Humble-Hearted

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

Wherever is your treasure, there too will be your heart.

Matthew 6:21

Seeker,
When has life required courage; living from your core?

There is so much we’ll never know,
far less we understand,
till wisdom in unknowing extends her guiding hand.

Thus, the universal scope
of our ignorance,
does not dim the tiny spark of comprehension.

A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit I shall put within you.

Ezekiel 36:26

One thing we know—
no matter how oblivious we appear—
there is a reliable rhythm to everything:

a flow and cycle of receive and release,
a give and take in constant exchange.
Whatever we put out, in the end, comes back.

Whether out of sync or sorts,
heaving and harried, drowsy and distracted,
distressed or disconnected,

we can recalibrate
the measure of each moment
to the pulse of life.

No mystic secret needed,
nor discipline austere,
just a heart-felt intention to be in unison.

We need only place a hand
upon that center of ache and desire,
to sense the throbbing tempo at our core.

When in secret I was shaped, my frame was not hidden from You.

Psalm 139:15

Weeks after conception
a tiny pump
begins to pulse and push.

Uninterrupted, this regularity
matches the meter of each breath,
till inevitably life leaves us.

To feel life-force coursing through us,
evokes awe—
with its tiny twinge of fear.

How many beats has your precious heart registered?
How many skipped? How many remain?
So fragile a force that that safeguards your life.

All complex creatures have hearts
and each human has a core,
a chamber of secret longings, and so much more.

Listen carefully to the master’s instructions,
and attend to them with the ear of your heart.

Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict

Consider trillions of beating hearts
in this synchronous second,
all working tirelessly to stay alive, somehow all connected.

The hearts of creatures,
tiny and tremendous,
made in the likeness.

Whether in gated communities and ghettos,
forests, fields and factories,
we all share a tenuous connection to aliveness:

a heart where every wound,
wonder, worry and woe,
is oxygenated, nourished and healed.

Such awesome awareness,
this incalculable, incessant beating
across a pearlescent pebble, spinning in the dark.

Put a gentle palm upon the chest,
and sense the Sacred
at the heart of it all.

In its quiet rhythms,
behold infinite-intimacy
with every beating being.

Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.
It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live.

Rabbi Abraham Heschel

The pathway to heartfelt
understanding (standing under)
is humility.

And wonder ripens into awe
when hearts are humbled
by such smallness in the face of the infinite.

Give me a pure heart—that I may see Thee,
A humble heart—that I may hear Thee,
A heart of love – that I may serve Thee,
A heart of faith—that I may abide in Thee.

Dag Hammarskjöld

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A new book by Joe Grant

Radical Resistance

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

Be attentive.
See that your hearts are not sluggish, inebriated or weighed down by the worries of the world, so you are not caught unaware and ill-prepared for the day that approaches.

Luke 21: 34-35

Seeker,
Can you stand in quiet assurance before menace or manipulation and still reject violence of word or deed?

There is much
that mitigates against quiet wakefulness
in the rush and rumble of difficult days;

in aching hearts,
troubled minds,
and the slosh and swell of anger and anxiety.

Even as we minimize background bustle
and soften foreground chatter,
often we concede

the middle ground of mindfulness
to the rancor of unspoken argument,
preoccupied with daily distresses.

And still silence
often eludes us
in these tumultuous times.

Each day bears a fresh payload of problems.
All times, in their own way, are troubled.
Some seasons are uniquely tempestuous.

Clarity
In silent stillness
the swirling sediment sinks
till clearness creeps in.

Joe Grant

We have entered an extraordinary time of darkness.
A shadowland of struggle looms,
eager to engulf and disorient us in gloom.

Here, silence makes a first impression as isolation,
darkness as creeping alienation,
stillness as capitulation.

Without steady stillness,
clearness of mind, heart, spirit
cannot coalesce and enlighten cloudiness.

Blessed are the clear-hearted,
they will see the Holy One
(in everything).

Matthew 5: 8

In quiet time,
calm and shadow present another aspect;
invite a different kind of engagement.

Silence
is so much more
than absence of noise.

Surrounding soundlessness is the unheard ambience—
front, center, background—
that is both container and conveyor for action and agitation.

Silence can be a fullness rather than a void…
To be still is a spiritual endeavor.

Terry Hershey

As we cannot see the wood for the trees,
we fail to note the quiet
between, before, and following sound.

In the beginning, it is written,
Spirit hovered over the dark—
breath to stir the still waters of the deep.

Silent stillness speak volumes.
More than a restorative,
it is a revolutionary resource for resistance.

Dark and quiet can integrate and
inoculate us from alienation by drawing us closer,
requiring us to lean in and listen to one another.

Resistance demands
divesting from certain
patterns of thought and action.

Quiet resistance
involves the required reflection
of space-making sabbath.

