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


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


Made to Be Mended

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020


At table with them, he took bread,
blessed and broke it and gave it to them.
Then their eyes were opened …

Luke 24:30-31

Ten years after a horrific genocide
I was privileged to visit the rolling hills of Rwanda,
still reeling and dealing with trauma.

I visited a humble pottery project
bringing together people
from both poles of the conflict;

one among many
brave initiatives,
fostering healing through reconciliation.

Just souls are in the hands of the Holy One,
where torment no longer touches them.

Wisdom 3:1

A simple earthen hut
boasted a modest array
of handmade pots.

Mud-spackled potters took pains to explain
how they fashioned coiled bowls by hand
from local, blood-red clay.

These they blackened
with charcoal ash
before placing them in a brick oven.

In their time of visitation, they will glow,
running like sparks through stubble.

Wisdom 3:7

They cautioned visitors
that these were fragile vessels,
manufactured for decoration not utility.

A small recess,
held stacks of
cracked and crumbling bowls.

These ‘seconds’
had fissured in the firing.
Destined to be crushed, re-formed, re-fired.

Like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hands.

Jeremiahs 18:6

Handling these broken receptacles,
I noticed their lacework of fractures
that surely made them brittle.

In these dark
fragmented failures
I beheld beauty.

Chipped and broken,
they begged
to be handled with care.

Blessed to be broken, destined for disintegration,
their story had not yet ended.
They were marked to be remade, and thus to be mended.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen

I carried back
a trio of black,
hand-sized seconds, fractured in the fires of Rwanda.

Despite careful wrapping,
they crumbled further
on the homeward journey.

They have since,
known more degeneration,
and been crudely reassembled.

This has made them
ever more appealing;
honestly humble crockery, whole in holey-ness.

In clay jars we carry this treasure, making clear the surpassing power is sourced not in us, but in the Holy One. Though in every way hard-pressed, we are not completely crushed; anguished, not driven to despair; persecuted, never forsaken; struck down, yet not destroyed …

2 Corinthians 4:7-9

Like the lovely, scarred souls of Rwanda
they bear
hard-won lessons.

In the years that followed,
I was heart-broken and repaired;
put back together, not quite the same.

Those leaky vessels
reveal in incompleteness
that we are conduits, not containers of light and love.

While breaking pains,
mending heals
and hurts as it remakes us.

Broken open, not broken down,
with chinks for light to get in and love to get out,
they become an earthy icon of holey-ness.

Only those who know they are broken can know healing.

May you not recoil
from shining a light on your own
losses, let downs, and stumbling failures.

For we are not fashioned for utility,
nor merely for display.
Brittle are we formed, to crack and crumble, and holey be remade.

joe

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

A NEW BOOK BY JOE GRANT