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

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

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
Latest book by Joe Grant:
https://shop.franciscanmedia.org/products/wandering-and-welcome-meditations-for-finding-peace

A Quality of Presence

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

He was at prayer in a certain place,
and when he finished, one of the disciples asked,
“Master, teach us to pray…”
Luke 11:1

Seeker,
Has anyone ever asked, “How are you being?”

Though “doing nothing” and “being busy”
may seem contradictory in essence,
they each describe a certain quality of presence.

A vague memory
stirs of early
school days,

when our overwrought teacher
sought to educate us
on verbs and nouns.

“Verbs,” she extolled,
“are ‘doing words’.
They tell about something we can DO.”

Offering a few examples,
she tasked her eager pupils
to make lists of ‘doing words’.

Quickly, I exhausted those activities
that easily stream into a young mind;
“running, fishing, playing …”,

till I was arrested, mid-flow,
by a conundrum:
Is ‘being’ a ‘doing word’?

For the first time,
I witnessed hesitation in my teacher as,
unselfconsciously, I shared my simple query.

Blissfully unaware
of philosophical ramifications,
I was merely interested in one more word for my list.

“Yes, ‘being’ is a verb,” she asserted.
“But it doesn’t tell about WHAT we are doing.
It tells us HOW we are doing … the way we do something.”

We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God,
who regards not the greatness of the work,
but the love with which it is performed.
Brother Lawrence

It is helpful
to keep in mind
how we have named ourselves.

Human beings,
are ‘BE-ers’ who can DO,
not only ‘DO-ers’ who can also BE.

Nor are being and doing
ever mutually exclusive.
There is always , in both, a quality of presence that bears attention.

No matter where we place our self,
we bring with us a state of mind and heart
that extends some degree of engagement.

How and how deeply
we choose to relate and connect
determines our action and the way we are affected.

Where can I escape your spirit
or flee from your presence?
Psalm 139:7

Wherever I am, You are already there!
Praying, it seems, is a ‘being word’;
a way of being present and engaged.

Whether in the infinite experience of mountain-top amazement
or awe-filled intimacy of the vale of shadow and pain,
prayerfulness invites a quality of presence and attention.

Whenever we fall – body, mind, soul –
into un-self-conscious presence, we become receptive
of the raw reality of being in presence engaged.

Whether walking, washing dishes, tending to garden or neighbor,
when we set the heart a-wondering,
the soul will surely seek out connection.

This quality of being prayerfully engaged
may be practiced
but not programmed.

If I have faith enough to move mountains but I am lacking love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2

But, if we fixate on the mechanics of meditation,
‘doing it right’, or the correctness of our ideas, ‘being right,’
prayers and presumptions prevent us being in loving relationship.

No wonder the Teacher
avoided offering pupils
a method on which to hang the properties of prayerful engagement.

Christ above us, beneath us,
beside us, within us,
what need have we for temples made with hands?
George MacLeod

Rather, the Master modeled
prayerful attention and waited
for the hunger to present itself.

Helping hands are better than praying lips. Mother Teresa

In your rising and laying down,
may you let that quality of Omnipresence
envelop, assail and inspire you to engagement.

joe

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is in-the-storm-still_1.5in-2.jpg
Find me on Facebook and Instagram: @InTheStormStill
Visit my new website: inthestormstill.com
A new book by Joe Grant:
https://shop.franciscanmedia.org/products/wandering-and-welcome-meditations-for-finding-peace

Original Likeness

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?
Yet not a single one of them is forgotten in God’s sight.
Luke 12: 6

Seeker,
Have you opened your eyes to catch that Holy Likeness looking back?

Above the grocery lot my eyes were lifted,
beyond the monotony of morning, to steely skies
by an arrowhead of cranes, splicing frigid air with their antiphonal cries.

For some minutes I watched this wonderous wave
ripple high overhead with undulating grace
and shower us abundantly with warbled crooning.

The skies declare the grandeur of the One
whose handiwork is heralded across the heavens.

Psalm 19:1

Inspired by this early benediction,
I scoured ranks of cars for muffled pedestrians
who had likewise been touched by this seasonal visitation.

None it seemed had noticed
or cared enough to raise their gaze
from the transactions of the marketplace.

At once an acute hollowness sunk in
as a cascade of separateness
splintered and severed the filigree holding all together.

The day re-turned to tasking and foraging,
and those winged pilgrims, trilling angels from on high,
were replaced by the pinging of electronic scanners.

The earth is a living thing. Mountains speak, trees sing, lakes can think, pebbles have soul, rocks have power. Henry Crow Dog

In years past, an art teacher
challenged our class, seated around an aged oak,
to draw all we could see; everything but that ancient tree.

So, we sketched the worlds in-between
limbs, twigs and branches,
and along the ragged edges of trunk and leaves.

By lesson’s end
we beheld variations of an invisible web;
a network holding the whole world together.

“Do you see?” she taught.
“No thing can exist in isolation. Anything and everything
can only be understood and truly represented in connection.”

Where could I escape your spirit or flee your presence?
Should I rise up to the heavens, there you are;
or make my bed in the darkest depths, still you are there.
If I catch the wings of morning to the farthest limits of sea,
even there would your hand guide me, tightly upheld.

Psalm 139:7-10

In the shimmering mirror of morning any curious soul
with insight might perceive myriad reflections
of the Hub that pulls us into oneness.

From our perch along the Milky Way
we can gaze into jeweled infinity
and, in this dark hall of mirrors, bask in original likeness.

Delighting in the blue-green world of Nature’s abundance,
we can choose to celebrate as we commune miraculously
with the ‘likes of us’: our swimming, flying, galloping, crawling cousins.

It is blasphemy to separate oneself from the earth and look down upon it like a god. It is more than blasphemy it is dangerous. We can never be gods, after all— but we can become something less than human with frightening ease. Nora K. Jemisin

Should we risk a look into the light-reflected
in the eyes of neighbors, foe and friend, and allow boundaries to blur,
we might just glimpse our likeness staring back.

May you revel in primal connectivity
and wink at the look-a-likeness gaping back
in the river of relations.

joe

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

Now available: A New Book by Joe Grant

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