And sabbath is radically subversive;
agitating angst or apathy with peace,
calmly disturbing distress.

Be still and know that I AM God.

Psalm 46:10

Where diabolical forces are in play
and daily deceptions abound,
sowing distain for deeper truth,

may we resist the clamor of violent thought and action,
defy the desire to dehumanize,
decry the temptation to demonize.

May we also reject the futility
of reflexive retribution so we might rest,
rooted and grounded in love beyond understanding.

While leaves quiver, limbs shake
and the strongest trunks must bend and sway,
roots alone remain; silent and still unshakeable.

Be still and know that I AM.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be!

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A BOOK BY JOE GRANT

Reckoning and Reconciliation

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

The heart of this nation has grown calloused,
their ears are hard of hearing and they have shut their eyes;
so they might not look with their eyes, listen with their ears,
understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.

Matthew 13:15

[Beneath the menacing pulse of helicopters,
troop carrier convoys command empty downtown streets,
and armored police columns cordon crosswalks

while armed militias posture before protestors.
Now, my adopted hometown heaves
under the raw realization

that justice,
who long ago lost her blindfold,
sees only in black and white.

Under curfew, behind barred doors,
in flickering candlelight we wait, watch, worry,
as we listen to sirens and pray for peace even without justice.

Like so many families in other darkened cities, distant countries,
far-off times and places, we wonder:
How did it come to this and where do we go from here?
Louisville, Kentucky; September 24, 2020]

Seeker,
What role does your faith play when some lives and deaths
seem to matter less than others?

When curiosity and desire for conquest
carried our European ancestors to these shores
their cultural cargo included death dealing disease, weaponry,
and a divine dispensation to control natives and colonize nature.

With the cross came the crown.

Papal declarations permitted the exploitation of human communities
and consigned them to carve out gold and silver from the earth
to gild crucifixes and candlesticks in far flung cathedrals.

With the crown came chains.

Named and claimed for the distant monarchs of Christendom,
verdant wilderness was tamed and turned to cultivation.
New plantation populations were needed
to raise cotton, sugar, tobacco; and raise profits.

With chains came commercial opportunity.

As African families were abducted, shackled, shipped, sold into slavery,
more moral manipulations permitted prelates, preachers and presidents
to impose divinely ordained hierarchy and hegemony;
a travesty to cleave God’s family; making some subservient and others supreme.

With commercial exploitation came crucifixion.

Our faith story in these lands
remains insinuated in the filaments of this trifurcated root:
genocide, nature desecration and slavery.
Still, ‘Cristo Negro’ cries out breathless from the cross
and we remain shackled to a shameful legacy of privilege and supremacy.

With emancipation comes reckoning

How do faithful people account for participation in racial sin;
make amends, affect repair?

The Examen – listening, looking, learning—
predicates penance.
Confession precedes forgiveness.
Truth-telling comes before reconciliation.
Reconciliation demands restitution.
Restoration requires reparation.

But blessed are your eyes,
for they see,
and your ears, for they hear.
Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see,
but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear,
but did not hear it.

Matthew 13:16-17

May we recover courage and shake off the shackles
of crown, commerce and cultural crucifixion,
to freely enter together the undiscovered country where we
black, brown, indigenous and immigrant people are all cherished.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression, and war.

John Lewis

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A NEW BOOK BY JOE GRANT


Cost-Benefit Paralysis

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

Love the Holy One wholeheartedly, soulfully, strongly, mindfully;
and your neighbor as dearly as yourself.

Luke 10:27

Seeker,
How do you weigh the cost of living with the price of loving?

Pandemic unmasks,
with the stark reflection of a cracked mirror,
our shared visage, in fragmented distortion.

‘O look, look in the mirror
‘O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

W. H. Auden

As we succumb to the grave demands
and debilitations of protracted isolation,
we weigh the consequences of activities with inaction.

A dangerous calculus, dangled before us,
presents the gruesome false equivalence
between wealth and worth; profit and people.

The vacuum of moral leadership,
abandons us to less-caring calculations
about whom and how many must die for the freedom to sell and buy.

But there is another approach
that invites nations and neighbors to safeguard vulnerability
by sharing from the commons of human and material resource.

‘O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart
.

W.H. Auden

Trying times test our humanity as well as our faith.
While we ponder where and when it all might end,
it helps to keep our eyes fixed

on the ubiquitous wounded One;
catalyst of contradiction,
who is both masked and intubated; healer and helped.

This Christ who abides within and in between,
spans the chasm between market and ministry
with compassionate self-giving.

Christ the protester,
wielding a sign.
Christ the policeman, standing in line.

Christ well-remembered,
Christ we’ve forgotten.
Christ you are blessed, and how you are broken!

