrace of enemy love
in the midst of muddled, messy, misguided lives.

This world yearns
for forgiveness
to melt us, restore our relationships, refashion our lives.

When we submit to such a forgiving Spirit,
defenses tumble, self-righteousness slips its moorings,
frigid bitterness thaws and newness emerges.

Create a clean heart in me, O Holy One, and put within me a newly righted spirit. Psalm 51: 19 0

Contrition; succumbing to grief,
seeking forgiveness;
spikes sorrow’s bitter draft with heaven’s sweet tang.

Whether it is for the desecration of hilltops, the desolation of shantytowns, the distractions of consumption, or the neglect of neighbors, contrition recasts us all in the fire of forgiveness.

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram: @InTheStormStill

Now available, November 2019, A New Book by Joe Grant

From Grievance to Grief

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Matthew 27:46

Seeker,
What tears at your heart?

From cradle to grave
for intimacy we ache;
that something amiss that keeps us awake.

And at the heart of our lives
an abyss abides,
that nothing or no one can fill.

For we are made for connections
beyond the bounds of affection,
and the dearest nearness we can know comes in sharing our pain.

Unless we learn how to transfigure pain (ours and others), we simply transmit it. Richard Rohr

Passion, the hard kernel of compassion,
draws us into grief’s gloom,
wherein a Presence hides;

One whose closeness
feels like absence;
who hangs with us and hangs on in us.

Thus, in lament we find a home
in companionship with all
who find themselves in the dark:

whose bellies or lives are empty,
whose days are toil or boredom.
whose relationships are severed by decisions or distance,
whose minds are tortured or numbed,
who are drawn to despair or driven by distraction.

And when the Chosen One breathed his last,
his final wail on earth was a lamentation,
a cry for all of Creation.

My God, my God why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
Psalm 22:1

Most creatures vocalize their distress.
Born breathless, we all cry out.
When wounded, we moan and loudly weep.

Lament is the breaking point
where we give up on reason, resolution and retribution
to lose ourselves in primal keening.

And there is liberation in letting pain out.
A first step toward healing,
grieving that moves us to move on.

For lament decries the privatization of pain;
a shared expression of sorrow that saves us
from being marooned on the shores of desperation.

So, we accept the hospitality of mourning,
not as an act of resignation,
but as a cathartic stride toward determination.

Now beyond protest, accusation and indignation,
we are free to bear witness
to violations and suffering universal.

Choosing to hold, to behold and to be moved,
bearing witness allows us to take off our shoes,
and step, with souls bared, into the crucible of suffering-love.

History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.

Seamus Heaney

In its honesty,
suffering shapes us
as it breaks and remakes us;

not those tribulations we endure and bear,
but that suffering love we choose to share.
For it is only the pain we cannot share that turns into despair.

Nor are we meant to pass the years, unmoved, unaffected, unchanged.
We are made to be marked, shaped, scarred, wounded,
and broken to be mended.

What else do we bear from here to hereafter,
but the lightness of the love
that has wounded us in ways terrible and touching.

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram: @InTheStormStill

Coming in November 2019, A New Book by Joe Grant

Wandering and Welcome: Meditations for Finding Peace Pre-Order Set For Release On 11/12/2019 12:00:00 AM

To pre-order: https://shop.franciscanmedia.org/products/wandering-and-welcome-meditations-for-finding-peace-pre-order-set-for-release-on-11-12-2019-12-00-00-am

Swept Away

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019


The wind moves where it will and though you hear it blow,
you know not whence it came or just where it may go. John 3:8

Seeker,
When has life left you thunderstruck?

We all travel the Milky Way together, trees and people; but it never occurred to me until this storm-day, while swimming in the wind, that trees are travelers …
They make many journeys, not extensive ones, it is true; but our own little journeys, away and back again, are only little more than tree wavings …
John Muir

In depth of night,
while multitudes slumbered,
a storm announced itself with thunderous rumble.

Muffled booms and far-away flares;
reminiscent of distant wars or gunshots and siren-strobe glares
in neighborhoods nearer; startled me awake.

Then came that wild wind,
to shudder at the door;
rain rattling the windows.

Fascinated by forces unleashed,
drawn out to the stoop,
I let the tumult steal my breath.

Billows of lifted dust,
betrayed secret scuttles of a wind
that swept the street and sprinkled the world wet.

Combing limbs and twigs
for their treasury of leaves,
cool waves cascaded down the street.

And how the trees, bent and quivered
before surrendering to the whipping surge;
giving in to the swell.

And how those gusts,
already broken over faraway woods, hills, homes,
now careened down cluttered alleyways.

Flashes and crashes
released torrents to cleanse the air,
turning streets into silty streams.

In the shadow of your wings shall I find refuge,
until the calamitous storms pass me by.
Psalm 57:1

How much change
is borne by storms
that refresh and rearrange the world.

What would life be without stormy weather,
and the seasonal transformations it brings;
those raining, rushing tempests that terrify and fascinate?

Must the necessary changes
of mood, character and culture
be birthed in violent catharsis?

Yet, how else would we know thrill and tremor,
and let loose prayerful sighs,
moans and gasps,

unless we dare venture into night
put our faces to the blustery wind,
and let our little lives be swept away by wonder?

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil…
Gerard Manley Hopkins

In the wake of ravaging climate catastrophe,
may you be moved to bring hope and healing;
and be some shelter in the storm.

May changing winds blow right through you,
liberating all that needs to be let go—
old grudges, care-worn complaints and stifling, cynical denial.

As you let go, may awe take hold,
to humble, delight
and coax the very breathe out of you.

And may you be stirred to your depths,
carried off by such joy and sorrow,
till you are “beside yourself” with awe at life’s mystery and marvel.

The storm-tones died away and… I beheld the countless host of forest hushed and tranquil, towering above one another like a devout audience. The setting sun filled them with amber light, and seemed to say, while they listened, “My peace I give unto you.” John Muir

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram: @InTheStormStill

Coming in November 2019, A New Book by Joe Grant

Wandering and Welcome: Meditations for Finding Peace Pre-Order Set For Release On 11/12/2019 12:00:00 AM

To pre-order: https://shop.franciscanmedia.org/products/wandering-and-welcome-meditations-for-finding-peace-pre-order-set-for-release-on-11-12-2019-12-00-00-am