Heart to Heart

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

If any desire to come after me, let them deny themselves [their privilege], take up their cross, and follow.

Matthew 16:24

Seeker,
What do you need to set down and lift up for healing to happen?

Vividly I recall
my first trip outside,
while recuperating from open-heart surgery.

Weak at the knees,
terrified of falling,
I needed help to steady me.

Clutching a pillow to my cracked chest,
everything, everyone
moved so quickly.

A voice chimed within:
this fear, this slow fragility, this dependence;
this is HOLY!

As for me I am poor and needy, yet God takes thought for me.

Psalm 40:17

Slowly I shuffled
into the awareness that solidarity in suffering
would gentle me,

draw me
to other companions
likewise injured, frail, fearful.

I know I am one among the broken,
and this realization is key
to healing hearts.

Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken… our greatest gift… is our ability to enter into solidarity with those who suffer…

Henri Nouwen

Sure-footed once more,
Still I wrestle with the cost of living:
a heart broken.

Regularly I am reminded
of grace that germinates unseen
in dark days.

While healing continues,
I endeavor to hold on
to wisdom sorely won in the school of suffering.

I must confess, my friends, the road ahead will not always be smooth. There will still be rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment. There will be inevitable setbacks here and there. 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.

Every day,
compassion cries to be unleashed;
mercy needs to be nurtured; forgiveness begs for release.

These truest expressions of our condition
can inoculate us
from forces determined to pull us apart.

Holy compassion,
insinuated into the fiber of our being,
delivers us from division by folding us back into one another.

Without compassion
there is no hope.
Without hope, no recourse for change.

There must be times, there will be times when we too are afraid to give or forgive, afraid to cry out against injustice, afraid to face an incurable illness. We must recognize a basic reality: courage is not the absence of fear. It is feeling afraid to do something but still finding the strength to do it anyway.

Walter Burghardt

Before our eyes, beneath our feet,
at our fingertips
a universe of possibilities awaits.

There is wonder
amid disturbance and distress,
and courage reflected in the face of social disintegration.

May you find your way,
to express gratefulness for all that touches you,
and thus immunize yourself against corrosive cynicism.

May you refuse to let fear hold you back
from humbly connecting, heart to heart,
conjoined in the wonderful-woundedness of living.

joe

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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

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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 to 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

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Benediction

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020


Bless those who curse you, pray for the ones who mistreat you.

Luke 6:28

Three decades past,
I was blessed to be among fisherfolk
by the banks of Amazon.

Regularly, I found myself surrounded
by swarming clouds
of chattering children.

“Me dê uma benção!Give me a blessing!”
they begged and beamed,
as they clambered all over me.

Putting palm to each holy head,
I extended the expected benediction:
“Abençoado! – Blessed be you!”

So frail in the face of so many challenges,
I wondered about their future
as I willed and worried and prayed for wellbeing.

Even after all the years,
I can recall their shining faces and joyful voices.
And echoing that benison, still I wonder what became of them.

That singular command
I do not understand,
Bless what there is for being,
Which has to be obeyed, for
What else am I made for … ?

W. H. Auden

In the end, how we respond
to the momentous challenges of this time
will determine who and what will endure.

When cursing, we careen down a slippery slope,
till, head over heart in tumbled-down rancor,
we are left with bruises that add ignominy to animosity.

But blessing is the fulcrum between blight and beauty,
since those who know their blessedness
bring benediction to our holy mess.

Blessing transforms
the sub-stance (under-being) of our experience
with under-standing.

Choosing benediction – to speak well –
cannot make any one or thing
any more holy than it already is.

In blessing we buff for shining display
what is already sacred,
and somehow this changes everything.

Such blessing power, given us all,
presents us with the luminous authority
to re-consecrate whatsoever has been desecrated.

Blessed the clear-hearted who see the Holy One (in everyone and everything).

Matthew 5:8

In unsettled times,
Jesus preaches scandalous subversion
that goes against the grain of meritocracy.

Unmasking myopia, with penetrating perspective,
he presents a corrective
to sharpen our seeing and brighten our holy being.

Because you are simple, humble and mourning,
peace-loving, justice-hungry, lost or forsaken;
you are welcome; you are already holy; you are blessed.

Blessed too are you who are targeted
because you stand,
sullied with the exploited of the earth.

Blessing simply gives voice
and intention
to our deepest motivation.

And we become beatitudes
by welcoming these benedictions
and extending them broadly.

Beneath that look
behind those eyes
benevolence in abundance lies.

Have you beheld
the blessed gaze
that pierces pain-filled, hateful haze?

To gild each hurt and hope in life
such power to you is given,
dissolving loss back into love with that gracious glare of heaven.

joe

May you be moved
to transfigure the substance of daily experience
by blessing whatever graces your gaze.

So fragile the petal the earth, as fragile as love.

Mira

As you cast a caring eye across your life-scape,
squint if you must to see love’s golden hue
reflected in strangers and friends and enemies too.

Choose to burnish the good
and put a shine
on these tarnished times.

Just to be is blessing. Just to live is holy.

Abraham Joshua Heschel

So, while there is breath within
and a sparkle in your eye,
waste not this fleeting chance

to let the weary world know
just how much in love with life you are,
just how blessed it is to be here together with You.

joe

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

A NEW BOOK BY JOE GRANT


Embers of Wisdom, Glimmers of Hope

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

You are light for this world.
A city built on a hillside cannot hide.
Nobody lights a lamp to put it under cover, but places it on a stand
to share its light with all in the household.