Christ of compassion,
the ever-forgiver,
peacemaker, cheek-turner, merciful river.

Christ so close,
Christ so dear,
how dare we not see you, when you are so near?

Excerpted from Still In the Storm by Joe Grant

Thus, the fierce love of Maker is expressed
as passionate concern
for the most maligned and mistreated; without exception.

For only the compass of compassion
can reorient us
and chart a course to fuller, wider living.

Discounting, distracting and misdirecting,
either in piety or politics,
devalues dignity in search of justification.

Seeking to be justified by Jesus, the lawyer asked,
‘And who is my neighbor?’

Luke 10:29

Since crisis also presents opportunity, always we must ask:
What is the cost of loving? Who benefits?
Who ends up paying the price for so much suffering?

And carefully we listen
for courageous, radical inclusion,
as we steer clear of amoral profiteering and prophet-less preaching.

The real tragedy would be if we come through the pandemic without changing for the better.
It would be as if all those deaths, all that suffering … would mean nothing.

Ben Okri

Beyond social analysis and moral paralysis,
may we surrender to the humble power of kenosis—
self-outpouring that restores “benefit” from a privilege to making good.

Especially in dark times, even behind closed doors,
we do not scheme
about going back-wards.

We kindle flickering hope
and dream a softer, slower, simpler, gentler,
more generous world into being.

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
Latest book by Joe Grant

Homeward

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

How I have yearned to gather your children together
as a mother hen gathers her brood under her wings!

Matthew 23:37

Seeker,
When you envision home, what and who comes to mind?

Subtle is the distinction
between “shelter” and “haven.”
The first a temporary shield, the other sounds like heaven.

You have been refuge to the poor,
haven to the distressed,
shelter from the storm and shade from the heat.

Isaiah 25:4

Offering more permanent anchorage,
haven desires to enfold;
providing safe harbor, a place to unburden.

For the tempest-tossed
any port or quay
signifies home.

Our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.

Augustine of Hippo

As pandemic prolongs,
we shift from sheltering
to being anchored at home.

So much more than a dwelling,
home evokes that communion
we call belonging.

Just as every vision
is limited by the frame we place around it,
so too is our perception of home.

The relief we seek is right under our feet…
If we understand our deep connection and relationship with the Earth,
we will have enough love strength and awakening
to look after ourselves and the Earth so that both can thrive.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Yet we are ever on the move.
Migratory by nature,
we harbor an ancient, nomadic heritage.

Wanderers and wonderers all,
our ache to belong lies at the heart
of our incessant questing and questioning.

Only fifty years ago,
intrepid space-age voyagers
looked past our moon to capture Earth rising.

Three decades later an orbiting telescope opened its eye
to our intergalactic neighborhood,
and expanded our home-scape.

Poised now at the brink,
all life on our planet
hangs in the balance.

Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.

Pope Francis

After a century
of abuse and neglect,
we have laid waste our holy habitat.

Along with living relations of every ilk,
we suffer the effects
of catastrophic home-sickness.

Across the planet entire,
millions seek shelter from violent injustice,
poverty, environmental disaster.

Fellow creatures flee firestorm,
exploitation, habitat devastation;
the harvest of our own nature deprivation

With wilderness under assault,
the indigenous curators of precious biodiversity
themselves face extinction.

Life is paradise, and we are all in paradise, but we refuse to see it.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

We have lost our way home.
No longer do we calibrate our days
to earth’s seasons: seedtime, fruit and fallow.

Recovery begins with the subtlest shift
that turns home into haven,
bringing heaven back to earth.

Thus, in looking after neighbors,
we are on the lookout
for all great and small creatures in our care.

Once more can we revel
in the primal revelation
called Creation.

Be thou a guiding star above,
smooth path below,
kindly shepherd behind,
flame bright before us
this day, tonight,
forevermore.

Columba of Iona

As you attend to the stirrings within
and tend to life all around,
may you rejoice in the realization that you are already home.

As you hold open this haven,
may you know
the infinite depth and breadth of love abiding in you.

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
Latest book by Joe Grant

Restore Relationship

Photo By Joe Grant © 2020

First of all, seek God’s Realm and Justice, then everything else will follow.

Matthew 6:33

Seeker
How is crisis teaching you about what matters most of all?

In the wake of
a life-altering cyclone
named Katrina,

I traveled to the Mississippi coast
with my son and church companions,
to visit a friend.

Images of devastation
remain seared
in the retina of memory;

decapitated palms leaning like matchsticks,
homes and vehicles bobbing
in oily iridescence,

shell-shocked residents
combing the rubble
of their lives.

The ruinous scene evoked
grainy images of bombed beaches
and the nightmare of nuclear holocaust.

Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.

Bhagavad Gita

As bulldozers carved a thoroughfare,
banks of debris,
roiled like angry waves.

Entrenched in the vale of detritus;
walled by sodden mattresses, fragments of furniture,
muddy carpets, smashed plumbing;

awareness swelled with the dank stench of decay:
sooner or later,
every single thing becomes landfill!

All within the arc of your gaze,
that decorates your existence,
clothing, possessions, achievements, investments, your very body …

destined for disintegration and decay.
For all and every manner of thing and life,
in time must pass away.

There are lovely things in the world, lovely, only that do not endure, and the lovelier for that.

Lewis Grassic Gibbon

Since all is fleeting and insubstantial
naught but one remains:
in the space between our breaths, beats and pulses.

This punctuation that defines and bonds,
brings meaning and measure to our moments,
and love into being, we call: “relationship.”

And the primacy of relationship
is revealed when
death or destruction lifts the veil.

Things of life we leave behind
all take their place in the past
but first, foremost, finally, only relationships last.

The most important things in life are invisible.
Love is at the root of everything; all learning, all relationships –
love or the lack of it.

Fred Rodgers

This pricey pearl—
treasure hidden in the field—
requires the relinquishment of all else.

In the spacious latticework of relationships
with family and friend, neighbor and nature,
love is realized, experienced, expressed, exchanged.

How can we know and share love
except through the resonant filaments of connectivity
that web our world and weave us into being?

And what would life look like
if relationships came first
and really mattered most of all?

Being means: not numbering and counting,
but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap,
and stands confidently in the storms of spring,
not afraid that afterward summer may not come…

Rainer Maria Rilke

As distancing days
grow into months
that straddle seasons,

atop mountainous human losses,
amid disruption
and the evaporation of reliable income,

surrounded by the remnants of a former reality,
we are impatient to restore the reassuring
frame of reference that used to shape our days.

Yet, cascading problems seem intractable,
if we presume to resume
pre-plague ways, means, and expectations.

In masked isolation we come to cherish
priceless human touch, aware that
even distant islands are connected by the same ocean.

May you live to restore and show and share
the myriad relationships that bring you life
and love you into being.

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A new book by Joe Grant

Emergence

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020


All this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

Matthew 24:8

Seeker,
As you live longer into these troubling times, do you wonder what is coming to be?

Love’s liberating cleaver, loss,
teaches us not cling too tightly
and hold but lightly

to patterns of the past,
goods of the earth,
and the partiality of our paltry knowing.

Otherwise, we are consigned to recycle
life-lessening legacies, modes, means and messes
of a bygone era that needs to pass away.

No one puts new wine into old wineskins;
the new wine will burst the skins and be spilled,
and the skins lost.
New wine needs fresh wineskins.

Luke 5:37-38

How else might we emerge from the carapace
of this protracted emergency, without shedding
the skins of outmoded ways of being and seeing?

And perhaps the disruptions,
afforded by confinement, distance and disaffection,
are contractions designed to ready us for delivery into the new.

Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.

Gustav Mahler

As monuments to subjugation topple,
and take up residence in museums
that memorialize the unrepeatable;

as demands for dignity and equity,
loudly expressed,
will no longer be suppressed;

as certainties evaporate
in the lengthening of vastly different days,
and lives assumed safe now appear vulnerable,

we become keenly conscious
of how much we have taken, and taken for granted,
and how costly the price of consumptive, ungrateful living.

Mysticism is the actual experience of oneness with all …
The mystic isn’t that special kind of human being.
But every human being is a special kind of mystic.

David Steindl-Rast

Feasting on facts fails to inspire
nor does it lead to longed-for
transformations of habit and vision.

This restorative movement,
which swept up the willing with the willful,
begs for new human beings.

And the changes demanded
to reach that farther shore
cannot be simply skin deep.

Pandemic is but a symptom
of much deeper disease
tearing at life’s tapestry.

More than masks and medication,
our predicament prescribes
a mystical revisioning of our fundamental oneness.

We stand at a new doorway,
awaiting that which comes…
daring to be human creatures,
vulnerable to the beauty of existence.

Anne Hillman

From the tangled roots of interconnection
with every life and life form,
we reaffirm the reality of our co-responsibility.

Emerging now, in the throes of environmental calamity,
we are charged to reclaim, re-frame, rename
all our relationships to life.

Do we yet possess the depth of spirit
to affirm, in action and intention,
a radical revolution of heart?

As slaves no more
to discrimination,
may we likewise:

refute the exploitation
of earth herself
and any of our fellow creatures;

decry political, social, religious inequities
that denigrate any group or member
of our human family;

replace all monuments
that glorify domination
and military conquest

with memorials
to lives lived, lost and given
to the pursuit of nonviolence.

Do not remember former things or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth,
do you not perceive it?

Isaiah 43:18-19

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A NEW BOOK BY JOE GRANT