Matthew 5:14-15

When this darkness dispels
as all darkness eventually does,
we will emerge into a quite different world, thanks be to Thee!

For the culture that helped cultivate
the terrors of today
is not capable of truly dispelling them.

Lacking care and cohesion,
fractured interests and segregated systems,
fail to rouse, respond, reassure and inspire radical compassion.

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. William L. Watkinson

So, it falls upon each of us to kindle love’s light;
to quietly take the initiative presented by necessity,
and boldly don the mantle of moral leadership in critical times.

How we creatively and carefully respond,
even in forced isolation,
will define the kinds of people and communities that emerge.

This broken world is in our hands.
There is wisdom here to be mined,
lessons to learn, questions to pursue in the school of shared suffering.

This period of painful separation
invites us, in homes, towns and cities, to listen hard and long,
and pay our dues of attention to needs and neighbors.

In the crucible much is melted.
Molds must be made to forge,
shape and hold new ways of being human together.

In the fevered firelight
cruel lessons are revealed
teaching us just how interwoven we are with each and every other.

Share your experience with others.
Share joys and double them.
Share pain and cut it in half.

David Steindl-Rast

Plagues present paradigms. Pandemic need not lead to pandemonium.
In its wake we can awaken and respond
with a contagion of kindness and demands for just systems.

We live by hope that is ours to share.
In dark times our senses heighten.
We keep our eyes peeled, ready to be surprised.

There is a gift between
the lines of the news,
but we will have to dig for it.

We heed our fears, so we are not led by them.
We listen longer for deeper wisdom
that glows with hopeful promise that we can rewire this world.

For wisdom and hope appear
when we are sorely seeking and hungry,
devoid of easy answers or quick fixes.

Only in the dark do we perceive
the constellation of a trillion tiny acts of kindness,
countless blessings, heartfelt petitions.

Consider the heroism of everyday workers,
beacons of the human spirit who step into the dark
to guarantee light, food, health care, security.

As events unfold, in ways we cannot fathom,
we walk by faith, not knowing.
Since our story is not yet written, we look ahead for pathfinders.

And you are the spark that ignites a flickering lamp and lets us see again,
face to face, the holy light reflected in every other.
Since we are not abandoned, we must refuse to abandon one another.

And may light shine out of the two eyes of you,
like a candle set in the window of a house,
bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm.

Scottish Blessing

joe

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Pilgrim Heart

Photo Joe Grant @ 2020

Yet today, tomorrow, and the next I must be on my way… Luke 13:33

Seeker,
What is it you are looking for, and where has it taken you?

A tale is told
of a lad who lived
by the bonnie banks of a highland loch.

On rare sundrenched mornings
when the misty veil lifted, he noticed,
along the farther shore, light sparkling on distant windows.

He dreamed up a wondrous place—
a whitewashed cottage
nestled among the heather at the foot of a glen.

And he yearned to undertake
the long trek around the loch
to visit that magical place and discover who lived therein.

So, he rose before midsummer dawn,
when light lasted longest,
to set out on his quest.

It was evening when at last
he rounded the shore and, in the gloaming
glimpsed a humble home not unlike his own.

From the upper window
a young lass
called out her greeting,

as she pointed
to the faraway head of the loch and lilted:
‘See that light, how lovely must it be there.’

Following her gaze,
his eyes fell upon the windows of his far-flung home,
that captured the amber glow of the dying day.

‘Aye,’ he nodded,
‘surely it is a holy place.’
And turned his face homeward.

When the Spirit makes thin the canvas
we see that the universe is a creation.
Gwenallt Jones

Whether we know it or not,
we are
always travelling.

Even standing still,
sojourners and voyagers all are we,
on a pilgrim planet adrift in a cosmic sea.

No matter where
we lay roots down,
still we ache for home unfound.

There is no such beauty
As where you belong.
Rise up, follow me
I will lead you home.
Stephen Paulus

And who has not felt that pang
we named ‘nostalgia’—
pain for a place long past.

Between questing and resting,
our hearts reach for places
not quite familiar but longed for and loved.

The goal of spirituality is homecoming. John O’Donohue

The draw of seasons
and celestial cycles
urges creatures, in migrating millions, to move.

And, as perennial nomads,
we too feel a lust to wander and explore
landscapes wild, within us and behind each horizon.

Like the cries of geese on the wing,
the lament of exiled, refugee, migrant and homeless souls
whets our ache for homeland.

Our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee. Augustine of Hippo

The meandering path
of pilgrimage leads us
to leave and to leave behind;

a quest that begs questions:
What are we walking away from?
What are moving toward?

The only true voyage of discovery,
the only fountain of Eternal Youth,
would be not to visit strange lands
but to possess other eyes…
Marcel Proust

Weaving inner labyrinths,
walking ancient paths, seeking sacred centering,
pilgrims depart hoping to return renewed,

so that in homecoming
they might look lovingly upon the familiar
with vision restored.

The compassing of the God of life upon thee
The compassing of the Christ of love upon thee
The compassing of the Spirit of grace upon thee.
The compassing of the Three preserve thee.
Carmina Gadelica

joe

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A New Book by Joe Grant